City Nature Challenge, Day 4, 05-02-22

It’s the City Nature Challenge Day #4.  Roxanne and I went to the Yolo Bypass and then to the water treatment plant in Woodland [the Ibis Rookery]to look for more species observations to add to our list.

We were overjoyed to see several Yellow-Headed Blackbirds in the high grass outside the entrance of the bypass. We’d gone to the bypass several times before to try to find them, and they eluded us. Today, we weren’t looking for them – and there they were. They were “lifer” birds for me; so exciting.

A few other cool bird sightings followed. We saw a Great Egret chowing down on what I think was a vole. Of course, the bird was behind a blind of high grass and mustard plants, so I couldn’t get my camera to focus properly on it. We also found a handful of Brown-Headed Cowbirds, males and females together. The males were doing their dominance “bowing” behavior for the females.

According to Cornell: “…Bow: feathers on back, chest raised, wings lifted and spread, tail spread and bowing forward, followed by Bill Wipe, always given with Song. Intensity varies greatly, from slight bow and feather ruffle to full elaborate bow ending with Bill Wipe. Intensity greater when directed to other males than to females; little or no bow given with song if no other cowbirds within 1–2 m (S. Rothstein pers. comm.). A group of males may together perform this ceremony. Male-male bowing displays associated with other agonistic displays…”

I chased a male American Goldfinch around, up and down the auto tour road, then gave up in frustration.  Later, I spotted it sitting high in a tree further down the road, and got a few long-distance photos of him.

We saw hardly any raptors on the drive, besides a Swainson’s Hawk sitting on the ground in a plowed field. I was hoping to see the Great Horned Owl’s babies, but it was chilly and windy outside, and she had them snuggled down in the nest under her. I’ll try going back later to see if I can get a shot of the owlets.

We were surprised to find a pond that was hosting a small group of Cinnamon Teals and Blue-Winged Teals. I seldom see the Blue-Winged ones, so it’s always a treat when we can find them.

We were also surprised by the huge swaths of Flatface Calicoflowers (downingia) that we could see from various vantage points along the auto tour route. Charlie Russell, one of our favorite botanists, had told us the flowers were there, but that was several weeks ago, so we thought they’d all be dried up and gone by now.

One of the really fun finds for me was a new-to-me gall on one of the Goodding’s Willow trees near a parking area along the route. It was listed in Russo as the gall Willow Bud Gall Mite, Aculops aenigma.  The mites cause the tree to create crenulated bunches of plant material on its leaves, catkins and stems. [They kind of look like ash flower galls to me.]

In that same area, I saw several damselflies: Tule Bluets and Pacific Forktails.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

We then headed over to the Ibis Rookery in Woodland. The pond was flooded, and there were no ibises there yet [they usually nest in the summer months.] It was hard to get close-ups of anyone because what birds there were, were mostly in the ponds and furthest from the edge of the driving route.  There were some of the usual suspects including  Canada Geese, Ruddy Ducks, and Black-Necked Stilts, but a big surprise for us was spotting a solitary Eared Grebe in full breeding plumage.

I’ve seen the grebe before in their dull, gray non-breeding plumage, but not in the breeding plumage which is spectacular. Cornell describes it as: “[having] a black head, neck, breast, and upperparts, cinnamon-brown sides and flanks, white belly, and head with black crest and bright golden ear tufts (elongated feathers extending distally from around rear eye); foreneck sometimes largely tinged brownish; crown feathers erectile, usually forming peaked profile, sometimes crest…”

On our way out of the area, in a drainage ditch on the side of the road, we were looking for turtles or maybe a Green Heron… but instead saw something moving slowly just under the surface of the water! We waited for it to show itself but it disappeared into the tight collection of plant life near the end of the ditch. Dang! We speculated that it might have been a mink, or a small muskrat or maybe a big-ass snake… but we didn’t see enough of it to know for sure. Very creepy.

We were out for about 6 hours. It was a very productive day.

Species List:

  1. Alkali Heliotrope, Heliotropium curassavicum
  2. American Coot, Fulica americana
  3. American Goldfinch, Spinus tristis
  4. Bee, European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  5. Bisnaga, Visnaga daucoides
  6. Black Mustard, Brassica nigra
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  9. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  10. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  11. Blue-Winged Teal, Spatula discors
  12. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  13. Broadleaved Pepperweed, Lepidium latifolium
  14. Brown-Headed Cowbird, Molothrus ater
  15. Bullfrog, American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus [tadpoles breathing]
  16. Cabbage White Butterfly, Pieris rapae
  17. California Bulrush, Schoenoplectus californicus
  18. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  19. Caterpillar Hunter Beetle, Calosoma cancellatum [like a Darkling with a sculpted carapace]
  20. Chamomile, Stinking Chamomile, Anthemis cotula
  21. Cheeseweed Mallow, Malva parviflora
  22. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  23. Clover, Bur Clover, Medicago polymorpha
  24. Common Spikeweed, Centromadia pungens
  25. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  26. Curly Dock, Rumex crispus
  27. Damselfly, Pacific Forktail, Ischnura cervula
  28. Damselfly, Tule Bluet, Enallagma carunculatum
  29. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii
  30. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  31. Downingia, Flatface Calicoflower, Downingia pulchella
  32. Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis
  33. Field Mustard, Brassica rapa
  34. Gadwall Duck, Mareca strepera
  35. Grasses, Lesser Canary Grass, Phalaris minor
  36. Grasses, Rabbitfoot Grass, Polypogon monspeliensis
  37. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  38. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  39. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  40. Grebe, Eared Grebe, Podiceps nigricollis
  41. Gumweed, Great Valley Gumweed, Grindelia camporum
  42. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  43. Jointed Charlock, Raphanus raphanistrum
  44. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  45. Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla
  46. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  47. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  48. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  49. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  50. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  51. Orange Sulphur Butterfly, Colias eurytheme
  52. Pigeon, Rock Pigeon, Columba livia
  53. Pineappleweed, Chamomilla suaveolens
  54. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
  55. Raven, Common Raven, Corvus corax
  56. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  57. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
  58. River Bulrush, Bolboschoenus fluviatilis
  59. Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
  60. Saltbush, Big Saltbush, Atriplex lentiformis
  61. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  62. Sow Thistle, Common Sow-Thistle, Sonchus oleraceus
  63. Sparrow, House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  64. Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  65. Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni
  66. Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
  67. Tamarisk, Saltcedar, Tamarix ramosissima
  68. Tick, American Dog Tick, Dermacentor variabilis
  69. Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis
  70. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  71. White Blister Rust Disease, Wilsoniana bliti [looks like white plaque on the leaves]
  72. White Sweetclover, Melilotus albus
  73. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi
  74. Willow Bud Gall Mite, Aculops aenigma [look like the ash mite galls]
  75. Willow, Goodding’s Willow, Salix gooddingii
  76. Wren, Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
  77. Yellow-Headed Blackbird, Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus

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