City Nature Challenge, Day 1, 04-29-22

This was the City Nature Challenge Day #1 and I got up at 5:30 AM to get the dogs all fed and pottied, and to get myself and Esteban ready for a day out in the field with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne. We went into Placer County and up along the length of Drum Powerhouse Road. My right arm still hurt from the COVID booster, all the way down to my wrist. I pretty much tried to ignore it, but sometimes I had to change which hand I held my camera/cellphone in.

On the way up into the foothills, Roxanne took a short detour to show me a spot where there were white globe lilies blooming along the road side. Such pretty things.

Next we stopped at a rest stop along the highway to use the restroom, get Esteban walked and pottied, and check out the colony of Cliff Swallows there. I could watch those little guys all day. They’re so entertaining.

Once we got going, we got confused by some of the road signs, and ended up going down a road we didn’t mean to, but at an intersection there we saw more Cliff Swallows. They were on the ground near a puddle collecting mud for their nests. We noted that the birds were flapping their wings all the while they were on the ground.

I suggested it might be to confuse and ward-off predators, but according to bird-photographer expert Ron Dudley it has a different purpose. He writes: “…It’s thought to be a defensive posture used by both sexes and meant to prevent extra-pair copulations (EPCs). At almost any opportunity males try to copulate with swallows other than their own mates and those sexually aggressive males often mistake other males for females. So swallows on the ground, both males and females, typically raise and flutter their wings in an effort to prevent those unwelcome matings while their gathering behavior makes them more vulnerable. As a result, vicious fights often break out…”

So, the wing-flapping is sort of like the swallows’ version of birth control. Hah!

The drive took us up through the foothills, past huge outcroppings of serpentinite, seeps  and small waterfalls, and one spot where water (from melting snow above) was actually trickling through the rocks and mosses. It seemed that everywhere we stopped along the road, we saw a generous variety of species.

The first spot was one we’d gone to a year or so ago where we saw giant trillium, Bleeding Hearts, and Mountain Misery among other things. And we found some Trumpet Lichen among the moss on the side of a stump.  We also got to see a Brown Creeper bird creeping up the side of a fir tree. It was collecting little bits of bark and needles along the way.

Further along the road we found groupings of Yellow Star Tulips and Rainbow Irises along with Goldback Fern and other plants.

In a more rocky area we found lots of lichen including Emery Rocktripe, Black Eye Lichen, and Yellow Map Lichen.

In between some of the boulders Lace Lip Ferns were peaking out. But the standout find was several flowering Mountain Jewelflower plants. I’ve been trying to find a jewelflower for almost a decade, and this was my first! I was sooooo excited! It was nice to see, too, that there were so many healthy-looking plants growing out from the rocks. Tucked in closer against the rock walls were lots of Canyon Live-Forever Dudleya, most of them in bloom, too.

On the opposite side of the road was a steep drop-off covered in trees. We could hear a loud bird singing from the top of a tree nearby. I caught a glimpse of it, and could see it was a male Black-Headed Grosbeak, but it flew into another tree before I could get a photo of it. Luckily, it didn’t go too far, and we were able to take some photos and a video snippet of it before it flew off.

In other areas we found end-of-the-season larkspur, some Pacific Hounds Tongue (“Dog Lick”), and flowering Broad-leaved Stonecrop.

We also found that several of the Dogwood trees were in bloom. Sooooo lovely. All the “green”, cool temperatures and fresh air was just what I’ve been needing. We were also pleased to see the huge outcroppings of serpentinite along the road: shiny, slick, almost glassy, in varying shades of green.

According to KQED: “…Serpentinite is a metamorphosed version of rocks that make up oceanic crust after they are incorporated into subduction zones (plate boundaries where oceanic plates are thrust under continental plates). The recognition and study of serpentinite in California contributed to the understanding of modern plate tectonic theory… Serpentinite has a unique association with California for many reasons including: its association with gold deposits and the resulting California Gold Rush history, many plants unique to California grow on serpentinite-rich soils, the fact that serpentinite is thought to promote slow (and less hazardous) ‘creep’ along faults, and others…”

In 2009, there was a bill introduced in the state Senate to remove serpentinite as California’s state rock. The bill suggested that serpentinite shouldn’t be the state rock because “serpentine contains the deadly mineral ‘chrysotile asbestos, a known carcinogen, exposure to which increases the risk of cancer mesothelioma.”

The fact that there is no such thing as the mineral chrysotile asbestos was ignored in the bill.  According to KQED: “…There is a mineral ‘chrysotile’ that crystallizes into a fibrous material referred to as asbestos but not all varieties of serpentinite contain it…” The only real danger from the stone was if someone threw a chunk of serpentinite at you and it struck you in the head. So, the bill failed – as it should have.

We drove past the plot of ground, a shallow meadow, that is regularly used as a makeshift shooting range by locals. It’s so sad to see all of this destruction in the middle of such a lovely environment. The ground is literally covered in shot gun shells, shot up boxes and other trash. There are circles cut into the ground by morons doing “donuts” with their vehicles, and rocks painted with lurid green smiley faces and graffiti. It’s all just sickening to look at.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

We were hoping to get to see the powerplant at the end of the road but access was blocked by a gate that, although it was open, was covered in “no trespassing” and other warning signs. The powerhouse, a hydroelectric plant run by PG&E, is over 100 years old. It’s adjacent to the New Drum Afterbay dam which is over a mile long. There is so little information available about the dam and the powerhouse that it makes me a bit suspicious about it. Like, what’s really going on beyond that closed gate? Hah!

For me, it was extra fun to also be able to find several galls on the canyon live oak trees including Clustered Blister Galls, Fluted Gall, Gouty Stem Galls, and Hair Capsule Gall.

We were out from 6:30 AM to 3:30 PM. Phew! A long day, but we saw over 100 different species. A great start to the challenge.

Species List:

  1. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  2. American Yellowrocket, Barbarea orthoceras
  3. Aphid, Macrosiphum sp. [pink or green]
  4. Balsamroot, Carey’s Balsamroot, Balsamorhiza careyana
  5. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  6. Bigleaf Maple, Acer macrophyllum
  7. Black Chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa
  8. Black-Eye Lichen, Tephromela atra
  9. Black-Headed Grosbeak, Pheucticus melanocephalus
  10. Broom, Scotch Broom, Cytisus scoparius
  11. Brown Creeper, Certhia americana
  12. Brown Fritillary, Fritillaria micrantha
  13. Bumpy Rim-Lichen, Lecanora hybocarpa
  14. Buttercup, Western Buttercup, Ranunculus occidentalis
  15. California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  16. California Incense-Cedar, Calocedrus decurrens
  17. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  18. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  19. California Saxifrage, Micranthes californica
  20. California Tortoiseshell Butterfly, Nymphalis californica
  21. Ceanothus, Deerbrush Ceanothus, Ceanothus integerrimus
  22. Ceanothus, Mahala Mat, Ceanothus prostrates
  23. Clover, Rose Clover, Trifolium hirtum
  24. Clustered Blister Gall Wasp, Family: Cynipidae [Russo, Plate 230, Page 158. On canyon live oak]
  25. Cobwebby Thistle, Cirsium occidentale
  26. Common Button Lichen, Buellia erubescens [black eye on white]
  27. Common Drone Fly, Eristalis tenax
  28. Common Duckweed, Lemna minor
  29. Conical Brittlestem Mushroom, Parasola conopilea
  30. Crevice Alumroot, Heuchera micrantha
  31. Dandelion, Common Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale
  32. Douglas Fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii
  33. Dudleya, Canyon Live-Forever, Dudleya cymosa
  34. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata [red line on leaves]
  35. Emery Rocktripe Lichen, Umbilicaria phaea
  36. Eucalyptus, River Redgum, Eucalyptus camaldulensis
  37. Fern, Common Bracken, Pteridium aquilinum
  38. Fern, Goldback Fern, Pentagramma triangularis
  39. Fern, Lace Lip Fern, Myriopteris gracillima
  40. Fern, Narrowleaf Sword Fern, Polystichum imbricans
  41. Fig, Common Fig, Ficus carica
  42. Fluffy Dust Lichen, Lepraria finkii
  43. Fluted Gall Wasp, Family: Cynipidae [Russo, plate 231,page 158. On canyon live oak]
  44. Fringepod, Mountain Fringepod, Thysanocarpus laciniatus
  45. Globe Lily, White Globe Lily, Calochortus albus
  46. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  47. Goldenrod, Coast Goldenrod, Solidago spathulata
  48. Gouty Stem Gall Wasp, Callirhytis quercussuttoni
  49. Grasses, Bulbous Bluegrass, Poa bulbosa
  50. Grasses, Italian Ryegrass, Lolium multiflorum
  51. Grasses, Ripgut Brome, Bromus diandrus
  52. Grasses, Wild Oat, Avena fatua
  53. Hair Capsule Gall Wasp, Heteroecus sp. [Russo, plate 214,page 150. On canyon live oak]
  54. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  55. Iris, Rainbow Iris, Iris hartwegii
  56. Jewelflower, Mountain Jewelflower, Streptanthus tortuosus
  57. Larkspur, Zigzag Larkspur, Delphinium patens [dark purple-blue]
  58. Lomatium, Foothill Desert-Parsley, Lomatium utriculatum
  59. Lupine, Arroyo Lupine, Lupinus succulentus
  60. Miner’s Lettuce, Streambank Springbeauty, Claytonia parviflora
  61. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
  62. Moss, Bristly Haircap Moss, Polytrichum piliferum [like little porcupines]
  63. Moss, Clustered Feather-Moss, Rhynchostegium confertum
  64. Moss, Fountain Apple-Moss, Philonotis fontana
  65. Moss, Nuttall’s Homalothecium Moss, Homalothecium nuttallii [looks like thread]
  66. Moss, Rough-Stalked Feather-Moss, Brachythecium rutabulum
  67. Moss, Silvery Bryum, Bryum argenteum
  68. Moss, Turf-Forming Moss, Trichostomum sp.
  69. Mountain Misery, Chamaebatia foliolosa [fern-like leaves]
  70. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri [like strap but with soredia]
  71. Orange Hangingfly, Bittacus chlorostigma
  72. Pacific Bleeding Heart, Dicentra formosa
  73. Pacific Dogwood, Cornus nuttallii
  74. Pacific False Bindweed, Calystegia purpurata
  75. Pacific Hound’s Tongue, “Dog Lick”, Adelinia grande
  76. Paintbrush, Harsh Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja hispida
  77. Peppered Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia conspersa
  78. Periwinkle, Greater Periwinkle, Vinca major
  79. Phacelia, Virgate Scorpionweed, Phacelia heterophylla
  80. Pine Violet, Viola lobata
  81. Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa
  82. Poppy, California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  83. Powdered Ruffle Lichen, Parmotrema hypotropum
  84. Prettyface, Foothill Triteleia, Triteleia ixioides scabra
  85. Propertius Duskywing Butterfly, Erynnis propertius
  86. Rose, Hoary Rock-Rose, Cistus criticus
  87. Sawfly, Pristiphora sp. [caterpillar]
  88. Sheep’s Sorrel, Rumex acetosella
  89. Solitary Oak Leafminer Moth, Cameraria hamadryadella [form whole-leaf blisters on oak]
  90. Sow Thistle, Common Sow-Thistle, Sonchus oleraceus
  91. Spurge, Eggleaf Spurge, Euphorbia oblongata
  92. Stonecrop, Broad-Leaved Stonecrop, Sedum spathulifolium
  93. Stork’s Bill, Musk Stork’s-Bill, Erodium moschatum
  94. Sunflower, Common Woolly Sunflower, Eriophyllum lanatum
  95. Swallow, Cliff Swallow. Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
  96. Thrip, Subfamily: Thripinae
  97. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  98. Trillium, Giant White Wakerobin, Trillium albidum
  99. Trumpet Lichen, Cladonia fimbriata
  100. Tube Lichen, Imshaug’s Tube Lichen, Hypogymnia imshaugii
  101. Twining Snakelily, Dichelostemma volubile
  102. Variable Wrinkle-Lichen, Tuckermanopsis orbata [green or brown]
  103. Velvet Ash, Fraxinus velutina
  104. Vetch, Common Vetch, Vicia sativa [pink flowers]
  105. Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa
  106. Wart Lichen, Verrucaria sp.
  107. Water-Cress, Nasturtium sp.
  108. Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  109. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  110. Western Solomon’s Plume, Maianthemum racemosum amplexicaule
  111. Western Stoneseed, Lithospermum ruderale
  112. Western Wallflower, Erysimum capitatum
  113. Western Waterleaf, Hydrophyllum occidentale [looks like phacelia]
  114. White Fir, Abies concolor
  115. White Meadowfoam, Limnanthes alba
  116. White Nemophila, Nemophila heterophylla
  117. Whiteleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida
  118. Whitewash Lichen, Phlyctis argena
  119. Woodland Strawberry, Fragaria vesca
  120. Yellow Map Lichen, Rhizocarpon geographicum
  121. Yellow Star-Tulip, Calochortus monophyllus [fuzzy throat]
  122. ?? Ant

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The Phoebes were the Stars of the Day, 04-26-22

I got up around 6:00 this morning with the dogs, fed them their breakfast, and then got myself ready to head out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. There were some specific trees I wanted to check for galls, but otherwise I was open to whatever nature wanted to show me.

I watched the Black Phoebes, which have a nest there every year, catch insects and feed their babies. A couple of times, I saw the adult do a kind of fast flip in mid-air and catch winged insects as they flew by. This year’s nest had FIVE babies in it, and they were all nearly fledged, so cramming them all into that little mud cup wasn’t easy. I could have watched them all day, but really needed to get moving.

I also got a glimpse of a Bewick’s Wren nesting cavity. There were three babies, again nearly fledged, sitting on the outside rim of the nest – which was well-hidden inside of a bush. Of course, as always, the camera decided to focus on the leaves in front of the nestlings, instead of on the birds themselves

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

There was a European Starling that was doing her wing-twirls, and another one that was poking its head out of its nesting cavity.

And I saw a few beautiful Ash-Throated Flycatchers.

I saw my first Tussock Moth caterpillar of the season, and my first Black-Tailed Bumble Bee on this walk along with several other insects. I’m trying to work my naturalist’s eye in anticipation of the upcoming City Nature Challenge.

I found a few Small-Flowered Catchfly flowers. They’re glandular-hairy especially on veins, and feel sticky to the touch.

It was fun seeing a mama California Ground Squirrel back at the burrow at the end of the trail on the bluff side of the preserve. She avoided me at first, but then seemed to realize I wasn’t a threat, and she came out and posed for me for a while. Ground squirrels are one of my favorite animals, so it’s always great to see them.

I walked for a whopping 4 hours before heading home. That’s the best I’ve done since my surgery in January.  This was hike #22 in my #52HikeChallenge for the year.

Species List:

  1. Acmon Blue Butterfly, Icaricia acmon
  2. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  3. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens
  4. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  5. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  6. Bee, European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  7. Bee, Leafcutter Bee, Megachile sp.
  8. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  9. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  10. Broad-Leaved Sweet Pea, Lathyrus latifolius
  11. Bumblebee, Black-Tailed Bumble Bee, Bombus melanopygus
  12. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  13. Caddisfly, Black Dancer Caddisfly, Mystacides sepulchralis
  14. California Black Walnut Pouch Gall Mite, Aceria brachytarsa
  15. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  16. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  17. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  18. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  19. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  20. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  21. California Sycamore, Western Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  22. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis    
  23. Cat’s Ear, Smooth Cat’s Ear, Hypochaeris glabra
  24. Cedar Waxwing, Bombycilla cedrorum
  25. Clover, Rose Clover, Trifolium hirtum
  26. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  27. Cranefly, European Crane Fly, Tipula paludosa
  28. Crown Whitefly, Aleuroplatus coronata
  29. Dictyna Spider, Dictyna sp.
  30. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  31. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  32. Grasses, Mediterranean Hair-Grass, Rostraria cristata
  33. Green Lacewing, Chrysopa coloradensis
  34. Harvestman, Protolophus singularis
  35. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  36. Hoverfly, Black-Margined Flower Fly, Syrphus opinator
  37. Iris, Douglas Iris, Iris douglasiana
  38. Iris, Yellow Iris, Iris pseudacorus
  39. Katydid, Fork-Tailed Bush Katydid, Scudderia furcata [nymph]
  40. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous [heard]
  41. Ladybeetle, Seven-Spotted Lady Beetle, Coccinella septempunctata
  42. Live Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Spring generation, Amphibolips quercuspomiformis [upside down volcano on the edge of the leaf, green or brown]
  43. Live Oak Folded Leaf Aphid, Stegophylla essigi [in live oaks, folds the leaf over itself; sometimes the leaf turns red/reddish]
  44. Lupine, Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  45. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  46. March Fly, Bibio vestitus [tiny, black, elongated body]
  47. Metallic Wood-Boring Beetle, Subgenus: Melanthaxia
  48. Milkweed, Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa
  49. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  50. Mule Fat, Baccharis salicifolia
  51. Non-Biting Midge, Cricotopus sp.
  52. Northern California Black Walnut, Juglans hindsii
  53. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  54. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  55. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  56. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  57. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  58. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  59. Penstemon, Mountain Blue Penstemon, Penstemon laetus
  60. Pineappleweed, Chamomilla suaveolens
  61. Plum, Prunus domestica
  62. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  63. Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys sp.
  64. Purpletop Vervain, Verbena incompta
  65. Pyracantha, Firethorn, Pyracantha coccinea
  66. Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans
  67. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  68. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens [on live oaks]
  69. Scarlet Pimpernel, Lysimachia arvensis
  70. Small-Flowered Catchfly, Silene gallica
  71. Snakefly, Common Snakefly, Agulla sp.
  72. Swallow, Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  73. Towhee, California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  74. Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus [heard]
  75. Treehopper, Buffalo Treehopper, Stictocephala bisonia [exuvia]
  76. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  77. Western Boxelder Bug, Boisea rubrolineata
  78. Western Mosquitofish, Gambusia affinis
  79. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  80. Western Tussock Moth, Orgyia vetusta
  81. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  82. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  83. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
  84. Wren, Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  85. Wren, House Wren, Troglodytes aedon [heard]
  86. Yarrow, Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium

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Some Firsts at the River Bend, 04-19-22

I headed over to the American River Bend Park, again, for a walk. It’s really close by and is becoming my sort-of go-to place. I tried going down a trail I hadn’t been down before because I thought an owl’s nest had been spotted there, but I didn’t see it.

I DID get to see some galls on the oak trees there that I hadn’t seen in the park before, so that was cool.  I’m still looking for evidence of new Callirhytis quercuspomiformis wasp galls on the live oaks, but I haven’t seen any yet. The springtime galls look like upside down funnels on the edges of the leaves, and the summer galls look like spikey balls on the twigs. I found lots of old ones, but no new ones yet.

I then headed over to my regular haunt, a trail that runs above and alongside the river, and was surprised by the number of bicyclists that were out – even someone the hiking trail where they don’t belong.  Grrr. 

Of my bird sightings today, I saw a pair of Northern Rough-Winged Swallows (Stelgidopteryx serripennis) among all the bug-chasing Tree Swallows yesterday, and found where mama was building her nest in the side of a steep bank off the trail. When she saw me, she stopped working for a bit, not wanting me to spot the exact location of her nest. Dad pretty much just hung out in a nearby tree.

According to Cornell: “…Prefers open areas, including open woodlands. Fairly common throughout breeding range, but local distribution depends on suitable nest sites. Predominantly near rocky gorges, shale banks, stony road cuts, railroad embankments, gravel pits, eroded margins of streams, and other such exposed banks of clay, sand, or gravel. May accept any cavity or crevice in vertical surface, including gutters, culverts, drainpipes, and crevices or holes in walls, wharves, bridges, etc.. Often nests near open water, but water likely coincidental with occurrence of suitable nest site…”

This pair had chosen a spot on a steep bank below the trail. A medium-sized tree had fallen there during the heavier rains earlier this year, and the roots opened up hollows in the dirt. Perfect for the little swallows. I watched as the female collected twiglets and dried grass.

“…All or nearly all nest material collected by female from ground. She seeks materials close to nest site and repeatedly uses same collecting locations. Carries materials to burrow in bill… Bulk consists of woody twigs, weed stems, straw, roots and rootlets, coarse and fine grass (dry and green), sedges, leaves and parts of leaves (sometimes green), wood chips, bark shreds, plant fibers, moss, grass heads, flowers or parts of flowers, seeds, dung, mud, hair, string, and miscellaneous bits of rubbish…Function of dung unknown.”

Incubation of the eggs is apparently exclusively by female. Both parents feed the young after they’re born,  “…Female begins feeding young as soon as they hatch, but male may delay onset of feeding up to 3 d. Once male participates, each parent feeds nestlings and makes trips to nest with about equal frequency (10–20 trips/h, with marked acceleration in frequency as dusk approaches) until young about two-thirds grown. Then female’s activity drops appreciably relative to male; reason unknown…”

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

In the water were Common Mergansers, Mallards, some Snowy Egrets, and some Canada Geese with goslings.  

The number of Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies and caterpillars is increasing. Because they’re toxic, the birds won’t touch them. And there are still craneflies everywhere, of all different colors and sizes, including some Tiger Craneflies.

According to Daniel Stolte, University of Arizona: “…Most of the 15,000-plus species of crane flies in the world spend the larval part of their life living in water bodies, such as rivers and lakes, piles of wet leaves or in damp soil. About 95% of their life is spent in this larval stage, and it can last as long as three years or more. During this time as larvae, crane flies are important for recycling and decomposition – they eat leaves, plants and small bits of organic material in the soil or water bodies where they live… They can pass entire dry years, or perhaps even multiple dry years in a row, in a stage of dormancy called aestivation. When moisture returns to the soil during rainy winters, and wildflowers and grasses start growing again, then crane fly larvae will break from aestivation and spring back into action… Nearly 100% of the energy that crane fly adults have comes from the food they ate as larvae – the adults don’t eat any food at all. Imagine if we stopped eating food at age 18, and had to get by our entire adult lives on the food we ate as children…”

Then I came across something I thought was a cranefly, but it was actually a Hanging Scorpionfly: very large and bright-bright yellow. The was a first for me.

I also saw my first snakefly of the season. They’re such cool-looking insects. “…Females have a large and sturdy ovipositor which is used to deposit eggs in some concealed location. They are holometabolous insects with a four-stage life cycle consisting of eggs, larvae, pupae and adults. In most species, the larvae develop under the bark of trees. They may take several years before they undergo metamorphosis, requiring a period of chilling (32º) before pupation takes place. Both adults and larvae are predators of soft-bodied arthropods… Adult snakeflies are territorial and carnivorous organisms. They are diurnal and are important predators of aphids and mites…”

Is it any wonder why this spot is one of my favorites for nature walking? I see something different each time I go there. This was hike #20 of my #52HikeChallenge for the year.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens
  3. Ball Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perfoveata [on live oak]
  4. Black Rock Licorice Lichen, Lichinella nigritella
  5. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  6. Bumpy Rim-Lichen, Lecanora hybocarpa [tan to brown apothecia]
  7. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  8. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  9. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  10. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  11. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  12. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  13. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  14. Candleflame Lichen, Candelaria concolor [bright yellow-orange]  
  15. Cinder Lichen, Aspicilia cinerea
  16. Clouded Sulphur Butterfly, Colias philodice
  17. Clover, Rose Clover, Trifolium hirtum
  18. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  19. Cranefly, European Crane Fly, Tipula paludosa
  20. Cranefly, Tiger Cranefly, Subgenus: Hesperotipula
  21. Damselfly, Bluet, Enallagma sp.
  22. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  23. Funereal Duskywing Butterfly, Erynnis funeralis
  24. Geometer Moth, “Twig Mimic” caterpillars, Family: Geometridae
  25. Green Rock-Posy, Rhizoplaca melanophthalma
  26. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  27. Hanging Scorpion Fly, Bittacus chlorostigma [like a large, bright yellow cranefly]
  28. Iris, Yellow Iris, Iris pseudacorus
  29. Kermes Scale Insect, Allokermes sp.
  30. Live Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Spring generation, Amphibolips quercuspomiformis [upside down volcano on the edge of the leaf, green or brown]
  31. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Summer Generation, Amphibolips quercuspomiformis [spiky ball]
  32. Live Oak Folded Leaf Aphid, Stegophylla essigi [in live oaks, folds the leaf over itself; sometimes the leaf turns red/reddish]
  33. Live Oak Petiole Gall Wasp, Melikaiella flora
  34. Lupine, Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  35. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  36. Monkeyflower, Orange Bush Monkeyflower, Diplacus aurantiacus
  37. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  38. Northern California Black Walnut, Juglans hindsii
  39. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  40. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  41. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  42. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  43. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  44. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri [like strap but with soredia]
  45. Oregon Sunburst Lichen, Xanthomendoza oregana [yellow/orange thallus bearing granular soredia on the tips and/or underside; looks like leaves with grainy edges]
  46. Poppy, California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  47. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans
  48. Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans
  49. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  50. Snakefly, Common Snakefly, Agulla sp.
  51. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  52. Sparrow, Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  53. Stonewall Rim Lichen, Protoparmeliopsis muralis
  54. Stretch Spider, Long-Jawed Orbweaver, Tetragnatha sp.
  55. Swallow, Northern Rough-Winged Swallow, Stelgidopteryx serripennis
  56. Swift Crab Spider, Mecaphesa celer
  57. Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  58. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  59. Vetch, Common Vetch, Vicia sativa [pink flowers]
  60. Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa
  61. Wren, House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  62. Yellow Cobblestone Lichen, Acarospora socialis
  63. Yellow-faced Bumble Bee, Bombus vosnesenskii
  64. Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata [couldn’t identify sub-species]

