Guh! I didn’t sleep very well last night, and woke up twice with a lot of pain in my left hip. When it gets growly like that, I can’t find a comfortable position in which to lay or sit up, and I just have to wait until the meds kick in. I got myself up around 7:00 am, and headed over to the Cosumnes River Preserveto see how things are developing there. It was slow-going because of the pain, but I really feel the movement is good for me.
There’s more water on the ground now, not only in the preserve itself but in the ag fields surrounding it. There’s also water in the slough that runs along Franklin Road. I drove around Desmond and Bruceville Roads, and then went up and down the boardwalk area at the preserve. There were only a few large flocks of Snow Geese – and even a flock of American White Pelicans(!) – in the distant fields. Otherwise, I was seeing solitary birds are small groups of waterfowl in a variety of species; almost 40 different kinds. Onesies and twosies.
I see Black Phoebes almost everywhere I go, which is why it’s kind of my soul-bird spirit guide. But it seems like lately I’ve been seeing almost as many Say’s Phoebes in the area. I don’t know if they’re really more populous now, or if I’m just learning to recognizing them more readily. There were also a lot of Audubon’s Warblers flitting around along the fence lines.
At one spot, I found a Song Sparrow singing away in the tules. I got some photos and a video snippet of him.
As I was heading out of the preserve, a couple of small flocks of Sandhill Cranes came flying in overhead and landed in a distant field. They should actually be on their way out of the area, so I was a little surprised to see them at all.
I walked for about 2½ hours before heading home. This was hike #13 in my #52HikeChallenge.
I got up around 6:30 this morning, and was out the door by 7:00 am with my friend Roxanne to go look for Burrowing Owls in Davis. It was breezy and cold, in the high 30’s, in the morning, got more densely overcast by the midafternoon, and then turned sunny by the late afternoon.
We went over to the Wildhorse Ag Buffer because there had been multiple reports that Burrowing Owls had been spotted along the trail there. I had never been to the place before, so I was just going by an eBird sighting to try to find the location where the owls had been seen. We parked in the parking lot and took what we thought was a sidewalk along the back of the houses in the neighborhood, not realizing that the paved path was actually a golf cart route for the golf course there.
So, we were getting a lot of dirty looks as we walked along, and finally a guy drove up in a cart and asked if we wanted to get hit by golf balls. Rox quipped that a hit in the head might be helpful. Hah! The guy laughed. Then he said that we were walking right near where golfers who tee off often hit their balls, and pedestrians weren’t supposed to be walking there. We told him we were looking for the ag buffer, and he pointed ahead of us and said it was over there. He let us continue on our way, but said we’d need to walk back through the neighborhood to get back to the car.
We did eventually get to the ag buffer path which sits between the golf course and an area of protected special habitat that runs alongside some agricultural property.
When we got to where the owls had previously been sighted, we were angry to find an incredibly stupid and selfish man letting his dog run through the area unleashed. The dog was posturing, threatening us and barking, and the owner didn’t even look at it; he kept walking along looking straight ahead, pretending he didn’t know what was going on. The weather may have been a factor in keeping the owls aground, but I’m certain the dog running back and forth over the spots where their burrows were, barking and growling, pretty much made certain that we would not see the owls this morning.
So, that part of the trip was pretty much a bust. However, Rox and I are of the mindset that we are willing to note whatever Nature wants to show us at any given place on any given day, so we were still grateful for the walk. Along the way, we saw several species of songbirds, and also saw a Kite, a Kestrel and a young Cooper’s Hawk. I think, under better weather conditions we would have seen a lot more. We also know, now, where the buffer is and can get to it more easily without trespassing on the golf course again.
As we were walking back to the car, we checked out the expensive properties there (over a million $ or more), and took photos of some of the plants in their front yards along the sidewalk. One of the oddest things, to me, was seeing a Buddha’s Hand citron tree heavy with fruit. The fruit looks like a big yellow octopus with fat legs. Rox knew what they were, but I had never seen them before. So weird!
The walk there was over a mile, so I was able to count it as hike #12 on my #52HikeChallenge. Yay!
When we got back to the car, we decided to head over to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area. It was darkly overcast and a bit windy there, so, once again we were kind of thwarted as to how many birds we could see, but we still managed to see quite a few hawks, herons and egrets, and a smattering of different species of ducks.
We came across a flock of Coots, and found some of them doing that same side-face dirt digging behavior we’d seen before (at a different location). Where they turn their heads sideways to the ground and scoop up dirt with the side of their bill. Trying to get gravel for their crops, I think.
We drove the auto-tour route and then headed back home and were back at the house by about 1:00 pm.
American Coot, Fulica americana
American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
American Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
American Robin, Turdus migratorius
Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
Bladderpod, Peritoma arborea [kind of looks like Jerusalem sage but gets bladder-like seed pods]
I got up a little after 7:00 this morning, and headed out to the American River Bend Park for a walk. My medication hasn’t arrived yet, so I was in a lot of pain. It was 37° when I got to the park – which seems to be the general morning temperature here lately – and got up into the low 60’s by the afternoon.
When I first got there, I was driving down the road, and found my way blocked by a small flock of male Wild Turkeys strutting and showing off to one another. I tried creeping the car forward to get them to move, and I think they thought the car was “strutting”, so they moved in further, collecting around near the bumper. I flashed my headlights and honked the horn at them, and they’d gobble-obble-obble! But wouldn’t move. Hah! I was there for about 10 minutes waiting for them to get interested in something else and move off the road.
Lots of birds around today. There was a small flock of Bufflehead ducks on the water, males and females, but no one was doing any of their courtship stuff… I noticed that the Acorn Woodpeckers were taking full advantage of the windfall acorns after last week’s storm. Rather than pulling acorns off the trees, the birds were collecting them from the ground and poking them into their granary trees… When I was standing in the spot where I was seeing the woodpeckers, I also saw European Starlings, Dark-Eyed Juncos, an Audubon’s Warbler, White-Breasted Nuthatches, and little Oak Titmice all around me. I got photos of most of them, but the Juncos were being shy and kept themselves in the tall grass where I couldn’t focus on them.
There were also several pairs of Western Bluebirds around, and I saw and photographed one pair as they were checking out a nesting cavity together. I’m hoping to see more of that kind of behaviors as we go forward toward spring.
Near to where the bluebirds were doing house hunting, I also saw a male Nuttall’s Woodpecker looking for bugs in the bark of an oak tree. So, like I said, lots of birds!
I was less lucky with fungi. I only found some common brown Brittlestem mushrooms, bright Yellow Fieldcaps, and a few outcroppings of the Magpie Inkcap mushrooms.
The inkcaps are a species of mushroom disburses its spore in a sluice rather than as dry dust. The ‘shroom is so water-dense that as it ages it liquifies. All the “white stuff” on the cap is actually the residue of a veil that covered the mushroom when it was underground. I found some very fresh, newly “popped” specimens that haven’t opened up yet, and some where the cap was already liquifying and oozing toward the ground.
I also came across a few Barometer Earthstars, and was able to get photos and a little video of how they puff out their spores.
I did get to see a couple of small herds of Columbian Black-Tailed deer, including one that was all bucks and one that was all does. In the bucks’ group there was a young spike buck, and a few larger ones, including 3- and 4-pointers. I haven’t seen the big 5-pointer buck, that has been around in previous years, at all, anywhere, this year. I don’t know what happened to him… The in the doe-group was a matriarch and a young yearling. They were all sitting down in the grass, and got to their feet when I walked by – the matriarch putting herself between me and the younger does. Just beautiful.
I walked for 3 hours, but it was slow going because of my pain. This was hike #11 in my #52HikeChallenge.
I got up around 6:30 this morning and headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preservefor a much-needed walk around 7:30 am. I was hoping to see some fungi and was going to check out any rain puddles for signs of hairworms. So, I was going for the “eew factor”… and Nature gave me a lot of it.
The storm had downed quite a few trees in the preserve, but most of the destruction had been cleaned up already and moved off the trails. Still, there were a lot of windfall twigs that seemed to cling to my feet and worked their way up my pant legs. Creepy feeling!
The first eew was finding the bodies of young squirrels that had been thrown out of their dray (squirrel nest) by the storm. They were older “pinkies”, still furless, their eyes just developing under their skin. Their little feet and tails were developing, and there were a few wispy whiskers poking out on their faces, but otherwise they were “embryonic” looking.
I found three of them, all frozen by rigor mortis, their bodies colder than the air. I listened for heartbeats and breathing, but there was nothing. They’d just fallen too far out of their tree and been exposed to the cold for too long. I felt sad at the sight of them -– and wondered how traumatic it must have been for their mom to have lost them all in the same night. She must have been sitting on them, trying to keep them warm, when the dray fell apart…
Then I saw what looked like a sickly wild turkey by the little observation pond. He was standing, but all curled up like his insides hurt. I took some photos of him to pass onto the park rangers, but then when I got closer, he WAS able to step away from me. He walked slowly, but everything seemed to function all right… So I don’t know if he was actually sick or just cold and alone.
Along the trails, I found several different kinds of gooey jelly fungus –- eew — including yellow Witch’s Butter, Black Jelly Roll, Brown Ear Jelly Fungus and the little Jelly Spots.
As I was looking over the Witch’s Butter, part of it still attached to the False Turkey Tail fungus which it was parasitizing, I found some pale, white long-bodied springtails and a tiny spider. Those are details I would have missed without the macro attachment to my cellphone camera.
There weren’t a lot of mushrooms out yet. I guess they need a little more time to push up to the surface. I DID find a patch of purple Blewit mushrooms, though. They’re also called “Purple Cores”. When they’re fresh, they’re lavender all over… and then lose a lot of their color. The ones I found were pretty spent already, but the caps still showed off some of their purple hue. I also found some Yellow Fieldcaps, much smaller than the Belwits, but their color was much much brighter.
I saw a mother with two very small children with her who were looking into a very large mud puddle. They mentioned “worms”, so I stepped over –- not too close because of COVID – to see what they were looking at. In one part of the puddle was a mass of little white worms wriggling slowly. I told the mom that they looked like pinworms to me, so she should probably keep her little kids out of that water and she said thank you.
Then she pointed out a second much larger worm in the other end of the puddle, and I was excited to see it was a hairworm (!) I know, I get jazzed by weird stuff.
Horsehair Worms are from the phylum of “nematomorphs”, and are also called hairsnakes or Gordian Worms (because they wrap themselves upon convoluted knots when they mate).
The hairworm/ Horsehair Worm was maybe ten inches long, dark, like a hair from a horse’s tail. It was moving slowly, snake-like toward the edge of the puddle. I actually picked it up to see what it feltlike and was surprised to find that wasn’t gushy like an earthworm; it was cord-like and felt “muscular”. The skin wasn’t slimy; it felt “dry”, like a snake’s scale. I took some photos of it, and then placed it back into the water.
Then, the Naturalist in me coming out, I explained to the mother that the hairworm wasn’t generally harmful to humans, but it parasitizes other insects. The worms lay eggs along the edges of ponds and puddles – or even swimming pools — that are ingested by insects like crickets. The larvae grow in the cricket’s body, going through several instars (molts) over the period of several weeks (or months) until it matures. Inside the cricket, the worm wraps around and around itself as it grows, filling the cricket’s body, then when it matures, the worm infects the cricket’s brain and forces the cricket toward the nearest water source – where the cricket drowns itself and dies. After the cricket dies, the adult worm emerges and seeks a mate. That got a verbal “Eeeew!” from the mom and the kids. Sometimes nature is gross-cool. Hah!
As I was going along, finding all the “eews”, I was lamenting to myself that I hadn’t seen a single deer that morning, which was unusual for that preserve. Then, along the Woodland Trail, I finally found a small herd that includes does and some yearlings, a young spike buck, and a large 4-pointer buck. They were lovey.
I walked for about 2½ hours and then headed back home. This walk was #10 in my #52HikeChallenge; a milestone! Woot!
Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
Black Jelly Roll Fungus, Black Witches’ Butter, Exidia glandulosa
Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
Blewit Mushroom, Purple Core, Lepista nuda
Brown Jelly Fungus, Leafy Brain, Phaeotremella foliacea
California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica [dark green with green or brown apothecia, on trees]
I got up around 5:00 am in pain and had to take some meds, then after letting the dog out to go potty, we both went back to bed until 7:00 am.
It was only 28° outside then. Wow! Brrrr! Nevertheless, I got myself ready and headed out for a walk at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery. It was 31° at the river, but warmed up to a balmy 45° a few hours later when I left.
They’re still doing a lot of reconstruction at the site and most of the area by the new (not yet finished) salmon ladder is fenced off and full of heavy equipment. You can get to the trail that runs along the hill beside the American River, and they’ve finished a new viewing platform with benches at then of the “paved” portion of the trail.
