Category Archives: Books, Reading

Mostly a “Bee Day”, 06-19-20

I got up around 5:30 this morning and headed out with my friend Roxanne to go check out parts of the Arboretum in Davis.  It was another hot day today (up to 99°), so we only stayed out for a few hours.  At the arboretum, we walked through part of the Peter J. Shields Oak Grove and adjoining gardens.

This grove is only one part of the Davis Arboretum. There are other gardens and collections, including a native plants garden, desert collection, redwood grove and pollinator garden.  The arboretum also abuts the Putah Creek Riparian Reserve.  Each facet is accessible through different streets with varying parking availability.  At the oak grove, there is adequate parking and a restroom facility that is covered in detailed mosaic murals.

One of the murals on the restroom facility walls.

The last time Rox and I were here was in September of last year.  What a difference in what we saw today compared to then: fewer flowers, no galls, few birds, hot temperatures. What we seemed to see the most of today was a lot of different bee species.

Among the bees we saw were a Foothill Carpenter Bees that were sleeping on different stems of the same salvia plant. Because they were dozing, it was easy to get some close up photos of them.  When the male Foothill bee started to wake up, he stretched himself out between two flowers on the plant (like Tarzan going from vine to vine). 

The female bee would have slept in longer if another bee hadn’t jumped her and forced her off the plant.  We weren’t sure if it was an attempt at mating (I think it was) or if it was an aggressive behavior, but the female bee just wasn’t having it.

Roxanne got this photo of them together:

[Photo by Roxanne Moger]

Many of the carpenter bees we saw were “nectar robbing”. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Rather than working their way to the nectar through a natural opening in a flower, some bees (and hummingbirds, too) will drill a hole in the base of the flower and take the nectar from there. It’s called “nectar robbing” because the bees get the benefits of the food, but flowers don’t get any pollination action.

A female Valley Carpenter Bee robbing nectar from a salvia flower.

How do you tell the carpenter bees apart? The following is from the UCD Blog:

California has three species of carpenter bees.

The biggest is the Valley carpenter bee, Xylocopa varipuncta. It’s about an inch long. The female is solid black, while the male, commonly known as “the teddy bear bee,” is a green-eyed blond. Why teddy bear? It’s fuzzy and does not sting… “Boy bees don’t sting.”

The second largest is the California carpenter bee or Western carpenter bee, Xylocopa californica, often found in the mountain foothill areas of northern and southern California. It’s known for its distinctive distinctive bluish metallic reflections on the body… The females have dark smoky brown wings.

The smallest is the foothill or mountain carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex. The females are black with light smoky-colored wings. The male has bright yellow marks on the lower part of its face and some yellow hairs on the top front of its thorax.

Banded Western Bluebird, juvenile. This one must have been banded right out the nest.

We saw a family of Western Bluebirds on one of the lawns, including this youngster. I was surprised to realize that it was banded, so I reported it to the Bird Banding Laboratory. Some birds aren’t banded with numbers, only color codes, like this one. So, even if you don’t see any alpha-numeric marking on the bands, reporting the birds still helps scientists to track them.

Roxanne and I walked through the Ruth Risdon Storer Garden, and went by the Moon Garden and gazebo.  At the Moon Garden, all of the flowers are supposed to be white but there weren’t many blooms at all this time of year.  The gazebo was occupied by a large group of people without face-masks on, so we didn’t go in there.

On the lawn near the Moon Garden, however, we found a small flock of Mallards (mostly hybrids) stretched out in the grass in the shade, all of them in a well-spaced circle. Social distancing duck-style. Hah!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Because of the heat, we walked for about 3 hours before heading out.

When we were done at the oak grove, we stopped briefly at the home of Bob Schneider.  He’d invited us over to pick up copies of his new book, “Exploring the Berryessa Region: a Geology, Nature and History Tour”.  He has advance copies that he’s selling, and all of the profits will be donated to nonprofit conservation organizations. (You can contact him through FB or email him at Verve2006@comcast.net),  The cover art is by Obi Kaufmann.

Here’s a write up on the book from the Daily Democrat newspaper.

Species List:

  1. Acanthus, Acanthus sp. [like bear’s breeches]
  2. Algerian Oak hybrid, Mirbeck’s Oak, Quercus canariensis x Quercus robur
  3. Aloe Vera, Aloe vera
  4. Annual Honesty, Lunaria annua [“Money Plant”, “Silver Dollar”]
  5. Aster, European Michaelmas-Daisy, “Purple Dome”, Aster amellus
  6. Baby Sage, Salvia microphylla [red and white]
  7. Blue Germander Sage, Salvia chamelaeagnea
  8. Buckwheat, Red-Flowered Buckwheat, Eriogonum grande var. rubescens [pink to deep red flowering heads]
  9. Buckwheat, Saint Catherine’s Lace, Eriogonum giganteum
  10. Bur Oak, Quercus macrocarpa
  11. Butterfly Rose, Rosa x odoratus Mutabilis [hybrid]
  12. California Barberry, California Holly-Grape, Berberis pinnata
  13. California Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa californica
  14. California Goldenrod, “Cascade Creek”, Solidago velutina californica
  15. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  16. Calla Lily, Zantedeschia aethiopica var. Green Goddess
  17. Chilean Lily-of-the-Valley Tree, Crinodendron patagua
  18. Chinkapin Oak, Quercus muehlenbergii
  19. Cleveland Sage, Salvia clevelandii [purple, circles]
  20. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  21. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea [eggs]
  22. Common Soapwort, Saponaria officinalis [“balls” of pink flowers, look like phlox]
  23. Common Whitetail Dragonfly, Plathemis Lydia
  24. Coral Tree, Indian Coral Tree, Erythrina variegata
  25. Cornelian Cherry, Cornus mas
  26. Cypress Oak, Quercus robur f. fasigiata
  27. Desert Willow, Chilopsis linearis
  28. Dog-Rose, Rosa canina [similar to wild rose]
  29. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  30. English Oak, Quercus robur
  31. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  32. Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis
  33. Foothill Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex
  34. Garden Sage, Salvia officinalis [pale purples age]
  35. Garnet Geranium, Pelargonium sidoides
  36. Indian Blanket Flower, Gaillardia pulchella
  37. Jimsonweed, Sacred Thorn-Apple, Datura wrightii
  38. Laurustinus Viburnum, Viburnum tinus [white flowers, purple-blue berries]
  39. Leaf Gall Wasp/ Unidentified per Russo, Tribe: Cynipidi [on Valley Oak]
  40. Ligated Furrow Bee, Halictus ligatus [tiny bee, b/w striped abdomen, yellow legs]
  41. Madeiran Germander, Teucrium betonicum
  42. Magnolia Tree, Magnolia grandiflora
  43. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  44. Metallic Sweat Bees, Subgenus: Dialictus
  45. Mission Prickly-Pear Cactus, Opuntia ficus-indica
  46. Mournful Duskywing Butterfly, Erynnis tristis
  47. Oak Aphid Leaf-Curl Gall, Tuberculatus annulatus [on Coast Live Oak]
  48. Peach Leaf Curl Fungus, Taphrina deformans
  49. Peach Tree, Prunus persica
  50. Persian Oak, Quercus castanelfolia
  51. Peruvian Lily, White Peruvian Lily, Alstroemeria inticancha “Magic White”
  52. Pincushion Flower, Cream Scabious, Scabiosa ochroleuca [white/cream colored]
  53. Pincushion Flower, Small Scabious, Scabiosa columbaria [little, purple]
  54. Pink Sedum, Iceplant Stonecrop, Hylotelephium spectabile
  55. Purple Sage, Silverleaf, Cenzio, Leucophyllum frutescens
  56. Purpletop Vervain, Verbena bonariensis
  57. Red Coral Fountain, “St. Elmo’s Fire”, Russelia equisetiformis
  58. Resin Bee, Heriades sp. [nests in bee-condo block]
  59. Rocky Mountain Sage, Salvia lanceolata
  60. Rosemary, Salvia rosmarinus
  61. Santa Barbara Daisy, Mexican Fleabane, Erigeron karvinskianus [small yellow and white daisy-likeflowers]
  62. Sedge, Family: Cyperaceae
  63. Shrubby Hare’s-Ear, Bupleurum fruticosum [umbrels of yellow flowers]
  64. Silver Texas Mountain Laurel, Sophora secundiflora [dangling hard seedpods, fasciation]
  65. Smooth Blue Aster, Symphyotrichum laeve
  66. Spined Stilt Bug, Jalysus wickhami [look like tiny Craneflies]
  67. Star of Persia, Allium christophii [giant onion]
  68. Three-lined Potato Beetle, Lema daturaphila
  69. Tree-Anemone, Carpenteria californica [post-blooms, “yellow-green stars”]
  70. Valley Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa varipuncta
  71. Variegated Agave, American Century Plant, Agave americana
  72. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  73. Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis
  74. Western Sunflower Longhorn Bee, Svastra obliqua ssp. expurgata
  75. White Crepe Myrtle, Lagerstroemia subcostata var. fauriei
  76. White Oak, Quercus alba
  77. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium
  78. ?? black discoloration/gall on Valley Oak leaves

Napa Trip Day Two, 02-05-20

Once we got the car loaded, my friend Roxanne and I were off again back toward Sacramento.  [[ CLICK HERE for the write up on Day One.]]

We took Highway 128 again and stopped three times along the way to look at the lace lichen on the trees and walk a little bit along Putah Creek.  At the first stop, where we were looking at the lichen, Roxanne realized that under the leaf litter, all over the area, was a huge crop of Sulphur Tuft mushrooms.  The mycelial web underground that supported them must have been huge!

Then we stopped briefly at the Monticello Dam and got a look at the Glory Hole. Water wasn’t flowing into it, but it was nice to see Lake Berryessa so full just the same.  We saw quite a few Robins there and some midges lighting along the rock retaining wall.  From a geological standpoint, the rock formations all around that area are quite impressive.  Lots of layers, all tipped up onto their side by plate tectonics.

“…Most of Northern California’s bedrock is part of just three large bodies: the granite of the Sierra, the metamorphic rocks of the Coast Range, and the sedimentary rocks of the Central Valley. All three are parts of one entity: a former subduction zone. Picture the Pacific seafloor plate being carried eastward against the North American continental plate and plunging underneath it—subduction…” READ MORE HERE.

Male midge. (The males have fluffy antennae)

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

At the third stop, along Putah Creek at one of the fishing turnoffs, we were “harassed” by a Mourning Cloak butterfly that at first seemed to want to avoid us, but then followed us all over the place and landed in conspicuous sots where we were able to get a lot of photos of it. 

And we saw our first Pipevine of the season in full bloom. The pipevine gets its flowers first and then leave follow. Each blossom is like a fat Calabash pipe. Here’s an interesting article on the plant.

California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica

We actually have an endemic subspecies of Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly in Sacramento County that would go extinct in just one season if the pipevine disappeared.     

The Mourning Cloaks are interesting, too, in that they estivate (like hibernation but in the hotter months) over the late summer, wake up in the fall and winter to feed, and then mate in the spring.  Some of them migrate; some don’t. Females lay their eggs all the way around the stems of willows, cottonwood trees, and other host plants, and when the babies emerge, they form a communal web around themselves and feed together until they’re bigger and stronger and able to go off on their own. In their butterfly stage, they don’t like nectar and feed instead on tree sap and rotting fruits and berries.  The caterpillars are black with black spikes and a row of bright red spots down the back.

The big deal to me at this stop was the number of different lichens on the boulders there. I found Stonewall Rim, Ink Lichen, several different kinds of Cobblestone lichen, Tan Nipple Lichen, Sidewalk Firedot Lichen and others. They were all relatively small (in comparison to the substrate) but really showed off under the macro attachment on my cellphone.

When we got into Winters, we stopped briefly for some extra coffee, and then continued on to Sacramento. I got to the house right around 2:00 pm. 

Species List from Both Days:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  3. Arundo, Giant Reed, Arundo donax
  4. Bay Laurel Tree, Laurus nobilis
  5. Beaded Tube Lichen, Hypogymnia apinnata
  6. Big-headed Ground Beetle, Scarites subterraneus [black, shiny, large mandibles] ??
  7. Black Cobweb Spider, Steatoda capensis
  8. Black Jelly Roll fungus, Exidia glandulosa
  9. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  10. Bright Cobblestone Lichen, Acarospora socialis [bright yellow, on rocks]
  11. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  12. California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  13. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  14. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  15. California Slender Salamander, Batrachoseps attenuates
  16. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  17. Candlesnuff Fungus, Carbon Antlers, Xylaria hypoxylon [upright, branched, white with a layer of spores; spores release at a touch]
  18. Canyon Live Oak, Quercus chrysolepis
  19. Chamise, Adenostoma fasciculatum
  20. Cinder Lichen, Aspicilia cinerea
  21. Coastal Woodfern, Dryopteris arguta [pointed leaves, two rows of spore sites]
  22. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  23. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  24. Common Gold Cobblestone Lichen, Pleopsidium flavum [bright yellow]
  25. Common Gray Disk Fungus, Mollisia olivascens
  26. Common Jelly Spot fungus, Dacrymyces stillatus
  27. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  28. Conifer Mazegill, Gloeophyllum sepiarium
  29. Cowboys Handkerchief, Waxy Cap Mushroom, Hygrophorus eburneus
  30. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  31. Crabseye Lichen, Ochrolechia subpallescens [creamy colored lichen with white-rimmed pale orange/pink apothecia on trees]
  32. Crampball Fungus, Daldinia concentrica
  33. Dark-Winged Fungus Gnat, Bradysia sp.
  34. Dendroalsia Moss, Dendroalsia abietina [long curling moss on trees]
  35. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  36. Douglas Fir Tree, Pseudotsuga menziesii
  37. Dusky Tile Lichen, Lecidea Lichen, Lecidea fuscoatra  [black rimmed apothecia on rocks]
  38. Ear-leaf Lichen, Normandina pulchella [green leaf-like on rocks]
  39. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  40. Farinose Cartilage Lichen,  Ramalina farinacea [like Oakmoss but very thin branches]
  41. Fishbone Beard Lichen, Usnea filipendula [hairy eyeballs]
  42. Fluffy Dust Lichen, Pacific Fluffy Dust Lichen, Lepraria pacifica
  43. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  44. Fringed Wrinkle Lichen, Tuckermanopsis americana [pale green, brown fringes, on trees]
  45. Globular Springtail, Ptenothrix marmorata 
  46. Goldback Fern, Pentagramma triangularis
  47. Gray lungwort, Lobaria hallii  [gray to green, with soredia on surface]
  48. Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana
  49. Great Blue Heron, Ardea Herodias
  50. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  51. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  52. Green Trichoderma MoldTrichoderma viride 
  53. Herre’s Ragged Lichen, Platismatia herrei
  54. Hidden Goldspeck Lichen, Candelariella aurella [small, scattered, yellow, on rocks]
  55. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  56. Ink Lichen, Placynthium nigrum [pitch black, fine grained]
  57. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  58. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii
  59. Lipstick Powderhorn, Cladonia macilenta
  60. Lung Lichen, Lobaria anthraspis
  61. Mealy Pixie Cup, Cladonia chlorophaea
  62. Milky Cap, Hemimycena hirsute [tiny white mushrooms with distant gills]
  63. Mistletoe, American Mistletoe, Big Leaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
  64. Mistletoe Gall, caused byMistletoe haustorium growing on a tree
  65. Mourning Cloak Butterfly, Nymphalis antiopa
  66. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  67. Non-biting Midges, Family: Chironomidae
  68. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  69. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
  70. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii
  71. Orange Bonnet Mushroom, Mycena acicula
  72. Pacific Madrone Tree, Arbutus menziesii
  73. Pigeon, Domestic Pigeon, Columba livia domestica
  74. Pin-cushion Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona polycarpa
  75. Pink Elongated Springtail, Podura sp.
  76. Pink Honeysuckle, California Honeysuckle, Lonicera hispidula
  77. Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa
  78. Poor Man’s Slippery Jack, Suillus fuscotomentosus [sort of looks like a bolete]
  79. Powderhorn Lichen, Common Powderhorn, Cladonia coniocraea
  80. Powdery Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria ulophyllodes [yellow, leafy, rare on rocks but does sometimes appear on them]
  81. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus [heard]
  82. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  83. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  84. Rove Beetle, Quedius sp. [red-orange] ??
  85. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  86. Scaly Rustgill Mushroom, Gymnopilus sapineus
  87. Shield Lichen Parmelia sulcata [gray foliose lichen on trees]
  88. Sidewalk Firedot Lichen, Xanthocarpia feracissima  [bright orange, on rocks]
  89. Silky Piggyback Mushrooms,  Asterophora parasitica
  90. Slime Mold, Carnival Candy Slime Mold, Arcyria denudata
  91. Slime Mold, Honeycomb Coral Slime Mold, Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa
  92. Slime Mold, Insect Egg Slime Mold, Badhamia sp. [early stages of plasmodium]
  93. Slime Mold, Spotted Trichia Slime Mold, Trichia botrytis
  94. Soaproot, Amole, Chlorogalum pomeridianum ssp. pomeridianum
  95. Speckled Greenshield, Flavopunctelia flaventior
  96. Stonewall Rim Lichen, Lecona muralis [ pale green/gray thallus with rose/tan apothecia gathered in the center; color can be quite variable]
  97. Stonewall Rim Lichen, Protoparmeliopsis muralis [tan, pebbled with leafy edges, orange-tan apothecia]
  98. Striped Skunk, Mephitis mephitis [road kill, saw 5]
  99. Sulphur Tuft Fungus, Hypholoma fasciculare 
  100. Tan Nipple Lichen, Thelomma santessonii [gray/tan, deep holes in the structures]
  101. Tanoak, Tanbark Oak, Notholithocarpus densiflorus
  102. Toy Soldiers, Cladonia bellidiflora  [stalks are crusty, heads are split with red faces]
  103. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  104. Trembling Crust Fungus, Merulius tremellosus [with guttation]
  105. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  106. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  107. Velvety Tree Ant, Liometopum occidentale
  108. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  109. White Leaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida ssp. viscida
  110. Winter Moth, Operophtera brumata [larvae, green inchworm with orange head]
  111. Woolly Bird’s Nest Fungus, Nidula niveotomentosa
  112. Wooly Foam Lichen, Stereocaulon ramulosum [like Oakmoss but very crusty with small brown apothecia at the end of the branches]
  113. Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli