The Pipevine Swallowtail Caterpillars are Abundant at the River Bend Park, 05-24-23

I felt really good after doing the chores I did yesterday, and was looking forward to doing some exercise today with a walk at the American River Bend Park. Third or fourth visit there over the last month or so, but I always see something different every time I go there. It was a gorgeous morning, 51ºF, clear, sunny, and breezy.

The American River was still way up. Water covered most of the bank areas and swamped the trees. Some of the trails that led down to the bank, now led right to the water. According to the Department of Water Resources, releases from the Nimbus Dam are currently at 15,000 CFS. That’s up from 7,521 CFS just last month. Wow.

The first thing I saw when I drove into the park was a young buck in his velvet grazing along the side of the road. I later saw a couple more deer near the equestrian area. I also saw a few Black-Tailed Jackrabbits, Fox Squirrels and California Ground Squirrels. I was hoping to come across a coyote (as there were signs all over the park stating there is an active den in the park), but… no such luck.

I didn’t see a lot of birds, although I could hear them singing and moving through the trees overhead. I did see some Black Phoebes, and watched as a House Wren brought bright green caterpillars to her fledglings for breakfast. They’re such cute little birds. I also found an old hummingbird nest held to the forked branches of an oak tree with spider webs.

The river was running so fast, I only saw two waterfowl braving the current: a male Mallard and a female Common Merganser. Across the river in the the high naked branches of a tree were several Turkey Vultures sunning themselves.

The big news for me today was: I saw lots and lots of Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars ,in various instars, almost everywhere I looked. Although some had climbed up into the tall grass and Mugwort plants to warm themselves in the sunlight, I didn’t see any of them making themselves ready to form their chrysalises. CLICK HERE to see a video of the butterfly’s lifecycle.

I saw some of the butterflies flitting about, and was also able to catch a well-worn female to get some close-up photos of her. Her wings were ragged from dealing with males, winds, and the razor-edges of the grasses. As battered as she was, she was still very much a fighter. I took a few photos of her and released her back onto a pipevine plant.

In one of the photos above, you can see a caterpillar extending its bright, gooey, orange osmeteria.  “…The everted organ resembles a fleshy forked tongue (not unlike a snake tongue)… [and emits] a foul, disagreeable odor which serves to repel ants, small spiders, and mantids…” It’s also said to have a foul taste.

The pipevine plants and Wild Grape plants were climbing along the ground and high into the trees. Some of the grapevines were already brandishing clutches of not fully formed “baby grapes”.

I was happy to see that the Orange Bush Monkeyflowers were out in force, as were the Elegant Clarkia flowers. I saw color variations from different shades of pink, to bicolored pink-on-pink, and pure snowy white.

Along with the common Oak Apple galls on the Valley Oak trees, I found a new-to-me gall on the leaves of an ash tree. There were a lot of shot-holes on some of the leaves, and on one leaf were hard little chambers that I believe were formed by the Ash Bead Gall Mite.

I was out for about 3 hours. This was hike #30 of my #52hikechallenge for the year.

Species List:

  1. Acmon Blue Butterfly, Icaricia acmon
  2. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  3. Alder, White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  4. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna [bird and nest]
  5. Araneomorph Meshweaver Spider, Dictyna sp.
  6. Ash Bead Gall Mite, Aceria fraxini
  7. Ash Leafcurl Aphid, Prociphilus fraxinifolii
  8. Ash Tree, California Ash, Fraxinus dipetala
  9. Bees, Yellow-Faced Bumble Bee, Bombus vosnesenskii
  10. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  11. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  12. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  13. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  14. Broom, Spanish Broom, Spartium junceum
  15. Bumpy Rim-Lichen, Lecanora hybocarpa [tan to brown apothecia]
  16. Bur Parsley, Anthriscus caucalis
  17. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  18. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  19. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  20. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  21. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  22. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  23. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  24. Candleflame Lichen, Candelaria concolor
  25. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  26. Common Merganser, American Common Merganser, Mergus merganser americanus
  27. Common Saint John’s Wort, Hypericum perforatum
  28. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  29. Deerweed, Acmispon glaber
  30. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger [rusty belly]
  31. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata 
  32. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  33. Grasses, Bristly Dogtail Grass, Cynosurus echinatus
  34. Grasses, Greater Quaking Grass, Rattlesnake Grass, Briza maxima
  35. Grasses, Pink Grass, Windmill Pink, Hairypink, Petrorhagia dubia
  36. Grasses, Smilo Grass, Oloptum miliaceum
  37. Iris, Yellow Water Iris, Iris pseudacorus
  38. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  39. Live Oak Erineum Mite Gall, Aceria mackiei
  40. Live Oak Folded Leaf Aphid, Stegophylla essigi
  41. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  42. Monkeyflower, Orange Bush Monkeyflower, Diplacus aurantiacus
  43. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  44. Mullein, Moth Mullein, Verbascum blattaria [thin stick, white or yellow]
  45. Non-Biting Midges, Cricotopus sp.
  46. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  47. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  48. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  49. Powder-Edged Speckled Greenshield, Flavopunctelia soredica [pale green, soredia on the edges of the thalus]
  50. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  51. Rose, California Wild Rose, Rosa californica [pink]
  52. Silverpuffs, Silverpuffs, Uropappus lindleyi [pointed tips]
  53. Strap Lichen, Ribbon Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha
  54. Swallow, Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  55. Tarragon, Artemisia dracunculus
  56. Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus [heard]
  57. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  58. Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa
  59. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  60. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  61. Western Hoptree, Ptelea crenulata
  62. Wren, House Wren, Troglodytes aedon

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