North Pond and the Bypass, 05-28-22

I got up at 5:30 this morning to go out for an excursion with my friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne, to the North Davis Pond and the Yolo Bypass.  I was looking for dragonflies, and we found a few, but not as many as I was hoping for. Might be too early in the season yet.

At the Pond, there were LOTS of Pacific Forktail damselflies all around, but among the dragonflies we saw a bright orange Flame Skimmer, a large male Green Darner, and lots and lots of male and female Blue Dashers (some in their full color, some not).

About the Common Green Darner in the bottom photo, there was some discussion on iNaturalist about whether or not it was actually a Giant Darner. Two (trusted) experts discussed it for a while, and I learned a lot while they were talking to one another. According to expert Jim: “…The abdomen on that species [Giant Darner] is longer in proportion to the thorax/head, and the male’s cerci are shaped differently. You’ll also see a difference in the abdominal pattern if you compare them…” It always helps me so much when folks can give me field markings and other information to check against my IDs. I also learned that the Giants have a blue cast on the top of the eyes, which this one lacked. So… Common Green Darner it is.

We also found quite a few Spotted Cucumber Beetles and Broad-Striped Lady Beetles (which look just as their name describes. Instead of spots, they have broad stripes running down their back.) And on one of the bushes we found a small crop of reddish-brown scale insects and their tiny yellowish babies. While Rox and I were taking photos of that, a lady walking by got our attention and showed us that a squirrel was sitting up on the path just a few feet away, watching us.  Hah! So funny.

I’m “collecting” more insect identifications to add to my species list this year, and to help teach me a little bit more about the critters. There are just sooooo many of them, though, that the task is a daunting one. Today, along with the insects listed above, I added the Common Flesh Fly, the European Blowfly, the European Drone Fly (which is actually quite pretty with its orange belt and black-and-shite barred abdomen), a sleepy Longhorn Bee, some Dark Fireflies, Harlequin Bugs, and a Tiger Fly.

There were a handful of flowering plants in one of the planter boxes, but not very many pollinators. Honeybees and some Foothill Carpenter Bees (like the Valley species but smaller).  On the lawn near the permanent pond were trees that had lobed leaves like Valley Oaks, but they were pale green with dark green traces along the veins. I’m not sure, but I think they might have been sickly Hungarian Oaks.

We walked down the long boardwalk, where earlier in the spring there’s some water below the deck, but today, it was dry, dry, dry. Only a couple of Canada Geese with their goslings could be seen. And because there isn’t any water, the dragonflies that would normally breed there are nonexistent.  We also walked all the way around the small permanent pond, lamenting over the fact that the Yellow Iris and tule have overgrown so much, you can’t really see the water anymore. We could hear a Sora, but couldn’t see.  We did catch a glimpse of a Common Gallinule, though.

Surprisingly, there weren’t many birds around. In the trees we saw some Song Sparrows, and some Tree Swallows using one of the nesting boxes, but not much else. No insects, no birds. Duh!

We did hear a few Bullfrogs croaking with their deep cello voices from the water, and saw a tiny Chorus Frog jumping through the grass. I tried to catch it to get some photos of it, but it was way too fast for this old woman. Hah!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

As we were leaving, we saw a black and white cat sitting by the tules along one edge of the pond, and it looked like it was tracking something. A passerby told us that he’s seen the cat out there a lot, and on two occasions saw it jump up onto the bit of wire fencing around the pump’s electrical box, and dive into the water. Both times, the cat came out, dripping wet, with a mouse. Interested to see if it would repeat that performance, Rox and I watched it for a while. We caw it hunker down into stalker mode and twitch before it pounced into the tules, leaving just its back side and tail to our view. A few seconds later, the cat emerged from the tules… but hadn’t caught anything.

I know, I know…Domestic cats that are allowed to roam free kill a LOT of wild birds each year.  According to the American Bird Conservancy, “…Predation by domestic cats is the number-one direct, human-caused threat to birds in the United States and Canada. In the United States alone, outdoor cats kill approximately 2.4 billion birds every year. Although this number may seem unbelievable, it represents the combined impact of tens of millions of outdoor cats…” 

An article published in Nature Communications agrees, but with a slight variation. “…We estimate that free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.3–4.0 billion birds and 6.3–22.3 billion mammals annually. Un-owned cats, as opposed to owned pets, cause the majority of this mortality. Our findings suggest that free-ranging cats cause substantially greater wildlife mortality than previously thought and are likely the single greatest source of anthropogenic mortality for US birds and mammals. Scientifically sound conservation and policy intervention is needed to reduce this impact…”

And cats are NOT a good means of rodent control; they’d rather hunt and play with the things than eat them, so… Free-range and outdoor domesticated cats are a no-no, especially when birds are in their fledging season.

Anyway, after doing the circuit through the park we decided to head over to the Yolo Bypass area to see if the mama Great Horned Owl and her owlets were visible in their nest.

As we were driving in, lamenting over the fact that much of the water has been drained from this wildlife area as well, I spotted something bright yellow moving through the tules and singing a song with which I wasn’t familiar, so Rox stopped the car so we could get a closer look. We were both surprised to find that it was a beautiful male Common Yellowthroat. I’d only seen that species once before, along Bruceville Road, and then it was just for a second (so all I got was a blurry photo). This male flitted around the tules, but would stop long enough during each flit to sing, so we were able to get some photos and a little video snippet of it.

Further along, we did find the owl’s nest and mama Great Horned Owl was sitting in the middle of it with an owlet on each side of her. The owlets are just starting to fledge but they grow up fast, so we may have to go back next week to see if they’re “branching”.

There was Bisnaga (which we call “Bazinga”) flowering all over the place, attracting a lot of wasps and smaller pollinators.  And the Pennyroyal was starting to flower, too.  All of the downingia we saw the last time we were out this way was completely gone. There wasn’t much of anything else to see out there but grasses and rushes, which I don’t know well enough to ID or get excited about. (Maybe next year). So, this drive was a fairly short one. 

We were out for about 6 hours.

Species List:

  1. Bedstraw, Galium pilosum [much  larger than Galium aparine]
  2. Bee, European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  3. Bindweed, Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis
  4. Bisnaga, Visnaga daucoides
  5. Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides
  6. Broad-Striped Lady Beetle, Paranaemia vittigera
  7. Bumblebee, Foothill Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex
  8. Butterfly Bush, Buddleja davidii
  9. Cabbage White Butterfly, Pieris rapae
  10. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  11. Cat, Felis catus
  12. Cattail, Narrowleaf Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  13. Cheeseweed Mallow, Malva parviflora
  14. Chicory, Cichorium intybus
  15. Chinaberry Tree, Melia azedarach
  16. Clover, Strawberry Clover, Trifolium fragiferum
  17. Common Flesh Fly, Sarcophaga sp.
  18. Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
  19. Common Hedge Parsley, Torilis arvensis [tiny flowers, spiny seeds are pinkish]
  20. Common Yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas
  21. Dame’s Rocket, Hesperis matronalis [purple flowers in bouquets]
  22. Damselfly, Pacific Forktail, Ischnura cervula
  23. Dock, Curly Dock, Rumex crispus
  24. Dragonfly, Blue Dasher Dragonfly, Pachydiplax longipennis
  25. Dragonfly, Common Green Darner, Anax junius
  26. Dragonfly, Flame Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula saturata
  27. Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis [white belly]
  28. European Blowfly, Calliphora vicina
  29. European Drone Fly, Eristalis arbustorum [orange belt]
  30. Firefly, Dark Firefly, Pyropyga nigricans
  31. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  32. Frog, American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus [heard]
  33. Frog, Pacific Treefrog, Chorus Frog, Pseudacris regilla [almost caught one]
  34. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  35. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  36. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  37. Harlequin Bug, Murgantia histrionica
  38. Hoary Rosette Lichen, Physcia aipolia [hoary, brown apothecia]
  39. Hyssop Loosestrife, Lythrum hyssopifolia
  40. Iris, Yellow Iris, Iris pseudacorus
  41. Kermes Scale Insect, Allokermes sp.
  42. Long-Horned Bee, Melissodes sp.
  43. Mantis, Arizona Mantis, Stagmomantis limbata [large ootheca]
  44. Narrowleaf Firethorn, Pyracantha angustifolia
  45. Oak, Hungarian Oak, Quercus frainetto
  46. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  47. Pacific Aster, Symphyotrichum chilense
  48. Paper Wasp, Black Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula
  49. Pennyroyal, Mentha pulegium
  50. Pepperweed, Broadleaved Pepperweed, Lepidium latifolium
  51. Poplar Petiole Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populitransversus [on cottonwood]
  52. Poplar Sunburst Lichen, Xanthomendoza hasseana [sunburst on Cottonwood]
  53. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  54. Rose-of-Sharon, Hypericum calycinum [a kind of St. John’s Wort]
  55. Sage, Baby Sage, Salvia microphylla
  56. Sage, Cleveland Sage, Salvia clevelandii
  57. Scale Insects, Superfamily: Coccoidea
  58. Sora, Porzana carolina [heard]
  59. Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  60. Sticky Sand-Spurrey, Spergularia macrotheca [mat, purple flowers]
  61. Sunflower, Common Sunflower, Helianthus annuus
  62. Swallow, Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  63. Tiger Fly, Coenosia sp.
  64. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  65. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  66. Turkey Tangle Fogfruit, Phyla nodiflora
  67. Turkish Pine, Pinus brutia [2 fasicles]
  68. Western Columbine, Aquilegia formosa
  69. Western Spotted Cucumber Beetle, Diabrotica undecimpunctata undecimpunctata
  70. White Mulberry, Morus alba
  71. Willow Bead Gall Mite, Aculus tetanothrix
  72. Willow Bud Gall Mite, Aculops aenigma [look like the ash mite galls]
  73. Willow, Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
  74. Willow, Goodding’s Willow, Salix gooddingii
  75. Willow, Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  76. Wren, Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
  77. Yarrow, Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium
  78. Yellow Sweetclover, Small Melilot, Melilotus indicus
  79. ?? gall on valley oak leaf

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