Birds, Bees and Spring Galls, 04-08-21

I got up around 6:00 am and was out of the house before 6:30 to go to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. It was 41° out at the river when I got there.

I’m still dealing a little bit with COVID-brain, I guess, because I forgot to leave a note for Lissa, so she knows where I am, and also forgot to take my cellphone with me. D’oh! So, I couldn’t call to tell my sister where I was — and I also couldn’t take the real close up photos of some of the things I was seeing (which I normally do when I’m out in the field).

When I was driving near the preserve, I saw two deer stepping slowly out of someone’s driveway and into the street. I know they were being cautious about the road, but to me it looked like they were tip-toeing away from the scene of the crime or something, like they’d done something wrong. Hah!

There were also quite a few deer visible along the trails. In one spot, I saw nine of them all together, grazing on the spring grasses and wildflowers. Some of the bucks were already showing the buds of this year’s antlers. By June, they’ll be in their velvet.

At the preserve itself there were lots, and lots and lots of squirrels out today; in fact, the first thing I saw when I drove into the parking lot was a Western Gray Squirrel running past the car with a mouth full of dried grasses and weeds to line its nest (drey). Later, when I was on the trail, I saw another Western Gray Squirrel running up a tree to check out its drey.

Squirrels build their drey out of leaves, grasses, small twigs, feathers, and pretty much whatever else they can carry in their mouths. [They’ll use tree cavities, too, if they’re available to nest in, but still line the inside with soft stuff.] They build the drey close to the trunk of the tree and/or forked branches to give the structure more support…which is what I was seeing here.

Right now, there are only Blue Dicks and Miniature Lupine making themselves conspicuous there, but as the month progresses we should see more variety. Near the nature center the planted Sonoran Sage and Douglas Irises were in bloom. The Redbud trees were flowering, some getting and showing off new blossoms, some done for the season and shedding old ones.

All of the oak trees and the black walnut trees are sporting catkins, so folks with allergies have a hard time being outdoors right now.

On the live oaks, I saw quite a few spring generation Live Oak Gall Wasp galls (that look like little funnels with a cap on them), and, surprisingly, a lot of Ball Gall Wasp galls (that look like a round tumor near the center of the leaf — visible from both the front and back of the leaves). I hadn’t seen any of those at the preserve for over a year, I think, and even then it was just one or two.

The little male House Wrens were all out singing, advertising nesting places for the females.  The Starlings were yelling and flapping their wings. And a fussy Acorn Woodpecker chased a dove out of its granary tree, but ignored a pair of Tree Swallows sitting in the next branch. Weird.  I also caught a fast glimpse of a pair of California Quail.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Lots of Spotted Towhees were in the underbrush, making themselves visible on occasion, and I spotted (hah!) a Lincoln’s Sparrow in the grass.  I’m seeing more and more Lincoln Sparrows all over the place now. I don’t know if it’s because they’re actually increasing in numbers in the region, or if I’m just getting better at seeing them and differentiating them from other sparrows, like Song Sparrows.

The big surprise of the day was seeing a young coyote running down the trail toward me. It looked thin and long-legged so my initial impression was that it was a young male. But when it crossed through a grassy area and onto an adjacent trail, I think I spotted teats on the belly… so it might have been a young mom, thin because she’s giving her all to her pups.

There were Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies flitting around, but in smaller numbers than I’m used to seeing this time of year. Some of them are already looking “ragged” from their journeys. I wasn’t able to see eggs on any of the pipevine plants I saw.

California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta. A sub-species endemic to the Central Valley of California.

A nice thing to see, though, was a swarm of bees in the doorway of the bee tree. The queen must’ve finally woken up from her winter doze and put her colony back to work.

I walked for about 3 ½ hours and then headed back home. This was hike #33 of my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis
  3. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  4. Blue Dicks, Dipterostemon capitatus
  5. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  6. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  7. Bur Parsley, Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  8. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  9. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  10. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  11. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  12. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  13. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  14. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  15. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  16. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  17. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  18. Coyote, Canis latrans
  19. Cranefly, European Crane Fly, Tipula paludosa
  20. Digger Bee, Tribe: Anthophorin
  21. Douglas Iris,Iris douglasiana
  22. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  23. Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis
  24. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  25. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  26. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  27. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  28. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  29. Lincoln’s Sparrow, Melospiza lincolnii
  30. Live Oak Erineum Mite Gall, Aceria mackiei
  31. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [looks like a soft funnel, green to brown]
  32. Lupine, Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  33. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  34. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  35. Periwinkle, Greater Periwinkle, Vinca major
  36. Red Deadnettle, Lamium purpureum
  37. Round Leaf Gall Wasp, Heteroecus flavens [single large blister on live oak leaves]
  38. Sonoma Sage, Salvia sonomensis
  39. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  40. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  41. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  42. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  43. Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  44. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  45. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  46. ?? caterpillar between live oak leaves