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A Little Birding on Easter, 04-17-22

I went out for a short walk at the American River Bend Park and put a little gas in my car. I was only at the park for about 90 minutes so I didn’t get very far walking. I did get to see several different bird species, however, including Western Bluebirds, Acorn Woodpeckers, House Wrens and Audubon’s Warblers.

I also saw some Turkey Vultures on the ground – where they usually are only when feeding. At first, I could just see their heads and shoulders, but knew they had found something to chew on, so I got closer. They had a dead rattlesnake and were carefully pulling its guts out and trying to shake it out of its skin. I could smell it, even from a distance; and it was the smell that had attracted the vultures.

“…Turkey vultures have an extraordinary sense of smell. They have been known to be able to smell carrion from over a mile away, which is very unique in the bird world. The turkey vulture has the largest olfactory (smelling) system of all birds…”

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The most surprising bird, though, was a “lifer” bird for me: a Chipping Sparrow in its breeding plumage. “…[A] rufous to chestnut brown crown, distinct white superciliary line, black lores and eye-stripe, gray rump, unstreaked gray breast and flanks blending into dull white belly, and black bill (frequently pale brown at base of lower mandible, extending to full lower mandible as breeding wanes)…” None of the photos I got of it were super clear because it was across the road on a wire, but they were good enough to make identification easy.

Along one spot on the road, there was a trio of male Wild Turkeys, strutting for a female, snoods down, tails fanned, the whole thing. And the female was impressed enough to sit down on the road, inviting a male to mount her.  But… apparently, the guys were more interested in showing off to one another than they were in the female at that moment and missed their cue for mating. D’oh! Hah!

There were a lot of Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies and caterpillars everywhere, and I also got to see a small Funereal Duskywing butterfly, with brown painted forewings and a white rim along the bottom edges of the hindwings. Lovely.

Species List:

  1. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  2. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  3. Black Blow Fly, Phormia regina [dark blue sheen]
  4. Brown Grass Bug, Irbisia californica
  5. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  6. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  7. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  8. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  9. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis [flyby]
  10. Chipping Sparrow, Spizella passerine
  11. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  12. Funereal Duskywing Butterfly, Erynnis funeralis
  13. Live Oak Folded Leaf Aphid, Stegophylla essigi [in live oaks, folds the leaf over itself; sometimes the leaf turns red/reddish]
  14. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  15. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  16. Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, Crotalus oreganus oreganus [dead]
  17. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  18. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  19. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  20. Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans [heard]
  21. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  22. Swallow, Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  23. Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus [heard]
  24. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  25. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, unisexual gall, summer generation,  Dryocosmus dubiosus [small, green or mottled, on back of leaf along the midvein]
  26. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  27. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  28. Wren, House Wren, Troglodytes aedon

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Donate $5 to buy me a coffee so I have the fuel I need to keep exploring and bring more of nature to you. Thanks! You could also send me a Starbucks gift card if you’re so inclined.