Gristmill Along the River Bank, 05-30-22

I got up around 5:30 this morning, and got myself ready to head out for a walk. The weather was gorgeous, breezy and cool all morning. I was going to do a river bank walk with my friend Roxanne at the Gristmill Recreation Area, but she couldn’t make it.

Walking along the river bank is hard for me because it’s all rocks, and I don’t do well on uneven ground, even with my cane. I was hoping Rox would go with me in part so there would be someone around who might be able to help me if I fell. But…no Rox.  So, I went out by myself, v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, and was only out for about two hours instead of my usual three or four.

The American River as seen from the riverbank at Gristmill

As I headed down the boat launch ramp to the river, I saw a pair of jackrabbits fussing at one another and running around. And that pale female Red-Shouldered Hawk was around, resting on the top of a tree. Her feathers always look damp to me; I wonder if she’s “fishing”. On the river, I could see loads of midges and mayflies flying over the surface of the water.

The walk along the riverbank from there also puts you face-to-face with a lot of trees and plants, so I was on the hunt for galls and insects, and checked the still area of water for any sign of caddisfly larvae.

The Soft Rushes, Pennyroyal, Sneezeweed, tiny blue Forget-Me-Nots and Moth Mullen were in various stages of flowering and going to seed. I also found what I thought was some kind of grass, but it had multiple “heads” on some of the stalks. I’m not sure what that was about.

I came across a few galls, mostly the unusual suspects: the Cottonwood petiole galls, and midrib, apple and stem galls on the willows. I also found the first Willow Pinecone galls of the season. 

Once again, it seemed like there were very few birds around. I caught glimpses of wrens and Bushtits in the trees overhead, and some Wood Ducks and geese in the river, but not much else. Several families of Canada Geese came up to the shore near where I was, and walked their babies right past me onto the rocks. There were little yellow goslings, larger gray goslings, and some babies that were almost fully fledged.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

I also saw some Spotted Towhees who seemed to be building a nest in the top of a large tangle of thorny vines. One of the birds had nesting material in its beak. I thought the Towhees usually built their nests on the ground, but according to Cornell, they sometimes also build nests in “…elevated vegetation above ground from 0.6 to 3.6 m high… Mean nest height was 35.1 cm and max nest height 5.0 m in Sacramento Valley, California (Small 2005). Incidence of elevated nests may vary with locality…  Placement of nests in vegetation above ground may be influenced by the intensity of predation on ground nests…”

There were no dragonflies or damselflies that I could see, and no exuvia (which was disappointing).  I did find a few more fireflies in the plants closest to the water, and also found a lovely specimen of Case-Bearing Leaf Beetle, some tiny orange and green Psyllids, Boxelder Bugs, and a couple of Cottonwood Twig Borer Beetles. One of them was very cooperative and let me pick him up to get some close up photos of him with my macro lens. I was surprised by all the felty-looking soft white “hair” on his face and wing case.

When I decided to head back to the car, I thought I might make faster progress if I walked the trail above the riverbank (where I usually walk), but first I had to figure out a way to get up the bank and onto that trail. I came across one access point that looked like it had a fairly benign slope, so I stepped in there… only to find that it was a trail below the normal trail. I still had to get up the bank. D’oh!

When I found a spot that led up to the regular trail, I worried I’d never make it up the slope. Using my cane on one side of me didn’t seem to help much, so I put the cane directly in front of me, put both hands on the top of it, and half pushed with my legs and pulled with my arms to get myself up the slope. Ugh! What an effort! But I made it… then had to get back to my car before my legs gave out. Phew!

Species List:

  1. Ant, Fusca-Group Field Ants, Formica fusca
  2. Aphid, Family: Aphididae
  3. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  4. Blackberry, California Blackberry, Trailing Blackberry, Rubus ursinus [pale green canes]
  5. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  6. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  7. Bumblebee, Black-Tailed Bumble Bee, Bombus melanopygus
  8. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  9. California Black Walnut Pouch Gall Mite, Aceria brachytarsa
  10. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  11. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  12. Case-Bearing Leaf Beetle, Cryptocephalus castaneus
  13. Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus
  14. Cottonwood Twig Borer Beetle, Oberea quadricallosa [red collar with black spots]
  15. Cudweed, Jersey Cudweed, Helichrysum luteoalbum
  16. Dock, Willow Dock, Rumex salicifolius
  17. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata 
  18. Firefly, California Glowworm, Ellychnia californica [larvae are pink]
  19. Fly, Common Flesh Fly, Sarcophaga sp.
  20. Forget-Me-Not, Bay Forget-Me-Not, Myosotis laxa [tiny pale blue flowers]
  21. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  22. Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum
  23. Grasses, Dallis Grass, Paspalum dilatatum
  24. Horsetail, Smooth Horsetail, Equisetum laevigatum
  25. Jalisco Petrophila Moth, Petrophila jaliscalis
  26. Leafhopper, Euscelidius sp. [ tiny, brown, known to vector phytoplasmas in grape vines]
  27. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  28. Mantis, Arizona Mantis, Stagmomantis limbata [large ootheca]
  29. Mullein, Great Mullein, Verbascum thapsus
  30. Mullein, Moth Mullein, Verbascum blattaria [thin stick, white or yellow]
  31. Pennyroyal, Mentha pulegium
  32. Poplar Petiole Gall Aphid, Pemphigus obesinymphae [new American species, “slit mouth”]
  33. Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans
  34. Rosilla, Sneezeweed, Helenium puberulum
  35. Rush, Soft Rush, Juncus effusus
  36. Stretch Spider, Tetragnatha extensa [pale tan abdomen]
  37. Sugary Lerp Psyllid, Glycaspis granulata
  38. Tall Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis
  39. Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  40. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  41. Western Boxelder Bug, Boisea rubrolineata
  42. Willow Apple Gall Sawfly, Euura californica
  43. Willow Beaked-Gall Midge, Rabdophaga rigidae
  44. Willow Midrib Gall Sawfly, Suborder: Symphyta, Unknown [Russo, page 219] 
  45. Willow Pinecone Gall Midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides
  46. Willow Stem Sawfly, Euura exiguae
  47. Willow, Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
  48. Willow, Coyote Willow, Salix exigua
  49. Willow, Goodding’s Willow, Salix gooddingii
  50. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
  51. Wren, House Wren, Troglodytes aedon

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