The Buttermilk Trail, 04-26-21

I got up around 5:30 this morning, so I could head out with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne to go into the South Yuba River State Park in the Penn Valley area of Nevada County. We were interested in hiking the Buttermilk Bend Trail. It was partly cloudy, slightly breezy and cool all day. A lovely day for a nature walk.

It took about 2 hours to get to the park, including stops for gas, coffee and a potty break. We got there via highways 70, 49 and 20 to Pleasant Valley Road. For the most part, there was a lot to see on the drive, especially as we got closer to the park. Some of the roadside embankments were covered in white Globe Lilies, irises, yellow Pretty Face, blue Ithuriel’s Spears, and French broom. Pretty!

Prettyface, Triteleia ixioides

We went past the historic barn and the covered bridge(which is undergoing a complete overhaul), and pulled into the main parking lot near the head of the trail. We attacked the trail from near the kiosk and had to climb a steep incline to get to the trail itself. Next time, we’ll enter the trail from the end of the parking lot where there’s a shallower incline and several small bridges that lead up onto the trail. After that initial incline, the rest of the trail was VERY easy to walk, and provided beautiful views of flowers, the river, and acres of a wide variety of trees.

All the while we were walking, we were lulled by the sounds of the river.

Between the views, the research we were able to do, the company, and the weather, it was a great hike.

CLICK HERE for photo album #1.
CLICK HERE for photo album #2.

We could smell and see smoke in some spots on the other side of the river, and figured that they were controlled burns. Cal Fire was out there — and that turned out to be a good thing for me. I’ll tell you more about that later.

There were several different kinds of oak trees in the area: coast live, interior live, blue, valley and black oaks.  So, we got to see quite a few galls including some folded leaf galls, some old Gray Mid-Rib Galls, Round Leaf Galls, spring generation galls of the Live Oak Gall Wasp (that look like funnels with a cap on them), and lots of spring generation galls of the Two-Horned Gall Wasp (that look like shiny brown beaks).

We were surprised to find galls on some of the wild lupine, and some examples of “witches’ broom” on a toyon bush.  The broom is caused by a fungus that creates “…an abnormal brush-like cluster of dwarfed weak shoots arising at or near the same point…” Very cool-looking. I’d seen photos of them, but had never seen a live one before.

Also on toyon, was found some wrinkled leaf effects created by woolly aphids. There was one leaf that was so full of the little guys that the honeydew they produced literally poured out onto our hands making everything sticky.

We got to see quite a few butterflies including Pipevine Swallowtails, a Tiger Swallowtail, several beautiful Checkerspots, and some Cabbage Whites. We also saw some species of Blood Bees, mason bees, a camel cricket, and caterpillars. 

As I mentioned before, the flowers were just lovely. We saw one of my favorites: the Twining Snake Lily. They have a spray of dark pink florets at the end of a long stem that twines its way through the trees, bushes and undergrowth to find the sunlight. One of them was growing over our head and came down from the side of the hill and into the tree branches above us.

New-to-me flowers included the White Globe Lilies, Linear-Lobed Owl’s-Clover, Blue Head Gilia and Ookow. The Ookow were so intensely purple-blue they really stood out.

We saw a couple of squirrels and could hear a few different species of birds, including Lesser Goldfinches. They were eating the seeds and tufts from the plants along the trail.

On some of the rocks along the trail, we came across a handful of Western Fence Lizards (the “blue belly” lizard that do push-ups), including one that had splayed itself over the warm surface of the rock, stretching its legs out in all directions so it could flatten its belly on the stone.  On another rock, we found a VERY pregnant female. She had to lift herself up on her front legs to keep her belly from dragging on the ground. Poor baby.

We walked for a little over four hours, which is usually past my strength and pain threshold, but we were seeing so many thing, and the weather was so beautiful, I didn’t stop when I should have.  Just as we got close to the parking lot, I “hit the wall”. I was dizzy, suddenly completely exhausted, and couldn’t walk. Even the feel of the camera and my carry bag around my neck and shoulders was too much. I found a fence post and leaned over it for support while Roxanne went to get the car and bring it closer to me.

As fate would have it, that was the same time the firefighters were returning to their vehicles after working on the controlled burns. I wasn’t going to bother them, but as the seconds went by, I was feeling worse and worse, so I called out with a very weak voice. Thankfully, some of them heard me and two came right over to see if I was okay. Those two firefighters ushered me back to the car while another one ran to get me a bottle of water. 

