Yet Another Gristmill Trek, 05-27-22

I got up around 5:30 AM to get ready to take Esteban with me on another walk at Gristmill.  I fed my sister’s dogs, gave Gibson his meds, and took all the dogs outside for potty.

While I was waiting for them to finish, I spotted a small Hairy Jumping Spider, Menemerus semilimbatus, on the side of the pole that holds up one of the large umbrellas in the backyard. The male Hairy Jumping Spiders have bright white pedipalps, and wave them around like flags in front of their face.  So, I quick got some video and photos of this spider with my cellphone before it ran off. 

According to Wikipedia: “…Pedipalps of spiders have the same segmentation as the legs, but the tarsus is undivided, and the pretarsus has no lateral claws. Pedipalps contain sensitive chemical detectors and function as taste and smell organs, supplementing those on the legs. In sexually mature male spiders, the final segment of the pedipalp, the tarsus, develops a complicated structure (sometimes called the palpal bulb or palpal organ) that is used to transfer sperm to the female seminal receptacles during mating. The details of this structure vary considerably between different groups of spiders and are useful for identifying species. The pedipalps are also used by male spiders in courtship displays, contributing to vibratory patterns in web-shaking, acoustic signals, or visual displays…”

Going out to the car, I also saw a False Black Widow Spider near the door. After taking more spider photos, my dog Esteban and I were off like a herd of turtles. It was much cooler today than it had been (around 80º by the late afternoon), slightly overcast, and a bit breezy. Beautiful, perfect weather.

I saw quite a few jackrabbits running and hopping about, and got a quick shot of a pouty Black Phoebe fledgling sitting on a fallen branch waiting for a parent to bring it something for breakfast.

Early in the walk, I stopped to look at what I thought was a fuzzy gall on a valley oak tree; not a galls, just some cottonwood tree fluff. As I pulled my focus back, though, I realized that right in front of my face was a Twelve-Spotted Dragonfly! Because it was a still a bit cool outside, and he was in a shady spot, he was torpid enough for me to pick up and get some close ups of him.

I’m keeping an eye out for galls, old and new, especially on the willows, but I didn’t really find anything today. There were a few places where I wanted to push in through the dead grass and stickers to get a closer look at the trees, but I didn’t. I didn’t want Esteban to get full of awns or covered in ticks (so his presence stifles my naturalist stuff a bit).

Further along, I came across a small homeless encampment on the edge of the river. There has been a lot of back-and-forth about the river encampments because they create squalor, can be the source of fires and water pollution, and are often accompanied by crime. I don’t feel safe walking alone on a trail where I see a homeless person squatting. Wild animals don’t worry me, but having marginal humans around makes me very uncomfortable, even fearful.

Illegal “camping” on the riverside. Most probably a homeless person’s encampment.

The County can’t just flush the homeless people out right now because of a 2019 federal court case, Martin v. Boise, that says the law can’t evict the homeless from public places if there is nowhere else for them to go [no shelter or legal campground]…  

There’s now an Assembly Bill #2633called the “Emergency Shelter and Enforcement Act of 2022” which would outlaw encampments on public property within city limits and require the city to approve thousands more shelter spaces. The legislation would speed up the removal of homeless encampments along the American River Parkway — and eventually ban the camps from the 23-mile natural corridor. They’ll do this by designating the parkway as a “Special Parkland” which is defined as “…open spaces, and natural preserves that have a heightened risk of damage from wildfire or other significant environmental degradation due to the unique and valuable environmental, agricultural, scientific, educational, and recreational resources located therein…”  Furthermore, homeless people who decline a bed in a legal shelter would no longer be allowed to live on the street. The proposal, highly popular with the public, will come before voters in November.

I took some photos of the encampment I saw, and as I did that I saw a female Mallard come up to the shore with her lone surviving duckling. And as I was taking a video of them, a squirrel ran in and photobombed them. Hah!

Very near there, on the side of a tree was a large winged insect. At first I thought it might have been a stonefly or something, based on its size, but as I got closer, I realized it was a Giant Mayfly. I’ve seen the much smaller mayflies before, but I’d never seen this species. Overall, it was the length of my index finger. I took some photos then tried picking it up. Like the dragonfly earlier, the chill in the air made the mayfly torpid, so it was easy to pluck it off of the tree. It’s wings felt like soft pliable rubber, and its body was very squirmy-wormy. I took a few close-up shots then put it back on the tree. This species of mayfly only lives for 24 hours, so it has no mouth parts and doesn’t need to eat anything.

Adding to my list of new-to-me insects was a fat Tachinid Fly,  “…Tachinid larvae are internal parasites of immature beetles, butterflies, moths, sawflies, earwigs, grasshoppers, or true bugs. Adults measure between 3 and 14 mm (<1/2 inch), are often dark, robust, hairy and resemble houseflies, but with very stout bristles at the tips of their abdomens….”

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I saw a young female Red-Shouldered Hawk on the other side of the river getting harassed by Scrub Jays.  On the bank below her, the Killdeer were screaming like crazy, wanting her to leave.  She eventually flew over to my side of the river, and set herself down on a naked branch right next to the trail so I was able to get a few closer photos of her.

I caught sight of a Western Gray Squirrel running up a tree with something very large in its mouth. I couldn’t make out what it was at first, and had to wait until the squirrel settled down on a branch to get a better look at it. It had picked up a very large Oak Apple galls, and was rotating it like an ear of corn between its hands, chewing at it all the while. It got through the outer coating and then started chewing on the starchy insides of the gall; it might have been after whatever wasp larvae might still be inside, too, but I’m not sure about that.

Squirrels are “opportunistic eaters”, so they’ll pretty much try anything. But I had never seen this behavior before, so when I got home I looked it up. Yep. Squirrels like Oak Apples.  And apparently Woodrats gather them up and store them in their dens to eat later.

I don’t know that I’ve ever actually seen a woodrat, AKA  “pack rat”, but they’re supposed to be very common around here.

“…Some species are commonly known as “packrats” for their characteristic accumulation of food and debris on or near their dens. These collections, called “middens,” may include bones, sticks, dry manure, shiny metal objects, and innumerable items discarded by or stolen from humans… Woodrats live in moderately large structures built at the bases of cacti, bushes, or trees, in caves, on rock-strewn slopes, or on ledges. Structures in arid sites protected from rain become very hard because of the high mineral content of the woodrat’s urine, which is used as cement. Such middens may remain intact for thousands of years…” CLICK HERE for the source of this info.

I also found a spot where there was the top of a young cottonwood tree laying on the ground, the leaves dead and drying. Closer inspection showed me evidence that the tree has been felled by a beaver. I would to see one of those guys at work, but I’ll have to get out there earlier to see one, I think.

On my way back to the car, I saw some Western Bluebirds.

Esteban was great throughout the whole walk and really seems to enjoy exploring outside. He gets impatient, though, when I stop for any length of time to take photos or more closely examine stuff we find along the trail, and starts to huff and whimper because he wants to get moving.  We were out for a little over 3 hours then headed back home. This was hike #30 of my #52HikeChallenge for the year.

Species List:

  1. Ash, Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  2. Beaver, American, Beaver, Castor canadensis [sign on tree]
  3. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  5. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  6. Blackberry, Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [red canes]
  7. Blackberry, California Blackberry, Trailing Blackberry, Rubus ursinus [pale green canes]
  8. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  9. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  10. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  11. California Black Walnut Pouch Gall Mite, Aceria brachytarsa
  12. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  13. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  14. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  15. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  16. Dragonfly, Twelve-Spotted Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula pulchella [lifer]
  17. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger [rusty belly]
  18. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata 
  19. Elm Leaf Pouch Gall Aphid, Tetraneura nigriabdominalis
  20. Elm Tree, Field Elm Tree, Ulmus minor
  21. False Black Widow Spider, Steatoda grossa [lifer]
  22. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  23. Giant Mayfly, Hexagenia limbata [lifer]
  24. Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum
  25. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  26. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  27. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  28. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus
  29. Jumping Spider, Hairy Jumping Spider, Menemerus semilimbatus [males have white, fuzzy pedipalps]
  30. Ladybeetle, Seven-Spotted Lady Beetle, Coccinella septempunctata
  31. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  32. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  33. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  34. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  35. Poplar Petiole Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populitransversus [on cottonwood]
  36. Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans
  37. Rim Lichen, Lecanora carpinea
  38. Shot Hole Borer, Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer Beetle, Euwallacea fornicatus
  39. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  40. Tachinid Fly, Archytas sp. [lifer]
  41. Tall Dock, Rumex altissimus
  42. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  43. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  44. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  45. Willow Rosette Gall Midge, Rabdophaga salicisbrassicoides [on stem]
  46. Willow, Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
  47. Willow, Goodding’s Willow, Salix gooddingii
  48. Willow, Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  49. Wren, Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii

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