Category Archives: #52HikeChallenge

A Lovely Garden Jaunt, 04-15-21

I got up around 6:00 this morning and headed over to William Land Park and the WPA Rock Garden for a walk. My hip was hurting a LOT, which made walking painful, but I felt like I needed to move around anyway.

I figured that with its regular watering, the garden should be pretty and full of blooms, and it didn’t disappoint.

Spring flowers in the WPA Rock Garden in William Land Park

There was color everywhere: yellow, red, purple, blue, orange… and I saw a few plants I hadn’t seen there before including Meadow Squill and a gorgeous white Wisteria vine that was being trained to grow along a pipe-frame at the entrance to the garden.  Lots of different kinds of irises and different colors of Columbine. The Smoke Trees were starting to “smoke”, and the double-ruffled cherry trees were in bloom. Sooooo pretty.

I was expecting to see more insects, but it was a little chilly yet (around 51°) when I was out there. I did see some bumblebees, though, and ants, and aphids — and a handsome Armyworm Moth. I checked out all of the fennel plants and pipevine vines for any evidence of butterfly eggs or caterpillars, but nope. It may be a little too early for them.

In the garden I saw Bushtits, Mourning Doves, Golden-Crowned Sparrows and hummingbirds. At the ponds, though, I saw more.

There were a couple of mama Wood Ducks in the water. One had four babies, and the other one had — wait for it — FOURTEEN babies! 

Wood Ducks are known for “brood parasitism”, though, which means they’ll lay their eggs in another bird’s nest. So, one mama may actually be brooding the eggs of several females in her nest. They’re also known to lay their eggs in several different nests (if there are acceptable ones nearby) before choosing which nest they’re going to sit on.  So, a brood of fourteen babies isn’t necessarily that uncommon.  But it was still pretty incredible to see.

Other birds included Mallards and Canada Geese, domestic ducks, Western Bluebirds, a White-Breasted Nuthatch, a Great Egret flying overhead, a Belted Kingfisher, Black Phoebes, and House Finches among others.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

One of the pairs of geese had a brood of seven goslings that were all still in their yellow fuzz. I saw three of the babies have a wrestling match with one another before they all settled down onto the grass for a snooze in the sun.

In the large pond there were several turtles. At one point, I watched a large female Red-Eared Slider Turtle climb up out of the water to sun herself on the rocky lip of the pond. After she came up, I saw four others do the same, further down the walk. Then, next to her, a Pacific Pond Turtle swam up, looked around and climbed up onto the lip, too — at one point looking like it might climb up onto the Slider Turtle if it had had the chance.

The Slider Turtles are considered an invasive species in California, brought into the state by the pet trade. People would buy the turtles, get bored with them or get tired of cleaning up after them (water turtles poop in the same water they swim in), and then dump them out into the wild. The Sliders are now so numerous that they’re taking over the basking sites and food of the native Pacific Pond Turtles. So, I was happy to see at least one Pond Turtle in the pond.

It was a lovely morning, and I walked for about 3 hours before heading home.

This was trip #35 in my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. African Lily, Lily of the Nile, Agapanthus africanus [white or blue]
  2. Aloe, Soap Aloe, Aloe maculata
  3. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  4. Aphid, Rose Aphid, Macrosiphum rosae
  5. Armyworm Moth, Mythimna unipuncta
  6. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Blue Statice, Limonium sinuatum     
  9. Blue Statice, Perez’s Sea Lavender, Limonium perezii
  10. Borage, Borago officinalis
  11. Branched Asphodel, Asphodelus ramosus [spire of white flowers; bulbous seeds]
  12. Brass Buttons, Cotula coronopifolia
  13. Broadleaved Pepperweed, Lepidium latifolium
  14. Bronze Fennel, Florence Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare dulce
  15. Buff Orpington Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var Orpington
  16. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  17. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  18. California Valerian, Valeriana californica [white]
  19. Calla Lily, Zantedeschia aethiopica
  20. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  21. Cape Honey Flower, Melianthus major [toothed leaves; dark maroon leathery flowers]
  22. Cardoon, Artichoke Thistle, Cynara cardunculus
  23. Chinese Quince, Chaenomeles speciosa [red flowers]
  24. Chinese Wisteria, Wisteria sinensis
  25. Common Carp, Cyprinus carpio
  26. Common Columbine, Aquilegia vulgaris
  27. Common Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  28. Common Field Daisy, Common Daisy, Bellis perennis
  29. Common Poppy, Red Poppy of Flanders, Papaver rhoeas
  30. Crested Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Crested
  31. Crimson Bottlebrush, Melaleuca citrina
  32. Domestic Swan Goose, Chinese Goose, Anser cygnoides domesticus [white or gray, knob on forehead]
  33. Double Rosebud Cherry, Prunus × subhirtella
  34. Douglas Squirrel, Tamiasciurus douglasii [small brown squirrel, white belly]
  35. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  36. Fern, Japanese Netvein Hollyfern, Cyrtomium falcatum
  37. Fernald’s Iris, Iris fernaldii [white and yellow flag iris]
  38. Garden Sage, Salvia officinalis
  39. Giant Fennel, Ferula communis
  40. Golden Columbine, Aquilegia chrysantha
  41. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  42. Goldenrain Tree, Koelreuteria paniculate
  43. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  44. Honeywort, Blue Shrimp Plant, Cerinthe major ssp. purpurascens [purple]
  45. Honeywort, Greater Honeywort, Cerinthe major [rusty red]
  46. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  47. Iris, Bearded Iris, Iris × germanica
  48. Iris, Netted Iris, Iris reticulata
  49. Iris, Yellow Iris, Iris pseudacorus
  50. Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Dragon Arum, Dracunculus vulgaris
  51. Japanese Aralia, Fatsia japonica [what I call a coffee bean bush]
  52. Jerusalem Sage, Phlomis fruticose
  53. Juniper Leaved Grevillea, Grevillea juniperina sulphurea [spidery, orange]
  54. Lavender, Topped Lavender, Lavandula stoechas
  55. London Plane Tree, Platanus × acerifolia [multiple seed balls per strand]
  56. Love-in-a-Mist, Nigella damascena
  57. Mantle Storksbill, Pelargonium alchemilloides
  58. Meadow Squill, Scilla litardierei
  59. Mealy Blue Sage, Salvia farinacea [purple socks]
  60. Mexican Sage, Salvia mexicana [deep purple]
  61. Moss Phlox, Phlox subulate
  62. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  63. Muscovy Duck, Cairina moschata
  64. Oregon Grape, Berberis aquifolium
  65. Pacific Bleeding Heart, Dicentra formosa
  66. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marorata
  67. Pekin Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Pekin
  68. Portuguese Squill, Scilla peruviana
  69. Prickly Pear Cactus, Indian Fig Opuntia, Opuntia ficus-indica
  70. Red Valerian, Centranthus ruber
  71. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans
  72. Richardson’s Geranium, Geranium richardsonii
  73. Rose, Rosa sp.
  74. Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera
  75. Sage, Salvia sp.
  76. Scarlet Grevillea, Grevillea banksia [spidery, red]
  77. Sea Mallow, Malva subovata [kind of looks like hibiscus]
  78. Smokebush, Smoke Tree, Cotinus coggygria
  79. Spanish Bluebell, Hyacinthoides hispanica
  80. Spurge, Eggleaf Spurge, Euphorbia oblongata
  81. Spurge, Mediterranean Spurge, Euphorbia characias
  82. Sticky Geranium, Geranium viscosissimum
  83. Sweet Alyssum, Lobularia maritima
  84. Sweet Mock Orange, Philadelphus coronarius
  85. Tobacco, Flowering Tobacco, Nicotiana alata
  86. Tower-of-Jewels, Giant Viper’s-Bugloss, Echium pininana
  87. Tree Aeonium, Aeonium arboretum
  88. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  89. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  90. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  91. White Fringetree, Chionanthus virginicus
  92. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  93. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
  94. Yellow-faced Bumblebee, Bombus vosnesenskii

From Owlets to Muskrats, 04-10-21

I got up around 6:00 am and went to the American River Bend Park first just to check on mama Great Horned Owl and her owlets, then I was off to Mather Lake Regional Park to see how things were going there.

At the River Bend Park, I parked near the “owl tree” and immediately saw mama Great Horned Owl sitting on a branch to the right of the nest. She was dozing. Inside the nest I could see two owlets. One was standing up, while the other stayed down inside the nest; only the top of its head was visible.

On the nearby lawn, the male Wild Turkeys were strutting for the females. In the early morning light, their iridescent feathers took on a deep copper tone. They’re really such beautiful animals.

After taking several photos, I headed over to Mather Lake. All of the trees are starting to leaf-out including the willows, cottonwoods and oaks, so there were varying shades of green all around the lake.  One of the first things I saw there was a House Finch flying onto a nest she had under the roof of one of the kiosks. The nest had a mud base and was filled with spun dried grass.

House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus, and her nest

The male Red-Winged Blackbirds were out in force, singing from the trees and tules; and a Great Tailed Grackle was joining in from an adjacent tree.

In yet another tree, I saw a Green Heron.  It was croaking at a second heron that I only saw when the two of them took off and flew out of the park.

Several of the Coyote Brush bushes and Willow Dock plants were infested with aphids; light green on the Coyote Brush and deeper, richer green on the dock… But I’m not sure of the species. There are so many different ones, it’s hard to tell. I’ll have to do more research.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Along the trail I got a brief glimpse of a cottontail rabbit, and also saw a tiny pocket gopher running by.  Oh, I saw my first Western Kingbird of the season, and also saw my first Sankefly of the season, so those were cool.

Snakefly, Agulla adnixa

The biggest surprise of the say, though, was seeing a muskrat swimming back and forth in the water several times. It was gathering greenery from the bottom of the lake, bringing it to the surface, and carrying it to the opposite side of the little island in the lake. I assumed it was taking the greenery to fill its nest, wherever that was. Maybe feeding babies?

Unfortunately for the muskrat, the island was being occupied by Canada Geese. Some of the geese chased the muskrat and nipped at him, and another goose stole the muskrat’s greenery and ate it! Poor little thing. Even with all the abuse, the muskrat kept focused on its task. I watched it go back and forth three times before I lost track of it.

On my way out to the parking lot, I noticed that two pairs of the Canada Geese had goslings with them — three babies each — and were walking them from the water’s edge, then back up onto the grass, where the adults tried to settle down to rest in the sunshine. Some of the goslings weren’t interested in napping, though, and rushed back to the water. Hah!  Brats!

Canada Goose, Branta canadensis, and goslings

On the way home, I drove down Eagle’s Nest Road beside the protected vernal pool area.  There’s no water out there that I could see, but some of the goldfields flowers and pan poppies were out blooming.

In another field, surrounded by temporary fencing, was a huge herd of Nubian Goats (the ones with the long floppy ears) working to clear the field. The herd included adult and baby goats, and when the baby goats ran, they looked like Cocker Spaniels running, ears flapping. One of the babies’ hide was covered in dots and splotches, and one of the splotches looked like a white heart on its side. How cute is that?!

I was out walking for almost 4 hours. This was hike #34 of my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. ?? Ants farming the aphids
  2. Aphid, Family: Aphididae [pale green on coyote brush]
  3. Aphid, Family: Aphididae [rich green on willow dock]
  4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  5. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  6. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  7. Bur Parsley, Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  8. California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  10. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  11. Cattle, Bos taurus
  12. Cobwebby Thistle, Cirsium occidentale
  13. Common Cat’s-Ear, Hypochaeris radicata
  14. Cork Oak, Quercus suber
  15. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  16. Coyote Brush Rust, Puccinia evadens
  17. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  18. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  19. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  20. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  21. Frying Pan Poppy, Eschscholzia lobbii
  22. Goat, Nubian Goat, Capra aegagrus hircus
  23. Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica
  24. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  25. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  26. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  27. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
  28. Green Heron, Butorides virescens
  29. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa
  30. Hermit Thrush, Catharus guttatus
  31. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  32. Lincoln’s Sparrow, Melospiza lincolnii
  33. Lupine, Arroyo Lupine, Lupinus succulentus
  34. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  35. Mossy Stonecrop, Crassula tillaea [red]
  36. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  37. Multiflora Rose, Rosa multiflora [like white rock rose]
  38. Muskrat, Ondatra zibethicus
  39. Mustard Yellow Polypore, Fuscoporia gilva [like a bracket fungus]
  40. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  41. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  42. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  43. Ribwort Plantain, Plantago lanceolata
  44. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  45. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  46. Snakefly, Agulla adnixa
  47. Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica
  48. Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni
  49. Swedish Blue Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Swedish Blue
  50. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  51. Wall Barley, Hordeum murinum
  52. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  53. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  54. Western Kingbird, Tyrant Flycatcher, Tyrannus verticalis
  55. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  56. Willow Dock, Rumex salicifolius

Birds, Bees and Spring Galls, 04-08-21

I got up around 6:00 am and was out of the house before 6:30 to go to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. It was 41° out at the river when I got there.

I’m still dealing a little bit with COVID-brain, I guess, because I forgot to leave a note for Lissa, so she knows where I am, and also forgot to take my cellphone with me. D’oh! So, I couldn’t call to tell my sister where I was — and I also couldn’t take the real close up photos of some of the things I was seeing (which I normally do when I’m out in the field).

When I was driving near the preserve, I saw two deer stepping slowly out of someone’s driveway and into the street. I know they were being cautious about the road, but to me it looked like they were tip-toeing away from the scene of the crime or something, like they’d done something wrong. Hah!

There were also quite a few deer visible along the trails. In one spot, I saw nine of them all together, grazing on the spring grasses and wildflowers. Some of the bucks were already showing the buds of this year’s antlers. By June, they’ll be in their velvet.

At the preserve itself there were lots, and lots and lots of squirrels out today; in fact, the first thing I saw when I drove into the parking lot was a Western Gray Squirrel running past the car with a mouth full of dried grasses and weeds to line its nest (drey). Later, when I was on the trail, I saw another Western Gray Squirrel running up a tree to check out its drey.

Squirrels build their drey out of leaves, grasses, small twigs, feathers, and pretty much whatever else they can carry in their mouths. [They’ll use tree cavities, too, if they’re available to nest in, but still line the inside with soft stuff.] They build the drey close to the trunk of the tree and/or forked branches to give the structure more support…which is what I was seeing here.

Right now, there are only Blue Dicks and Miniature Lupine making themselves conspicuous there, but as the month progresses we should see more variety. Near the nature center the planted Sonoran Sage and Douglas Irises were in bloom. The Redbud trees were flowering, some getting and showing off new blossoms, some done for the season and shedding old ones.

All of the oak trees and the black walnut trees are sporting catkins, so folks with allergies have a hard time being outdoors right now.

On the live oaks, I saw quite a few spring generation Live Oak Gall Wasp galls (that look like little funnels with a cap on them), and, surprisingly, a lot of Ball Gall Wasp galls (that look like a round tumor near the center of the leaf — visible from both the front and back of the leaves). I hadn’t seen any of those at the preserve for over a year, I think, and even then it was just one or two.

The little male House Wrens were all out singing, advertising nesting places for the females.  The Starlings were yelling and flapping their wings. And a fussy Acorn Woodpecker chased a dove out of its granary tree, but ignored a pair of Tree Swallows sitting in the next branch. Weird.  I also caught a fast glimpse of a pair of California Quail.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Lots of Spotted Towhees were in the underbrush, making themselves visible on occasion, and I spotted (hah!) a Lincoln’s Sparrow in the grass.  I’m seeing more and more Lincoln Sparrows all over the place now. I don’t know if it’s because they’re actually increasing in numbers in the region, or if I’m just getting better at seeing them and differentiating them from other sparrows, like Song Sparrows.

The big surprise of the day was seeing a young coyote running down the trail toward me. It looked thin and long-legged so my initial impression was that it was a young male. But when it crossed through a grassy area and onto an adjacent trail, I think I spotted teats on the belly… so it might have been a young mom, thin because she’s giving her all to her pups.

There were Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies flitting around, but in smaller numbers than I’m used to seeing this time of year. Some of them are already looking “ragged” from their journeys. I wasn’t able to see eggs on any of the pipevine plants I saw.

California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta. A sub-species endemic to the Central Valley of California.

A nice thing to see, though, was a swarm of bees in the doorway of the bee tree. The queen must’ve finally woken up from her winter doze and put her colony back to work.

I walked for about 3 ½ hours and then headed back home. This was hike #33 of my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis
  3. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  4. Blue Dicks, Dipterostemon capitatus
  5. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  6. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  7. Bur Parsley, Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  8. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  9. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  10. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  11. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  12. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  13. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  14. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  15. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  16. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  17. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  18. Coyote, Canis latrans
  19. Cranefly, European Crane Fly, Tipula paludosa
  20. Digger Bee, Tribe: Anthophorin
  21. Douglas Iris,Iris douglasiana
  22. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  23. Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis
  24. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  25. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  26. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  27. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  28. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  29. Lincoln’s Sparrow, Melospiza lincolnii
  30. Live Oak Erineum Mite Gall, Aceria mackiei
  31. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [looks like a soft funnel, green to brown]
  32. Lupine, Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  33. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  34. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  35. Periwinkle, Greater Periwinkle, Vinca major
  36. Red Deadnettle, Lamium purpureum
  37. Round Leaf Gall Wasp, Heteroecus flavens [single large blister on live oak leaves]
  38. Sonoma Sage, Salvia sonomensis
  39. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  40. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  41. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  42. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  43. Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  44. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  45. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  46. ?? caterpillar between live oak leaves

Mix Canyon Road, 04-06-21

I got up around 6:00 am, and was ready to head out with my friend Roxanne Moger by 6:30 am.  We wanted to go to Lake Solano and up Mix Canyon Road in search of birds and wildflowers.

Well, Lake Solano Park was still closed and we couldn’t get in, not even to just walk along the edge of the lake. The rangers and county were still cleaning up after last year’s wildfires. They were felling a lot of burned trees that were in danger of falling into the roadways or into the waterways.

Effects of the LNU Lightning Complex Fire that burned between August and October of 2020

The fire that burned up through that area was part of the LNU Lightning Complex Fire that burned between August and October of last year and ate up over 360,000 acres. I hadn’t realized how much of that area had burned, and was REALLY surprised when we got up further into the hills to see foothill after foothill just covered in nothing but black match-stick trees. 

In one burned area we came across Acorn Woodpeckers that were going through the acorns on the blackened ground, selecting ones they’d then take up into their granary trees. Some of the woodpeckers were using a telephone pole to store the acorns because, I assumed, their trees were burnt.

Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus, with a burnt acorn

In some areas, blackened trees and shrubs were coming back from the roots. And in other places, the wildflowers were prolific.

Because we couldn’t get into the park, we drove around to the “back” of the lake which is visible from Putah Creek Road. Here, though, there were very few birds. Reflections on the water were lovely, and we got to see a few different early spring galls on some of the plants.

The “back side” of Lake Solano

We then headed back toward Pleasants Valley Road and took that to Mix Canyon Road. Mix Canyon is a dead end road and fairly narrow. (I’m surprised two cars can actually sit on it, side by side.) It winds high up into the hills; the elevation gain is about 2178 feet. The road is the only way in and out; I’m sure when the fires came, getting out to safety was severely hampered. I only saw evidence of one home burned to the ground, but there may have been others… and lots of obvious landscape damage.

Along the way we noted that there were For Sale signs all along the road. Oddly enough, though, we also saw several new pads cut into the hillsides; contractors taking advantage of the fact that there was now a lack of shrubs and understory plants to contend with.

We started out seeing small numbers of wildflowers, and the variety and numbers grew more and more as we went up toward the end of the road. There were huge swaths of poppies, lupine and (surprisingly) Chinese Houses. I’ve never seen that many Chinese Houses in one location in all my life. They were particularly gorgeous.

There were so many photos, I broke them down into two albums.

CLICK HERE for album #1
CLICK HERE for album #2

In the more shadowed areas and cliffsides, we saw lots of larkspur (purple and scarlet), woodland stars, ferns, globe lilies and other flowers.

We were looking for fritillaries and found one of the two that had been spotted there by others earlier: Checker Lilies. I’d never seen them “live” before; they’re so interesting.

Checker Lily, Fritillaria affinis

We stopped at one of the turn outs and had our lunch before heading back down the road. We turned in to one of the fishing access areas along Putah Creek, but by then it was the afternoon, getting too warm for me, and I was very tired, so we didn’t stay long. Still, in all, we were out and about for almost nine or ten hours. That’s a long day for me, but I enjoyed it.

Putah Creek

Because we were in the car for the majority of the time, I didn’t count this outing toward my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
  3. Aphid, Cabbage Aphid, Brevicoryne brassicae
  4. Arroyo Lupine, Lupinus succulentus
  5. Blow Wives, Soft Blow Wives, Achyrachaena mollis
  6. Blue Dicks, Dipterostemon capitatus
  7. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  8. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
  9. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  10. California Lomatium, Lomatium californicum
  11. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  12. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  13. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  14. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  15. Canyon Live-Forever, Dudleya cymosa
  16. Checker Lily, Fritillaria affinis
  17. Chick Lupine, Lupinus microcarpus
  18. Chinese Houses, Purple Chinese Houses, Collinsia heterophylla
  19. Chinese Pistache, Pistacia chinensis
  20. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  21. Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus albus
  22. Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens
  23. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  24. Coyote Brush Stem Gall Moth, Gnorimoschema baccharisella
  25. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  26. Death Camas, Foothill Deathcamas, Toxicoscordion paniculatum
  27. Digger Bee, Tribe: Anthophorin
  28. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  29. Dove’s-Foot Crane’s-Bill, Geranium mole
  30. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  31. Fern, California Polypody, Polypodium californicum
  32. Field Poppy, Common Poppy, Papaver rhoeas
  33. Fringepod, Sand Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes
  34. Gall Inducing Wooly Aphid, Stegophylla essigi [in live oaks, folds the leaf over itself; sometimes the leaf turns red/reddish]
  35. Globe Lily, Diogenes’ Lantern, Calochortus amabilis [yellow]
  36. Goat, Domestic Goat, Capra hircus
  37. Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica
  38. Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana
  39. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa 
  40. Henderson’s Shooting Star, Primula hendersonii
  41. Hillside Woodland Star, Lithophragma heterophyllum
  42. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  43. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus
  44. Ithuriel’s Spear, Triteleia laxa
  45. Larkspur, Red Larkspur, Delphinium nudicaule
  46. Larkspur, Zigzag Larkspur, Delphinium patens [purple, striped lips]
  47. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  48. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [looks like a soft funnel, green to brown]
  49. Live Oak Kermes, Allokermes cueroensis
  50. Llama, Lama glama
  51. Long Horned Beetle, Callimus ruficollis [black with red thorax]
  52. Mahogany, Birchleaf Mountain Mahogany, Cercocarpus betuloides
  53. Maidenhair, California Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum jordanii
  54. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  55. Marsh Morning Glory, Calystegia sepium limnophila
  56. Meadow Spittlebug, Philaenus spumarius [spit]
  57. Mountain Phacelia, Phacelia imbricata
  58. Mule’s Ears, Smooth Mule-Ears, Wyethia glabra
  59. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  60. Northern Rough-Winged Swallow, Stelgidopteryx serripennis [ashy]
  61. Orange Bush Monkeyflower, Diplacus aurantiacus
  62. Oxalis, Bermuda Buttercup, Oxalis pes-caprae
  63. Pacific Pea, Lathyrus vestitus
  64. Pacific Sanicle, Sanicula crassicaulis [large, yellow flowers]
  65. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  66. Q-Tips, Micropus californicus
  67. Rapeseed, Brassica napus
  68. Red Maids, Calandrinia menziesii
  69. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  70. Rose Clover, Trifolium hirtum
  71. Santa Barbara Sedge, Carex barbarae
  72. Scarlet Pimpernel, Lysimachia arvensis
  73. Seablush, Longspur Seablush, Plectritis macrocera
  74. Seablush, Shortspur Seablush, Plectritis congesta
  75. Shepherd’s-Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
  76. Smooth Cliffbrake, Pellaea glabella
  77. Tamarisk, Saltcedar, Tamarix ramosissima
  78. Taw Man-Root, Marah watsonii
  79. Tomcat Clover, Trifolium willdenovii
  80. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  81. Warrior’s Plume, Pedicularis densiflora
  82. Western Polished Lady Beetle, Cycloneda polita [orange, no spots]
  83. White Nemophila, Nemophila heterophylla
  84. Wild Oat Grass, Chrysopogon aciculatus
  85. Woolly Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja foliolosa

No Fooling…and owlets, 04-01-21

I got up at 6:00 this morning, and headed out to the American River Bend Park.  It was 51°F when I got to the river (and then spiked at 88° by the late afternoon.)

My hip was hurting, but seemed to be less painful when I was moving. My back pain was less than it was yesterday, but I still had a few “gasp” moments walking or driving on the more uneven parts of the trail and dirt-and-gravel roadways.

My first priority was to look in on mama Great Horned Owl. There was another photographer there when I arrived, and after a few minutes he asked, “Are you Hanson K. Mary?” (My Facebook name) I was astonished and asked, “How did you know that?” He said he’d seen a lot of my photos on the birding group sites. Hah! I’m famous — sort of.

Mama owl was in a tree opposite from the nest, warming her chest and belly in the early morning sunlight. In the nest were two owlets that I could see. [Later, other photographers on the site said they’d seen three babies yesterday.] I was so excited for mama. She’d had two last year and three the year before, and she’d always been good about keeping everyone fed. I hope she’s as successful this year.  The owlets were, of course, adorable, still in their super puffy fluff-dry stage.

After a little while, mama flew into the tree next to the nest, and when I came back to check on her about an hour later, she was sitting on everyone. It’s so exhilarating to see all of them.

Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus

I walked for a while at the park, and came across a pair of Western Bluebirds who were flying around. I also saw a pair of Mourning Doves in the high branches of a tree. It looked to me like the female was sitting, waiting for the male to mount her, but the male just couldn’t get himself oriented correctly. On a few attempts he approached her “backwards”, his head to her tail. And once, rather than mounting her, he just stepped on her and walked over to a different part of their branch. D’oh!

Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura

In that same area, I saw a male European Starling doing one of his courtship rituals. He was sitting on a branch where he could be seen by passing females, sang loudly to them and flapped his wings in a circular motion.

Cornell says: “…Once males have established a nesting territory, they advertise by singing. When females approach, the males often stop singing and move to the nesting cavity, where they resume singing. Wing-waving, a circular flapping of the wings while perched, often accompanies the singing, especially in the presence of females…”

The redbud trees in the park are all blossoming. Beautiful, huge swaths of pink in unexpected places. Just gorgeous.

As I was checking out the manroot vines and Santa Barbara Sedge (what I consider my “proof of Spring” plant in this area), I could hear California Quails giving out their “Chi-ca-go!” calls. It sounded like one was getting pretty close to me, but I was still startled when a male popped up from the side of a hill in front of me. I stood stock still, because they’re nervous birds and flush really easily, and got some photos of him, then realized he had a lady friend with him. She was down in the twigs and grass, and ran off with him when he realized I was looking at them.

A male California Quail, Callipepla californica

As I headed back toward my car, I was attracted to movement at the bottom of one of the oak trees. I crept up toward it, and realized it was a tiny White-Breasted Nuthatch. She was tugging at a short length of cord, trying to pluck out threads to take back to her nest.

According to Cornell: “…Only the female builds [the nest]. Little known about nest construction or structure, but nuthatches observed to carry hairs and pieces of bark to the cavity site…”  I’ve seen them use tufts of dog hair and feathers myself.

In that same area, I caught sight of an Oak Titmouse singing in a tree. Cornell says: “…The frequency of occurrence of song types used by males changes seasonally, with some songs becoming more prevalent in the repertoire as breeding season progresses while the prevalence of other songs declines…”

I’d lost the clip-in macro lens for my cellphone somewhere at Table Mountain, I think, so I bought a new one. It’s a little more powerful than my old one, so it’s taking some getting used to the precise focal point. It also shifts a little when I try to use it, slipping away from the phone’s eye. Gotta get used to avoiding that, too. Otherwise, I like it.     

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.     

I then drove over to the nearby Gristmill Recreation Area to check on the Red-Shouldered Hawk nest and man-made nesting boxes. When I first got there and looked up into the hawk’s nest I was worried that it had been abandoned. I couldn’t see mom (or any sign of babies) anywhere.  When I came back that to same spot on my way back to the car, however, I could see her sitting on the nest, calling loudly to her mate. Guess she was hungry and wanted some breakfast. Hah!

There were lots of California Pipevine Swallowtail and Western Tiger Swallowtail butterflies all over the area, but not one of them sat still long enough for me to get a photo of it.

House Wrens seemed to be singing from everywhere, and I saw one pair using one of the smaller nest boxes.

At other boxes, the Western Screech Owl was dozing, a pair of Western Bluebirds were rushing back and forth, and a cadre of Tree Swallows were fussing and flying around. Of course, as soon as I got into a position where I could better see and photograph the bluebirds and swallows, they ducked out of sight. So, I didn’t get as many photos as I’d like. Sigh. Such is the life of a nature photographer.

The surprise here today was seeing two Turkey Vultures sitting in trees near the river. Th trail runs along the high edge of the river with a drop down of maybe 20 or 30 feet to the water in some places. So, when one of the vultures decided to sit up “high” in the tree, his branch was actually right in the eye-line of hikers on the trail. I got a few good close-up photos of him. The second vulture was further down the cliffside nearer to the water. That one looked like a juvenile to me; its beak wasn’t fully bone-white yet and still had a gray tip.

Below that vulture, on a log in the water, were three Red-Eared Slider Turtles sunning themselves in the morning light. The vultures, of course, weren’t interested in them, so the turtles had nothing to fear from them.

Altogether, I walked for about 4 hours and headed back home. This was hike #32 of my #52HikeChallenge.

No fooling. April is Citizen Science Month

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Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
  3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  4. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  5. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  6. Black Grass Bug, Irbisia pacifica
  7. Black Locust Tree, Robinia pseudoacacia
  8. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  9. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  10. Bur Parsley, Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  11. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  12. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  13. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  14. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  15. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  16. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  17. Common Pea, Pisum sativum [rounded leaves, flower is light pink and dark pink]
  18. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  19. Dove’s-foot Crane’s-Bill, Geranium molle
  20. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  21. Field Elm Tree, Ulmus minor [soft flakey seed pods]
  22. Ghost Spider, Family: Anyphaenidae
  23. Giraffe’s Head, Henbit Deadnettle, Lamium amplexicaule
  24. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  25. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  26. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa
  27. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  28. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  29. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  30. Lincoln’s Sparrow, Melospiza lincolnii
  31. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [looks like a soft funnel, green to brown]
  32. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Summer Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [spiky ball]
  33. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  34. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
  35. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  36. Non-Biting Midge, Cricotopus bicinctus [black and white, turned up tail]
  37. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  38. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  39. Popcorn Flower, Rusty Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys nothofulvus [tiny]
  40. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans
  41. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  42. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  43. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens
  44. Santa Barbara Sedge, Carex barbarae
  45. Soldier Beetle, Silis sp.
  46. Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica
  47. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  48. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  49. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  50. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  51. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  52. Western Screech Owl, Megascops kennicottii
  53. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

A Few New Things, 03-29-21

I got up around 6:00 this morning and headed over to the Cosumnes River Preserve. It was sunny and a lovely 49° when I got there. The wind picked up around 11:00 am and it was about 66° there when I left.

I was glad I’d put on some insect repellent because the midges and mosquitoes were everywhere. But on the other hand, the butterflies were out, too. I saw Cabbage Whites, some Western Tiger Swallowtails and some Anise Swallowtails.

I took the route around Bruceville and Desmond Roads, and in one spot, I found a large flock of California Quails, several males and females together. I also saw two Northern Harriers on the ground. One flew off, but the other remained, finishing off a carcass. When it stepped back and walked around for a little bit, I could see that its crop was VERY full. Still, it went back to the carcass to eat some more. It’s feast or famine in the raptor world.

The wild radish (Charlock) plants were in bloom everywhere: pink, white, yellow and pastel orange, and there was mustard blooming in the fields along with tules and rushes. Fiddleneck and buttercups were growing in small patches, and the valley oak and ash trees were starting to get their new leaves.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

On the valley oaks, the Oak Apple galls were starting to appear for the season, and I also found some I’d never seen before. They were little “blister-like” galls near the base of some of the new leaves on the trees. I’m looking forward to receiving Russo’s newest book on galls and hope these are included in it. [The book is supposed to be available on April 20th.]

I also found some little red-and-black striped beetles that I’d not seen before. They’re a kind of Calligraphy Beetle, and were quite near a Seven-Spotted Ladybeetle.

There were sparrows, Meadowlarks and Red-Winged Blackbirds singing from the trees and rushes.  On the water, there were occasional Coots, Northern Shovelers, Green-Winged Teals and other ducks, Black-Necked Stilts and Greater Yellowlegs. The usual suspects. There were Tree Swallows everywhere, vying for nesting spots. Some were eyeing a nesting box right near the entrance gate to the preserve’s boardwalk area, but it was already being occupied by a pair of Western Bluebirds.  Mama bluebird was making short trips to bring bits of soft grass to line the nest inside.

At the end of the boardwalk, a pair of Phoebes were building a nest underneath the wooden planks. And there were two others building nests under the eaves of the restroom facility there.

There were also quite a few cottontail rabbits out and about. In one spot, I saw three of them together.

I walked for about 3½ hours and then headed back home. This was hike 31 of my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  3. American Wigeon, Anas americana
  4. Anise Swallowtail Butterfly, Papilio zelicaon
  5. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  6. Black Mustard, Common Wild Mustard, Brassica nigra
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  9. California Buttercup, Ranunculus californicus
  10. California Calligraphy Leaf Beetle, Calligrapha californica [black and orange striped]
  11. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  12. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  13. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  14. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
  15. Common Pea, Pisum sativum [rounded leaves, flower is light pink and dark pink]
  16. Common Spike-Rush, Eleocharis palustris
  17. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  18. Dunlin, Calidris alpina
  19. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  20. European Water-Plantain, Alisma plantago-aquatica [large leaves, tall flowering heads]
  21. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  22. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  23. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  24. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  25. Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla rufilabris
  26. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  27. Heart-Podded Hoary Cress, Lepidium draba [looks like a short Broad Leafed Pepperweed to me]
  28. Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
  29. Long-Billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus scolopaceus
  30. Marsh Fly, Euthycera sp.
  31. Marsh Foxtail Grass, Alopecurus geniculatus
  32. Musk Stork’s-Bill, Erodium moschatum
  33. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  34. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  35. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  36. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  37. Paper Wasp, Black Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula [nest]
  38. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  39. Prickly Sowthistle, Pigweed, Sonchus asper
  40. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  41. Ribwort Plantain, Plantago lanceolata
  42. Seven-Spotted Lady Beetle, Coccinella septempunctata
  43. Slender Path Rush, Juncus tenuis [“flowers” mid stem]
  44. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  45. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  46. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  47. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  48. Water Lettuce, Pistia stratiotes
  49. Water Purslane, Ludwigia palustris [dense, leafy, red stems]
  50. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  51. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  52. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  53. Western Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly, Papilio rutulus
  54. Yellow-Legged Mud-Dauber Wasp, Sceliphron caementarium
  55. ?? Galls like “blisters” on new leaves of Valley Oak tree
  56. ?? Stink Bug