All posts by The Chubby Woman

Mary K. Hanson is an author, nature photographer and Certified California Naturalist living with terminal cancer.

Some Galls and Flux along the Cosumnes River Trail, 10-09-20

I got up around 6:30 this morning and was off to the Cosumnes River Preserve by about 7:15. It was partly cloudy, and I was actually hoping there would be some fog nearer to the preserve – but, no.

I went around Bruceville and Desmond Roads before going into the preserve itself. Again, there were cattle in the fields – including a lot of cute calves.  I got to watch one as he was nursing, and drooling out stands of spit and milk. Hah!

Charolais calf, Bos Taurus var. Charolais

There were different kinds of sparrows in among the weeds and overgrowth, and small flocks of Western Meadowlarks, blackbirds, and Brown-Headed Cowbirds. Along Desmond Road, in the distant fields, I could see mixed flocks of blackbirds, Canada Geese, Great and Snowy Egrets and Sandhill Cranes. I noticed that one of the cranes was sporting some leg bands. I couldn’t see if there were numbers on any of them, but I reported the sighting to Saving the Cranes anyway .

Sandhill cranes among Canada Geese, egrets and blackbirds.

I had just been to the preserve on Sunday of this week, but today, I wanted to take the River Walk Trail behind the nature center, heading toward the river. I wasn’t able to do the whole round-trip three miles, but still, I thought I did pretty well. There isn’t any water, really, in the fields along the trail, so not a lot of waterfowl to see there.

Listen to the sound of the Red-Winged Blackbirds along the river!

I was astonished to find some of the branches on the smaller Valley oaks just covered with Flat-Top Honeydew galls. I usually see those galls singly or in small clusters, but on these trees, there were dozens and dozens of the gall all crammed in against one another.  I wondered if there was some kind of correlation between those smaller trees and the floods that the preserve is subjected to every year. The small trees would be under water for a month or more… Maybe that makes them “softer” or more easy for the wasps to lay their eggs into the bark?  I don’t know; just wondering.

Galls of the Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis

I also found several of the oaks “weeping” with either some kind of flux or Sudden Oak Death pathogen. One of the trees had the classic flux symptoms: breaks in the bark near the base of the tree, blackish ooze leaking out, and insects clustered around the wounds.  Flux is also called “wet wood” or “slime flux”, and is caused by bacteria that gets into the tree. It gets in through breaks in the bark or bore-holes from beetles, and kills the cambium near the openings. The ooze it produces turns black when it hits the oxygen in the air, and the whole thing takes on an “alcohol” smell as it ferments.

Evidence of Alcoholic Flux bacteria, Foamy Canker, Slime Flux, Phytophthora sp., with a Western Yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica

According to The Plant Doctor: “…Sap may continue to ooze for several weeks or months, but usually it eventually stops with no treatment and no apparent damage to the tree. This slime flux may be triggered by heat, drought, and other stress…”

I was hoping to see lots of spiders’ webs in the growth along the trail, but beyond sheet-webs, I didn’t see much of anything… except for a beautiful Labyrinth Orb-Weaver spider.  These spiders make webs that are a combination of an incomplete orb web and other irregular strands. The spider makes a “tent” for itself somewhere along the web out of leaves and debris to hide itself from its prey. The one I saw was wrapped inside a leaf that was hung suspended between several very strong vertical web-strands. The spider was hunched inside the leaf with its legs pulled up around its face.  I was able to coax it out so I could get some photos of it.

“…The labyrinth spider is active, with its webs visible, from March through October. During the rainy season, the female mates and lays eggs. The female usually produces 5 or 6 egg sacs with an average of 55 eggs each. She puts her eggs into several silken discs strung together in a bead-like row, and then builds an egg case around the eggs and hangs it in the web near her retreat, where it is camouflaged by other debris in her web. Once the young emerge they are self-sufficient; they leave the mother’s nest by ballooning…”

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I also found an interesting-looking burl on the branch of a cottonwood tree and wondered what caused it.

