Category Archives: Citizen Science

Lots of Oaks and Some VERY UGly Babies, 09-10-19

I’ve been reading the book “Oaks of California” by Bruce M. Pavlik et al, and in it they mentioned that a good place to find a variety of oak trees was the Peter J. Shields Oak Grove in the Davis Arboretum.  I’d never been there before, but my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne kind of knew where it was, so she handled the driving and I did the navigation piece. 

I really despise driving in Davis. I don’t know who, if anyone, designed that place, but it’s a fricking mess.  A maze of too-narrow roadways, unmarked streets, streets in loops (so you pass the same street name about three times), traffic circles, no places to park, delivery trucks and buses that clog the right of way, and bicyclists who refuse to obey the rules of the road.  Hate it, hate it, hate it.  We weren’t on any specific time constraint, though, so Roxanne was patient with the mess and got us to our destination.

Thankfully, the oak grove was worth getting too.  At the entrance there’s a hug wall of mosaic piece showing a variety of different species of flowers, plants, trees, insects and birds… and some of the donors’ beloved pets. (On tile had a Corgi on it. Hah!) There were similar mosaic art pieces up along all of the outer walls of the restroom facility, and several markers and benches throughout the grove. 

Roxanne taking in the artist energy of the courtyard mosaic wall at the entrance to the grove.

The grove itself was an easy, leisurely walk through adult,, well-maintained trees, some of which were 30 to 60 feet tall.  As soon as we got out of the car, we were greeted by stands of Valley Oaks, and checked them out for galls.  I was actually kind of hoping to find a Black Oak and Engelmann Oak in the grove to see if they had any galls on them that we hadn’t seen before… but we somehow missed those trees among the forest. 

We DID see a LOT of different oaks, however, from all over the world.  So many, if fact, that after a couple of hours my brain couldn’t hold anymore information, and they all started to look the same.  There was also a stand of hybrid trees that made Roxanne and I wonder if the University had done the interbreeding itself to study how the trees fared.  Along with the Valley Oak, I counted about 38 different species (including the hybrids). Wow.  And these were just the ones I’d gotten photos of:

  • Anatolian Oak Hybrid, Quercus petraea ssp. iberica x Quercus robur [Sessile Oak x Cypress Oak]
  • Boissier Oak, Aleppo oak, Quercus infectoria ssp. venens
  • Brandegee Oak, Quercus brandegeei
  • Bur Oak, Quercus macrocarpa
  • California Scrub Oak, Quercus berberidifolia
  • Camay Oak, Quercus obtusata
  • Chinkapin Oak, Quercus muehlenbergii
  • Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  • Cork Oak, Quercus suber
  • Cozahautl Oak, Quercus mexicana
  • Cypress Oak f. fasigiata, Quercus robur
  • Downy Oak, Quercus pubescens
  • Durand Oak, Bastard Oak, Quercus sinuate
  • Encino Blanco, Quercus candicans [This one has a natural resistance to honey fungus]
  • Encino de Chalma Oak, Quercus diversifolia
  • Encino Hojarasco, Quercus crassifolia
  • Encino Tesmolillo Oak, Quercus crassipes
  • English Oak, Quercus rober
  • Gambel Oak, Quercus gambelii
  • Gregg Oak, Quercus greggii
  • Holly Oak, Holm Oak, Quercus ilex [This is the one under which truffles usually grow]
  • Hybrid Oak: Quercus gambelii x Quercus mongolica [Gambel Oak x Mongolia Oak]
  • Hybrid Oak: Quercus gambelii x Quercus sp. [Gambel Oak x Unidentified white oak]
  • Hybrid Oak: Quercus macrocarpa x Quercus gambelii [Bur Oak x Gambel Oak]
  • Hybrid Oak: Quercus macrocarpa x Quercus lobata [Bur Oak x Valley Oak]
  • Hybrid Oak: Quercus robur x Quercus macrocarpa [Cypress Oak x Bur Oak]
  • Hybrid Oak: Quercus turbinella x Quercus virginiana [Turbinella Oak x Southern Live Oak]
  • Island Oak, Quercus tomentella
  • Japanese Live Oak, Bamboo-Leaf Oak, Quercus myrsinifolia
  • Macedonia Oak, Quercus trojana
  • Oak of Tabor, Quercus ithaburensis
  • Oracle Oak, Quercus x morehus
  • Persian Oak Hybrid, Quercus castanelfolia x Quercus cerris [Chestnut-Leaved Oak x Turkish Oak]
  • Sand Post Oak, Dwarf Sand Post, Quercus margarettea
  • Southern Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia var. oxyadenia
  • Turkish Oak, Quercus cerris
  • Ubamegashi Oak, Quercus phillyreoides
  • White Oak, Quercus alba

CLICK HERE for the album of oak trees.
CLICK HERE for the album of other photos from today.
CLICK HERE for a video of one of the mosaic benches in the grove.

On the backside of the leaves of one of the non-native oaks, along the midline, we found some small dust-bunny like galls growing.  They were fuzzy, like Yellow Wig galls, but with shorter hairs, a more rounded body, and a paler blond color.  I believe it was on the Brandegee Oak, Quercus brandegeei, and think it might be the gall of the Woolly Leaf Gall wasp, Andricus quercuslanigera.  They form on white oaks in California, and even though the Brandegee isn’t a native here, it IS in the white oak lineage.  There was also the Woolly Oak Gall, Callirhytis lanata, but it’s usually found on red oaks on the east coast…  So, I’m going with Andricus quercuslanigera.

Galls of the Woolly Leaf Gall wasp, Andricus quercuslanigera

We also came across another great example of “fasciation” on a Silver Texas Mountain Laurel shrub, Sophora secundiflora.  Some of the flowering panicles had merged together to form these interesting-looking curling “paddles”. 

Fasciation of the inflorescence of a Silver Texas Mountain Laurel shrub, Sophora secundiflora

The shrub has long clusters of bluish-purple flowers (almost like wisteria).  Some sources say they smell like grape Kool-Aid.  They were also showing off a lot of their woody seed pods that rattle like castanets (and are filled with red, glossy poisonous seeds).  It’s not native to California but grows here, although it’s generally a slow grower. Very neat plant.

Another non-oak standout was a small grouping of Red Spider Lilies, Lycoris radiata.  They look just like their name describes – large bright reddish-orange spiders on stalks. 

And we found a passionflower vine that had fruit on it.  I’d seen them with flowers before, but never with fruit, so that was a first for me.

About a month or so ago I was jazzed about finding and identifying a beetle I hadn’t seen before, the Three-lined Potato Beetle, Lema daturaphila. I thought it had such lovely markings… Today, I found them again on the flowers and leaves of several Jimson Weed plants, some of them singles, but lots of others in pairs doing their bug-porn thing. The males are smaller than the females, so they really have to stretch to make a connection. But… then I saw the babies. They were totally decimating every part of the plant they could get their baby teeth on… and… Eeeeew! Seriously?! Those little guys are disgusting! They’re slimy and look like little slugs with feet, and they apparently have an apparatus on their back that allows them to poop all over themselves to disguise their fat larva-bodies from predators. Nature is cool and totally gross sometimes. Hah!

Larvae of the Three-lined Potato Beetle, Lema daturaphila, covering themselves with their own feces. Seriously. They poop on themselves.

I noticed on some of the trees that their plastic identification cards were mounted on wire strings or spring-mounts that would allow the tree to grow while still keeping the card where it needed to be.  On one tree, though, we saw that the tree had actually overgrown the card and a new car had to be mounted elsewhere on it.

We walked for about 3½ hours and then headed out again. On our way out, we caught sight of a Monarch butterfly flitting across the grass.  She wouldn’t stand still long enough for us to get any good photos of her, but I did get a distant one of her when she landed briefly on a Jimson Weed flower.

Species List:

  1. Afghan Redbud, Cercis griffithii
  2. Anatolian Oak Hybrid, Quercus petraea ssp. iberica x Quercus robur [Sessile Oak x Cypress Oak]
  3. Aster, European Michaelmas-Daisy, “Purple Dome”, Aster amellus
  4. Autumn Sage, Salvia greggii
  5. Boissier Oak, Quercus infectoria ssp. venens
  6. Brandegee Oak, Quercus brandegeei
  7. Bur Oak, Quercus macrocarpa
  8. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  9. California Scrub Oak, Quercus berberidifolia
  10. Cascade Creek California Goldenrod, Solidago californica
  11. Camay Oak, Quercus obtusata
  12. Chilean Lily-of-the-Valley Tree, Crinodendron patagua
  13. Chinkapin Oak, Quercus muehlenbergii
  14. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  15. Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
  16. Cork Oak, Quercus suber
  17. Cozahautl Oak, Quercus mexicana
  18. Crepe Myrtle Hybrid, Lagerstroemia hybrid
  19. Cypress Oak f. fasigiata, Quercus robur
  20. Cyprus Cyclamen, Cyclamen cyprium
  21. Downy Oak, Quercus pubescens
  22. Durand Oak, Bastard Oak, Quercus sinuate
  23. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  24. Eastern Prickly Pear, Oputia compressa
  25. Encino blanco, Quercus candicans
  26. Encino de Chalma Oak, Quercus diversifolia
  27. Encino hojarasco, Quercus, crassifolia
  28. Encino Tesmolillo Oak, Quercus crassipes
  29. English Oak, Quercus rober
  30. Gambel Oak, Quercus gambelii
  31. Gregg Oak, Quercus greggii
  32. Holly Oak, Holm Oak, Quercus ilex
  33. Hybrid Oak: Quercus gambelii x Quercus mongolica [Gambel Oak x Mongolia Oak]
  34. Hybrid Oak: Quercus gambelii x Quercus sp. [Gambel Oak x Unidentified white oak]
  35. Hybrid Oak: Quercus macrocarpa x Quercus gambelii [Bur Oak x Gambel Oak]
  36. Hybrid Oak: Quercus macrocarpa x Quercus lobata [Bur Oak x Valley Oak]
  37. Hybrid Oak: Quercus robur x Quercus macrocarpa [Cypress Oak x Bur Oak]
  38. Hybrid Oak: Quercus turbinella x Quercus virginiana [Turbinella Oak x Southern Live Oak]
  39. Indian Blanket Flower, Gaillardia pulchella
  40. Irregular Spindle Gall Wasp, Andricus chrysolepidicola
  41. Island Oak, Quercus tomentella
  42. Japanese Live Oak, Bamboo-Leaf Oak, Quercus myrsinifolia
  43. Jimson Weed, Datura stramonium
  44. Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  45. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
  46. Macedonia Oak, Quercus trojana
  47. Monarch Butterfly, Danaus plexippus
  48. Naked Lady Lily, Amaryllis Belladonna
  49. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  50. Oak of Tabor, Quercus ithaburensis
  51. Oracle Oak, Quercus x morehus
  52. Passionflower ‘Betty Myles Young’, Passiflora hybrid (flower and fruit)
  53. Persian Oak Hybrid, Quercus castanelfolia x Quercus cerris [Chestnut-Leaved Oak x Turkish Oak]
  54. Pleated Ink Cap Mushroom, Parasola plicatilis
  55. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  56. Purple Sage, Silverleaf, Cenzio, Leucophyllum frutescens
  57. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  58. Red Coral Fountain, “St. Elmo’s Fire”, Russelia equisetiformis
  59. Red Spider Lily, Lycoris radiata
  60. Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Bucculatrix albertiella
  61. Sand Post Oak, Dwarf Sand Post, Quercus margarettea
  62. Silver Texas Mountain Laurel, Sophora secundiflora [fasciation]
  63. Southern Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia var. oxyadenia
  64. Three-lined Potato Beetle, Lema daturaphila
  65. Turkish Oak, Quercus cerris
  66. Ubamegashi Oak, Quercus phillyreoides
  67. Valley Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa varipuncta
  68. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  69. Variegated Agave, Agave americana
  70. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  71. Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis
  72. White Crepe Myrtle, Natchez Crepe Myrtle, Lagerstroemia x ‘Natchez’
  73. White Oak, Quercus alba
  74. Winter Daffodil, Sternbergia lutea
  75. Woolly Leaf Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuslanigera
  76. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi

Some New Finds and Cooperative Critters Today, 09-06-19

It was a lovely 59º when I got to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve around 6:30 am , and I walked for about 4 hours.  It was 76º outside when I headed back home.

The first thing I saw when I drove into the parking lot was a very healthy-looking coyote.  I felt that was an auspicious start to the day.  Saw a little bit of everything from galls to dragonflies to deer, so I felt it was a “successful” walk

I had a California Ground Squirrel walk right up to me with a nut in her mouth, like she was offering it to me. As long as I stood perfectly still she was fine, but the minute I shifted my foot, she pivoted to her left, ran down the trail with her tail up in the air and ducked into a pile of brush. A few minutes later, I could hear her coming up in the grass behind me. I turned around and — she ran down the trail with her tail up in the air and ducked into a pile of brush. Hah! I just love these little guys.

California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi

I always tell my students, when you’re out in nature look for the anomalous stuff:  colors that don’t match, shapes that seem different from what’s around them, shadows that look darker than the other shadows… Well, when I was leaving the preserve, I saw an anomalous lump on the back of a sunflower, so I went over to the flower to check it out.  It was a large praying mantis – who caught my finger in one of her spined elbows and clenched hard enough to break the skin and make me bleed.  Ouchie! (It was my own fault for picking her up.)

On the leaf of an oak tree, I also found a teneral Common Green Lacewing with a spider attached to it.  The lacewing had just molted and wasn’t colored-up yet.  It kept trying to walk away and fly, but the spider was holding onto one of its wings so it couldn’t get anywhere.  Very National Geographic.

I also came across a small group of female Rio Grande Wild Turkeys, and one of them had with growths on her head and face like the “Collector” skeksis from “The Dark Crystal” (who had oozing pustules all over her face).  Kinda gross.  [[Oh, and speaking of “The Dark Crystal” I was surprised to find that Simon Pegg was the voice of The Chamberlain in the new series.  Hah!]]

But back to the turkey: lesions like that can be indicators of Avian Pox or Lymphoproliferative Disease (a kind of cancer in turkeys), so I passed some photos of her on to the crew that works at the preserve so they were aware of her and could check her out (if they can find her again). Might be nothing, but you never know.

A female Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia , with lesions on her head and snood.

Whenever you see a wild animals with injuries or odd growths on it or some kind of deformity, let the folks who oversee the area know and give them as much info as you can. This is part of the whole “community science” effort; providing professionals with the information they need.

I kind of figure that “dispatching” might be the first go-to response by some rangers, which is sad, but I understand it. You don’t want the animal to suffer and you don’t want it communicating disease to others (if it has anything creepy). Some places, like the Effie Yeaw Preserve, though, work with other biologists to get more information and plan for more options… but they can’t do anything if no one brings the affected animal(s) to their attention.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I saw some deer on my walk, too, but no babies.  Just does and some boys in their velvet.  All of them were pretty well hidden, too, behind snags and tall grass or in the shadows.  Made picture-taking difficult.

Oh, and one more thing… I used the clip-on macro lens on my cell phone to get some snaps of what I first might be a Crown Whitefly nymph on the leaf of a Showy Milkweed plant.  As I looked at it more, though, I realized it had distinctive legs and a yellow-orange head under all of the exuded white waxy filaments on its body, so I did some more research on it and found that it most likely the larva of a Mealybug Destroyer, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri.  These “Crypts” are related to ladybeetles but they’re much smaller in size. The adult Destroyers have a round black body (like a ladybeetle-shape), a reddish-orange face and pronotum, and black eyes.  Very cool. 

The larva of a Mealybug Destroyer, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri

As I mentioned, I walked for about 4 hours and then headed back home.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus [tadpoles]
  3. Assassin Bug, Zelus luridus
  4. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Black Walnut Erineum Mite galls, Eriophyes erinea
  7. Black Walnut Tree, Juglans nigra
  8. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  9. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  10. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  11. California Funnel Web Spider, False Tarantula, Calisoga longitarsis
  12. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  13. California King Snake, Lampropeltis getula californiae
  14. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  15. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  16. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  17. California Wild Grape, i
  18. Chinese Praying Mantis, Tenodera sinensis, female
  19. Clustered Gall Wasp, Andricus brunneus
  20. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  21. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea
  22. Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus
  23. Coyote, Canis latrans
  24. Crystalline Gall Wasp, Andricus crystallinus
  25. Disc Gall Wasp, Andricus parmula
  26. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  27. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  28. Fiery Skipper, Hylephila phyleus
  29. Fig, Common Fig, Ficus carica
  30. Gopher Snake, Pacific Gopher Snake, Pituophis catenifer catenifer
  31. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  32. Green Darner Dragonfly, Anax junius
  33. Hair Stalk Gall Wasp, Dros pedicellatum
  34. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  35. Jimson Weed, Datura stramonium
  36. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  37. Long-Jawed Orb Weaver, Tetragnatha sp.
  38. Mealybug Destroyer, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri
  39. Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, Crotalus oreganus oreganus
  40. Northern Saw-Whet Owl, Sophia, Aegolius acadicus
  41. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  42. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  43. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  44. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii
  45. Pacific Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  46. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marmorata
  47. Plate Gall Wasp, Liodora pattersonae
  48. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  49. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  50. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  51. Saucer Gall Wasp, Andricus gigas, 1st Generation, unisexual
  52. Saucer Gall Wasp, Andricus gigas, 2nd Generation, bisexual
  53. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa
  54. Tarnished Plant Bug, Lygus lineolaris
  55. Trashline Orb Weaver Spider, Cyclosa conica
  56. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  57. Urchin Gall Wasp, Antron quercusechinus
  58. Variable Flatsedge, Cyperus difformis
  59. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  60. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  61. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  62. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensisAphis neriiAcorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus

Burrowing Owls and River Otters, 08-06-19

I went out with my friend and fellow-naturalist Roxanne Moger to Lake Solano Park to look for galls today.

