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