A Morning Walk at Mather, 08-20-21

I got up about 5:30, let the dog out to pee, and then went back to bed until about 6:00 am.  Not a long stay-in but I needed that little extra bit of rest before heading out to the Mather Lake Regional Park for a walk. It was very smokey again here today and the air quality level reached  163 AQI (Unhealthy)  by the afternoon. Still, it’s not anywhere near as bad as it is closer to the wildfires, where the air is considered HAZARDOUS. It was a cool 55° outside when I got to the park, so it was actually nice to walk in.

When I arrived at the park, I was the only person there, so I had the place all to myself for about an hour. By the time I left there were still only about 6 people there; all of them fishing. I hadn’t gone there with any agenda in mind, so I was open to whatever Nature wanted to show me today.  I saw a little bit of this and that.

The willow galls are evolving. I saw Apple Sawfly galls, bead galls, and plump pinecone galls. And the cottonwoods are done “cottoning” and the leaves are already starting to turn yellow. I found both petiole and leaf galls on them.

The bugleweed is in bloom right now, and there’s still a lot of pennyroyal and smartweed flowering along the water’s edge. I also found a patch of large Pinkweed, also called Big Seeded Smartweed, some willowherb and goldenrod in bloom. All of the rushes and sedges are also growing like gangbusters right now — even around the beaver den.

I found quite a few mature and juvenile Blue Dasher dragonflies resting in the grass. Because it was cool, they were all torpid and easy to catch.

Blue Dasher Dragonfly, Pachydiplax longipennis [white faced]

On the trail, there was a small pellet that might have been coughed up by a cormorant, or by some other fish/crayfish eating bird. It had red bits and what looked like pieces of legs in it. I don’t think it was defecated by an otter (because of its shape and size).

There was the regular cadre of Canada Geese and Mute Swans in and around the water’s edge. The juveniles are as big as their parents, but some of them still “peep” like babies.  I also got a glimpse of a Belted Kingfisher perched in a tree, and a pair of White-Tailed Kites flying overhead.

A pair of immature Mute Swans, Cygnus olor

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I came across two coveys of California Quail, one on the trail and another in an adjacent field. They run around like idiots, pipping and calling to one another. Crack me up.

There seemed to be Black Phoebes no matter where I looked. They seemed to be following me. There was also a Red-Shouldered hawk that I seemed to see in different trees all around the lake.  I could hear him screeching from here and then from there.

Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans

On the far end of the lake, there were lots of gallinules in the water and along the edges of the tules. Most of them have their red face shields now, and their candy-corn colored bills.

As close as the lake is to the Mather Air Field, it’s not unusual to see fighter jets flying around, but today I saw a variety of helicopters flying overhead. I think they were CalFire units.

I was able to walk the whole trail from the parking lot to the fence along the golf course and was out for about 3 hours before heading home. This was hike #71 in my annual hike challenge.

Species List:

  1. American Bugleweed, Lycopus americanus [like horehound]
  2. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  3. Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [pink flower]
  4. Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
  5. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Blue Dasher Dragonfly, Pachydiplax longipennis [white faced]
  8. Bull Thistle, Cirsium vulgare
  9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  10. California Pyrausta Moth, Pyrausta californicalis [tiny, rusty orange]
  11. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  12. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  13. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  14. Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
  15. Common Spike-Rush, Eleocharis palustris
  16. Cork Oak, Quercus suber
  17. Cottonwood Leaf Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populivenae
  18. Cottonwood Petiole Gall, Poplar Petiole Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populitransversus
  19. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  20. Cytospora Canker, Cytospora chrysosperma 
  21. Damselfly, Pacific Forktail Damselfly, Ischnura cervula [female]
  22. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  23. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  24. Doveweed, Turkey Mullein, Croton setiger
  25. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  26. Flat-topped Goldenrod, Euthamia graminifolia
  27. Flax-Leaved Horseweed, Erigeron bonariensis
  28. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  29. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  30. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  31. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  32. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  33. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  34. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  35. Narrowleaf Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  36. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  37. Panicled Willowherb, Epilobium brachycarpum
  38. Pennyroyal, Mentha pulegium
  39. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  40. Pinkweed, Big Seeded Smartweed, Persicaria pensylvanica
  41. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  42. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  43. Soft Rush, Juncus effusus
  44. Spanish Clover, Acmispon americanus
  45. Swamp Smartweed, Persicaria hydropiperoides [white, single stem]
  46. Tall Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis
  47. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  48. Turkey Tangle Fogfruit, Phyla nodiflora
  49. Water Primrose, Ludwigia hexapetala
  50. Water Smartweed, Persicaria amphibia [pink]
  51. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  52. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  53. Willow Apple Gall Sawfly, Pontania californica
  54. Willow Bead Gall Mite, Aculus tetanothrix
  55. Willow Pinecone Gall midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides
  56. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis