Category Archives: Citizen Science

Two Mathers in One Day, 03-26-20

I got up around 7:00 am and got the dog fed and pottied before heading out to the Mather Field Vernal Pools with my friend Roxanne.  We’d heard that the wildflowers are starting to show themselves out there, so we had to check it out. 

When we were near the vernal pool area, I spotted a very large and healthy-looking coyote walking between a couple of fields, so Roxanne pulled the car over so I could get some photos and video of it.  Such a handsome animal.  It stretched, yawned and laid down in the grass, enjoying the early morning sunshine.

Coyote in the field

The field across the road from the pools was filled with bright yellow Frying Pan poppies.  They weren’t open yet (because it was still kind of cloudy and chilly outside), but there were so many of them that they still made quite a statement. So, we went into that field first.  There was a scattering of things in bloom, but I think it will take another two weeks for their fields to really start showing off.  Along with Miniature Lupine, we found some Blue Dicks, Butter ‘n’ Eggs, Pineappleweed, Little Rattlesnake Grass, and Jointed Charlock (wild radish).  Roxanne also found one Red Maids plant.

We then walked over into the vernal pool area.  There’s no water in the pools but there were flowers growing up out and around where the pools would have been.  We found several different kinds of Popcorn Flowers and Goldfields (some of the most difficult flowers to ID correctly because there are so many variations), a couple of different kinds of Stork’s Bill, Shining Pepperweed and some really beautiful Fringepod. 

Common Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes

In one corner there were some Tidy Tips flowers just starting to emerge and open up. There were also some things we’d seen for the first time, so we weren’t really sure what they were.  Research time!

Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I enjoyed seeing all the stuff, but to get close-up photos of the flowers, I was constantly having to bend over and stand up again, bend over and stand up again, bend over and stand up again… After about an hour, the vertigo was kicking in enough that I was feeling nauseous. Roxanne is so great, though, that she was willing to cut her own outing short to accommodate me.

As we were heading back to the car, a police officer drove by and asked, “Are you ladies okay?”  We told him yes, and thank you, and remarked that we thought it was nice of him to check on us in this Time of Plague, considering how many other things the police have to deal with, and understanding that while they’re out there encountering so many people they’re putting themselves as risk.

When we got back into the car, I told Roxanne I had to sit still for a little while to let my “inner gyroscope” balance itself out again.  So, we went through the photos we’d taken thus far and started putting together our species list.  I also had to stop at one point and vomit outside the car door. *Sigh*  Again, Roxanne was great about it and just let me take my time.

Purple Sanicle, Sanicula bipinnatifida

As we were heading away from the vernal pools area, I spotted some Purple Sanicle plants on the side of the road.  It was a plant we didn’t expect to see in an area like that, so we pulled over to get some photos. The flowers kind of look like Corona Virus cells, round with spikey things all around the surface.  For some reason, I don’t know why, my brain associates with them voodoo. Weird.  I needed my cane to get up and down the embankment, so Roxanne helped me with that.

Then, back in the car again, we passed the golf course and park off of Douglas, Mather Regional Park, and decided to go in there to walk for a bit more… and I’m glad we did. We saw quite a bit without my having to move too quickly or bend over a lot for photos. So, no more bad vertigo.

I didn’t know the park was over there, but it’s one I’ll definitely add to my go-to list.  It’s 1600 acres and brags a large pond (which they refer to as a “lake”).  According to the park’s website, “Mather Lake is stocked with bass or trout, depending on the time of year.”  There were a handful of people out there fishing, but I don’t know if anyone caught anything.

The “lake” in the park

Roxanne and I did our social distancing thing while we were there, but she’s more gregarious than I am, so when a mom with her two kids came by, she stopped to talk with them – while I moved away to the other side of a large coyote bush.  In my mind, kids are vectors for Every Disease Known to Man and I have enough to deal with right now with my cancer and vertigo.  I also felt it was very careless of the mom to let her kids gets in such close contact with someone they didn’t know (in this Time of Plague).  On the good side: the kids were VERY well-behaved and respectful of the space. Their mom said they’d been quietly fishing for two hours and didn’t complain when they didn’t catch anything. 

My Mom and I used to do the same thing; stay out for hours fishing, not caring if we got a fish…

When Roxanne and I first got into the park we were immediately met by ducks and a few geese looking for handouts. I had an old bag of peanuts in my bag, so I let them have those.  Some blackbirds also go into the mix and ran off with whatever peanuts they could grab from under the ducks. There were also Mute Swans on the water, which I didn’t particularly like to see.  They’re considered an invasive species in California and no one is supposed to have them without a permit.  I’m guessing they were part of the park when it was part of the Air Force Base there before permitting was required.  They’re super-aggressive birds that tear up their habitat; not good.  I saw one driving two Canada Geese from their resting spot.

Mute Swans, Cygnus olor,are beautiful, but they’re also considered an invasive species in California

In the water, we got to see a pair of Pied-Billed Grebes do a little of their courtship “mirroring” dance.  I got a super-short video snippet of the end of it. One Grebe called out to second one hidden in the tules, then the first one dove under the water. A few seconds later, both Grebes popped to the surface and started the “mirroring” ritual before the first one swam away again. I guess he wasn’t that into her. Hah!

A tiny pat of the Grebes’ courting ritual

There were a couple of Gallinules in the water, too.  They kind of look like Coots but are more streamlines and have a red shield on the front of their face.  These were the first ones Roxanne had ever seen, so that was a nice treat for her.

