Earth Day 2021, 04-22-21

Happy Earth Day, #EarthDay2021. I got up at 6:00 am and headed out to the American River Bend Park for a walk.

I stopped first to check in on the owl family again. I immediately saw mom up in a scraggly-looking tree holding breakfast in her talons — a fresh caught rabbit. The rabbit was a large one, but looked like a cottontail (or maybe someone’s pet rabbit) rather than a jackrabbit. I didn’t see any of the owlets, so I started to walk around the tree, keeping an eye on mom in case she decided to come after me. 

The mother Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus, with a freshly killed rabbit.

I was surprised when I came across one of the owlets sitting on a fallen log on the ground. It was mostly hidden by the tall grass, but I still worried about it — there are coyotes in the park — yet, I was reassured that the owlet’s mom was close by and able to defend him if necessary.

Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus

After walking around the tree for a bit, and getting more photos, another photographer showed up. He pointed out a second owlet in a nearby tree, and said that a Ranger had told him there was a second owl nest in the park somewhere in the old boy scout camping area. He hadn’t gone searching for it yet, so he wasn’t sure exactly where it was. The second owlet at this nesting area looked like the youngest of the clutch. It’s plumicorns weren’t as developed as the owlet sitting on the ground.

Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus, owlet in the tree.

 Nearby, the male Rio Grande Wild Turkeys were strutting for the females, wings down, tails fanned. One of them decided my car was a rival, and it kept standing in front of the car, posturing and pecking at it. When I wanted to leave the spot where I had parked to go farther into the park, I had to inch the car forward a little at a time to get the turkey to finally move. Honking didn’t help anything; it just made the turkeys gobble.  Hah!

I drove to the intersection, just a few yards away, and stopped to watch a deer eating leaves off a black walnut tree. The deer looked like buck to me, but wasn’t sporting any bumps that would indicate it was going to get antlers this year.

I pulled into the area where the horse trailers can park, and parked by the water trough for a little while. Often, I get to see birds and other critters come to the trough to get a drink. Today, I got close ups of an Acorn Woodpecker, and got some photos of a fox squirrel flagging its tail nearby.  

I then drove into the picnic area and parked there.  When I was walking the trail from there to where the amphitheater is, I could hear Killdeer calling from the rocky shore of the river. Even though I’m VERY unsteady on my feet among the rocks, I went down as close as I could to the shoreline, to see if I could spot the birds and their nests in the rocks.

The adults birds were pretty easy to locate, but I was surprised to see a baby running across the rocks by itself. I tried to get some photos of it, but it was VERY small. Baby Killdeer duck down when they feel afraid or threatened. When I was trying to get photos of this baby, something startled it and it ducked down… camouflaged so well that it disappeared among the rocks. Wow! Amazing.

Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous, babies are so well camouflaged that they can vanish amid the rocks if they want to.

Across the river from where the Killdeer were, I could see Turkey Vultures flying overhead. Some of them swooped in and landed on the porch railing of a house over there. Hah! I wonder what the humans inside the house thought of that.

Turkey Vultures, Cathartes aura, resting on the railing of a deck on a home across the river.

Along the trail I was hoping to see some Elegant Clarkia in bloom. I found the plants, but no flowers yet.  There WERE poppies, miniature lupine and bush monkeyflower, however, along with lots and lots of Dogtail Grass.

There was pipevine growing everywhere along the trail, and the first blush of Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars munching on them. The butterflies themselves were flitting all over the place.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Along the river, there were Canada Geese and Common Mergansers sunning themselves on the rocks, and a Great Blue Heron fishing along the shore. Farther down, there was a turtle stretched out among some logs floating in the water. The water in the river was running very clear and shallow. Looking down into it, I could see the rocks on the river’s bottom.

While I heading back toward the car, I noticed that the Red-Shouldered Hawks were occupying the nest right above the trail again. I didn’t see them here last year.

Along the way, when I stopped to get some photos of some Scarab Hunter Wasps, I found a hummingbird’s nest on the ground. I’ll add it to my shadowbox collection. Based on those hummingbirds typical to this area, it probably belonged to an Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna.

The Scarab Hunter Wasp flies low along the ground using a super-sensitive sensor in her abdomen that can detect “kairomones” to find beetle grubs. Kairomones are described as “… pheromones and allomones that have evolutionarily backfired and…are normally used by one organism but exploited by an illegitimate receiver…”When the female wasp locates a grub, she digs it up, and lays her eggs on it, then builds a “cell” around the grub and egg and re-buries it. When the baby wasp larva hatches from its egg, it eats the grub, then pupates underground. It emerges from the ground the next spring as an adult.

I also came across a pair of mating craneflies (mosquito hawks).

I walked for almost five hours(!) today, and my feet were killing me (hurting more than my hip).  This was hike #37 of my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis [larva]
  4. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  5. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon [flyby, heard]
  6. Black Locust Tree, Robinia pseudoacacia
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Black Walnut Pouch Gall Mite, Aceria brachytarsa
  9. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  10. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  11. Bristly Dogtail Grass, Cynosurus echinatus
  12. Bur Parsley, Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  13. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  14. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  15. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  16. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  17. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  18. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  19. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  20. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  21. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  22. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  23. Chinese Pistache, Pistacia chinensis
  24. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  25. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
  26. Common Hoptree, Ptelea trifoliata
  27. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  28. Common Vetch, Vicia sativa [pink flowers]
  29. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  30. Coyote Brush Rust, Puccinia evadens
  31. Cranefly, California Tipula, Tipula californica
  32. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  33. Damselfly, Vivid Dancer, Argia vivida [blue or tan, arrowheads]
  34. Deerweed, Acmispon glaber
  35. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  36. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  37. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata [red line on leaves]
  38. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  39. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  40. Fire-Colored Beetle, Pedilus sp.
  41. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  42. Fringepod, Sand Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes
  43. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  44. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  45. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  46. Grey House Spider, Badumna longinqua
  47. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa 
  48. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  49. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  50. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus
  51. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  52. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [looks like a soft funnel, green to brown]
  53. Long-Horned Caddisfly, Family: Leptoceridae
  54. Long-Jawed Orb Weaver Spider, Tetragnatha sp.
  55. Lupine, Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  56. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  57. Mayfly, Small Squaregilled Mayfly, Family: Caenidae
  58. Meadow Spittlebug, Philaenus spumarius
  59. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
  60. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  61. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  62. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  63. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  64. Orange Bush Monkeyflower, Diplacus aurantiacus
  65. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  66. Pacific Pea, Lathyrus vestitus
  67. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  68. Popcorn Flower, Rusty Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys nothofulvus [tiny]
  69. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans
  70. Red Head Spider, Castianeira longipalpa
  71. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  72. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  73. Sachem Skipper, Atalopedes campestris
  74. Scarab Hunter Wasp, Yellow Scarab Hunter Wasp, Dielis pilipes
  75. Snakefly, Agulla adnixa
  76. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  77. Stem Sawfly, Family: Cephidae
  78. Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica
  79. Sweat Bee, Tribe: Halictini
  80. Tapered Stem Gall Wasp, Protobalandricus spectabilis
  81. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  82. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  83. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  84. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  85. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis
  86. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  87. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  88. White Clover, Trifolium repens
  89. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  90. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  91. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophry
  92. Windmill Pink, Hairy Pink, Petrorhagia dubia
  93. Yellow Rabbitbrush, Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus