CNC Icehouse Road, 05-01-23

I started this month with the final day of the City Nature Challenge. My friend Roxanne and I went up into El Dorado County and drove up Ice House Road looking for more species to add to our lists. We were VERY surprised to find that the majority of the wildflowers we were hoping to see were still under several feet of snow!

The snowmelt, however made the south fork of the American River look like it was roaring by, and the little Bridal Veil waterfall on Highway 50 looked much more robust than we’ve ever seen it.

At the falls, we found that there had been rockslides and landslides there which changed the shape and texture of the cliffs surrounding the falls. We did get to see the Dog Pelt lichen, stonecrop, and Powerhorn/Pixie Cup lichen on the rocks that we often see there. And we also saw some Chaparral Currant just starting to flower. All in all, though, the area looked oddly much “drier” than we’d seen it in the past. [For the identification information, click on an image.]

At the very beginning of our trip, we saw quite a few wildflowers, including the lovely North Californian Indian Pink and the new-to-me Shy Monkeyflower. We thought those bode well for the rest of our day. Unfortunately, no. The snow covered everything along the roadsides at the higher elevations. [For the identification information, click on an image.]

To find more flowers, we had to go back down to the lower elevations at the end of our trip. Once again we were able to see quite a few, including some Baby Blue Eyes at the exit from the Sly Park parking lot on Jenkinson Lake. [For the identification information, click on an image.]

Most, if not all, of the mountains we saw in the distance are part of the Sierra Nevada range.

“…The Sierra Nevada is a mountain range in the Western United States, between the Central Valley of California and the Great Basin. The vast majority of the range lies in the state of California, although the Carson Range spur lies primarily in Nevada…” Wikipedia

You can see in the photos below, that the higher we went up on Ice House Road, the more dense the roadside snow became — even though the road was clear and mostly dry.

All along the road, as far as the trees went, we were seeing the usual suspects seen in other mixed pine forest regions. Lots of Incense Cedar, Douglas Firs, Ponderosa Pines, Sugar Pines and aspens. There were also Bigleaf Maple Trees, Canyon Live Oaks, and Dogwood trees, and several different species of manzanita. At the lower elevations, the Pacific Madrone trees were in bloom. [For the identification information, click on an image.]

On the manzanita trees, we saw evidence of galls of the Manzanita Leafgall Aphid, Tamalia coweni. The galls on the flowers are made in reaction to wingless female aphids, and the galls on the leaves are made by multiple stem mothers.  Stem mothers produce female nymphs without mating (parthenogenetic reproduction).

“…As a specialist, Tamalia species are closely associated with rare and endangered manzanita host plants across California landscapes including isolated mountains in the Mojave desert, along coastal chaparral and woodlands, and inland mountains and valleys… As an herbivorous habitat engineer found across California’s ecoregions, this species contributes broadly to diversity and allows insight into variation in response to climatic gradients. Its dependence on rare and endangered host species will show how local adaptation occurs and how herbivores can serve as indicators of habitat quality, providing insight into the vulnerability of higher trophic levels to disturbance…” California Conservation Genomic Project.

Another interesting gall-former is a plant: various kinds of dwarf mistletoe. The mistletoe is a parasite that robs the tree of water and nutrition. Some of the specimens we found were larger than I had ever seen.

We could hear birds in the trees around us, including some Steller’s Jays, but they were mostly hidden by the forest so I couldn’t get photos of them. I watched as a Black-Capped Chickadee landed on a branch right behind Roxanne. I told her, “Don’t move. Don’t move,” as I tried in vain to get a photograph of it… but it bounced up and up into the higher branches until it was out of sight. *Sigh*

The only bird I got halfway decent photos of was a large Raven. We saw it going through trash on the side of the road, but then it jumped up onto a branch and posed for a little while. They’re such handsome birds.

I was very happy to see small groups of Columbian Black-Tailed deer on the edges of the forest in several places. And we seemed to see Western Fence Lizards darting allover the place.

We also found some new-to-me insects when we were studying the manzanita trees: a very tiny Predatory Thrip and a Cherry Plum Mining Bee.

But, even though it was lovely outside and some of the views were wow-inspiring, the snow still kept us from seeing all we wanted to see, and our species count for the day was lower than I had hoped. It might be June before we can see more wildflowers up here.

This was outing #24 of my #52HikeChallenge for the year.

Right now, here’s where Roxanne and I are in the City Nature Challenge ratings. Our positions may change as more people add their observations to the database.

On the “Most Observations” list, I’m #5 and Roxanne is #8. On the “Most Species” list, I’m #1 and Roxanne is #4. Woot!

Species List:

  1. Alder, White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  2. Alumroot, Alpine Alumroot, Heuchera glabra
  3. Alumroot, Crevice Alumroot, Heuchera micrantha
  4. Alumroot, Pink Alumroot, Heuchera rubescens
  5. Annual Honesty, Lunaria annua [purple-pink flowers on tall stalk]
  6. Ant, Californicus-Group Harvester Ants, Complex Pogonomyrmex californicus
  7. Aspen Tree, Trembling Aspen, Populus tremuloides
  8. Baby Blue Eyes, Menzies’ Baby Blue Eyes, Nemophila menziesii
  9. Bees, Cherry Plum Mining Bee, Andrena cerasifolii
  10. Bees, European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  11. Black Capped Chickadee, Poecile atricapillus
  12. Blue Dicks, Dipterostemon capitatus ssp. capitatus
  13. Brittle Bladderfern, Cystopteris fragilis
  14. Broom, French Broom, Genista monspessulana
  15. Broom, Scotch Broom, Cytisus scoparius
  16. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
  17. Buttercup, Western Buttercup, Ranunculus occidentalis
  18. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  19. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  20. California Incense Cedar, Calocedrus decurrens
  21. Chaparral Currant, Ribes malvaceum [pink flowers]
  22. Cherry Laurel, Prunus laurocerasus
  23. Chinquapin, Bush Chinquapin, Chrysolepis sempervirens
  24. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  25. Common Button Lichen, Buellia erubescens [black eyes on white or alone]
  26. Common Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale
  27. Crane Fly, Giant Western Crane Fly, Holorusia hespera
  28. Creek Plum Trees, Prunus rivularis
  29. Cutleaf Burnweed, Senecio glomeratus
  30. Deerbrush Ceanothus, Ceanothus integerrimus
  31. Dog Pelt Lichen, Peltigera canina
  32. Dogwood, Pacific Dogwood, Cornus nuttallii
  33. Douglas Fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii
  34. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata [red line on leaves when young]
  35. Erodium, Redstem Stork’s-Bill, Erodium cicutarium
  36. Fern, Bird’s Foot Cliffbrake, Pellaea mucronata
  37. Fern, Goldback Fern, Pentagramma triangularis
  38. Fringed Shield Lichen, Parmelina coleae
  39. Giraffe’s Head, Henbit Deadnettle, Lamium amplexicaule
  40. Gooseberry, Sierra Gooseberry, Ribes roezlii
  41. Grasses, Early Hair Grass, Aira praecox
  42. Grasses, Pine Bluegrass, Poa secunda
  43. Ithuriel’s Spears, Triteleia laxa
  44. Lupine, Silvery Lupine, Lupinus argenteus
  45. Madrone, Pacific Madrone, Arbutus menziesii
  46. Mahala Mat, Ceanothus prostratus
  47. Manzanita Leafgall Aphid, Tamalia coweni [multiple stem mothers, galls on leaves]
  48. Manzanita Leafgall Aphid, Tamalia coweni [wingless females, galls on flowers]
  49. Manzanita, Greenleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos patula
  50. Manzanita, Whiteleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida
  51. Maple, Bigleaf Maple, Acer macrophyllum
  52. Mealy Rim-Lichen, Lecanora strobilina [green tint]
  53. Mistletoe, Juniper Mistletoe, Phoradendron juniperinum [yellow-orange]
  54. Mistletoe, Western Dwarf-Mistletoe, Arceuthobium campylopodum
  55. Monkeyflower, Kellogg’s Monkeyflower, Diplacus kelloggii [pink]
  56. Monkeyflower, Shy Monkeyflower, Erythranthe nasuta
  57. Mosses, Lyell’s Bristle-Moss, Pulvigera lyellii
  58. Mountain Misery, Chamaebatia foliolosa
  59. Mountain Whitethorn, Ceanothus cordulatus
  60. Mule’s Ears, Gray Mule-Ears, Wyethia helenioides
  61. Netted Crust Fungus, Byssomerulius corium
  62. North Californian Indian Pink, Silene laciniata californica [look like red catchfly]
  63. Oak, Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  64. Oak, California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  65. Oak, Canyon Live Oak, Quercus chrysolepis
  66. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  67. Paintbrush, Wavyleaf Paintbrush, Castilleja applegatei
  68. Palmer Ceanothus, Ceanothus palmeri
  69. Pebbled Pixie Cup Lichen, Cladonia pyxidata
  70. Periwinkle, Greater Periwinkle, Vinca major
  71. Phacelia, Mountain Phacelia, Phacelia imbricata [white]
  72. Pine, Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa
  73. Poppy, California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  74. Powder-Tipped Rosette Lichen, Physcia dubia
  75. Purple Sanicle, Sanicula bipinnatifida 
  76. Rosemary, Salvia rosmarinus
  77. Shining Netvein Barberry, Berberis dictyota
  78. Small-Leaved Blinks, Montia parvifolia
  79. Steller’s Jay, Cyanocitta stelleri
  80. Stonecrop, Broad-Leaved Stonecrop, Sedum spathulifolium
  81. Sugar Pine, Pinus lambertiana
  82. Thistle, Cobwebby Thistle, Cirsium occidentale
  83. Thistle, Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus
  84. Thrips, Predatory Thrip, Aeolothrips sp.
  85. Trumpet Lichen, Cladonia fimbriata
  86. Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  87. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  88. Western Gall Rust, Cronartium harknessii [on pine trees]
  89. White Nemophila, Nemophila heterophylla
  90. Willow, Red Willow, Salix laevigata
  91. Willow, Sitka Willow, Salix sitchensis
  92. Wolf Lichen, Letharia vulpina

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