Lots to See at Mather Lake, 05-15-23

Around 7:00 this morning I headed over to the Mather Lake Regional Park for a walk. It was already 56ºF when I got to the park and was over 77ºF by the time I left just a few hours later.

I was looking for whatever galls might be out there, but was also open to looking for just about whatever caught my eye. As I was walking in, I met another photographer who wanted to get photos of the Mute Swan cygnets that had been reported there. The fluffy white cygnets are always fun to see; I asked him to let me know if/when he found them. A few minutes later he returned and said, “They’re on the other side of the lake. I may have to drive over there and see if I can view them from the road.” I was able to get a couple of VERY distant photos of them, but I hope he had better luck.

The swans are non-natives and can displace the native geese for food and nesting sites. The flock at Mather Park expands and contracts with the birth, development, and flights of the cygnets there.

According to Cornell: “…Females and males similar in size at hatching, but females slightly lighter; after about 2 wk, males larger than females. Tarsus and neck length follow similar growth patterns as mass; thus cygnets must learn to swim and feed before they can fly…”

Along with the swans, I also saw both Downy and Nuttall’s Woodpeckers. At one spot, there were two male Nuttall’s chasing each other around a tree, but they moved so quickly it was hard to get any photos of them.

There were also Canada Geese (some with goslings], Red-Wing and Brewer’s Blackbirds, and Great-Tailed Grackles. I saw a Kingbird gathering nesting materials, and saw several Tree Swallows claiming and using nests. The swallows and the Western Bluebirds often compete for nesting spots — they both use cavities to nest in — and I saw a female Western Bluebird sitting on the sidelines, seemingly waiting for the swallows to settle down somewhere.

I also saw some male House Wrens singing around their nesting spots, a male Anna’s Hummingbird displaying from the top of a tree and a Scrub Jay looking for food on the ground. I startled a Great Blue Heron from the edge of the lake where I was walking, and he flew off over to the opposite side of the lake. Surprisingly, I didn’t see any ducks or coots.

I saw a nest near the top of a telephone pole, but I couldn’t see the bird who took off suddenly from it to identify it. I didn’t check the restroom facility to see if the Cliff Swallows were building nests in there like they did last year.

There were a lot of different and new-to-me flies buzzing all around, and a few beetles snuggled up in the hawkbit flowers and thistles. At a spot on the trail where there was some still-wet goose excretion, a troupe of flies and a larger metallic green Hairy Maggot Blow Fly were puddling. [The video isn’t very long because my battery went out while I was filming them.]

I did eventually get to see some galls including the galls made by Coyote Brush Rust, the Willow Apple Gall Sawfly, and the Willow Bead Gall Mite. When my friend Roxanne and I were last out together, we looked for new pinecone galls on the willows, but only found old ones from last year. Today, I found ones that were just emerging: some in clusters that looked like small heads of cauliflower, and others that looked like rosettes. I’d never seen them this “young” before.

Among the plants and trees were the usual: Goodding’s and Narrowleaf willows, Fremont’s Cottonwoods, Coast Live Oaks. And I also photographed the Cork Oaks, some of the grasses and rushes, Tree of Heaven, Turkey Tangle Frogfruit flowers, thistles and more. And the Woolly Marbles were looking very woolly along the sides of the trail.

Going back to the car after my walk, I think I was suffering the effects of heat exhaustion and could barely make it from the lake to the parking lot, and my “cancer leg” was killing me. It doesn’t take much heat to affect me because, since chemo, my body has trouble thermoregulating. Even in the 77ºF weather, I was suffering from exhaustion, slight dizziness, and and inability to walk very far. I’d tell myself to “just get to that next spot of shade” or “just get that telephone pole” or “now, just get to that fence and you can rest for a moment.” And little buy little, I moved myself forward.

It took me about 30 minutes to get to the car, where I was able to collapse in the front seat, and drink some water with the air conditioner blasting at me. Plah! I thought I was being careful about how much I walked, but the heat snuck up on me. These days, I really should get out by 6:00 for my walks to beat the quickening heat of the early afternoons.

