This and That at Effie Yeaw, 05-21-23

Around 6:45 AM today, I decided to go over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk. My “cancer-leg” was hurting, around a “5”, but I thought the walk might loosen up the muscles and stretch it out.

I was surprised that it was actually cloudy and chilly at the preserve. I wished I had brought my jacket with me. The place was pretty quiet as far as humans went; I saw just a handful of people on the trails and most of them were around my age — and that made for a quiet restful place to walk this morning. No screaming children.

There was a lot of birdsong in the air, but I was unable to get photos of most of the birds — like the Black Phoebes, wrens and quails. I did get a few photos, though, of the ubiquitous Acorn Woodpeckers, Spotted Towhees, a Western Bluebird, White-Breasted Nuthatches, and others.

It was really a “squirrel day”, though. I saw them everywhere. Mostly Eastern Fox Squirrels — including one very pregnant female. But I also came across Western Gray Squirrels and a few California Ground Squirrels. One of the Ground Squirrels was a pregnant female who seemed to be standing guard outside her large burrow. As I watched, another Ground Squirrel came up from the burrow and relieved her. [You can READ MORE about the Ground Squirrels in an article I wrote in 2017.]

The Ground Squirrels and Western Gray Squirrels are native to California, but in many areas the Western Grays have been driven out by the invasive Fox Squirrels.

“…Both eastern gray and eastern fox were brought from the other side of the United States in the early 1900s and have been increasing their range and population ever since, both on their own and from humans deliberately spreading them through the state, unaware of the consequent damage to environment, agriculture, and property that would cause. Meanwhile, the western gray has decreased in range and abundance…” Bay Nature

A very pregnant Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger [rusty belly]

Another reason why the Fox Squirrels outnumber the Gray Squirrels is because the Fox Squirrels breed twice a year, and the Gray Squirrels only breed once a year.

“…Fox Squirrels mate twice a year, from mid-December to early January and June. Gray Squirrels mate from December to February and May to June…” Welcome Wildlife.

As I was walking along — I took the Pond Trail –I noticed that the tree across from the 4B stanchion had been felled. That upset me because for several consecutive years the resident Red-Shouldered Hawks had used that tree to hold their back-up nesting site. The hawks cleaned and brought new material for a nest in that tree each year– even though they actually chose a different site to nest.

And worse than that loss was the fact that it looked like the “bee tree”, where wild honeybees had built and maintained a hive for several years, had been broken open, its different trunks split apart. I couldn’t see the entrance hole to the hive and didn’t see any bees there. A travesty. That made me so angry and sad. And it just seemed to really hit home for me that there is NOTHING in the preserve that hasn’t been disrupted or manipulated by humans tasked with “protecting” the space.

There are plots where they’re trying to grow more Showy Milkweed at the expense of natural plants and grasses. And there were outcroppings of Lupines and Fleabane that has escaped the confines of the gardens near the Nature Center and showed up near the river. I also saw what looked like dip-system lines and hoses in the “nature area”.

The river was running very high. There was so much water that some of it was gathered into a large pond that reach out very near to the trail. The geese were making use of it to exercise their goslings. I’m assuming the extra water is from the snowmelt in the Sierras.

I had been looking for deer in the preserve today, but only found a small group of them browsing on elderberry leaves near the large river-pond. They were all mostly in silhouette from where I stood, but I was able to tell that one of them was a young buck in his velvet.

I was happy to see that the wild, native Elegant Clarkia was starting to bloom near the river, and I found a few outcroppings of Harvest Brodiaea, a perennial herb that is also native to California. There was a little bit of the Miniature Lupine left in a few spots, and the California Trees were in bloom.

I was able to find a few more insects to add to my species list for the year including a kind of Darkling Beetle, a silverfish, and a Ground Spider (that looked like it was made of rubber). I also found a couple of galls including Oak Apples and a Fimbriate Wasp gall.

I realized, as I continued on, that I was often distracted by my pain, and I was keeping an eye on the trail under my feet where it was very rocky, so I wasn’t doing much of my “naturalist eye” thing. I wasn’t immersing myself in the environment, and I wasn’t looking for or seeing much detail as I normally might. [I’m thinking of my friend and my naturalist student Deborah Dash who died recently, and I am really missing her insights, comments, and her encouraging naturalist work right now.]

I was out for about 3½ hours and was tired when I got home. This was hike #29 o my #52hikechallenge for this year.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Aphids, Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii
  3. Araneomorph Meshweaver Spider, Dictyna sp.
  4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  5. Blackberry, Trailing Blackberry, Rubus ursinus
  6. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  7. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  8. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  9. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica
  10. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  11. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  12. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  13. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  14. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  15. Common Hedge Parsley, Torilis arvensis
  16. Coyote Mint, Monardella villosa
  17. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  18. Darkling Beetle, Coniontis sp. [shiny, smooth carapace]
  19. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger [rusty belly]
  20. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata
  21. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  22. Fimbriate Gall Wasp, Andricus opertus [on Valley Oak leaf]
  23. Frog, American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus
  24. Ground Spider, Zelotes sp.
  25. Hairy Curtain Crust, Stereum hirsutum
  26. Harvest Brodiaea, Brodiaea elegans
  27. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous [flyover, heard]
  28. Leafy Fleabane, Erigeron foliosus
  29. Lupine, Chick Lupine, Lupinus microcarpus [yellow, white]
  30. Lupine, Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  31. Mexican Social Spider, Mallos sp. [tiny, body like an Orbweaver]
  32. Milkweed, Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa
  33. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  34. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  35. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  36. Oak, Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  37. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  38. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  39. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  40. Olive, Olea europaea
  41. Penstamon, Bunchleaf Penstemon, Penstemon heterophyllus
  42. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
  43. Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans
  44. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  45. Silverfish, Allacrotelsa spinulata
  46. Swallow, Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor [flyover]
  47. Thistle, Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus
  48. Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  49. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  50. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  51. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  52. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  53. Wren, House Wren, Troglodytes aedon [glimpsed, heard]
  54. Yarrow, Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium
  55. Yerba Santa, California Yerba Santa, Eriodictyon californicum
  56. ??? Ladybeetle eggs

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