 Roxanne came to the house and picked me up around 6:30 and we headed toward Winters by way of Davis. Along the way, Roxanne showed me where some Burrowing Owls burrows were.  We weren’t sure if we’d see any owls, but I appreciated her showing me where the burrows were.  As luck would have it, we got to see several owls, including a baby who came up out of its burrow next to its parent!  Soooo cute!  I was surprised by how close to the side of the road the burrows were, and worried about cars pulling off the hard pavement into the dirt to take photos of the owls. 

A fledgling Burrowing Owl emerges from the burrow. Hear us squee!

Roxanne had done some volunteer work with Catherine Portman of the local Burrowing Owls Protection Society (BOPS) and learned that when Catherine approached one of property owners along the road to let them know where the owls were, that property owner actually MOVED HIS DRIVEWAY to accommodate the owls and then set up signs along the road telling people to slow down and watch out for the owls.  How great was that!?  Give that man a star and a cookie!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos of the owls

 After we got quite a few photos of the owls, we continued on toward Winters.  Along the highway, there was an open field that looked like it had just been mowed, hay bales were piled up along the back of it. But what was most interesting was the fact that the field was full of Swainson’s and Red-Tailed Hawks.  I think we counted about 20 of them (!) all sitting on the ground.  We think they were gobbling up the grasshoppers the hay-baling process had uncovered.  We couldn’t stop because there were too many car behind us, but it was really neat to see.

When we finally got to Winters we were still a little too early to get into Lake Solano Park (the gates don’t open until 8:00 am), so we stopped at the Putah Creek Café for some breakfast: coffee, eggs, sausage, and biscuits and gravy.  It was very yummy, but way too much for me to eat.  I finished off the eggs and biscuits but didn’t get through the two sausage patties.  (I think they make their own sausages.)

Breakfast at the Putah Creek Cafe. Waaaaayyyy too much food, but VERY yummy.

After breakfast, we headed to the park and got there around 8:30 am.  The Other Mary (Mary Messenger), a volunteer trail-walker at the Effie Yeaw Preserve, showed up a few minutes after we arrived, and she was feeling a bit flustered.  She hadn’t been able to find Pleasants Valley Road and got turned around, and was about ready to quit and head home, when she finally found the place. Phew!  When she realized she was only a few minutes behind us, she felt a little better.       

It was in the 70’s when we arrived at the park and was up to 88° when we left. But it was VERY humid there, too, so we were dripping in sweat after just a few hours.  Lake Solano is made by a small dam on Putah Creek, and the water in the lake was like glass today: totally smooth and highly reflective.

The surface of the lake was like glass.

There were several peacocks and peahens walking around, including some moms with their babies (from tiny ones to nearly fledged ones). The poults are so funny-looking with their tiny “crowns” sticking out of their heads. All of the babies were making little squeaking noises as they walked along, and their moms kept up a quiet banter of clucks with them.  At one point, we could hear several poults crying from an overgrown area, and one of the peahens started clucking loudly and went in after them. She was finally able to wrangle three babies out onto the lawn again.  For a moment, Roxanne was standing perfectly still, and some of the poults gathered right in front her near her feet.  Awwwww!

As handsome as the males were in their bright blue suits, none of them had their tail feathers in, so no one was displaying.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos from the park.

We saw quite a few Canada Geese on shore, in the water and flying overhead. But we also saw what I believe were Cackling Geese.  The Cackling Geese look like Canada Geese but they’re much smaller.

We also saw a lot of different butterflies, but I was only able to get photos of one of them, the Common Buckeye, because the others were on the wing.  We saw California Pipevine Swallowtails, Western Tiger Swallowtails, Cabbage Whites, a few Cloudless Sulphurs and a Lorquin’s Admiral.

One of the Buckeyes I got some photos of was “mud-puddling”, a behavior in which the butterfly (usually a male) will lite on wet ground or along the edge of a puddle and suck at the earth. According to EarthTouch: “…[They’re looking] primarily for salts. The salts and amino acids absorbed during mud-puddling play various roles in butterfly ecology, ethology and physiology. Males seem to benefit more from the sodium uptake as it aids in reproductive success, with the precious nutrients often transferred to the female during mating. This extra nutrition helps ensure that the eggs survive…”  Some butterflies will also drink from rotting animals, blood, tears and over-ripe fruit.

Another kind of funny incident with an insect today was trying to get photos of the mouthpiece and chin of an Assassin Bug as it scurried from the front of a leaf to the back, back and forth, and back and forth over and over again.  Finally, it got pissed off at us and flew onto Roxanne’s pack, then flew off onto the ground.  Hah!  We were trying to get a clear photo of the bug’s sharp dagger-like proboscis that it uses to stab prey and suck out their insides.

And we had fun trying to get photos of the dragonflies and damselflies around the little fishing pond.  Saw Widow Skimmers, Flame Skimmers, Variegated Meadowhawks, Blue Dashers, what I think was some Black Saddlebags in wheel (flying), some Western Pondhawks (including a female laying her eggs on the water), a Familiar Bluet damselfly and a Pacific Forktail damselfly. Phew!  What was funny was watching the young Bullfrogs trying to leap out of the pond to grab the dragonflies as they zoomed by.

The biggest surprise of the day, though, was seeing otters in the lake.  Just before we saw them, I “tossed a notion” (literally throwing an invisible ball) out to the Universe asing it to show us an otter… and a few minutes later, there it was!  There were two more otters further downstream.  They were all far enough away and deep in the water that it made photographing them difficult. My camera can’t decide whether to focus on the WATER or the THING in the water and slips back and forth between the two.  I have to remember, now, to do an Otter Spotter report!

We walked for a couple of hours and then decided it was getting way too warm for us, so we headed back home.  Along the highway, both Roxanne and I were kind of surprised by the amount of invasive Arundo (Giant Reed) there was along the culverts next to the farmland and orchards.  I hadn’t noticed that before…

We stopped at Starbucks and got some iced tea to cool us off during the ride back to Sacramento.  It was a hot and exhausting day, but super fun, too!

 Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus
3. Arundo, Giant Reed, Arundo donax
4. Assassin Bug, Zelus luridus (green)
5. Ball-tipped Gall Wasp, Xanthoteras teres
6. Birds-Foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus
7. Black Saddlebags Dragonfly, Tramea lacerate
8. Black Walnut Erineum Mite galls, Eriophyes erinea
9. Black Walnut Tree, Juglans nigra
10. Blue Dasher Dragonfly, Pachydiplax longipennis
11. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
12. Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
13. Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
14. Bull Thistle, Cirsium vulgare
15. Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia
16. Cabbage White Butterfly, Pieris rapae
17. Cackling Goose, Branta hutchinsii
18. California Buckeye Chestnut, Aesculus californica
19. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
20. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
21. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
22. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
23. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
24. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
25. Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
26. Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly, Phoebis sennae
27. Common Buckeye Butterfly, Junonia coenia
28. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea (“Lion” nymph)
29. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
30. Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
31. Cottonwood, Fremont Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
32. English Plantain, Ribwort, Plantago lanceolata
33. English Walnut, Juglans regia
34. Familiar Bluet Damselfly, Enallagma civile
35. Flame Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula saturate
36. Gray Pine, California Foothill Pine, Pinus sabiniana
37. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
38. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
39. Indian Peafowl, Pavo cristatus
40. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
41. Jumping Oak Galls, Neuroterus saltatorius
42. Jumping Spider, Phidippus sp.
43. Leaf Gall Wasp, Unidentified
44. Lorquin’s Admiral Butterfly, Limenitis lorquini
45. Minnow, Phoxinus phoxinus
46. Mistletoe, American Mistletoe, Big Leaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
47. Northern Leopard Frog, Lithobates pipiens
48. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
49. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
50. Pacific Forktail Damselfly, Ischnura cervula (immature gynomorphic female)
51. Pacific Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
52. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
53. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
54. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
55. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
56. Rust Fungus on Boxelder, Puccinia sp.
57. Spiny Turban Gall Wasp, Antron douglasii
58. Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni
59. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
60. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
61. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
62. Variable Flatsedge, Cyperus difformis,
63. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
64. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
65. Western Pondhawk, Erythemis collocata
66. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
67. Western Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly, Papilio rutulus
68. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
69. Widow Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula luctuosa
70. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi