Saw Lark Sparrows at Gristmill, 03-02-22

I got up a little before 7:00 and gave the dog his breakfast before I headed over to the Gristmill Access on the American River for a walk. I hadn’t been there in a while and wanted to see if anything was happening there yet.

The odd mix of nut trees (mostly almonds) were in bloom, but some of the other trees, like the valley oaks, boxelders, and elderberries, were just starting to get their new leaves. The manroot vines were coming up but I didn’t see seed pods on any of them yet. The willow trees were just staring to leaf out, too, and “pussying” all over. Hah!

I saw a lot of Boxelder Bugs in the grass and flitting around but couldn’t get one to sit still long enough for me to get a photo of it. I also saw what looked like midge-like flies hanging around leaves on the live oak trees where there were concentrations of Whitefly larvae. I wonder if the flies eat or parasiticide those guys.

The air was full of the sound of House Wrens and other small birds.

The Western Screech Owl wasn’t in her box, but there were Wood Ducks in the trees, some of them looking for places to nest. One female was standing on top of a duck box, crying, like she needed to lay an egg but wasn’t sure of that particular box was the one she wanted. The male was standing on a nearby branch, watching her.

According to Cornell: “…Nest-search Call of males is a multisyllable jibjibjib; used when females are searching for nest cavities and reinforces the pair bond…High-intensity Hauk Call of females is perhaps the most familiar vocalization of Wood Ducks. It is a loud oo-eek, oo-eek and is often given when females take flight after being disturbed. A low-intensity Hauk Call is given by courting females to advertise their presence and attract males. Females appear to use the same multisyllable call note, tetetetetetet, when nest searching…” It’s the tetetetetetet that I was hearing.

There were also quite a few Northern Flickers around, many coming down to the ground to gobble up ants. On the ground there were also a few Dark-Eyed Juncos and Audubon’s Warblers. My favorite sighting of the day, however, were several Lark Sparrows. I don’t get to see them very often, so it’s always a treat when I do. I think they’re probably the prettiest sparrow, IMAO.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I could hear Red-Shouldered Hawks screaming at each other, and followed one with my eye as it flew overhead with something in its beak. I found it later, as it stood on a nest (the same nest the hawks had used in the previous year) next to its mate. It had a lizard in its mouth…but apparently wasn’t willing to share it, because it flew off again with the meal still in its mouth.

I saw a few Ground Squirrels keeping close to their burrows, and also got to see a coyote. It ran down the drive to parking lot toward me, being “chased” by a guy in a truck. Grrr. It looked like a youngster, but I couldn’t get a decent shot of it because it was moving too quickly and I didn’t have time to adjust the focus on my camera. Ugh!

I walked for about 3 hours before heading back home. This was hike #8 in my #52HikeChallenge for the year.

Species List:

  1. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis [white pronotum]
  4. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  5. Bark Rim Lichen, Lecanora chlarotera [looks like Whitewash Lichen but has apothecia]
  6. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  7. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  8. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica [dark green with brown apothecia, on trees]
  9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  10. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  11. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  12. Common Sunburst Lichen, Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina [yellow-orange, on wood/trees]
  13. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  14. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  15. Coyote Brush Rust Gall, Puccinia evadens
  16. Coyote, Canis latrans
  17. Crown Whitefly, Aleuroplatus coronata
  18. Dark-Eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis
  19. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  20. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  21. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  22. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  23. Hybotid Fly, Platypalpus sp. [tiny, midge-like]
  24. Lark Sparrow, Chondestes grammacus
  25. Live Oak Erineum Mite Gall, Aceria mackiei
  26. Manroot, California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  27. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
  28. Non-Biting Midges, Family: Chironomidae
  29. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  30. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  31. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  32. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  33. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  34. Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans
  35. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  36. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  37. Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica
  38. Stork’s Bill, Musk Stork’s-Bill, Erodium moschatum
  39. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha [without soredia]
  40. Western Boxelder Bug, Boisea rubrolineata
  41. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  42. Willow, Salix sp.
  43. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa

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