I got up at 5:30 this morning. Rox and I had planned to go to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge today, but she got a is it from her daughter, so I decided to go to the Consumes River Preserve by myself instead.
I took Franklin Blvd. from Sacramento to the preserve and at Cosumnes River Blvd. at a train crossing, the gates came down and the lights started flashing… and they stayed that way for five, ten, twelve, fifteen, twenty minutes with no train in sight anywhere. Some people were honking their horns (like that was going to do any good), and others worked together to lift one of the gates by hand and get their cars through.
I looked up “train crossing malfunctions” in Google and got a phone number to call. I told the guy on the line that the gates had been down for 20 minutes and there were no trains. He asked for the street names and the crossing’s DOT number. I didn’t know what that was. Apparently, every train crossing is marked with a blue sign that has a specific number on it that allows the dispatcher know exactly which crossing is involved. I could see the sign, but was too far away to read it.
The guy was still able to look things up and said there was a disabled light train on the rails that was moving very slowly, so it was setting off the crossing gate even though it wasn’t there yet. A few seconds later, the crippled train showed up. It was all dark gray, like it had burned up. It crept slowly through the crossing, honking its horn all along the way, and the gates finally went up.
All the while I was sitting in the car, stuck between cars and high curbs, waiting for the stupid gate to rise, all I could think of was that I was losing outdoor time when the temperatures were still pleasant. Priorities. Hah!
I finally got near the Consumes River Preserve around 7:30 and drove around Bruceville and Desmond Roads to see if there was anything interesting in the fields. There was only a little bit of water in one field, so no waterfowl. There were finches, a Killdeer, some Song Sparrows… and a cat.
There was also a spot where there were a lot of common sunflowers, so I got out of the car and checked them out — looking for pollinators and other insects. I found a couple of crab spiders, and a few bees, but that was about it. I’m still not seeing as many insects as I think I should be, and that’s really concerning to me.
According to the BBC: “…Previous research indicated an alarming decline in numbers in all parts of world, with losses of up to 25% per decade. [A] new study [in 2020], the largest carried out to date, says the picture is more complex and varied. Land-dwelling insects are definitely declining the authors say, while bugs living in freshwater are increasing… Reports of the rapid and widespread decline of insects globally have caused great worry to scientists… Many people have an instinctive perception that insects are decreasing – often informed by the so-called ‘windscreen phenomenon’, where you find fewer dead bugs splattered on cars. The researchers say it’s real… However while many land-based species are declining, the new study shows that insects that live in fresh water, like midges and mayflies, are growing by 1.08% per year… The researchers believe this is because of legislation that has cleaned up polluted rivers and lakes…. The scientists say there is no smoking gun on insect declines but they find the destruction of natural habitats due to urbanisation, to be key… ‘The nice thing about insects is that most have incredibly large numbers of offspring, so if you change the habitat in the right way we will see them recover really fast’…”
Rox and I have noticed large swarms of midges in the freshwater areas where we hike, but the other land-based insects have been on an obvious (to us) decline for the past few years. I wonder if that will affect the gall production this year.
The summer wasp galls are just starting to show up on the trees. Along with the ubiquitous Oak Apples, I also found some early Yellow Wig galls, Ash Flower galls, Spiny Turban galls, and some Jumping Galls. Some of the younger Oak Apples were bright red, and I’m not sure what causes that. Maybe a lot of tannins in those particular trees?
CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.
There was only a little bit of water in the pond by the boardwalk parking lot, but I could see some birds around it, so I parked there and walked around the pond to get some photos. There were Tree Swallows, Western Kingbirds and Ash-Throated Flycatchers flying around, but none of them would land anywhere long enough for me to get any photos. One group of Kingbirds mobbed a Red-Shouldered Hawk in a nearby tree and chased it away, and the Tree Swallows dipped down into the water eating bugs.
Along one side of the pond, there was a Great Egret and a Great Blue Heron hunting in the water primrose and pond vegetation. Although both of them did a lot of their “stalking” behavior, I didn’t see either of them catch anything.
In the water, at the larger birds’ feet, there was a small Pied-Billed Grebe that was very successful in catching lots of fat crawfish in the shallows.
When I’d gotten my fill of photos from the pond, I walked across the road and followed the trail on that side for a couple of hours. The buttonbushes were in bloom, and everything was covered in the fluff from the willow and cottonwood trees.
I saw a few cottontail rabbits, and a pair of female Wild Turkeys. Each turkey was leading a single poult across the path and into the oak forest.
In some of the flowers of Curlycup Gumweed along the trail, I found some tiny beetles, and new-to-me Owlet Moth caterpillars. The caterpillars were transparent orange with black dots around each segment. They were really small but I was able to get some detail with my macro lens attachment. When I’m getting these super-close-up photos, though, I always forget to take a distance photo to show what the subject looks like in a “normal” view in comparison to the close-up.D’oh!
The big surprise was a Lorquin’s Admiral butterfly. Their host plants are willows, cottonwoods, and various orchard trees like plums and cherries. They take nectar, but they also take fluids and nourishment from bird droppings and animal dung. The overwinter as larvae in a leaf cases on their host plant. I wonder if those cases are what’ve been seeing on the willow trees in the Gristmill area.
According to butterfly expert, Art Shapiro, “…Since the late 1990s this species has been in precipitous and unexplained decline in the Sacramento Valley, becoming extinct in North Sacramento and Rancho Cordova and flirting with extinction in West Sacramento…”
Well, they’re not wholly extinct, obviously. I see at least one around here every year.
As I was heading back to the car, I saw some goldfinches among the wild sunflowers growing in the now completely dry “wetland” area beside the parking lot.
I walked for about 2 hours and then headed back home. This was hike #60 of my annual hike challenge.
- Aphid, Family: Aphididae
- Ash Flower Gall Mite, Aceria fraxiniflora
- Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens
- Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
- Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
- Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides
- Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
- Broadleaved Pepperweed, Lepidium latifolium
- Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis
- California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
- California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
- Cat, Felis catus
- Chicory, Cichorium intybus
- Common Spikeweed, Centromadia pungens
- Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
- Curlycup Gumweed, Grindelia squarrosa
- Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
- Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
- Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
- Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis
- Floating Primrose-Willow, Ludwigia peploides
- Flower Beetle, Listrus sp.
- Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
- Goldenrod Crab Spider, Misumena vatia
- Gray Hairstreak Butterfly, Strymon melinus
- Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
- Great Egret, Ardea alba
- House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
- Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
- Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
- Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
- Lorquin’s Admiral Butterfly, Limenitis lorquini
- Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
- Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
- Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
- Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
- Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
- Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
- Owlet Moth, Subfamily: Heliothinae
- Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
- Plum, Prunus domestica
- Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
- Raccoon, Common Raccoon, Procyon lotor [2 roadkill, and a latrine spot]
- Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
- Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Oak Ribbed Skeletonizer, Bucculatrix albertiella
- Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
- Robberfly, Machimus sp.
- Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumariumswal
- Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
- Spined Turban Gall Wasp, Antron douglasii [spring gall, round on the stems, valley oaks]
- Sunflower, Common Sunflower, Helianthus annuus
- Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni
- Tall Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis
- Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
- Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
- Water Smartweed, Persicaria amphibia
- Western Kingbird, Tyrant Flycatcher, Tyrannus verticalis
- Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
- Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi