The Garden Was Showing Off, 05-10-22

I got up around 6:30 AM with the dogs to very chilly temperatures (in the low 40’s) and some cloud cover. The weather was very weird throughout the day. There was a short period of rain in the late afternoon… and it snowed in Napa.

Around 7:30 AM, my dog Esteban and I went to the WPA Rock Garden and William Land Park for a walk. Esteban was a very good dog throughout, and didn’t pay the ducks or geese around the ponds any mind, even when they honked and hissed at him.

The WPA Rock Garden was showing off with spring blooms everywhere, and the Smoke Trees were rally “smoking”. The irises around the garden were pretty much spent for the season, but there were various colors of columbine all over the place: yellow, orange, purple and white. I think those are such interesting flowers. They look like alien rocket ships to me. I was also happy to see a lot of native Elegant Clarkia in bloom throughout the garden. That species is new there; I’d never seen it there before. I couldn’t find any milkweed, however, which was kind of disappointing.

There was fennel growing in several parts of the garden, some of the plants in bloom with flowerheads reaching up 10 or 15 feet over my head. But I didn’t see any Anis Swallowtail caterpillars on the plants.  In fact, I didn’t see many insects at all and I attributed that to the fact that it was chilly outside and they weren’t awake enough yet to be buzzing around.

In the park, I was hoping to see some warblers (before they migrate out of the area), but actually didn’t see many birds beyond the usual suspects.

I watched a male Mourning Dove collect twigs and bits of grass for a nest for his mate, and saw him carry them inside the convolutions of a huge cactus plant at the edge of the garden. I thought that was an ingenious place to settle on as a nesting spot. The nest is shielded by the large flat fronds of the cactus – and the cactus thorns.

I heard a Mockingbird in a tree making a one-note call and tried to see what that was about. I think it might have been a juvenile, based on its darker eye and lack of repertoire.

Cornell says: “…Eye color darkish [in juveniles]; iris of adults is brighter yellow… Males give a low amplitude, high-pitched nest relief call from a shrub or tree near the nest before flying to the nest site. This occurs during the first half of the nestling period when the female is likely to be brooding…” 

I couldn’t find anything specific to juveniles’ calls except that their song repertoire isn’t developed until they’re older. Some of the repertoire of all mockingbirds is learned from other mockingbirds rather than through hearing and mimicking the songs of other species – as well as car alarm sounds, the beeps of microwave ovens, and other human-made noises. 

Cornell says: “…Mockingbirds have extraordinarily diverse song repertoires consisting of acoustically distinct song types (= song patterns = syllable patterns). Temporal and frequency characteristics are summarized by Wildenthal. These songs are acquired through imitating the calls, songs, and parts of songs of other avian species, vocalizations of non-avian species, mechanical sounds, and sounds of other mockingbirds. The proportion of songs imitated is not known and would be extremely difficult to estimate because the entire auditory experience of an individual would need to be known to determine whether a vocalization was acquired through imitation. Geographic variation, although not studied, is likely, given that mockingbirds are relatively sedentary, acquire songs from neighbors, and imitate other species characteristic of the local avifauna…Seasonal singing behavior in males appears to be influenced by testosterone levels in the blood… During the breeding season, males typically begin to sing 0.5 to 1 hour before sunrise. Unmated males start earlier than mated males. Song is prevalent during the morning, with its incidence declining gradually until dusk. Cessation of evening song is associated with sunset (light intensity), not temperature. Throughout the day, unmated males sing more often than mated males… The vocal repertoires of individual males have been estimated to be as low as 45 and as high as 203 song types. Wildenthal reported a male in Kansas with an estimated 194 song types and one in Florida with 134… Mockingbird song has received much attention from a sexual selection perspective. While both intrasexual (i.e., male-male) and intersexual (male-female) functions have shaped mockingbird singing behavior, it appears that song serves mainly to attract and stimulate females…”

The middle pond was overrun with lotus again, leaving very little space for the geese and ducks to swim in.

I saw groups of goslings, but the parent birds, including a large Graylag Goose, were being very protective of them, herding them away from my camera, hissing at me, threatening to chase me.  I didn’t know if the Graylag Goose had goslings of her own in the creche, or if she had taken on the role of “helper” for the Canada Geese, but she was blatantly aggressive and didn’t want me anywhere near her charges. I don’t tangle with goose-mamas, they will kick your ass.

Among the geese, there was one who had the markings of a Canada Goose but also had an extra band of white around the base of its bill like the Swan Geese often have. Maybe it was a hybrid.

Hybrid between a Canada Goose and a Swan Goose, I think

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

There were more Indian Runner Ducks at the ponds than I’d seen before. I don’t know if more adults were brought in or if the existing ducks had babies last year.

In the water, I saw a group of three tiny ducklings. They were swimming around by themselves, crying loudly for a parent that wasn’t answering them. So sad. I don’t know if their mom was killed or had simply abandoned them, but none of the other ducks in the pond were paying any attention to them. The little ones can survive if they can find enough to eat – and can avoid predators – but I felt really bad for them and their  predicament. They were “dark” little things, so I thought maybe they were Wood Duck babies rather than Mallard.

There were a few Black Phoebes flying around the lotus plants in the lake, landing on the bent-over stems that poked out here and there. I saw two sitting next to one another, and one bird gave the other bird an insect to eat. I thought at first they might have been a mated pair, but then it occurred to me that it was probably a parent feeding one of its fledglings. That notion was supported by the fact that there were four or five phoebes flying around the same area. Kids were probably testing their wings, and parents were bribing them with treats to keep their wings moving.

I know where a phoebe’s nest in the park, so I went to look for it, and found a single fledgling sitting on top of it. When it saw me, it flew up onto a nearby ledge. So it was mobile. Maybe it thought if it stuck with the nest, its parents would come there to feed it.

I saw quite a few turtles along the edges of the ponds, and most of them were Red-Eared Sliders. I did see one or two Pacific Pond Turtles, though. They’re the natives; the Sliders are invasive.  I saw nine Sliders all basking in the same spot, big turtles and little ones.

As I was heading back to the car, I could see movement on the trunk of a tree across the street, so I aimed my camera at it. It was a female Nuttall’s Woodpecker.

The dog and I ended up walking for about 3 hours and then headed back home. This was hike #26 in my #52HikeChallenge for the year. I’m halfway through and it’s only May. Right on track.

Species List:

  1. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  2. Annual Honesty, Money Plant, Lunaria annua
  3. Argentine Pear, Iochroma austral [purple bell/horn shaped flowers]
  4. Artichoke Thistle, Cardoon, Cynara cardunculus
  5. Asphodel Plant, Asphodelus sp. [long heavy bracts of round seed pods]
  6. Basswood Tree, Tilia americana
  7. Bear’s Breeches, Acanthus mollis
  8. Beavertail Cactus, Indian Fig Opuntia, Opuntia ficus-indica
  9. Bee, European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  10. Bindweed, Ground Morning Glory, Convolvulus sabatius mauritanicus [purple-blue flowers]
  11. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  12. Bloody Crane’s-Bill, Geranium sanguineum
  13. Brass Buttons, Cotula coronopifolia
  14. Buckwheat, Sulfur Buckwheat, Eriogonum umbellatum
  15. Bunya-Bunya Pine, Araucaria bidwillii [looks like Monkey-Puzzle]
  16. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  17. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  18. California Sycamore, Western Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  19. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  20. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  21. Cape Honey Flower, Melianthus major
  22. Catalpa, Northern Catalpa, Catalpa speciosa
  23. Cheeseweed Mallow, Malva parviflora
  24. Clockweed, Oenothera lindheimeri
  25. Columbine, Aquilegia sp.
  26. Common Daisy, Lawn Daisy, Bellis perennis
  27. Common Pill Woodlouse, Pillbug, Rolly-Poly, Armadillidium vulgare
  28. Coneflower, Topeka Purple Coneflower, Echinacea atrorubens
  29. Cranefly, Spotted Cranefly, Nephrotoma wulpiana
  30. Creeping Myoporum, Myoporum parvifolium [groundcover, small whiteflowers]
  31. Crested Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Crested
  32. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  33. Deodar Cedar, Cedrus deodara
  34. Douglas’ Squirrel, Tamiasciurus douglasii [small brown squirrel, white belly]
  35. Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis [white belly]
  36. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata [red line on leaves]
  37. Eucalyptus, River Redgum, Eucalyptus camaldulensis
  38. Fennel, Bronze Fennel, Florence Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare dulce
  39. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  40. Fleabane, Coulter’s Fleabane, Erigeron coulteri [pale purple petals, yellow center]
  41. Garden Snail, Cornu aspersum
  42. Grasses, Family: Poaceae
  43. Grasses, Fountain Grass, Cenchrus setaceus
  44. Graylag Goose, Domestic Graylag Goose, Anser anser domesticus
  45. Hollyhock, Alcea rosea
  46. Indian Runner Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Indian Runner
  47. Iris, Stinking Iris, Iris foetidissima [bright orange seeds]
  48. Iris, Yellow Iris, Iris pseudacorus
  49. Isis, Iris sp.
  50. Italian Stone Pine, Umbrella Pine, Pinus pinea [small cones, 2 per fascicle]
  51. Lavender, Common Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia
  52. Love-in-a-Mist. Nigella damascena
  53. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  54. Mediterranean Cypress, Cupressus sempervirens
  55. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  56. Mullein, Great Mullein, Verbascum thapsus
  57. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  58. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  59. Pacific Bleeding Heart, Dicentra formosa
  60. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marorata
  61. Pekin Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Pekin
  62. Pine Tree, Pinus sp.
  63. Pineapple Guava, Feijoa, Feijoa sellowiana
  64. Pinkladies, Oenothera speciosa
  65. Poppy, Coulter’s Matilija Poppy, Romneya coulteri
  66. Red Hot Poker, Kniphofia uvaria
  67. Red Valerian, Centranthus ruber
  68. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans
  69. Rose, Dog-Rose, Rosa canina
  70. Rose, Multiflora Rose, Rosa multiflora [multiple white flowers]
  71. Rose, Rosa sp.
  72. Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera
  73. Sage, Garden Sage, Salvia officinalis [purple and pale purple-pink]
  74. Sage, Meadow Sage, Salvia pratensis
  75. Sage, Jerusalem Sage, Phlomis fruticosa
  76. Sawfly, Pristiphora sp.
  77. Scarlet Kammetjie, Freesia laxa [pink,6-petals,redblush on bottom 3]
  78. Scarlet Pimpernel, Lysimachia arvensis
  79. Scrambling Pohuehue, Muehlenbeckia complexa [sort of looks like a fern with round leaves]
  80. Smokebush, Smoke Tree, Cotinus coggygria
  81. Sparrow, House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  82. Spurge, Eggleaf Spurge, Euphorbia oblongata
  83. Thrip, Subfamily: Thripinae
  84. Tobacco, Coyote Tobacco, Flowering Tobacco, Nicotiana attenuata
  85. Tower-of-Jewels, Giant Viper’s-Bugloss, Echium pininana
  86. Tree-Anemone, Carpenteria californica
  87. Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  88. Western Mosquitofish, Gambusia affinis
  89. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
  90. Woolly Hedgenettle, Stachys byzantina
  91. Yellow Bird-of-Paradise Shrub, Erythrostemon gilliesii

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