In the water were Common Goldeneyes, Common Mergansers, and Mallards. I noticed that the Goldeneyes were getting harassed by the gulls. As soon as one of the Goldeneyes was able to catch a fish, a gull would attack it and grab the fish! I saw this behavior about four times, but was only able to video the aftermath of the attacks. Those gulls were FAST!
Along the bank of the river were Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, and Snowy Egrets. When I was taking photos of one of the Great Blue Herons, I was astonished to see some early-in-the-season lupines and vetch in bloom. The plants are so confused by the weather.
And there were a couple of Green Herons inside the fenced-in raceways that usually house the salmon fry. There were no fish in the raceways today, though, because the cement raceways were being cleaned, so the herons got nuthin’ for their efforts.
I took quite a few photos of a small flock of Lesser Goldfinches as they wrested and ate seeds from the Starthistle. Then I saw a male Anna’s Hummingbird sunning himself on a twig, and just as I focused on him and took the photo, a female Goldfinch took his place on the twig. Hah! I guess she REALLY wanted her photo taken!
There were quite a few White-Crowned Sparrows around, eating cast off seeds and berries from the Coffeeberry trees. I also came across a Song Sparrow and got a little bit of video of it singing.
The big surprise of the day was seeing a beaver swimming along the shore on the opposite side of the river. I was able to get a little bit of video of it. I had never seen one there before, so that was a nice treat.
Birthday Week Day SEVEN: Milking it for everything it’s got! Hah! I got up at 6:00 this morning, and was out the door by 6:30 with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne to head out to the Anderson Marsh State Historical Park in Lake County. We’d never been there before, so we didn’t really know what to expect. We got our morning coffee and breakfast sammich and then hit the road. Luckily, the drive there is pretty much a straight shot down Highway 20 with a little turn onto Highway 53, and the place is well-marked, so it was very easy to get to. From Sacramento, the one-way drive was about 1¾ hours. There was fog in some of the valleys between the hills, but often we were driving above it… and most of it burned off by the end of the trip.
At the park, we parked in lot near the old homestead an dilapidated barns (and there’s something about old barn that is hauntingly beautiful). Because of COVID, we couldn’t get into the house/museum, but we could still walk the grounds (and there were porta-potties available if you needed one.) We spotted Canada Geese and some Dark Eyed Juncos on the lawns.
According to the brochure: “…The complex today includes the ranch house and five small outbuildings. The outbuildings include two non-usable privies from the late 1800s; a double garage (ca. 1930); a smokehouse of 20th-century construction; and a shed and corral built in the 1920s and moved to their current location when Highway 53 was built…”
The first thing we were attracted to were the lichen on the black walnut trees, on some cast-off sticks and all along an old stretch of fence. Wow! There were so many, some piled upon top of others, and in so many different colors (didn’t know there THAT many shades of green!). I don’t know if I’ll be able to identify them all.
While we were taking photos of the lichen, I said, “Why are my hands so cold?” and then I looked at the temperature gauge on my phone. It was 30° there! Yikes. Glad I dressed in layers. As soon as the sun poked its head up over the fog, though, it warmed up a bit and was about 58° by the time we left the park.
Another thing that struck us was how “high” the graft marks were on the English Walnut trees (where they had been grafted onto Black Walnut root stock). There were a couple of pure Black Walnut trees nearest to the parking area, but the rest of trees were grafted. On some of them, the graft mark was at the 6 or 7 foot level. We also noticed that where the English Walnut trees had lost all of the walnuts, the Black Walnut trees were still holding onto theirs. Don’t know what any of that means; we just thought it was interesting to note.
I tried researching grafted trees to see if the graft mark will grow UP as the base grows, but nope. The lower rootstock part of the tree (in this case the Black Walnut) doesn’t grow up, but it can layers/rings and grow OUT as the tree ages. The graft mark stays where it is. So… These English Walnut trees were apparently grafted onto the Black Walnut base at a very tall spot. I think that’s odd… “…A tree that has been top grafted will have a height noted next to the form that refers to the length of the clear stem (i.e. before the branches start). The clear stem will not grow any taller, only the head of branches will develop…” Hmmm…
Anyway, after a while we decided we had to tear ourselves away from the lichen-covered fence, or we’d never get our walk started. We had to stop for a moment, though, to admire the totally gnarly base of a HUGE oak tree behind one of the out buildings.
Then we headed out along the Cache Creek Nature Trail and a little bit of the Anderson Flats Trail. This time of year, everything is mostly burnished shades of brown, gold and a little red because nothing (except for the mistletoe) is in bloom or fruiting right now. I can see the potential for a lovely spring, though.
The Cache Creek trail, which is wide and flat (and can accommodate wheelchairs) took us through some fields of teasel and other thistles which, again, should be beautiful in the late spring/early summer when all of that comes into bloom; there should also be quite a few pollinators out there by then, too. Totally worth another trip out there. Then we got to the creek itself which was totally dry except for a mud puddle in the deepest part of it. Need more rain.
Along the way, we found a dead Jerusalem Cricket that had been washed out of its burrow by the rain. Some folks find these creature totally freaky, but I think they’re interesting. Rox took a photo of me holding it while I took photos of it. When I posted the photo on Facebook, I got comments like:
Barbara B: Okay, THIS is where I draw the line. These guys creep me out so bad!!!!
Monica N: Eeewwww. You touched it
Bryan M:Yuck. Those things really freak me out!
Gary S:No! Put it down! I am not squeamish but they freak me out
Charlotte G: First time I ever saw one was in Davis. Migo had stepped on one and it was still sort of alive bc it has gone inside the grooves of his frog. I think I screamed and dropped his hoof. Poor boy! Had no idea why I was tweaking- I thought he had stepped on a small alien.
Tony K: I’ll stick with Monica! EWWWWW you touched it!
Then we stepped out onto a long bridge/boardwalk structure that crossed the creek bed in several places. Below was a tangle of willow trees, teasel and blackberry vines, and I could see some of the teasel moving. “There’s something in there,” I said to Roxanne who was a little bit ahead of me on the bridge. “It’s a deer!” she said. No way! I looked closer and she was right; there was a deer standing cheek-high in blackberry vines. A doe. Then we noticed another one just behind her which I think was a yearling based on its “young”-looking face.
We couldn’t see any part of their bodies, and the way they were covered meant we also couldn’t get a good look at their faces and profiles. But based on their incredibly large ears I’m guessing they might have been pure Mule Deer rather than the Columbian Black-Tail subspecies. Mule Deer have longer faces than the Black-Tails, and they have a white rump patch that the Black-Tails don’t have. The Black-Tails are also darker and smaller than the Mule Deer. But I couldn’t see enough of these deer to really tell what they were.
There were songbirds in the trees but we had trouble getting anything to sit still long enough to photograph it. I did get some photos of a Phainopepla and some of a White-Tailed Kite hunting over the field.
I had a little better luck when the bridge/boardwalk took us along the tail end of Clear Lake for a short distance. In and around the water there we saw Pied-Billed Grebes, Western Grebes, Clark’s Grebes, some Ruddy Ducks, cormorants, and male Goldeneyes. Later we also caught sight of a muskrat swimming in the water. I got crappy video of it, but Rox got some better still shots. That was a nice surprise.
On the shores we caught glimpses of a Great Egret, Great Blue Heron and some Collared Doves playing tag on a dead snag. We also saw a Northern Flicker use the log to step down close to water’s edge so it could get a drink.
On the other side of the bridge/boardwalk was more flat, wide trail with mounds of blackberry vines and wild roses piled up higher than our heads. We walked through that until we got onto the Anderson Flats Trail. That led through flat (duh) grasslands that held little promise of seeing anything, so we turned around and went back the way we came. All in all, we walked 2.02 miles. So, that counts as walk #8 in my #52HikeChallenge. Woot!
Although the landscape was a bit disappointing today, as I said, I can see the potential for possible wildflowers and more birds in the spring when there might be more water in the creek, and butterflies and gall searches in the summer. Certainly worth a trip or two back this year. I’d like to get out the marshland when its wet, for example.
I was hurting by the time we got back to the car, so I took some meds and chillaxed while Roxanne drove us back home. [I’m so grateful to her for being my chauffer on these long trips.] We took the twisty-turny Highway 16 route back to Woodland, and got to see some of the wildfire impacted areas. Some of them are still looking pretty bleak.
We got home around 4:00 pm, so that was long day for us. Nice to get some supper and settle into bed for the rest of the day.
Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
American Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [pink flower]
Ash Flower Gall Mite, Aceria fraxiniflora
Beaded Tube Lichen, Hypogymnia apinnata [hoary green with black back, black spots on thallus]
Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
Boreal Button Lichen, Buellia disciformis [pale gray to bluish with black apothecia on wood]