Not What We Expected to do Today, 06-23-21

I got up at 5:30 this morning and headed out with my friend Roxanne to the zinnia farm in Yolo. But we were surprised that the field was closed off; a hand-written sign said to come back on the 28th. Well… sigh. It was so lovely outside, we were looking forward to a leisurely morning among the flowers. So, we had to recalibrate and decide what to do to take advantage of the cooler weather before the afternoon heat kicked in.

Since we were in Yolo County anyway, we decided to go over to the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency facility in Woodland where the ibis rookery is. The water in the pond there is lower this year than it has been in previous years, so that may be inviting to the ibis when they decided to roost.  But it’s still a bit too early for the ibis, I guess, because we didn’t see any of those. We did see a lot of Canada Geese, Black-Necked Stilts, and some Cinnamon Teals that looked like they were mid-molt or something. 

There were also a few American Avocets wading with the Stilts, and lots of Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows flying around. The air was full of midges and no-see-um bity things for them to eat.

Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica

  We saw a couple of Great-Tailed Grackles, some Western Kingbirds and Say’s Phoebes, and I was able to get a video snippet of a Kingbird that had caught a large dragonfly. The bird flew up onto a high tension wire above the car with the dragonfly in its beak. It bashed the insect against the wire, killing it and knocking off its wings, before it ate it, head first. I was shooting through the windshield, so I was happy the video turned out as well as it did.

There were jackrabbits in the field beside the ponds, and lots of cottontail rabbits around the buildings. Some of the cottontail we saw were very small, so we figured they must’ve been babies. They dashed in and out around a line of hedges so fast it was hard to get photos of them most of the time.

The big surprise at the site was seeing a small flock of Forster’s Terns slumming it with the Canada Geese. As we watched, some of the terns did their “face-plant” dives into the water after fish. Wish we could’ve gotten closer to them for better photos.

When we were done at the water plant, we went up the road a little way to the East Regional Pond in Woodland. I wasn’t expecting much from the place, but because it was close, it was easy to check out. There wasn’t much water in the pond, but actually it was more than I was expecting. I thought the whole thing would have been dried up by now.

We saw some rabbits, and a couple of turtles — including one large turtle that was walking along the ground away from the water. Maybe a mama looking to lay eggs somewhere?

The leaves of a lot of the cottonwood trees there were covered in “shotholes”, tiny round holes all over the surface of the leaves. I’ve been doing some research, but haven’t found anything yet that is a definitive cause of the condition.

“Shotholes” in the leaves of a Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii

One source talks about the Small Heliothodes Moth (Heliothodes diminutivus) that might be one culprit.  It reads: “…Both the adults and larvae are very small and often dorsal-ventrally compressed (flattened) so as to be able to tunnel between the upper and lower cortex of a leaf. Once the larva has eaten away the soft, nutritious center a translucent tunnel in the leaf can be seen. Heliozelid moth larvae, when they are fully grown and ready to pupate, cut the perimeter of the tunnel and form a case in which to undergo metamorphosis. The case drops out leaving a smooth oval hole. Thus… each hole represents a single, very small moth having fed on the leaf and completed pupation…”

If that’s the cause of what we were seeing, that’s a helluva lot of moths! But the holes DO look like they were eaten through, not burnt or withered by a fungus. Need more research.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

We got bored with the lack of sightings at the pond, so we decided to head back home, but went by way of County Road 22/Highway 16 out along the sloughs beside the rice fields. Along the way, we saw a fledgling Red-Tailed Hawk sitting on the railroad tracks, peeping. It was in rough shape, and we were worried that it wasn’t being cared for by its parents… but then we saw two adult birds sitting on nearby telephone poles, and we hoped those there parents.

Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus

The young one was pretty exposed, and we were concerned about it over-heating and getting dehydrated. But if its folks were around, they could bring it water and food. It had its flight feathers, too, so maybe after a rest it could get itself into the shade and/or nearer the water.

Along that stretch of road, some of the fields are flooded right now, full of growing rice, so parts of the sloughs are full, too. There were tangles of willows, cottonwood trees, oaks, wild rose, blackberry vines, and other understory plants and bushes growing all along these areas.

  There were large colonies of Western Spotted Orb-weaver Spiders all through the plant growth, and you had to be careful where you put your hand or leaned in. You might get a handful or face full of webbing!

Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis

On the willows we found a couple of different galls, and also found some faded specimens of Mossy Rose Galls.

After a while, it was getting too hot for us and we were sweating into our eyes (eew),so we quit for the day.  So, it wasn’t exactly what we had originally planned for the day, but I enjoyed it.

This was hike #56 of my hike challenge for the year.

Species List:

  1. Alkali Heliotrope, Heliotropium curassavicum
  2. American Avocet, Recurvirostra americana
  3. Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [pink flower]
  4. Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
  5. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  6. Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  9. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  10. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  11. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  12. Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
  13. Broadleaved Pepperweed, Lepidium latifolium
  14. Brown-Headed Cowbird, Molothrus ater
  15. Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis
  16. California Buckwheat, Eriogonum fasciculatum
  17. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  18. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  19. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  20. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  21. Cat, Felis catus
  22. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  23. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  24. Dark-Bordered Granite Moth, Digrammia neptaria
  25. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  26. Downy Woodpecker, Picoides pubescens
  27. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  28. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  29. Forster’s Tern, Sterna forsteri
  30. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  31. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  32. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  33. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  34. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
  35. Green Darner Dragonfly, Anax junius
  36. Green Heron, Butorides virescens
  37. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  38. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  39. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  40. Mossy Rose Gall Wasp, Diplolepis rosae
  41. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  42. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  43. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  44. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marorata
  45. Paper Wasp, Black Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula
  46. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  47. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis ssp. calurus
  48. Salt Grass, Distichlis spicata
  49. Saltbush, Big Saltbush, Atriplex lentiformis
  50. Santa Barbara Sedge, Carex barbarae
  51. Say’s Phoebe, Sayornis saya
  52. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  53. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  54. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  55. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  56. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
  57. Western Kingbird, Tyrant Flycatcher, Tyrannus verticalis
  58. Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis
  59. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  60. Willow Apple Gall Sawfly, Pontania californica
  61. Willow Rosette Gall Midge, Rabdophaga salicisbrassicoide