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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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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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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On the Short Trail at Gristmill, 05-22-22

I got up around 5:30 this morning so I could get out for a walk at Gristmill (again) with Esteban. My hip had been angry all night, but it loosed up a bit once I got moving. Because it was warming up fast, I only walked the short trail back and forth.

I HEARD a lot more birds than I saw. Wrens were singing all around me; there were Killdeer complaining by the river; and Nuttall’s Woodpeckers trilling through the canopy, looking for bugs for their babies.

I heard the “Scaup!” of a Green Heron overhead and caught a glimpse of it as it flew over; and I also caught a glimpse of an Ash-Throated Flycatcher as it flitted out of a stand of vetch on the ground and into a tree.

Elsewhere, there was a Belted Kingfisher chattering very close by along the trail, and I saw it disappear into the bank below me. I couldn’t get into a good spot in which to photograph the burrow or the bird, though,  because there was a 20 foot drop there from the trail to the river. Sigh.

I saw some female Common Mergansers fly up into the broken top of a dead tree on the river-side of the trail where I think there was a nest. One of the birds posed long enough for me to get some photos of her.

It’s not uncommon for these ducks to comingle. According to Cornell: “…Females are often gregarious on breeding grounds. In Europe, up to 3 or 4 (occasionally 10) females may nest together in the same tree… Broods containing entirely downy young seldom mix with other broods. Later, mixing of broods occurs frequently, with aggregations of ≥40 young attended by 1 or more females…”  I’ve seen mama Mergansers with broods of 20 ducklings.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

On the other side of the trail, I saw a pair of Wood Ducks fly into a tree over a nest box, and then the female entered it. She stayed inside while the male stood guard outside. I don’t know if she was laying eggs or brooding over ducklings.

I would sooooo love to be able to see the ducklings of either brood get to the point where they jump out of their nest and head to the water.

As I was leaving, I passed a lot of people on the trail walking big dogs that were off leash. One of the people, a guy with a beard, attached a leash to his dog as I approached and mentioned that the dog had just been chasing a deer, and his other dog, still unleashed, was trying to dig up something from the ground (probably a ground squirrel, but the evil side of me hoped it was a rattlesnake hibernaculum). Humans can be such a$$holes; it’s illegal to harass the wildlife there.

No dragonflies today, but I did get a photo of a female Emma’s Dancer damselfly. She was so well-camouflaged in the dry grass that I was surprised I was able to spot her at all.

I was out for about 2 hours.  This was hike #29 or my #52HikeChallenge for the year.

Species List:

  1. ?? unidentified spider egg sac
  2. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens
  3. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
  4. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  5. Blackberry, Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [red canes]
  6. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  7. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  8. Caddisfly, Black Dancer Caddisfly, Mystacides sepulchralis
  9. California Black Walnut Pouch Gall Mite, Aceria brachytarsa
  10. California Broad-Necked Darkling Beetle, Coelocnemis dilaticollis
  11. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  12. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  13. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  14. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  15. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  16. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  17. Common Sunburst Lichen, Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina [yellow-orange, on wood/trees]
  18. Damselfly, Emma’s Dancer, Argia emma
  19. Dog, Canis lupus familiaris
  20. Fig, Common Fig, Ficus carica
  21. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  22. Green Heron, Butorides virescens
  23. Hoary Rosette Lichen, Physcia aipolia [hoary, brown apothecia]
  24. Holm Oak, Quercus ilex [soft leaves, lighter on back]
  25. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus
  26. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  27. Manroot, California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  28. Mistletoe, Broadleaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron macrophyllum
  29. Mullein, Moth Mullein, Verbascum blattaria [thin stick, white or yellow]
  30. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  31. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  32. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  33. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  34. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
  35. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans
  36. Shot Hole Borer, Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer Beetle, Euwallacea fornicatus
  37. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  38. Stretch Spider, Tetragnatha extensa [pale tan abdomen]
  39. Swallow, Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  40. Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  41. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  42. Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa
  43. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  44. Western Boxelder Bug, Boisea rubrolineata
  45. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
  46. Wren, Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  47. Wren, House Wren, Troglodytes aedon

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