As I drove out of the parking lot, a Western Fence Lizard greeted me from the heights of its rock mountain.

I took Zinfandel Drive to Jackson/Highway 16 East, using the dirt road that runs by the vernal pools, and was very surprised to see several stands of White Brodiaea and a long stand of Narrowleaf Mule’s Ears which I had never seen there before. Amazing. The deep rains earlier in the year must have awakened their seeds and bulbs.

I walked for about 3 hours before heading back home. This was hike #28 of my #52hikechallenge for the year. When I got back home, my leg was in so much pain I had to take the last of my heavy duty pain pills — and then was in medication-induced stupor for the rest of the day. Man that stuff is brutal! But it DID relieve my pain.

Species List:

  1. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Beaver, American, Beaver, Castor canadensis [den]
  4. Bee Fly, Greater Bee Fly, Bombylius major
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  7. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  8. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  9. Common St. John’s Wort, Hypericum perforatum
  10. Coyote Brush Rust, Puccinia evadens
  11. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  12. Damselfly, Common Bluet, Enallagma cyathigerum
  13. Damselfly, Pacific Forktail, Ischnura cervula
  14. Downy Woodpecker, Dryobates pubescens
  15. Drone Fly, Subfamily: Eristalinae
  16. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  17. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  18. Flies, Hairy Maggot Blow Fly, Chrysomya rufifacies [metallic green]
  19. Flies, Large-Tailed Aphideater, Eupeodes volucris [hoverfly]
  20. Flies, Long-Legged Fly, Dolichopus sp.
  21. Flies, Narrow-Headed Marsh Fly, Helophilus fasciatus
  22. Flies, Seaweed Flies, Fucellia sp.
  23. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  24. Geranium, Cut-Leaved Crane’s-Bill, Geranium dissectum
  25. Grasses, Rabbitfoot Grass, Polypogon monspeliensis
  26. Grasses, Wild Oat, Avena fatua
  27. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  28. Grebe, Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  29. Gregg’s Pine, Pinus greggii [tree at Mather]
  30. Hairy Hawkbit, Leontodon saxatilis [yellow]
  31. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  32. Long-Jawed Orbweaver Spider, Tetragnatha versicolor
  33. Mediterranean Katydid, Phaneroptera nana [nymph]
  34. Metallic Woodboring Beetle, Anthaxia sp.
  35. Mirid Bug, Potato Mirid, Closterotomus norwegicus [green]
  36. Mule’s Ears, Narrowleaf Mule-Ears, Wyethia angustifolia [orange]
  37. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  38. Narrowleaf Cottonrose, Logfia gallica
  39. Nodding Thistle Receptacle Weevil, Rhinocyllus conicus
  40. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  41. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  42. Oak, Cork Oak, Quercus suber
  43. Pond Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta
  44. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  45. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  46. Rose, Multiflora Rose, Rosa multiflora [white flowers]
  47. Shining Pepperweed, Lepidium nitidum
  48. Small Melilot, Melilotus indicus [yellow]
  49. Sowthistle, Prickly Sowthistle, Sonchus asper
  50. Squarestem Spikerush, Eleocharis quadrangulata
  51. Swallow, Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  52. Thistle, Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  53. Thistle, Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus
  54. Tree of Heaven, Ailanthus altissima
  55. Turkey Tangle Frogfruit, Phyla nodiflora
  56. Valley Tassels, Castilleja attenuata
  57. Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa
  58. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  59. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  60. Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis
  61. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  62. White Brodiaea, Triteleia hyacinthina
  63. Willow Apple Gall Sawfly, Euura californica
  64. Willow Bead Gall Mite, Aculus tetanothrix
  65. Willow Pinecone Gall Midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides
  66. Willow, Goodding’s Willow, Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  67. Willow, Narrowleaf Willow, Sandbar Willow, Salix exigua
  68. Woolly Marbles, Low Woolly Marbles, Psilocarphus brevissimus
  69. Wren, House Wren, Troglodytes aedon

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