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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