There were a lot of songbirds around, mostly sparrows, and we saw several Robins searching for breakfast in the grass.  Roxanne noted that they each seemed to cock their head to one side of the other as they hunted, and she wondered if they could hear the worms they were searching for.  She was right: “…The bird has very sharp eyesight and hearing; the familiar back and forth cocking of its head as the bird hops along the ground is the Robin’s effort to see and hear the movement of worms or beetles beneath the ground…” Cool!

American Robin, Turdus migratorius

There were lots of California Ground Squirrels around, too, some of them chasing and rolling over one another. We noticed that they seem to have “redder” coats than the ones along the American River.  I wonder if it has something to do with the type of soil they live in… As we were leaving, we stopped at a picnic table to rest for a minute, and one of the Ground Squirrels came up from its burrow, climbed up onto a tree stump across the walkway from us, and stretched itself out to warm its belly on the wood of the stump.  Then it scooted down over the edge of the stump just far enough to reach some grass so it could chew on it.  Hah!  So funny to watch.

We also found a California Glowworm, Western Firefly, Ellychnia californica.  “Firefly” isn’t really an appropriate name for it because it doesn’t actually “fire” in beetle form. According to resources, “…[It’s] a modest sized beetle with two red marks on its pronatum (the shield shaped structure covering the thorax behind the head and in front of the wings). Although it cannot glow, it is believed that the larva, like those of Pterotus, can…”  Still, it was cool find.

California Glowworm, Western Firefly, Ellychnia californica

Not too many galls out get, but we did see some old Oak Apple Galls and some Willow Pinecone Galls, and some new bug and stem galls on the Coyote Brush bushes.  The bug galls are made by midges, and the stem galls are made by moths.

We walked around the park for several hours and got back to the house around 12:30 pm, so that was a 4½ hour excursion for the day.  As we headed back home, we looked at the big clouds in the sky and tried to name them… That cloud looks like Godzilla… That cloud looks like an elephant… That one looks like a snail with barnacles on its shell… That one looks like a seahorse…  Simple pleasures.

Even with the vomiting, it was a fun day. When I got back into the house, I crashed for the rest of the afternoon… and Esteban sat on top of me so I couldn’t go anywhere else today. Hah!

Me and my dog Esteban.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. American Plantain, Plantago rugelii
  4. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  5. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
  8. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  9. California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  10. California Glowworm, Western Firefly, Ellychnia californica
  11. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  12. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  13. California Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  14. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  15. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  16. Cattle, Bos Taurus [heard]
  17. Cherry-Plum, Prunus cerasifera
  18. Chinese Praying Mantis, Tenodera sinensis [ootheca]
  19. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  20. Common Field Daisy, Common Daisy, Bellis perennis
  21. Common Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes
  22. Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
  23. Cork Oak, Quercus suber
  24. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  25. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  26. Coyote Brush Stem Gall moth, Gnorimoschema baccharisella
  27. Coyote, Canis latrans
  28. Del Norte Willow, Salix delnortensis [red on catkins]
  29. Dwarf Checkermallow, Sidalcea malviflora
  30. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  31. Field Mustard, Brassica rapaCoyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  32. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  33. Frying Pan Poppy, Eschscholzia lobbii
  34. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  35. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  36. Goldfields, Alkali Goldfields, Lasthenia platycarpha  [6-8 petals, “daffodil” center]
  37. Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica [6-8 petals, rounded mound-like center]
  38. Goldfields, Vernal Pool Goldfields, Lasthenia fremontii [8 petals, circle-in-circle center]
  39. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  40. Hairy Woodpecker, Leuconotopicus villosus
  41. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  42. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  43. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  44. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  45. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  46. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  47. Jacaranda, Blue Jacaranda Tree, Jacaranda mimosifolia
  48. Johnnytuck, Butter ‘n’ Eggs, Triphysaria eriantha
  49. Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
  50. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  51. Little Rattlesnake Grass, Briza minor
  52. Low Woolly Marbles, Psilocarphus brevissimus
  53. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  54. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  55. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  56. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  57. Narrowleaf Willow, Salix exigua
  58. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  59. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard several]
  60. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercusc
  61. Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula [nest]
  62. Pekin Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Pekin
  63. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  64. Pigeon, Domestic Pigeon, Columba livia domestica
  65. Pineappleweed, Matricaria discoidea
  66. Purple Finch, Haemorhous purpureus
  67. Purple Milk-Vetch, Astragalus danicus  [based on leaves]
  68. Purple Sanicle, Sanicula bipinnatifida
  69. Red Maids, Calandrinia ciliata
  70. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  71. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  72. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus [heard]
  73. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  74. Rusty Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys nothofulvus
  75. Sheet Weaver Spiders, Family: Linyphiidae [web]
  76. Shining Peppergrass, Lepidium nitidum
  77. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  78. Soap Plant, Wavy Leafed Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  79. Stork’s Bill, Big Heron Bill, Broadleaf Filaree, Erodium botrys
  80. Stork’s Bill, Musky Stork’s Bill, Whitestem Filaree, Erodium moschatum
  81. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha
  82. Swedish Blue Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Swedish Blue
  83. Tidy Tips, Layia platyglossa
  84. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  85. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  86. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  87. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  88. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  89. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  90. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  91. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  92. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  93. Whitehead Navarretia, Navarretia leucocephala
  94. Willow Pinecone Gall midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides

A Butterfly on the Lens, 03-24-20

I got up around 7:00 this morning, and have no vertigo today.  I wish I knew what triggers the flares ups… I headed over to the American River Bend Park again to check in on the owls and get some exercise in before the forecast rains come in.

It was kind of chilly when I got there, about 39°F, but it warmed up relatively quickly as the sun got up further in the sky.  Clouds were coming in, but were mostly pretty “sofa clouds” until they started to get coordinated in the late afternoon for a little rain.

Clouds over the “lawn” at the River Bend Park.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Mama Great Horned Owl was in her nest and sitting up in the early morning sunlight so it was easier to get some photos of her. I also got a little video snippet of her in the nest and could see an owlet moving around next to her. It’s still too small to look out over the rim of the nest – and there might be more than one in there – so I haven’t gotten any good picture of it yet.

The Blue Elderberry trees are starting to get their blossoms.  They’re also starting to attract the caterpillars of the Elder Moths, who wrap themselves up in the leaves as they grow and pupate.  I was able to find a few of them.  They’re still small but they’ll fatten up over the next few weeks.

Elder Moth, Achatodes zeae, caterpillar in the leaf of a Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea,plant

There were also quite a number of Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies out.  Some of them were sitting in the grass waiting to warm up, and others were flitting around the tops of the trees where the sun was already hitting them.  At one point, one of the butterflies I was photographing climbed onto the lens of my cellphone camera, so I got a super close-up of her.

California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta

I watched a House Sparrow and a White-Breasted Nuthatch arguing over a nesting cavity.  Neither bird can build their own, so they rely on old woodpecker nests and natural openings in the tree to nest in.  I think the wren won this particular battle.

Someone had hung a little wooden angel from a branch along the trail. I usually don’t like this kind of “litter”, but today it seemed kind of sweet and affirming.

As I was heading out of the park, I saw some Western Bluebirds and stopped to get photos.  The male was cooperative for a while; the female, not so much.  They’re such cheery, pretty little birds.

I was out for about 3 hours and only saw two people all the while I was out there.  So nice.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. Audubon’s Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  3. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  4. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  5. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  6. Boreal Button Lichen, Buellia disciformis [pale gray to bluish with black apothecia on wood]
  7. Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  8. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  10. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  11. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  12. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  13. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  14. Common Vetch, Vicia sativa
  15. Cranefly, Mosquito Hawk, Tipula dietziana
  16. Elder Moth, Achatodes zeae
  17. Elegant Camouflage Lichen, Melanohalea elegantula [leafy like hoary lichen but much darker gray/black]
  18. Elfin Saddle, Compressed Saddle, Helvella compressa
  19. Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina
  20. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  21. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  22. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  23. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  24. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  25. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  26. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii
  27. Mosquito, Common House Mosquito, Culex pipiens
  28. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  29. Mower’s Mushroom, Haymaker Mushroom, Panaeolus foenisecii
  30. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  31. Pin-cushion Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona polycarpa
  32. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  33. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  34. Rusty Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys nothofulvus
  35. Santa Barbara Sedge, Carex barbarae
  36. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  37. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans
  38. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  39. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  40. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  41. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  42. White Ash Tree, Fraxinus americana
  43. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  44. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

River Bend Day 2, 03-18-20

Up at 6:45 am on this totally overcast, chilly and rainy morning. No vertigo today.  I got Esteban fed and pottied and then headed out to the American River Bend Park again but this time with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne.  She wanted to see the owls’ nest and get some fresh air and exercise.

This is a photo Roxanne took of my while I was photographing mushrooms.

It rained for the first hours or so we were out there, but then the rain tapered off, so we didn’t get too wet – except for our shoes.  I’d brought my umbrella with me and used it when needed, but then I accidentally left it behind somewhere along the trail.  D’oh!  By the time I realized that, I was too tired to go back and look for it, so, I hope that someone else finds it who really needs it.

We started our walk near where the owls’ nest is.  The mother owl was on a different side of the nest today than she was yesterday, so there was a slightly clearer view of her.  She didn’t look too thrilled about sitting in the rain, and we couldn’t see her owlets.  I assumed that she was shielding them from the wet and cold.

Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus,mamain the rain.

In that same area, we found a large flock of Wild Turkeys, including a pair of leucistic females.  The males were in full strut, wings down, tails fanned, snoods extended.  Some of them were snorting under their snoods, too.  A kind of “tsk!” sound. 

At one point, we also saw some of the males fighting: jumping up and kicking one another with their spurs, chasing each other, gobbling harshly.  I think there were rival “gangs” of males there running off guys who didn’t belong on the main group’s stomping ground. I couldn’t tell if the males were avoiding or ignoring the leucistic females, but all of the females were pretty much ignoring the males.  No one got down into a crouch while we were there.

There aren’t a lot of wild flowers up yet, but we did see some Blue Dicks and some Hillside Woodland Star, but that was about it. We DID come across, however, what I think was an Oracle Oak tree.  I’d passed that tree dozens of times and never really paid attention to it until today. Oracles are a cross between a Black Oak and an Interior Live Oak.  Both trees are considered “red oaks”, based partly on the color of their wood and what the interior of their acorns look like.

Oracle Oak, Quercus × moreha

Lots of Destroying Angel mushrooms all over the place, and some Black Jelly Roll fungus.  On one of the pipevine plants, Roxanne found a flower overflowing with fungus gnats.  The gnats are one of the major pollinators of this plant, so that was fun to see.  I got a video snippet of them emerging. 

Dark-Winged Fungus Gnats, Bradysia sp., emerging from the blossom of a California Pipevine plant, Aristolochia californica

Oh, and we found a crop of Compressed Elfin Saddle mushrooms, Helvella compressa.  They look like dark brown fortune cookies mounted on white sticks.  Very cool.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

Roxanne also found two other things I’d never seen before.  The first one was Curling Moss, also called Bonfire Moss, Funaria hygrometrica. It was made up of stingy bits of plant material laid out in stiff curls.  Rox joking referred to it as “river scrubbie”. Hah! 

The other thing she found was a Tussock Moth cocoon covered in newly hatched caterpillars.  I’ve found the cocoons all over the place before, along with the mature caterpillars, but I’d never seen the caterpillars at this early stage.  The mother moth lays her eggs on top of the cocoon from which she emerged and then covers them with a sort of self-hardening foam that protects them until they hatch.  Each caterpillar was totally black and covered in sparse long hairs.  There were about 30 of the tiny things occupying the exterior of a cocoon that was about an inch long.

We walked for about 4 ½ hours before heading back home. 

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Audubon’s Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  3. Bark Rim Lichen, Lecanora chlarotera [looks like Whitewash Lichen but has apothecia]
  4. Barometer Earthstar fungus, Astraeus hygrometricus
  5. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  6. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  7. Bittercress, Hairy Bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta
  8. Black Jelly Roll fungus, Exidia glandulosa
  9. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  10. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  11. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  12. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
  13. Brown Jelly Fungus, Jelly Leaf, Tremella foliacea
  14. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  15. Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  16. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica
  17. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  18. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  19. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  20. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  21. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  22. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  23. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  24. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  25. Click Beetle, Limonius canus 
  26. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  27. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  28. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
  29. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  30. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  31. Common Vetch, Vicia sativa
  32. Coyote Brush Stem Gall moth, Gnorimoschema baccharisella
  33. Curling Moss, Bonfire Moss, Funaria hygrometrica
  34. Dark-Winged Fungus Gnat, Bradysia sp.
  35. Destroying Angel Mushroom, Amanita ocreata
  36. Dove’s-foot Crane’s-Bill, Geranium molle
  37. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  38. Elfin Saddle, Compressed Elfin Saddle, Helvella compressa
  39. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  40. False Turkey Tail fungus, Stereum Ostrea
  41. Farinose Cartilage Lichen,  Ramalina farinacea [like Oakmoss but very thin branches]
  42. Fluffy Dust Lichen, Pacific Fluffy Dust Lichen, Lepraria pacifica
  43. Giraffe’s Head Henbit, Henbit Deadnettle, Lamium amplexicaule
  44. Giraffe’s Spots Fungus, Peniophora albobadia
  45. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  46. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  47. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  48. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  49. Hillside Woodland Star, Lithophragma heterophyllum
  50. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  51. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  52. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  53. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  54. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii
  55. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  56. Mazegill Fungus, Daedalea quercina
  57. Mealy Pixie Cup, Cladonia chlorophaea
  58. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliate
  59. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  60. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  61. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  62. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
  63. Oracle Oak, Quercus × moreha
  64. Petty Spurge, Euphorbia peplus
  65. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  66. Red Phanerochaete pathogen, Phanerochaete sanguinea
  67. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis [heard, saw in flight]
  68. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  69. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens
  70. Santa Barbara Sedge, Carex barbarae
  71. Shepherd’s-Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
  72. Shingle Moss, Neckera pennata
  73. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  74. Split Gill Fungus, Schizophyllum commune
  75. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  76. Star Moss, Syntrichia ruralis
  77. Stem Rust Fungus, Puccinia evadens [on Coyote Brush]
  78. Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica
  79. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha
  80. Streambank Springbeauty, Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia parviflora [small]
  81. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans
  82. Termite, Reticulitermes sp.
  83. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  84. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  85. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  86. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  87. Velvety Tree Ant, Liometopum occidentale
  88. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana [caught a glimpse of one]
  89. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  90. Western Tussock Moth, Orgyia vetusta
  91. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  92. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  93. Whitewash Lichen, Phlyctis argena
  94. ?? Tiny mushrooms on twig
  95. ?? A kind of crust fungus

Very Windy Today, 03-12-20

I got up around 5:30 this morning and was out the door by 6:00 am with Esteban to go to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  After stopping for gas, coffee and snacky stuff we got to the refuge around 8:00 am just as my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne drove in.  It was about 49° when we arrived and there was a stiff wind blowing – which doesn’t bode well for birding.

I took Roxanne in my car through the auto tour route (with Esteban) so we could help each other spot birds and other critters.  I was limited in how many photos I could take because I’d forgotten to recharge the backup batteries for my camera. D’oh! 

All of the large flocks are gone now, but there are still smaller flocks and individual birds to see there.  The sightings and photo-taking would have been better of the wind wasn’t as strong.  Roxanne kept a list of the species we saw, though, and it was up to over 100 by the time we headed back home.

A very cooperative Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta, singing just outside the car door on the auto tour route.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

There was nothing in the areas where the vernal pools normally are and only a few wildflowers, mostly fiddlenecks. We saw quite a few jackrabbits – including one that was hunkered down in a field; we at first mistook it for a rock — and lots of Northern Harriers in flight.  We also spotted an adult Bald Eagle flying, and got to see a juvenile sitting in a tree on the way out of the preserve. His back was to us, so we didn’t get to see a lot of him before we moved on.

Not a very good shot of a juvenile Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus. We figured he was around a year and a half to two years old.

We heard a lot of Marsh Wrens, but they kept themselves hidden, so I only got photos of one of the males singing and a few of their nests.

A male Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris. The males build several nests then sing (up to 18 per day)to attract females. The female then chooses which nest she likes the best.

It took us about four hours to get through the auto tour route there, then we went on to the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge to check out the birds there.  It was still very windy, and we didn’t see much of anything new there.  The Black Crowned Night Herons were in their regular day-roost spot, though, so we got to see and get a few photos of them.  By the time we were done at that refuge, it was a little after 2:00 pm. We ate a bit of lunch at the picnic tables there then headed home.

An adult Black-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax

Got back to the house around 4:00 pm.  Phew! A long day!

Species List:

  1. American Bittern, Botaurus lentiginosus
  2. American Coot, Fulica americana
  3. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  4. American Wigeon, Anas Americana
  5. Arundo, Giant Reed, Arundo donax
  6. Audubon’s Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  7. Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
  8. Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus
  9. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  10. Black-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax
  11. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  12. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  13. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  14. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  15. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  16. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  17. Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
  18. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus [nests]
  19. California Dock, Rumex californicus
  20. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  21. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  22. California Praying Mantis, Stagmomantis californica (smallest 2-2.5 inches) [ootheca]
  23. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  24. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  25. Cheeseweed Mallow, Malva parviflora
  26. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  27. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  28. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
  29. Common Groundsel, Senecio vulgaris
  30. Common Mustard, Brassica rapa
  31. Common Raven, Corvus corax
  32. Common Stork’s-Bill, Red Stemmed Filaree, Erodium cicutarium
  33. Common Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum
  34. Coyote, Canis latrans [smooshed on the road]
  35. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus [one from Alaska]
  36. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  37. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  38. Field Mustard, Brassica rapa
  39. Floating Water Primrose, Ludwigia peploides ssp. Peploides
  40. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  41. Gadwall duck, Mareca Strepera
  42. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  43. Goldfields, Lasthenia sp.
  44. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  45. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  46. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Tringa melanoleuca
  47. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  48. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
  49. Green Alga (freshwater), Chlorophyta ssp.
  50. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  51. Himalayan (Armenian) Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  52. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  53. Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
  54. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  55. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  56. Lincoln’s Sparrow, Melospiza lincolnii
  57. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  58. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
  59. Milk Thistle, Blessed Milkthistle, Silybum marianum
  60. Mistletoe, American Mistletoe, Big Leaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
  61. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  62. Narrowleaf Cattail, Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  63. Non-biting Midges, Family: Chironomidae
  64. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  65. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  66. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  67. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  68. Pacific Chorus Frog, Western Chorus Frog, Pseudacris triseriata
  69. Pacific Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  70. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marorata
  71. Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula [individual queens and nests]
  72. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  73. Pink Squirrel Grass, Hordeum jubatum [barley] ?
  74. Pink Squirrel-Tail Rye, Sitanion elymoides [formerly Elymus elymoides, CA native]
  75. Popcorn Flowers, Plagiobothrys sp.
  76. Prickly Sow Thistle, Sonchus asper
  77. Quail Bush, Big Saltbrush, Atriplex lentiformis
  78. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  79. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  80. Ring-Necked Duck, Aythya collaris
  81. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
  82. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  83. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
  84. Sandbar Willow, Salix exigua var. hindsiana
  85. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  86. Sheet Weaver Spiders, Family: Linyphiidae
  87. Shepherd’s-Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
  88. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
  89. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  90. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  91. Stork’s Bill, Broadleaf Filaree, Erodium botrys
  92. Striped Skunk, Mephitis mephitis [smelled; assume it’s this one]
  93. Swamp Smartweed, Persicara hydropiperoides
  94. Tall Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis
  95. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  96. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  97. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  98. Valley Oak, Quercus lobate
  99. Velvetleaf, Abutilon theophrasti
  100. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  101. White Cabbage Butterfly, Pieris rapae
  102. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  103. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  104. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi
  105. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis
  106. ?? Dragonfly
  107. ?? Gull
  108. ?? Small Blue Butterfly

We Walked for 5 Hours, 03-10-20

I got up around 5:45 this morning and headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my weekly volunteer trail walking gig.  It was clear and about 41° at the river, but warmed up to about 60° by the time we left.

I wanted to get there around 7:00 – forgetting that with the Stupid Time Change it would still be DARK when I got there.  My friend Roxanne and “The Other Mary” (Mary Messenger) showed up, too, and we all had to laugh about standing around in the dark until the sun came up.  What was cool, though, was the fact that the Worm Moon was still up, so we were able to get photos of that…and we could hear a Great Horned Owl hooting in a nearby tree (but it was too dark to see it).

The Worm Moon. It’s the first full moon in the month of March and coincides with the time when earthworms reappear after the winter months.

Once the sun came up a bit, we started walking in earnest and came across deer and turkeys right away.  Several of the turkeys were up in the trees, and we were able to get some silhouette shots of them with the few morning clouds painted by the rising sun behind them.

Later, Roxanne and I came across a small flock of the males following after a small flock of females.  (By that time The Other Mary had left; she’s still dealing with sciatica and couldn’t walk without pain anymore.) One of the female turkeys settled down in the grass, but presented her SIDE, not her back, to the males.  For a moment, I thought maybe she was injured or something, but no.  She eventually got up again and walked away when the males converged on her.  Wutta tease! 

Because it’s breeding season, all of the tom are looking fabulous in their iridescent copper and gold feathers and brightly colored faces.  We also saw a leucitic tom among them.  (Leucism is a condition in which there is partial loss of pigmentation in an animal—which causes white, pale, or patchy coloration of the skin, hair, feathers, scales or cuticle, but not the eyes.)  He had white edges on many of his feathers and a bright white bar across one wing.  I don’t know if that odd coloring if off-putting to the females, but the males kept trying to run him off so they must’ve considered him “competition”.

A leucistic Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia

Mama Red-Shouldered Hawk was up in her nest, and we saw several other hawks, including a Red-Tail along the trail.  One of the Red-Shouldered Hawks flew right down in front of us and landed on a tree stump, where it posed for a while.  The lighting kind of sucked, but we were still able to get some photos of him.

Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus

There were quite a few deer out today, mostly does and their yearlings, but we also found a small bachelor group of bucks, all of whom had just recently lost their antlers.  We could still see the swollen pedicles on the top of their heads.  We did come across one buck, though, who was still hanging onto his rack, an impressive 4-pointer.

We’re also starting to see the birds “fight” for nesting spots and doing some of their early courtship behavior. We spotted an Acorn Woodpecker checking out a nesting cavity in one of their granary trees. He got inside of it for a bit, but then came out to chase off some European Starlings and Tree Swallows who were also looking at the tree.  Starlings and Tree Swallows can’t excavate their own cavities, so they depend on the woodpeckers to do that for them. 

We watched one female Starling doing her courtship thing where she acted like a baby bird, flapping her wings and peeping loudly, to try to get the males to bring her something. I got a little video snippet of that behavior. It’s kind of funny because the females are SO LOUD when they’re doing that.

Among the other birds we saw today were Oak Titmice, Bewick’s and House Wrens, Bushtits, some Western Bluebirds and Turkey Vultures, among others.  We also got to see some Cottontail rabbits and a Jackrabbit along the trail.

Except for the invasive Periwnkle, there aren’t a lot of wildflowers blooming at the preserve yet. (The weird weather has them sooooo confused.) But we did find a couple of Blue Dicks and some Fringepod along the trail.  The warm weather made the Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies emerge a little earlier than usual and now they’re having trouble finding nectar to drink… 

I was happy, though, to see the bees in the “Bee Tree” again.  I thought they’d left, but now I think they were just hibernating.  Waiting for it to warm up again and for the flowers to start budding.  All of the oak trees in the preserve have their pollen-bearing catkins out right now, so the bees have something to collect until the flowers bloom.

We’re not seeing the galls of the Live Oak gall wasps yet, though, and that’s a little troubling.  We’re seeing a LOT of Two-Horned galls, though, which is unusual at the preserve.

At one tree, Roxanne and I stopped for several minutes and got loads of photos of the different lichen on it. We also saw tiny bundles of dried Witch’s Butter (jelly fungus)in among the lichen, and that was kind of surprising to see considering how dry it’s been lately.  I thought the jellies would be long-gone by now.            

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Roxanne and I actually walked for about FIVE HOURS (!); it was noon when we left the preserve.  I was really astonished that I’d lasted that long.  I think I was buoyed up by adrenaline; we kept finding one interesting thing after another to photograph. 

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
  3. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  4. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  5. Audubon’s Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  6. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  7. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  8. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  9. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  10. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  11. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  12. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
  13. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  14. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  15. Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  16. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  17. Cabbage White butterfly, Pieris rapae
  18. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  19. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  20. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  21. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  22. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  23. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  24. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  25. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  26. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  27. Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly, Phoebis sennae
  28. Coffeeberry, California Buckthorn, Frangula californica
  29. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  30. Common Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes
  31. Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus
  32. Common Stork’s-Bill, Red Stemmed Filaree, Erodium cicutarium
  33. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  34. Cranefly, Mosquito Hawk, Tipula dietziana
  35. Crown Whitefly, Aleuroplatus coronata [larvae]
  36. Cumberland Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia
  37. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  38. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  39. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  40. Farinose Cartilage Lichen,  Ramalina farinacea [like Oakmoss but very thin branches]
  41. Feral European Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  42. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  43. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  44. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  45. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  46. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  47. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  48. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  49. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  50. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  51. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous [heard lots]
  52. Live Oak Erineum Mite gall, Aceria mackiei [kind of looks like rust on the backside of the leaf]
  53. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [old]
  54. Lords and Ladies, Wild Arum, Arum maculatum
  55. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  56. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor [just the leaves right now, no flowers]
  57. Mistletoe, American Mistletoe, Big Leaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
  58. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  59. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  60. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard lots]
  61. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus [old]
  62. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  63. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
  64. Olive Tree, Olea europaea
  65. Periwinkle, Vinca major
  66. Pin-cushion Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona polycarpa
  67. Plum, Prunus cerasifera
  68. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  69. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  70. Purple Deadnettle, Lamium purpureum [a kind of henbit but with a purple tinge to some of the leaves]
  71. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  72. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  73. Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Bucculatrix albertiella [cocoons]
  74. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  75. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  76. Rusty Tussock Moth, Orgyia antiqua [cocoons]
  77. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen Polycauliona candelaria
  78. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  79. Soap Plant, Wavy Leafed Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  80. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  81. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha
  82. Stream Mayflies, Family: Heptageniidae [exuvia]
  83. Streambank Springbeauty, Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia parviflora
  84. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans
  85. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  86. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  87. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus dubiosus 
  88. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  89. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  90. Western Chorus Frog, Pseudacris triseriata [heard]
  91. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  92. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis [heard lots]
  93. Witches Butter, Tremella mesenterica
  94. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis

Mostly Mating Newts, 03-07-20

I got up around 5:30 this morning, got the dog pottied and fed, and then headed out to Auburn with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne Moger to look for newts. We’d been told by another one of my naturalist class graduates, Pam Hofsted, that California Newts had been found swimming and mating in the Shirland Canal by the China Bar Trail in the Auburn State Recreation Area, so we had to go see if we could find any.

It was about 46° at the Rec Area and rain was threatening but we thought the cooler weather and wet might make the newts more apt to come out.  It’s been too hot and too dry lately for them.

After a quick stop for coffee and a breakfast biscuit, we got to the Rec Area in about an hour and found the main gate. 

According to their website: “…In the heart of the gold country, the Auburn State Recreation Area (Auburn SRA) covers 40-miles of the North and Middle Forks of the American river. Once teeming with thousands of gold miners, the area is now a natural area offering a wide variety of recreation opportunities to over 900,000 visitors a year… Black tailed deer and rabbits can be seen during the daylight hours, while raccoons, opossums, gray foxes and coyotes rule the night. Black bears, rattlesnakes, mountain lions and bobcats live in the park. The riparian habitat host California quail and canyon wrens. Red tailed hawks and bald eagles soar overhead, seeking their next meal… Auburn State Recreation Area Auburn Dam via Shirland Canal and Cardiac Bypass Trail is a 5 mile moderately trafficked loop trail that features a river and is rated as moderate. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash…”

We arrived there around 7:00 am but found that the main gate didn’t open until 8:00… but then were confused by the fact that there was a sign on the gate stating that there was supposed to a runners’ race there from 6:00 am until 9:00 am.  How could the runners get in if the gates were locked? Weird.

Right next to the gate was a small parking lot, a water fountain, payment kiosk (there’s a $10 fee for parking), and porta-potty. While I made use of the facility, Roxanne studied the lichen on the nearby boulders and paid the day-use fee. 

Then we both did a little bit more lichen hunting and looking for galls on the nearby coyote brush (and found a few). We decided that since the gate was still closed, we’d try walking down to the trailhead we wanted, but after walking just a few yards, my body needed to get back to the porta-potty (Bad breakfast sandwich, I think. *sigh*), so I headed back there and told Roxanne to look for “cool stuff” while I was ocupado. TMI, I know.

Common Gold Cobblestone Lichen, Pleopsidium flavum [bright yellow]; Scattered Button Lichen, Buellia dispersa [gray/off white on rocks with black spots] and some Sidewalk Firedot Lichen, Xanthocarpia feracissima [bright orange, on rocks]

While I was in the porta-potty, I could hear someone drive up, and heard Roxanne talking to whoever the driver was. It was one of the park maintenance crew, and he opened the gate for us.  Woot!  Once we got back into the car and started driving in, we were sooooo happy that the gate had been opened. The drive to the trailheads was downhill and relatively long.  If we had tried to walk it, I would have been exhausted by the trip down and probably not too able to make the walk back up to the parking lot. So, that was Nice Happenstance #1 today.

Roxanne below the cut rock-face at the river side,

I had forgotten to bring the map with the trails on it, d’oh!, so we followed the maintenance truck – which led us down to the river, below the trailhead we were actually looking for. Along the way we spotted a few wildflowers making their debut including some Bush Monkeyflower, Filddlenecks and some sort of Paintbrush.  ((We’d seen a few Lupin along the highway on the way into Auburn, but nothing around the trails.)) We took a few photos and headed back up the road, turning in to the little parking lot where the Cardiac Bypass Trail was.  Yes, that’s really its name. Hah!

There was a woman (with her two UNLEASHED dogs) setting up a table for the runners there, and we did eventually see maybe 20 of the runners as they passed through. While we were there we checked out the lichen on the trees, and found what we thought might have been some kind of dodder (red-orange thread stuff) on an old Cottonwood Tree. 

At first we thought this might be some kind of dodder… but it might also be Golden Hair-Lichen, Teloschistes flavicans. Need to do more research.

There was also a lot of Buckbrush in bloom there, and the pine trees were all doing their “male thing” sending out pollen all over everything. 

Pollen coming off the pine trees.

We were also a little surprised to see rust fungus, similar to what we found elsewhere on Coyote Brush, emerging from galls on some of the pines.  We’re assuming it’s from the same genus but a different species.

After a short while, we looked down the cliffside at the trail and figured it wasn’t one I’d be able to navigate at all – and it didn’t show any signs of hooking up with the canal anywhere, so we decided to nix that and go looking again for the China Bar trailhead. As we were loitering around, though, we met an older gentleman named Richard who was also deciding against taking the Cardiac Bypass Trail.  He said he knew where the canal was and offered to lead us there with his car.  So nice!  So, we followed him over to that trailhead and thanked him profusely for his help. That was Nice Happenstance #2.

The Shirland Canal by the China Bar Trail

The Shirland Canal was right off a little parking lot and we were finally able to start walking the trail there.  We came across another gentleman who was walking his elderly dog back to his car, and he asked us if we were looking for the newts. We told him, yes, and he said, “They’re here! I saw some balls of them.  Look for them in the more still shallow parts of the canal.” That was Nice Happenstance #3.

As we walked along, I was so focused on the water in the canal to my right that I’m sure I missed a lot of stuff along the left-hand side of the trail. I DID note the Golden Dwarf Mistletoe, Western Buttercups, a few Blue Dicks, and Turkey Tail Fungus, though.

Golden Dwarf Mistletoe, Western Dwarf Mistletoe, Arceuthobium campylopodum

The canal didn’t disappoint, and Roxanne and I counted 10 newts, some of them single, some in pairs, and some in en masse in a mating ball of four.  Because they were in the water it was hard to get any close-ups of their faces, but I was still pretty satisfied with the photos and video clips I was able to get.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Mating ball of newts.

Rant: I WASN’T pleased when someone let their UNLEASHED dog jump into the canal, lay down and splash around in there right next to where the newts were. Unleashed dogs in wildlife areas is a pet peeve of mine – and I was especially upset by the fact that the humans made no effort whatsoever to clean up after their pets on the trail even though the Rec Area provided free doggie-dooley bags at the head of each trail.  There was dog crap EVERYWHERE. Guh!

I WASN’T pleased when someone let their UNLEASHED dog jump into the canal, lay down and splash around in there right next to where the newts were.

Anyway, we walked the trail until we came to a “slide” area where the canal started its downhill tilt.  I felt it was unsafe (for me), and figured the water would be running too fast for the newts to be settling in, so we turned around and headed back to the car.  Nice Happenstance #4 was that throughout our excursion the rain had held itself off, and didn’t start until just before we got back to the parking lot.

I figured we walked about 4 hours all together, but I still felt pretty good and energized because of the adrenaline rush I got from seeing the newts.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Bark Rim Lichen, Lecanora chlarotera
  3. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  4. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
  5. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
  6. Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  7. Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons
  8. Bush Monkeyflower, Diplacus aurantiacus
  9. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  10. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis [flight overhead]
  11. Chinese Praying Mantis, Tenodera sinensis [ootheca]
  12. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  13. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
  14. Common Gold Cobblestone Lichen, Pleopsidium flavum [bright yellow]
  15. Common Mustard, Brassica rapa
  16. Common Vetch, Vicia sativa
  17. Common Water Strider, Aquarius remigis
  18. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  19. Coyote Brush Rust, Puccinia evadens
  20. Coyote Brush Stem Gall moth, Gnorimoschema baccharisella
  21. Cumberland Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia
  22. Dark-Eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis
  23. False Turkey Tail fungus, Hairy Curtain Crust, Stereum hirsutum
  24. Giraffe’s Head Henbit, Henbit Deadnettle, Lamium amplexicaule
  25. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  26. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  27. Golden Dwarf Mistletoe, Western Dwarf Mistletoe, Arceuthobium campylopodum
  28. Golden Hair-Lichen, Teloschistes flavicans
  29. Gray Pine, California Foothill Pine, Pinus sabiniana
  30. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  31. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  32. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  33. Ink Lichen, Placynthium nigrum [pitch black, fine grained]
  34. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  35. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  36. Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
  37. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous [heard at river]
  38. Mazegill Fungus, Daedalea quercina
  39. Mistletoe, American Mistletoe, Big Leaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
  40. Mud-dauber Wasps and Allies, Subfamily: Sceliphrinae
  41. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  42. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  43. Oleander, Nerium oleander
  44. Pin-cushion Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona polycarpa
  45. Pine-Pine Gall Rust, Endocronartium harknessii
  46. Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa
  47. Popcorn Flowers, Plagiobothrys sp.
  48. Purple Sanicle, Sanicula bipinnatifida
  49. Pyracantha, Pyracantha coccinea
  50. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  51. Rock Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia conspersa
  52. Rock Tripe, Emery Rock Tripe, Umbilicaria phaea
  53. Scattered Button Lichen, Buellia dispersa [gray/off white on rocks with black spots]
  54. Shepherd’s Purse, Capsella bursa-pastori
  55. Short-lobed Paintbrush, Castilleja brevilobata
  56. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen Polycauliona candelaria
  57. Sidewalk Firedot Lichen, Xanthocarpia feracissima  [bright orange, on rocks]
  58. Sierra Newt, Taricha sierrae
  59. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  60. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha
  61. Streambank Springbeauty, Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia parviflora
  62. Tile Lichen, Lecidea tessellata
  63. Toothed Crust Fungus, Basidioradulum sp.
  64. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  65. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  66. Western Buttercup, Ranunculus occidentalis
  67. Western Chorus Frog, Pseudacris triseriata
  68. White Leaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida ssp. viscida
  69. Whitewash Lichen, Phlyctis argena
  70. Willow Pinecone Gall midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides