The Coyote Brush was Popping, 03-07-22

I got up around 6:30 this morning and headed out around 7:00 to the Mather Lake Regional Park for a walk. It was 39ºF when I got to the lake, and there was a stiff breeze which, when it came off over the surface of the water, felt even colder. I had to wrap up in my sweatshirt, scarf and cap.

One of the first things I saw was the pair of White Tailed Kites. They were sitting up in the top of a tree where they had nested last year.

I also saw a pair of Western Bluebirds, small flocks of Tree Swallows chattering and vying for nesting holes, and a pair of Nuttall’s Woodpeckers. I saw the male first, and then the female. When the female got to close to him, the male drove her off into another tree, and then he’d follow after her shortly thereafter. They kept this up for several minutes. 

I think I was seeing what Cornell describes as a, “…Supplanting Attack. Similar to Overt Attack, but without accompanying displays that precede; typically one bird calls or Drums and second bird flies in and displaces it. Displaced individual may, in turn, reciprocate…”

The Nuttalls always seem to announce themselves with a loud call which often makes it easy to locate them in the trees. According to Cornell, the loud vocalization is called a “Rattle”: “…A rapid series of Pik-like notes, sometimes becoming slower and raspier at the end, and variable in duration. Rattle is associated with Drumming and Kweek calls. Rattle Call aids in establishing territories, used as contact call, and used when feeding…”

In the water, there were a lot of Mute Swans, some Pied-Billed Grebes, Double-Crested Cormorants, Mallards, Canada Geese, and, surprisingly, only a single Coot. The Coots are usually there en masse.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Some of the willows were starting to get their fluffy catkins, but what really surprised me was seeing that on some of the new leaves there were quite a number of fresh galls of the Willow Apple Gall Sawfly, Pontania californica. I didn’t think they came out this early in the year.

It was the coyote brush bushes than offered the most by way of dozens upon dozens of bud galls from the midges, Rhopalomyia californica. What was cool, though, was that I found the shed exuvia of some of the midges that were stuck inside the galls… and I found some of the midges themselves that had just emerged from their galls and were trying to warm up in the sun. I’d never seen them before, so that was a fun find.

Although the little center island in the lake was looking rather ratty — the tree the cormorants usually rested on was toppled over and the reeds have been flattened — there was fresh beaver sign on the shore of the lake in the evidence of trees with their bark gnawed off, and a small tree felled. In the woodchips all around, I looked for scat but didn’t find any. I did, however, find the spot where the beaver had come ashore and then dragged limbs off into the water. The beaver den on the island still looks intact. I wish I was able to get there early enough to see the beaver working.

I walked for about three hours and then headed home. This was hike #10 in my #52HikeChallenge for the year.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Beaver, American, Beaver, Castor canadensis [signs]
  4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  5. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  6. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  7. Callery Pear, Pyrus calleryana
  8. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  9. Cat, Felis catus
  10. Cattail, Narrowleaf Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  11. Common Sunburst Lichen, Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina [yellow-orange, on wood/trees]
  12. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  13. Coyote Brush Rust Gall, Puccinia evadens
  14. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  15. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  16. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  17. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  18. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  19. Grebe, Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  20. Hoary Rosette Lichen, Physcia aipolia [hoary, brown apothecia]
  21. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus [heard]
  22. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  23. Jointed Charlock, Raphanus raphanistrum
  24. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous [heard]
  25. Lupine, Arroyo Lupine, Lupinus succulentus
  26. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  27. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  28. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  29. Oak, Cork Oak, Quercus suber
  30. Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans [flyover, heard]
  31. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  32. Rush, Soft Rush, Juncus effusus
  33. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  34. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  35. Stork’s Bill, Mediterranean Stork’s-Bill, Erodium botrys
  36. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  37. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  38. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  39. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  40. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  41. Willow, Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
  42. Willow Apple Gall Sawfly, Pontania californica

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