The Cal Fire crew

I felt I was hydrated well enough, but I hadn’t stopped anywhere along the four hours to get something to eat, so I think my glucose levels had just crashed. The firefighters made sure I was safe in the car with Rox and hung around until I ate something. A few minutes later, after some rest and something to eat I was fine. [[THANK YOU to Rox, the Universe, and the guys from Cal Fire @CALFIRENEU]]

It was a long day, but one of my favorite outings in a long time. I was so happy we were told about this trail.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  3. Arabesque Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona arabesca
  4. Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis
  5. Bark Rim Lichen, Lecanora chlarotera [looks like Whitewash Lichen but has apothecia]
  6. Barometer Earthstar, Hygroscopic Earthstar, Astraeus hygrometricus
  7. Bedstraw, Graceful Bedstraw Galium porrigens [very tiny leaves and flowers]
  8. Big Berry Manzanita, Arctostaphylos glauca
  9. Bigelow’s Spike Moss, Selaginella bigelovii
  10. Bird’s Foot Cliffbrake, Pellaea mucronata
  11. Black Grain-Spored Lichen, Sarcogyne hypophaea [black, grainy, on rocks]
  12. Black Locust Tree, Robinia pseudoacacia
  13. Blood Bee, Sphecodes sp.
  14. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  15. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  16. Bluehead Gilia, Gilia capitata
  17. Bowltube Iris, Iris macrosipho
  18. Bristly Fiddleneck, Amsinckia tessellate
  19. Broad-Nosed Weevil, Subfamily: Entiminae
  20. Brown-Eyed Shingle Lichen, Pannaria rubiginosa [on trees]
  21. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
  22. Bulbous Meadow-Grass, Poa bulbosa
  23. Bumble Bee, Bombus sp.
  24. Cabbage White butterfly, Pieris rapae
  25. California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  26. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  27. California Bumble Bee, Bombus californicus
  28. California Buttercup, Ranunculus californicus
  29. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica [dark green with brown apothecia]
  30. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  31. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  32. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  33. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  34. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  35. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  36. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  37. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  38. Camel Cricket, Gammarotettix sp.
  39. Canyon Live-Forever, Dudleya cymosa
  40. Canyon Live Oak, Quercus chrysolepis
  41. Chaparral Honeysuckle, Lonicera interrupta
  42. Chinese Houses, Purple Chinese Houses, Collinsia heterophylla
  43. Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
  44. Common Sunburst Lichen, Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina [yellow-orange]
  45. Concentric Boulder Lichen, Porpidia crustulata [circles of black spots on rock]
  46. Conical Trashline Orbweaver, Cyclosa conica
  47. Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens
  48. Copper Underwing Moth, Amphipyra pyramidoides [caterpillars are green with thin white stripe]
  49. Coppered White-Cheeked Jumping Spider, Pelegrina aeneola
  50. Cowpie Crater Lichen, Diploschistes muscorum [pale grey with sunken black apotheca]
  51. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  52. Cretanweed, Hedypnois rhagadioloides [small, yellow, dandelion-like]
  53. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  54. Deerbrush Ceanothus, Ceanothus integerrimus [white]
  55. Dendroalsia Moss, Dendroalsia abietina [long, curling tendrils on trees]
  56. Dove’s-Foot Crane’s-Bill, Geranium molle
  57. Elegant Camouflage Lichen, Melanohalea elegantula [leafy like hoary lichen but much darker gray/black]
  58. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata [red line on leaves]
  59. False Turkey-Tail, Stereum ostrea
  60. Flame Firedot Lichen, Caloplaca ignea [orange on rock, elongated lobes and orange apothecia]
  61. Flower Buprestid Beetle, Acmaeodera hepburnii
  62. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  63. French Broom, Genista monspessulana
  64. Fringepod, Sand Fringepod, Common Lacepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes
  65. Gabb’s Checkerspot Butterfly, Chlosyne gabbii
  66. Gall Inducing Wooly Aphid, Stegophylla essigi [in live oaks, folds the leaf over itself; sometimes the leaf turns red/reddish]
  67. Goldback Fern, Pentagramma triangularis
  68. Grassy Tarweed, Madia gracilis
  69. Gray Mid-Rib Gall Wasp, Besbicus multipunctatus
  70. Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana
  71. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  72. Gumweed, Grindelia integrifolia
  73. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa 
  74. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus bifrons [white flowers]
  75. Hoary Rosette Lichen, Physcia aipolia [hoary, brown apothecia]
  76. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  77. Ithuriel’s Spear, Triteleia laxa
  78. Labyrinth Orbweaver Spider, Metepeira labyrinthea
  79. Lecidella Lichen, Lecidella elaeochroma [round black spots on white background]
  80. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  81. Linear-Lobed Owl’s-Clover, Castilleja lineariloba
  82. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [looks like a soft funnel, green to brown]
  83. Lupine Stem Gall Midge, Neolasioptera lupini
  84. Lupine, Bush Lupine, Silver Lupine, Lupinus albifrons var. albifrons
  85. Lupine, Chick Lupine, Lupinus microcarpus
  86. Lupine, Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  87. Lupine, Spider Lupine, Lupinus benthamii
  88. Madrone, Pacific Madrone, Arbutus menziesii
  89. Musk Stork’s-Bill, Erodium moschatum
  90. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  91. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri [with soredia]
  92. Ookow, Dichelostemma congestum
  93. Osage-Orange, Maclura pomifera
  94. Periwinkle, Greater Periwinkle, Vinca major [on the roadside]
  95. Phacelia, Caterpillar Scorpionweed, Phacelia cicutaria [white]
  96. Pine Spittlebug, Aphrophora cribrata
  97. Pineapple-Weed, Matricaria discoidea
  98. Pipestem Clematis, Old Man’s Beards, Clematis lasiantha
  99. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  100. Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa
  101. Popcorn Flower, Common Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys fulvus
  102. Potter’s Wasp, Stenodynerus sp.
  103. Prettyface, Triteleia ixioides
  104. Q-Tips, Micropus californicus
  105. Red Maids, Calandrinia menziesii
  106. Redberry, Hollyleaf Redberry, Rhamnus ilicifolia
  107. Resurrection Plant, Selaginella lepidophylla
  108. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia [on the roadside]
  109. Rock Tripe, Emery Rocktripe Lichen, Umbilicaria phaea
  110. Rose Clover, Trifolium hirtum
  111. Round Leaf Gall Wasp, Heteroecus flavens [formerly Andricus flavens, ball in the middle of the leaf, live oak]
  112. Sanicle, Pacific Sanicle, Sanicula crassicaulis [large, yellow flowers]
  113. Seven-Spotted Lady Beetle, Coccinella septempunctata [larva]
  114. Shining Pepperweed, Lepidium nitidum
  115. Silver Hairgrass, Ghost Grass, Aira caryophyllea
  116. Silverpuffs, Uropappus lindleyi [like blow wives but with pointed ends]
  117. Simbicid Sawfly, Abia americana [pale caterpillar with black and yellow markings]
  118. Slender Clarkia, Clarkia gracilis
  119. Small-Flowered Catchfly, Silene gallica
  120. Smooth Cliffbrake, Pellaea glabella
  121. Snake Apple Vine, Ibervillea lindheimeri
  122. Snakefly, Agulla adnixa
  123. Striped Volcano Gall Wasp, Andricus atrimentus, Spring generation [looks like a ball at the base of the leaf; dark inside]
  124. Sunflower, Common Woolly Sunflower, Eriophyllum lanatum
  125. Thread-Waisted Wasps, Family: Sphecidae [mud dauber]
  126. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  127. True Babystars, Leptosiphon bicolor [green puffball with pink flowers]
  128. Tufted Poppy, Eschscholzia caespitosa
  129. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  130. Twining Snakelily, Dichelostemma volubile
  131. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, bisexual gall, spring generation,  Dryocosmus dubiosus [looks like a hard, shiny, brown “beak” on the edge of the leaf]
  132. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  133. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  134. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  135. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  136. Western Spotted Cucumber Beetle, Diabrotica undecimpunctata undecimpunctata
  137. Western Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly, Papilio rutulus
  138. Western Tussock Moth, Orgyia vetusta
  139. Western Virgin’s Bower, Clematis ligusticifolia
  140. White Globe Lily, Calochortus albus
  141. Wild Oat Grass, Chrysopogon aciculatus
  142. Windmill Pink, Hairy Pink, Petrorhagia dubia
  143. Winter Moth, Operophtera brumata [little green caterpillar on oak]
  144. Witches’ Broom on Toyon, Phytoplasma sp.
  145. Wooly Oak Aphid, Stegophylla essigi
  146. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium