Category Archives: #52HikeChallenge

Zoo Day, 01-18-21

BIRTHDAY WEEK, DAY TWO – Zoo Day! After a light breakfast, I went through my emails and social media stuff, did a little journaling and then headed over to the Sacramento Zoo. They still have their COVID protocols in place, so folks have to wear a mask, and they limit the number of people allowed in at one time (so you have to have an appointment to come in). I kind of wish they’d keep doing that even after the COVID thing is over.

It was super windy all day, and got up to a record-breaking high of 73° (“normal” for this time of year is about 56° here.)

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The zoo is refurbishing some areas to better utilize what space they have, so, in some areas the animals were off-exhibit. For example, Rocky the Rhinoceros Iguana had been displaced while her habitat was being cleaned out and redone, so she was hanging out in an exam room in the vet center inside the zoo.

Rhinoceros Iguana, Cyclura cornuta

And when the Wolf’s Guenon monkeys were off exhibit, their habitat was given to Charlie, the Great Horned Owl, so he had a larger space to fly in if he wanted to.

Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus

I got to see most of the animals I was hoping to see, except for the Snow Leopards. Neither Blizzard nor Misha were out today. I did see the lions (who were super-sleepy this morning) and the female jaguar (who was eating grass).

Jaguar, Panthera onca

The Thick-Billed Parrots seemed more visible today, and some of them are starting to make nests for themselves in the nest boxes supplied to them. They’re also given balls of shredded newspaper to tear apart and use for nesting materials. I wonder how many babies the zoo gets each year.

Thick-Billed Parrot, Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha

Among the duck food feeder stations scattered around the park, I saw crows and a Black Phoebe stealing the food. They literally crammed their beaks full of the soggy food before flying off with it. Then the Phoebe posed for quite a few photos before flying off.

Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans

The Sumatran Orangutans (all of whom have birthdays this month) were out, but they were being a little anti-social. One of them wouldn’t come out of her cave, and the big male kept turning his butt to cameras, and eventually picked up a blanket and pulled it over his head. Hah!

Sumatran Orangutan, Pongo abelii

Glory, the baby giraffe, was very proud of herself when she was able to get a twig with leaves on it and dragged it around and played with it. It was so cute to see her do her spread-leg stance to pick the twig up off the ground before throwing it up again. She’s still a “tiny” girl when compared to the adult giraffes in the enclosure.

The Red Kangaroos were out, but I didn’t see any of the wallabies. The flamingos were very chatty, and were joined in their noise by whistling ducks.

I walked for about 2½ hours and stopped to get an ice cream cone before I left. The guy piled so much of the soft-serve ice cream onto the cone that the minute he passed the cone over to me, all of the ice cream toppled over and landed on the ground. “Uh, you don’t have to pay for that,” he said, and he put together another cone for me. Hah!

The walk around the zoo equaled 1.36 miles, so I was able to count it as my #6 walk in my #52HikeChallenge. Woot!

Species List:

  1. African Lion, Panthera leo
  2. American Alligator, Alligator mississippiensis
  3. American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  4. Azure-winged Magpie, Cyanopica cyanus
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  7. Caribbean Flamingo, Phoenicopterus ruber
  8. Chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes
  9. Crested Screamer, Chauna torquata
  10. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  11. Eastern Bongo, Tragelaphus eurycerus isaaci
  12. Emu, Dromaius novaehollandiae
  13. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  14. Greater Roadrunner, Geococcyx californianus
  15. Grevy’s Zebra, Equus grevyi
  16. Himalayan Monal, Lophophorus impejanus
  17. Jaguar, Panthera onca
  18. Koi Fish, Cyprinus rubrofuscus
  19. Laughing Kookaburra, Dacelo novaeguineae
  20. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  21. Masai Giraffe, Giraffa tippelskirchi
  22. Mongoose Lemur, Eulemur mongoz
  23. Ostrich, Common Ostrich, Struthio camelus
  24. Red Kangaroo, Macropus rufus
  25. Red Panda, Ailurus fulgens
  26. Red River Hog, Potamochoerus porcus
  27. Reticulated Giraffe, Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata
  28. Rhinoceros Iguana, Cyclura cornuta
  29. Spur-Winged Lapwing, Vanellus spinosus
  30. Sumatran Orangutan, Pongo abelii
  31. Thick-Billed Parrot, Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha
  32. White-Faced Saki, Pithecia pithecia
  33. White-Faced Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna viduata
  34. White-Handed Gibbon, Hylobates lar
  35. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa

The Hermit Thrush Was the stand-out Today, 01-16-21

I got up around 7:00 this morning after a pretty good night’s sleep. It was slightly foggy in the early hours, but that burned off quickly, and the rest of the day was sunny.  It got up to 70°!

Around 7:30 I headed over to William Land Park and the WPA Rock Garden for a walk. I figured a walk through the garden and around both the larger and middle ponds would equal a mile so it would count as my #5 walk in my #52HikeChallenge. [Using a GPS tracker on the walk, I found it was actually about 1¼ miles, so… yay!]

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Even though it’s winter, the WPA Rock Garden still has some plants and flowers showing off a bit. The Strawberry Tress were especially pretty with their long panicles of urn-shaped flowers trailing down.

Strawberry Tree, Arbutus unedo

Among the birds flitting around, there were the usual Golden-Crowned Sparrows, Bushtits, hummingbirds, some Spotted Towhees, and Crows, but I was happy and surprised to see a Hermit Thrush bopping around in under some of the bushes.  They’re such sweet little things with their round speckled breasts. 

Hermit Thrush, Catharus guttatus

Don’t let their size and cuteness trick you, though. These can be tenacious birds who will defend their breeding territories with a lot of aggression. Sometimes the male gets so ramped up, he chases females away. Oops!  Kind of defeats the purpose of a breeding ground. Hah!  They’re also omnivorous, eating insects and spiders, amphibians and reptiles… and fruit from a variety of plants and trees. The one I saw was tossing leaf-litter under a Mock Orange looking for breakfast.

At the middle pond, half of the Sacred Lotus has been dredged up, and all that remains are the dead stalks of last year’s plants. All of the dead stuff will have to go eventually to make room for next spring’s outcropping of the plants.  Less lotus plants means more water for the waterfowl, but I didn’t see anything “exotic” in or around the pond, just the usual ducks and geese.

On the lawn, there was a small cadre of Northern Flickers looking for ants and grubs, and in another area there was a small flock of Dark-Eyed Juncos.  Up in the trees were Lesser Goldfinches and Audubon’s Warblers trying to get the seeds out of the seed pods left open and dangling on the  Sycamore Trees.

In one of the Italian Cypress trees behind the amphitheater on the grounds, there was a pair of squirrels making out.  I guess if you’re going to have sex, high up in the heavy greenery of a cypress is a good place to do it.  Only nosy naturalists would notice you there.

Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger

At the larger pond, there was again the usual crowd of ducks and geese, but also on the lawns there were Mourning Doves, warblers, and Western Bluebirds.  In the trees on the far side of the pond were Turkey Vultures, preening and stretching in the early morning sunlight before taking off for long kettling flights overhead.

Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana

It was such a lovely morning. I walked for about 3 hours before heading back home.

Species List:

  1. Audubon’s Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  2. Bald Cypress Tree, Taxodium distichum
  3. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  4. Borage, Borago officinalis [blue “beaked” flowers]
  5. Buff Orpington Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Orpington
  6. Bunch-flowered Daffodil, Narcissus tazetta
  7. California Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  8. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  9. Candelabra Aloe, Aloe arborescens
  10. Common Correa, Correa reflexa [trumpet shaped pink flowers]
  11. Common Sugarbush, Spicebush, Protea repens
  12. Coyote Tobacco, Nicotiana attenuata
  13. Crested Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Crested
  14. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  15. Dark-Eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis
  16. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  17. Douglas’ Squirrel, Tamiasciurus douglasii [brown with white belly]
  18. Dutch Iris, Iris × hollandica
  19. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  20. Elephant’s-Ears, Bergenia crassifolia [like a begonia, bouquet of pink flowers]
  21. Ginkgo, Ginkgo biloba
  22. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  23. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  24. Greater Honeywort, Cerinthe major [spotted leaves, “shrimp-like” flowers]
  25. Green Hellebore, Helleborus viridis
  26. Hairy Violet, Viola hirta
  27. Heavenly Bamboo, Nandina domestica [bright red berries]
  28. Hedgehog Holly, European Holly, Ilex aquifolium
  29. Hen-and-chickens Echeveria, Echeveria secunda
  30. Hermit Thrush, Catharus guttatus
  31. Italian Cypress, Mediterranean Cypress, Cupressus sempervirens
  32. Japanese Aralia, Fatsia japonica [stalks of white flowers, huge leaves]
  33. Japanese Wisteria, Wisteria floribunda
  34. Large-flower Pink-Sorrel, Oxalis debilis [clover-like leaves, pink flowers]
  35. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  36. Liquid Ambar, American Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua
  37. Love-in-a-Mist, Nigella damascena
  38. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  39. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  40. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  41. Oregon Grape, Barberry, Berberis aquifolium
  42. Pekin Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Pekin
  43. Red Gum Eucalyptus, River Redgum, Eucalyptus camaldulensis
  44. Redvein Abutilon, Callianthe picta [lantern-like flowers]
  45. Rosemary, Salvia rosmarinus
  46. Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera
  47. Spanish Butcher’s-Broom, Ruscus hypophyllum [tiny white flowers in the middle of the leaf]
  48. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  49. Strawberry Tree, Arbutus unedo
  50. Sulphur Grevillea, Grevillea juniperina ssp. sulphurea [orange spidery flowers]
  51. Swan Goose, Anser cygnoides [can be white, or gray/brown, knob on the bill]
  52. Swedish Blue Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Swedish Blue
  53. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  54. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  55. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa

Got to see Some Young Bucks Jousting, 1-13-21

Around 7:00 I was out the door with my friend Roxanne, to head over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk. The first thing we saw was a pair of California Towhees in the parking lot, then when we stepped into the preserve, we saw a Red-Shouldered Hawk sitting in a tree.

Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus

While we were watching it and taking photos, we were glad to spot Rachael Cowan, the former volunteer coordinator at Effie Yeaw. I was so happy to see that she was still well and kicking.

At the preserve the air was full of birdsong; it seemed like it was never-ending. That was so different from our recent experience at Kenny Ranch where the forest seemed completely silent for the most part. We were able to identify most of the birds by their song: Red-Shouldered Hawks, Acorn Woodpeckers, Oak Titmice, starlings, wrens, nuthatches, Spotted Towhees, Wild Turkeys… But we weren’t always able to see them well enough to get photos each time.

We also saw a few deer, including some does and yearlings, a spike buck, and a pair of 2-pointer bucks who were jousting, if half-heartedly.  They kept pushing one another into deep folds between the hillocks, so we could only see them when they came up for air. I got a few shots of the head butting, but would have liked to have gotten more.

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus

The does seemed focused on eating, and they seemed to really like the leaves of the olive trees on the property. One of them even walked down into a little ravine where the low branches of an olive tree trailed down over the side.  Another doe tried to eat the leaves off a twiggy branch by pulling it around her head and stripping the leaves off as the twig ran through her mouth. It was fun watching them.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I was hoping to find some fungi, and we did come across a few common species, but it really needs to rain more to see more variety and specimens.  I also found some green Trichoderma viride mold growing on a cast-off log. 

“… The mold can grow directly on wood, which is mostly composed of cellulose, and on fungi, the cell walls of which are mainly composed of chitin. It parasitizes the mycelia and fruiting bodies of other fungi, including cultivated mushrooms, and it has been called the ‘green mold disease of mushrooms’…”

Trichoderma viride

We were only out walking for about 2 hours – I was dragging a bit – but we were able to complete the one-mile necessary to count this as #4 of my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  3. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  4. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  5. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  6. Common Bonnet Mushroom, Mycena galericulata
  7. Coyote, Canis latrans [scat]
  8. Cumberland Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia
  9. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  10. False Turkey-Tail Fungus, Stereum hirsutum
  11. Fragrant Funnel Mushroom, Clitocybe fragrans
  12. Goldenhaired Inkcap Mushroom, Parasola auricoma
  13. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  14. Green Trichoderma Mold, Trichoderma viride
  15. Jelly Spot Fungus, Dacrymyces stillatus
  16. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  17. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  18. Pleated Inkcap Mushroom, Parasola plicatilis
  19. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  20. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  21. Scurfy Twiglet Mushroom, Tubaria furfuracea
  22. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  23. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  24. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  25. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  26. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  27. Witch’s Butter Jelly Fungus, Tremella mesenterica
  28. Yellow Fieldcap Mushroom, Bolbitius titubans
  29. Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli

Not A Lot Going on Today, 01-12-21

I got up around 7:00 am to overcast skies and high fog, with temps in the 40’s, and headed over to the Cosumnes River Preserve for a walk.  I wasn’t expecting very much, but was hoping to maybe see some fungus along the walkway that goes through the oak forest. Nope. No fungi.  Not even a single little mushroom. I was hoping to see an otter or mink, too, and again, nope. Nothing.

I checked the trees for lichen, and pretty much saw the usual suspects. I also checked out the lichen on the walls of the metal bridge the crosses an especially marshy area at the preserve.

I caught sight of many different waterfowl, but many were too far away to get any good photos of them – which is kind of what I expected. Recent reports have suggested the photo-taking opportunities juts aren’t there…and it may be because it’s still cold, overcast, and intermittently drizzly around here right now. When the sun shows itself, things may be different.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I did get to see a small flock of Buffleheads,and in among them was the first Common Goldeneye of the season.

In this video [above] you can see both male and female Buffleheads. In the first part of the video, you’ll see one of the males doing the head-bobbing gesture that’s part of their courtship ritual. You’ll also see a male and female pair fly off from the water, and see a larger male Northern Shoveler come in for a landing.

Cornell explains: “…Head-bobbing is the most common courtship display. The male swims toward a female and starts making a movement in which the head is repeatedly extended upwards and forwards (about 60° to the surface), and then retracted in rapid jerks, with brief pauses in the lowered stance. A characteristic sequence of actions during courtship involves Fly-over and Landing, Head-shake-forwards and Wing-lifting, and small Head-bobbing. Fly-over and Landing occur when a male courts a female in the presence of other males. The male makes a short flight over the female with the head held forward and low. At landing, the male is upright and the crest is erected as he “skis” on water with his feet pointing forward, thereby showing his conspicuous black and white upper plumage and bright pink feet. After he settles on the water, the head is thrust forward (Head-shake-forwards), and the wings are raised sharply behind the head (Wing-lifting). Head-bobbing follows.”

Among Buffleheads monogamy is the rule, but the pair bonds break when the breeding season is over, and then resume again the following year.  The sex ratio favors the males, about 5 (males) to 1 (female). Copulation is brief as the male mounts the female for only 10–15 seconds and like most ducks, male Buffleheads have a penis.

Sparrows and other small birds seemed to dominate my photo-taking today.  At one point, I was getting pictures of a Hairy Woodpecker on one side of the trail, and a Nuttall’s Woodpecker on the other.

In another spot, there were Golden-Crowned Sparrows, some California Towhees, and a Fox Sparrow all sharing the same leaf pile.  More sightings like those would have been most welcome.

All together I walked for about 3½ hours and covered almost 3 miles, so I was pleased by the exercise. This was #3 of my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
  4. American Wigeon, Anas americana
  5. Bare-bottom Sunburst Lichen, Xanthomendoza weberi [yellow to orange, shrubby, on rock/metal]
  6. Beaver, American, Beaver, Castor canadensis [sign]
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  9. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  10. Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis
  11. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  12. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  13. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  14. Cat, Felis catus [roadkill]
  15. Chinese Praying Mantis, Tenodera sinensis [largest][ootheca]
  16. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  17. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  18. Common Sunburst Lichen, Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina [yellow-orange,on wood/trees]
  19. Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii
  20. Coyote, Canis latrans [roadkill]
  21. Curly Dock, Rumex crispus
  22. Ear-leaf Lichen, Normandina pulchella [green leaf-like on rocks/metal]
  23. Downy Woodpecker, Picoides pubescens
  24. Gadwall duck, Mareca Strepera
  25. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  26. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  27. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  28. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  29. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  30. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  31. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  32. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  33. Hermit Thrush, Catharus guttatus
  34. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  35. Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
  36. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  37. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  38. Mistletoe, American Mistletoe, Big Leaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
  39. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  40. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  41. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  42. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  43. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  44. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  45. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  46. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  47. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  48. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  49. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
  50. Stonewall Rim Lichen, Lecona muralis [pale green/gray thallus with rose/tan apothecia gathered in the center; color can be quite variable]
  51. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha [without soredia]
  52. Tall Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis
  53. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  54. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  55. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  56. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta [heard]
  57. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis[heard]
  58. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys

Looking for Lichen at Kenny Ranch 01-09-21

I got up around 6:30 this morning, and headed out to Grass Valley with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne Moger to go mushroom and lichen hunting at Kenny Ranch

On the way to the location, we’ll pulled off to the side of the highway were there were a few trees covered in lichen that were within reach of the shoulder.  The ground there was still icy, especially in the shadier spots, and I was sort of glad I’d brought an extra heavier jacket with me along with my regular hoody.  It was COLD; 37° F, and there was a slight breeze that added to the chill factor. 

When we got to the ranch, we put on our heavier clothing, but regretted it as soon as the sun cut through the clouds and fog. It got up to about 57° while we were out there: cold in the shade, too warm in the sun. It’s hard to know how to dress for weather like that.

Tree lichens are different species from rock lichens, and we were expecting to see mostly rock lichens at Kenny Ranch, so the stop off along the way allowed us to capture photos and information on more species.  There was one stick we picked up that was loaded with a variety of different species in different colors. That phenomenon always amazes me: so much life clinging to one discarded twig.

The most species we found, though, were among the rock lichen, which this particular spot (Kenny Ranch) has in abundance. There’s a large field filled with boulders, and each boulder is covered in one or more species of lichen.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

I was hoping to see some rag lichen on the trees and some birds’ nest fungus, but didn’t find either of those. Whereas, the ranch did not scrimp on the number of rock lichens to see, but the fungi were few and far between.  We did find the oddly-named Scurfy Twiglet, the very large Yellow Knights, and some Bleach-Scented Mycenas (also called Nitrous Bonnets) with their sharp bleach smell.

Nitrous Bonnet, Bleach-Scented Mycena, Mycena leptocephali

Mycena is a very large genus and includes over 500 species worldwide.  Some smell like bleach, some smell like garlic, some smell like watermelon.  Some species are edible while others are toxic.  And over 30 of the species are bioluminescent. The ‘shrooms themselves are, for the most part, pretty unremarkable when you see them: little plain gray or tan guys with a translucent veined cap and tender stipe.

In some patches of disturbed earth among the boulders where the rock lichens were found, we found different formations of ice including “needle ice”, incredible extrusion of ice from the earth. Rox did some research on it when we got home and found:

“… One of our wonderful finds today was many patches of needle ice. Needle ice forms in saturated soils especially those high in clay. The air temperature has to be colder than the soil temperature and then the rest is capillary action. And the result is delicate pillars of ice in neat vertical stacks. Here’s an article that explains it a little better. And a few photos...”

So fascinating!

All along the way, we saw piles of scat that we assumed were from coyotes… but most of them were deposited on rocks rather than directly onto the ground, which we thought was odd and interesting.

One of our favorite sightings at Kenny Ranch was finding some Rosy Short-Headed Millipedes. We knew where to look for them, and were hoping to find some, so it was encouraging to actually see some of them under a log. Like their name implies, they’re a pale rosy pink. Whereas most millipedes feed on leaf litter, these guys feed primarily on fungus, so we were keeping an eye out for them in the same places where we were looking for mushrooms.

Rosy Short-Head Millipede, Brachycybe rosea

We always find them in colonies, which is typical of the species. The colonies are multi-generational (closer to the spring you’ll find adults layered on top of pale whitish young), and as there is no apparent “caste system”, all adults are supposedly able to reproduce.

Another standout feature of this particular genera of millipede, is that the males care for the eggs until they hatch. The female lays the eggs in a cluster, and the male coils its body around the mass, lifts the eggs from the ground (so soil fungus doesn’t affect them), and protects them from ants and other predators. The millipedes have defense glands that secrete a chemical compound, like buzonamine, that repels ants.

According to a study published in the Biodiversity Data Journal, the males don’t differentiate between “their” clutch of eggs and other males’ eggs, and will flail around to collect eggs that seem to be “abandoned”. The study also indicated that when the scientists removed the eggs, the males would go seek them and collect them up again.

Rosy Short-Head Millipede, Brachycybe rosea

Their many-many legs are hidden from view by the paranota that extend off of each segment of their bodies giving them an almost “feathery” look. Close ups of the paranota show that, in this species, they’re decorated with tiny bumps. Such interesting little guys!

Other fun finds were some tube lichens and some turret spider holes.

Hole of a California Turret Spider, Antrodiaetus riversi

We walked about halfway around the major loop trail, then turned around and went back to the car (about a 3 hour trip).  We parked among the cedars and had our lunch, then looked for the other end of the trail by the NID irrigation ditch. We weren’t successful in locating that other end, so decided to head back home from there. 

This was hike #2 of my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Alder Tongue, Western American Alder Tongue Gall Fungus, Taphrina occidentalis
  3. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  4. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  5. Bonnet Mushrooms, Genus: Mycena
  6. Bracket Fungus, Family: Hymenochaetaceae
  7. California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  8. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica [dark green with brown apothecia, on trees]
  9. California Turret Spider, Antrodiaetus riversi
  10. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus [tracks]
  11. Concentric Boulder Lichen, Porpidia crustulata [circles of black spots on rock]
  12. Coyote, Canis latrans [scat]
  13. Cramp Ball Fungus, Annulohypoxylon thouarsianum
  14. Creeping Mahonia, Creeping Barberry, Berberis repens
  15. Creeping Moss, Conardia compacta
  16. Cumberland Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia [gray on rocks, brown apotheca]
  17. Dendroalsia Moss, Dendroalsia abietina [long, curling tendrils on trees]
  18. Dog, Canis lupus familiaris
  19. False Turkey-Tail, Stereum hirsutum
  20. Farinose Cartilage Lichen,  Ramalina farinacea [like Oakmoss but very thin branches]
  21. Fluffy Dust Lichen, Pacific Fluffy Dust Lichen, Lepraria pacifica [blue-green dust lichen]
  22. French Broom Gall Mite, Aceria genistae
  23. French Broom, Genista monspessulana
  24. Gem-Studded Puffball, Common Puffball, Lycoperdon perlatum
  25. Golden Dwarf Mistletoe, Western Dwarf Mistletoe, Arceuthobium campylopodum
  26. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  27. Grey-cushioned Grimmia Moss, Grimmia pulvinate [clumpy, on rocks]
  28. Hare’s Foot Inkcap Mushroom, Coprinopsis lagopus
  29. Hidden Goldspeck Lichen, Candelariella aurella [small, scattered, yellow, on rocks]
  30. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  31. Hooded Sunburst Lichen, Xanthomendoza fallax [leafy, yellow-orange, on trees]
  32. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  33. Incense Cedar, Calocedrus decurrens
  34. Liquid Ambar, American Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua
  35. Manzanita Leaf Gall Aphid, Tamalia coweni
  36. Mountain Misery, Chamaebatia foliolosa [fern-like leaves]
  37. Nitrous Bonnet, Bleach-Scented Mycena, Mycena leptocephali
  38. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  39. Pink Honeysuckle, California Honeysuckle, Lonicera hispidula
  40. Plume Moss, Dendroalsia abietina
  41. Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa
  42. Powderhorn Lichen, Common Powderhorn, Cladonia coniocraea
  43. Rock Greenshield Lichen, Flavoparmelia baltimorensis [light green to gray, crumbly center]
  44. Rock Tripe, Emery Rocktripe Lichen, Umbilicaria phaea
  45. Rosy Short-Head Millipede, Brachycybe rosea
  46. Sagebrush Goldspeck Lichen, Candelariella rosulans [bright yellow, lumpy clumps on rocks]
  47. Scurfy Twiglet Mushroom, Tubaria furfuracea [small, tan-yellow]
  48. Shadow Lichen, Family: Physciaceae
  49. Sheet Weaver Spiders, Family: Linyphiidae
  50. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  51. Small Moss Oysterling, Arrhenia retiruga [tan, thin like a fingernail, tan or brownish]
  52. Smokey-Eyed Boulder Lichen, Porpidia albocaerulescens
  53. Speckled Greenshield Lichen, Flavopunctelia flaventior
  54. Star Moss, Syntrichia ruralis
  55. Sunken Disk Lichens, Aspicilia sp. [tan, flat, grainy-looking on rocks]
  56. Tree-skirt Moss, Pseudanomodon attenuatus
  57. Trembling Crust, Merulius tremellosus [flat, kind of like stereum, white fuzzy edges when young/growing, can have teeth/netting underneath]
  58. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  59. Veined Mossear, Rimbachia bryophila [small, while, fingernail like]
  60. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  61. Western Shield Lichen, Parmelia hygrophila [blue-gray, foliose, dull isidia on leaves]
  62. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  63. Whiteleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida
  64. Whitewash Lichen, Phlyctis argena
  65. Yellow Knight Mushroom, Tricholoma equestre
  66. Yellow Map Lichen, Rhizocarpon geographicum [bright yellow-green with dark spots]

Eagle versus Otters, 01-07-21

I went to Mather Lake Regional Park and walked for about 3 hours.  I was looking for the osprey again, but didn’t find it. I was surprised by other things, though – including a Bald Eagle! 

It was foggy and damp, around 43° when I got to the lake, and the temperature didn’t change much while I was out there. Everything seemed to be made of varying shades of gray and silver and black. I took photos of a couple of kinds of lichen, including Poplar Sunburst, and some mushrooms, including Mica Caps (a kind of ink cap) and Oyster mushrooms.

The Mute Swans were out in force on the lake, but I didn’t see the Tundra Swan this time. I wonder if it moved on in its migration. There were also large numbers of Coots, some of them sticking together in large covers while they were feeding on aquatic plants. I also saw some of the usual suspects: Double-Crested Cormorants, Mockingbirds, Canada Geese, Pied-Billed Grebes, and a Great Egret.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I caught a glimpse of a muskrat as it was swimming across the surface of the water, and also saw about five river otters. The first otter I saw was a lone one, but then I saw a group of four.  All of them were swimming and feeding on the fish they were able to catch. It’s always exciting to see them.  I was hoping they would come up onto the shore at some point so I could get some full body shot of them, but I guess they were too focused on breakfast.  Several of them popped up long enough to look directly at me and snort loudly at my presence.

I was following this same raft of otters in the water, then saw the Bald Eagle over my head in a tree.  Although eagles are historically not uncommon at the lake, they hadn’t been spotted there for years. So, I was very surprised when I saw it. More surprising, though, was when the otters gathered in the water underneath where the eagle was perched and huffed and snorted loudly at it.

Then the eagle swooped down off of its branch and flew low over the water. All of the otters ducked but didn’t fully submerge. The eagle approached one of them and literally raked its talons cross the top of the otter’s head before landing in a tree further down the bank. I didn’t get the impression that the eagle was trying to catch the otter; rather it seemed like it was flicking the otter hard on the head to show it who was boss.  Of course, my camera wasn’t focusing on anything at that moment; all I got was a blur, dang it! [When I got home, I made sure to log my sighting with the River Otter Ecology Project]

Other raptors noted today were two White-Tailed Kites, a Red-Tailed Hawk, and a Red-Shouldered Hawk (heard).

A White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus, with a very full crop

Along one part of the trail, I came upon the broken skull of what I think was a small vole. It was alongside some scat that I couldn’t identify because it was too degraded. It might have been from a coyote. I know mink eat voles, but I don’t know if otter eat them as well. The scat definitely looked “mammalian”; not something that was part of a bird pellet.

A small vole skull, I believe

As I was leaving, I came across a man with his unleashed, old, Yellow Lab.  The man was walking back to his car, and the dog was following its owner with a soggy tennis ball in its mouth.  At one point, the dog stopped and put its ball on the ground. The man, realizing that his dog was no longer following him, turned to look at the dog, and the dog started whining loudly and “mouthing words” at the man. 

“No, you can’t go in the water,” the man said to the dog. “It’s too cold. Pick up your ball and come on.” The dog picked up the ball and continued to follow the man to the parking lot. Even as much as I HATE seeing unleashed dogs in public areas, I had to laugh at that exchange.      

I walked for about 3 hours before heading home. 


In response to my “otter spotter” submission on the otter versus eagle moment today, Megan Isadore at the River Otter Ecology Project emailed me:

“…Thanks for that very interesting sighting! I’m not sure if you’ve seen our series on Otter and Bald Eagle at Jenner a couple of years ago? Here’s my favorite shot of the group; the eagle had tried to “share” the otter’s prey, which he’d dragged up onto the rock. The otter prevailed…”

Photo by Bill Barrett…Jenner, Ca.


Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  4. Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
  5. Beaver, American, Beaver, Castor canadensis [sign]
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Bluegill, Lepomis macrochirus
  8. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  9. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  10. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  11. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  12. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  13. Common Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  14. Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
  15. Crisped Pincushion Moss, Ulota crispa
  16. Cytospora Canker, Cytospora chrysosperma [bright orange fruiting body, looks like frozen dodder]
  17. Dog, Canis lupus familiaris
  18. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  19. Downy Woodpecker, Picoides pubescens
  20. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  21. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  22. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  23. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  24. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
  25. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  26. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus bifrons [white flowers]
  27. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  28. Mica Cap, Coprinellus micaceus [an inkcap, tan cap, dark gills]
  29. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura   
  30. Muskrat, Ondatra zibethicus
  31. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  32. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  33. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  34. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  35. Oyster Mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus
  36. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  37. Poplar Sunburst Lichen, Xanthomendoza hasseana [on Cottonwood]
  38. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  39. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  40. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
  41. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  42. Say’s Phoebe, Sayornis saya
  43. Sheet Weaver Spiders, Family: Linyphiidae
  44. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  45. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  46. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  47. Star Moss, Syntrichia ruralis
  48. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  49. Water Vole, Arvicola amphibius [skull]
  50. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  51. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus

Hike #1 of my #52hikechallenge. Miles: 1.32