“…A burl is a tree growth in which the grain has grown in a deformed manner.. It is caused by some kind of stress, such as injury, virus, fungus, insect infestation or mold growth…  The inside of a burl is unique, not like the straight grained wood in the rest of the tree. Cutting open a burl reveals a wood grain that is twisted, contorted and deformed… Burls begin life as a gall…”

I thought the one I saw might have been a large gall caused by a now vacant outcropping of mistletoe, but I’m not sure.

Even though I felt like I wasn’t seeing a lot, I was surprised when I got back to the car that I had been walking for about 4 hours(!).

Species List:

  1. Alcoholic Flux bacteria, Foamy Canker, Slime Flux, Phytophthora sp.
  2. Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [pink flowers]
  3. Ash Flower Gall Mite, Eriophyes fraxinivorus
  4. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Brazilian Vervain, Verbena brasiliensis
  7. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  8. Brown-Headed Cowbird, Molothrus ater
  9. Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis
  10. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  11. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  12. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  13. Charolais Cattle, Bos Taurus var. Charolais
  14. Chinese Praying Mantis, Tenodera sinensis [ootheca]
  15. Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
  16. Crampball Fungus, Daldinia concentrica
  17. Denseflower Willowherb, Epilobium densiflorum
  18. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  19. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  20. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  21. Floating Water Primrose, Ludwigia peploides ssp. Peploides
  22. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  23. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  24. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  25. Grape Erineum Mite, Colomerus vitis
  26. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  27. Green Alga (freshwater), Chlorophyta ssp.
  28. Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  29. Labyrinth Orb-Weaver Spider, Metepeira labyrinthea
  30. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
  31. Narrowleaf Cattail, Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  32. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  33. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  34. Panicled Willowherb, Epilobium brachycarpum
  35. Pin-cushion Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona polycarpa
  36. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  37. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  38. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  39. Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Oak Ribbed Skeletonizer,  Bucculatrix albertiella
  40. Sandbar Willow, Salix exigua var. hindsiana
  41. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  42. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  43. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  44. Spiny Turban Gall Wasp, asexual, fall generation, Antron douglasii
  45. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha
  46. Trashline Orb Weaver Spider, Conical Trashline Spider,  Cyclosa conica
  47. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  48. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
  49. Water Hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes
  50. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  51. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  52. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  53. Willow Apple Gall Sawfly, Pontania californica
  54. Willow Bead Gall Mite, Aculus tetanothrix
  55. Willow Stem Sawfly Gall, Euura exiguae
  56. Woollybear Gall Wasp, Atrusca trimaculosa
  57. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi
  58. Yellowjacket, Western Yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica

Lots of Birds at the Lake, 10-07-20

I got up at 6:30 this morning and headed out around 7:15 am to Mather Lake Regional Park.  It was 59° and partly cloudy when I got there, and got up to 72° by the time I left. Across from the main gate on Zinfandel, on the fence line, I saw a female Northern Harrier.  She was very accommodating, and stayed there while I stopped the car near her and took her photo.

Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius, female

Inside the park, there were hardly any people today. I only saw two fishermen – and the male photographer I’d seen past week who had tried to race me to get photos of the river otters.   Today, he was on the hunt for a Green Heron that had landed on the shore near me. As soon as he approached it, it – and a second heron we hadn’t noticed – took off in a flurry. They landed further down the shore, so he took off after them.

I saw him stalking them, and once again, as soon as he approached, they took off. One of them flew all the way across the lake and landed on the rail boat launch looking very perturbed. I found a few more of the herons on my walk, and as I was leaving, I found one hunting right along the bank by the small bridge.  A Canada Goose was napping right behind it.

Green Heron, Butorides virescens

There were more birds out and about than I’d seen in previous months, and I got treated to views of Bushtits, Belted Kingfishers, a male Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Golden- and White-Crowned Sparrows, and even a pair of White-Tailed Kites among others. The kites were tag-teaming back and forth across the park; I saw them several times in different trees.  Finally, one of them sat still for a while on top of a “naked” tree and I was able to get some good shots of him.

White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

One of the Mute Swans was floating in the water with one foot hitched up behind its back.

Mute Swan, Cygnus olor

“…It is normal for swans to swim with one leg tucked onto their back. People are often concerned that the leg is broken or deformed but the swan is perfectly fine…It has been suggested that this behavior may play a role in helping to regulate the body temperature of the bird. The legs and feet are the only part of the swan not covered in feathers so the blood vessels are in closer contact with the air. The large surface area of the webbed foot makes it easier for heat to be transferred from the body to the air, cooling the swan. This heat exchange could also work the other way, with the feet absorbing heat from the air to warm the bird…”    

I tried catching sight of the muskrat, but no luck. While I was navigating through the weeds along the edge of the lake, though, I found a large brown praying mantis on a stand of bull thistle.

Mute Swan, Cygnus olor, female

The coyote brush throughout the park is starting to bloom now (mostly male plants) and was full of bees, their corbicula heavy with yellow-orange pollen. Good eating right before winter sets in.

On my way out, I saw a couple of ground squirrels scrambling around. They should be getting ready for winter, too. It doesn’t get cold enough here for them to really hibernate, but they do collect nesting material for warmth and are “seasonally lethargic” (I love that phrase) through the winter months.

I walked for about three hours and then headed home.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [pink flowers]
  4. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  7. Bull Thistle, Cirsium vulgare
  8. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  10. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  11. Callery Pear, Pyrus calleryana
  12. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  13. Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
  14. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  15. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  16. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  17. European Starling, Sturnus vulgari
  18. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  19. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  20. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  21. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  22. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
  23. Green Heron, Butorides virescens
  24. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  25. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  26. Mediterranean Mantis, Iris oratoria
  27. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  28. Narrowleaf Cattail, Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  29. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  30. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  31. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  32. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  33. Panicled Willowherb, Epilobium brachycarpum
  34. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  35. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  36. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus [heard]
  37. Smartweed, Persicaria lapathifolia [white]
  38. Soft Rush, Juncus effusus
  39. Swamp Smartweed, False Water-Pepper, Persicara hydropiperoides [pink]
  40. Swedish Blue Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Swedish Blue
  41. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  42. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  43. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  44. Willow Bead Gall Mite, Aculus tetanothrix
  45. Willow Pinecone Gall midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides

In Search of Sandhill Cranes, 10-04-20

I got up around 6:00 am today and was out the door by 6:30 to head out for some nature walking with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne.  After stopping at a drive-through for some breakfast, we went first to the Cosumnes River Preserve, taking Franklin Blvd. instead of the freeway. Once we got near the preserve, we drove down Bruceville and Desmond Roads to see if there was anything interesting in the agricultural fields yet. We were going on the hunt for Sandhill Cranes which had been reported in the area.

House Sparrow, Passer domesticus

All along the route, we saw large flocks of Wild Turkeys in the empty lots and fields. They’re getting ready for the males to do their fall/winter strut.

We saw lots of sparrows and finches in the brambles and tules on the roadside, including Song Sparrows, Savanah Sparrows, House Sparrows, White-Crowned Sparrows, House Finches and Lesser Goldfinches. Among them was a bird I’d never seen before: a little bright yellow fellow with a black mask. He was in among some tules and I kept saying, “what IS that?!”, as I tried to get his picture. The shots I got weren’t all that good, but they were good enough to make an ID. He was a Common Yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas. They’re migrating through the area now, so several people have seen them. 

Common Yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas

Another nice sighting further along the road was a Say’s Phoebe, Sayornis saya.  We see Black Phoebes all the time, but the Say’s not so much. There were also Red-Winged Blackbirds and Brewer’s Blackbirds feeding and flying in small flocks; some singing from the tree tops.

It was so great to see all bird-life activity again after the dearth of it for the past several weeks. Migrations are starting. We should be seeing tons more birds over the next several months.  The only thing that really seemed to be obviously missing were the hawks. We only saw a couple of them during the whole trip.

Charolais Cattle, Bos Taurus var. Charolais

There were lots of cattle in the fields, some of them bellowing loudly.  In one field, close to the fence line, there were whitish Charolais Cattle: moms with calves. Some of the calves were playing with one another, bouncing around, jostling and head-butting each other.  So cute!

Charolais Cattle, Bos Taurus var. Charolais

At the preserve itself, there still isn’t very much water; most of it is still bone dry which doesn’t bode well for the migratory birds. We did see a lot of Least Sandpipers in one little marshy area along with some Killdeer and one or two Greater Yellowlegs.

A Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous, and a Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla

Along the boat ramp, we found several trashline spiders and their webs, and some larger orb-weaver webs (some with spiders, some without). There were some dragonflies flitting about, but none of them would sit still for any length of time. I think I got a single photo of a Variable Meadowhawk. Down by the water, I could see the Water Hyacinth was still clogging part of the waterway, but they must’ve cleared it out around the dock because it wasn’t around there.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

River with Water Hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes, in it

We when got back to the car, we headed over to Staten Island Road. On the way there, we had to stop for a bit while a farmer used his tractor to clear a fallen tree limb off the road. We gave him a thank-you wave when he was done.

Along Staten Island Road, nothing much is flooded there yet, so there weren’t a lot of different waterfowl that we could see.  We did see lots of Sandhill Cranes, though, which is what we were hoping to see.  Adults and juveniles were in the fields, doing their crackling-calls to one another, feeding, flying overhead. It was great to see them.  We also saw a flock of Cackling Geese, the shorter cousins of the Canada Geese.

We drove up and down the road once, and then headed over to the Woodbridge Ecological Preserve

On the way there, we saw a Northern Mockingbird posing nicely on top of a road sign, but just as I raised my camera to take its picture, the battery died. I told the bird to wait while I changed out the spent battery for a new one, and Roxanne quipped, “Watch. It will wait until you’re ready again, and then fly away.” And sure enough. The bird sat there, looking handsome, while I changed out the battery and as soon as I lifted my camera to take its photo, it flew away.  Hah!

There were more cranes at the preserve, but they were in the fields across from the fenced-in preserve. In one field there was over 200 of them! Amazing.            

There was water on the ground in the preserve itself, on the other side of the fence, and there were birds in the water, but everything was too far and backlit, so we couldn’t get any decent photos of any of them.  We did see a flock of White-Faced Ibis flying overhead, and could also hear lots of Red-Winged Blackbirds in the elderberry bushes along the road. In the culverts on one side of the road, water was running and there was more water hyacinth growing in there, and Great Egrets fishing.

Great Egret, Ardea alba,in the roadside culvert with Water Hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes

We saw signage for The Black Hole wetland preserve, a privately owned preserve overseen by the Wetland Preservation Foundation.  I sent them an email to see if I can get Roxanne and I onto the property to do some photography and species identification.

We were out and about for about 6 hours and headed back home.

Species List:

  1. Alfalfa, Medicago sativa
  2. Amaranth, Redroot Pigweed, Amaranthus retroflexus
  3. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  4. Bagrada Bug, Bagrada hilaris
  5. Black Angus Cattle, Bos Taurus var. Black Angus
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  8. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  9. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  10. Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis
  11. Cackling Goose, Branta hutchinsii
  12. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  13. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  14. Charolais Cattle, Bos Taurus var. Charolais
  15. Club Gall Wasp, Atrusca clavuloides
  16. Common Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  17. Common Duckweed, Lemna minor
  18. Common Yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas
  19. Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
  20. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  21. Dead Man’s Foot Fungus, Pisolithus arhizus
  22. Deer Grass, Muhlenbergia rigens
  23. Devil’s Beggarticks, Bidens frondosa
  24. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  25. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  26. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  27. Fuzzy Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis washingtonensi [round faintly fuzzy galls on stems]
  28. Goldenrod Bunch Gall, Goldenrod Floret Gall Midge, Solidago canadensis
  29. Goldenrod, California Goldenrod, Solidago velutina californica
  30. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  31. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  32. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  33. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  34. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  35. Hoverfly, Margined Calligrapher Fly, Toxomerus marginatus [very tiny]
  36. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  37. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  38. Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla
  39. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  40. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris [nest]
  41. Mistletoe Gall, caused by Mistletoe  haustorium growing on a tree
  42. Mistletoe, American Mistletoe, Big Leaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
  43. Narrowleaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis
  44. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  45. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  46. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  47. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii
  48. Orange Sulphur Butterfly, Colias eurytheme
  49. Pin Mold, Order: Mucorales
  50. Potato, Russet Potato, Solanum tuberosum
  51. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  52. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  53. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  54. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium
  55. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  56. Sandhill Skipper, Polites sabuleti
  57. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  58. Say’s Phoebe, Sayornis saya
  59. Small Honey Ant, Prenolepis imparis
  60. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  61. Spiny Turban Gall Wasp, asexual, fall generation, Antron douglasii
  62. Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni
  63. Swamp Smartweed, False Water-Pepper, Persicara hydropiperoides [pink]
  64. Tall Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis
  65. Trashline Orb Weaver Spider, Conical Trashline Spider,  Cyclosa conica
  66. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  67. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  68. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
  69. Water Hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes
  70. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  71. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  72. Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis
  73. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  74. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi
  75. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi
  76. ?? spider egg sac

Deer, Oh, Deer, 10-02-20

I got up around 6:30 this morning, and was out the door a little after 7:00 to head out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.  It’s supposed to get up to 92° by this afternoon, and once again the smoke in the air is really bad. 173 AQI (Unhealthy)  

I saw lots and lots of deer throughout the preserve today, including does, a couple of fawns, yearlings, spike bucks, 2-pointer bucks and a 4-pointer.  One of the does had a partially swollen head. I couldn’t get any closeup photos, so I don’t know if she had wound or not, but the distortion of her head was very obvious.

A female Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus, with a deformation on her head.

The 4-pointer buck walked down the hill from the residential area and tried to duck through a break in the fence. Just as I got my camera focused on him, the battery died. Arrrgh!  By the time I got a new battery into my camera, the buck had moved down to another part of the fence, jumped it and rushed down the trail. So, I just got a few somewhat blurry shots of him.

A large Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus, buck.

The other deer were more cooperative.  They were browsing together – including eating a lot of acorns — and grooming one another.  When I saw one of the fawns, it was being groomed by an adult deer… but it kept mewling, that little “kitten” sound the fawns make when they’re feeling vulnerable. I thought at first that he was  worried about my being there, but then I realized his mom was actually behind me on the other side of a chain link fence. The fawn walked tentatively to me, still mewling, and his mom stepped closer to the fence.  The fawn had to cross in front of me on the trail to get to her, and I think that was really difficult for him.  I told him, “Go ahead, baby,” and he walked carefully out to the edge of the trail then RAN to mom. Awww!

Further along the trail, I was going to sit on a bench near the pond area, but as I walked toward it, I discovered a buck hidden in the tules, drinking water, and was shocked to realize he was there. For such a large animal, I couldn’t believe he could hide so well in the tules.  At one point, he stepped out onto the trail in front of me, so I couldn’t get to the bench I wanted to sit on, and I had to back up and go to the bench nearer to the front of the pond. The buck went back into the pond to drink and dig around the base of the tules, getting his antlers tangled in them. 

Another photographer came up while I was watching the buck, and took several picture, too.  She also stayed there after I left that area.  I saw her again when I was closer to the nature center. She asked if I was photographing another deer, and I told her, no, “Fungus!”  She gave me a disappointed, “oh,” and kept on walking.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

There were several very large specimens of Sulphur Shelf fungus throughout the preserve. They’re so bright and strikingly pretty this time of year, it’s hard to miss them.

There were bees in the “bee tree”, but on another part of the trail, I got attacked by wasps.  I don’t know where their nest was -– because I was trying to get away from them as fast as I could – but I’m assuming it was in the ground near the trail and my walking by created vibrations they didn’t like. I got stung twice: one on the side of my face near my jaw, and once on my shoulder.  I’m not allergic, so I don’t worry too much about getting stung, but wasp stings are painful (to me); they burn, like someone holding a match to your skin. The two stings hurt for the rest of the day.

While I was standing in the area where the bee tree I saw a pair of Red-Shouldered Hawks flying in over the trail.  One of them lighted on the edge of the nest in the top of the tree near the 4B post, and made some soft calls. Then they both flew off again.

Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus

The nest has been there for a couple of years now, but I don’t think the hawks have used it yet. The way it’s situated in the tree, it’s nearly impossible to see inside of it, but if the hawks raised young there, there are a lot of large leafless snags around it on which the fledglings and juveniles could rest as they grew.  That could provide lots of photo ops… but so far the hawks have avoided using that particular nest. I don’t know why.

I also saw quite a few squirrels at the preserve, including fox squirrels, gray squirrels and California Ground Squirrels. They’ll all stashing and picking up acorns and walnuts to feed on through the winter. I came across one ground squirrel that was stuffing its face with acorns it found in the parking lot. It’s cheeks were so full, they nearly dragged on the ground.  Hah!

California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi, with its cheeks full of acorns

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed home.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  4. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  5. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  6. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  7. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  8. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  9. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  10. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  11. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  12. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysopa coloradensis
  13. Common Pillbug, Woodlouse, Armadillidium vulgare
  14. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  15. Coyote, Canis latrans [scat]
  16. Deer Grass, Muhlenbergia rigens
  17. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  18. Devil’s Beggarticks, Bidens frondosa
  19. Dun Skipper, Euphyes vestris [dark, dusky brown]
  20. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  21. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  22. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  23. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  24. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [spiky ball]
  25. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  26. Mule Fat, Baccharis salicifolia
  27. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  28. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  29. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  30. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  31. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii
  32. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  33. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  34. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa
  35. Spice Bush, California Sweetshrub, Calycanthus occidentalis
  36. Spotless Lady Beetle, Cycloneda sanguinea
  37. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus [heard]
  38. Sulphur Shelf Fungus, Western Hardwood Sulphur Shelf, Laetiporus gilbertsonii
  39. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  40. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  41. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium
  42. Yellowjacket, Western Yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica
  43. ?? beetle galleries

Got to See Some River Otters, 09-28-20

I got up around 6:00 am, and was out the door around 6:45 to head out to Mather Lake Regional Park. There are a few more wildfires started up, so we’re getting air quality alerts again.  Not too bad:  102 AQI (Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups) 

When I arrived at the park the sun was just starting to come up over the horizon, and the first thing I saw was movement on the surface of the lake. I thought, “oooo, muskrat!”, but then I realized there was more than one thing moving in the water.

It was a raft of FIVE RIVER OTTERS!

Three of the five North American River Otters, Lontra canadensis

I was one of two people with a camera on the shore, and the other guy spotted the otters about the same time I did. He rushed down one side of the lake, and I “rushed” (which is hard with a cane) down another. The male photographer was moving so fast, he startled the otters and they turned my way. It was hard to get photos of them because the rising sun was behind them for the most part, but I did get a tiny bit of video of the otters when they lifted up in the water to look at a fisherman near the water’s edge. So cool!

Of course, I reported the sighting to the River Otter Ecology Project, Otter Spotter.

When the otters dove near a small flock of Canada Geese, the geese took off with a lot of clamoring noise. The otters must have “goosed” them. Hah!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I caught glimpses of a Belted Kingfisher that was flying between the trees, but it wouldn’t sit still anywhere long enough for me to get photos of it.  When I watched a Double-Crested Cormorant flying over the water, its flight path was interrupted by a Green Heron who then lighted on the twiggy remnants of a submerged log.  Even though the heron was pretty far away, I was able to get a couple of photos of it…and the small turtle sitting on a rock near the twigs.

Green Heron, Butorides virescens

I also saw my “spirit bird”, a Black Phoebe. It was flitting back and forth from snags over the water and back again. On one trip, it caught an insect midair, then returned to snag to swallow it down.

Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans

There were a lot of Pied-Billed Grebes in the water, adults and juveniles, all of them swimming and fishing among rafts of water vegetation. The Mute Swans were all about, of course, along with the geese. I also saw small flocks of Bushtits and Lesser Goldfinches. I heard California Quail and Northern Flickers, but couldn’t catch sight of them.  It was nice to see and hear the familiar song of White-Crowned Sparrows who are just now starting to migrate back into the area.

White-Crowned Sparrow,Zonotrichia leucophrys

Blue damselflies were still decorating the plants at the water’s edge, but their numbers are dwindling.  And I only saw two dragonflies. There were lots of midges in the air, and I was also aware of the mosquitoes today (having pretty much missed them otherwise this year).

I walked for about 3 hours, and then headed back home.

Species List:

  1. American Bugleweed, Water Horehound, Lycopus americanus
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Argentine Ant, Linepithema humile
  4. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
  5. Bishop Pine, Pinus muricata [fascicles of TWO needles]
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  8. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  10. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  11. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  12. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  13. Common Spike-Rush, Eleocharis palustris [has a head somewhat like SB Sedge]
  14. Cottonwood Petiole Gall, Poplar Petiole Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populitransversus
  15. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  16. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  17. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  18. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  19. Familiar Bluet Damselfly, Enallagma civile
  20. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  21. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  22. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
  23. Green Heron, Butorides virescens
  24. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  25. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  26. Largemouth Bass, Micropterus salmoides
  27. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  28. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  29. Mosquito, Common House Mosquito, Culex pipiens
  30. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  31. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  32. Narrowleaf Cattail, Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  33. Narrowleaf Willow, Salix exigua
  34. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus [heard]
  35. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  36. Pacific Forktail Damselfly, Ischnura cervula
  37. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  38. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans
  39. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  40. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
  41. Soft Rush, Juncus effusus
  42. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  43. Tule Bluet Damselfly, Enallagma carunculatum
  44. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  45. Willow Bead Gall Mite, Aculus tetanothrix
  46. Willow Herb, Epilobium brachycarpum [tiny pink flowers, seeds almost like soaproot]
  47. Willow Pinecone Gall midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides

The Sulphur Shelf is Starting to Show off, 09-26-20

I got up around 7:00 am and headed out to the American River Bend Park for a walk. By the time I got there it was really already too late and getting too warm to start a walk, so I kept my visit kind of short.

Sulphur Shelf Fungus, Western Hardwood Sulphur Shelf, Laetiporus gilbertsonii

Between seasons at the park, there’s not a whole lot to see right now, but I did get a glimpse of deer and some lovely looking sulphur shelf fungus when I first came through the gate. There were no migrating waterfowl on the river, but there were plenty of fishermen and some kayakers. One of the fisherman had caught a large Chinook salmon and was filleting it when I walked by him, the bright silvery fish in the water at his feet, its rose-orange flesh in his hands.

Fisherman filleting a Chinook Salmon, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, he caught on the American River

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The Acorn Woodpeckers are busy filling up and protecting their granary trees. I got to see a couple of Red-Shouldered Hawks and a Cooper’s Hawk as they lighted on branches to rest for a moment before flying off again. Along the riverside, I saw several Turkey Vultures, some of them battling for fragments of salmon the fishermen discarded. I also came across a large flock of Wild Turkeys.

When I sat at one of the tables in the picnic area, I saw several Oak Titmice and Western Bluebirds. There was also as mall swarm of Yellowjackets chewing on something on the ground. I tried to get a close look at what they were so excited about, but it just looked like wood chips to me. Maybe there was something on it that I couldn’t see… Or maybe they were gathering wood-material for their nest? Not sure.

Yellowjacket, Western Yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica

I was out there for about 2 hours and then headed back home. I hadn’t taken any pain pills before leaving the house, so I was hurting by the time I got back.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  3. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  4. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  5. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  6. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  7. Chinook Salmon, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha
  8. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  9. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  10. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  11. Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii
  12. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  13. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  14. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [spiky ball]
  15. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  16. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  17. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  18. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  19. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  20. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  21. Sulphur Shelf Fungus, Western Hardwood Sulphur Shelf, Laetiporus gilbertsonii
  22. Tree of Heaven, Ailanthus altissima
  23. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  24. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  25. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  26. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  27. Western Tussock Moth, Orgyia vetusta [cocoons]
  28. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  29. Yellowjacket, Western Yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica