Category Archives: City Nature Challenge

City Nature Challenge, Day 4, 05-02-22

It’s the City Nature Challenge Day #4.  Roxanne and I went to the Yolo Bypass and then to the water treatment plant in Woodland [the Ibis Rookery]to look for more species observations to add to our list.

We were overjoyed to see several Yellow-Headed Blackbirds in the high grass outside the entrance of the bypass. We’d gone to the bypass several times before to try to find them, and they eluded us. Today, we weren’t looking for them – and there they were. They were “lifer” birds for me; so exciting.

A few other cool bird sightings followed. We saw a Great Egret chowing down on what I think was a vole. Of course, the bird was behind a blind of high grass and mustard plants, so I couldn’t get my camera to focus properly on it. We also found a handful of Brown-Headed Cowbirds, males and females together. The males were doing their dominance “bowing” behavior for the females.

According to Cornell: “…Bow: feathers on back, chest raised, wings lifted and spread, tail spread and bowing forward, followed by Bill Wipe, always given with Song. Intensity varies greatly, from slight bow and feather ruffle to full elaborate bow ending with Bill Wipe. Intensity greater when directed to other males than to females; little or no bow given with song if no other cowbirds within 1–2 m (S. Rothstein pers. comm.). A group of males may together perform this ceremony. Male-male bowing displays associated with other agonistic displays…”

I chased a male American Goldfinch around, up and down the auto tour road, then gave up in frustration.  Later, I spotted it sitting high in a tree further down the road, and got a few long-distance photos of him.

We saw hardly any raptors on the drive, besides a Swainson’s Hawk sitting on the ground in a plowed field. I was hoping to see the Great Horned Owl’s babies, but it was chilly and windy outside, and she had them snuggled down in the nest under her. I’ll try going back later to see if I can get a shot of the owlets.

We were surprised to find a pond that was hosting a small group of Cinnamon Teals and Blue-Winged Teals. I seldom see the Blue-Winged ones, so it’s always a treat when we can find them.

We were also surprised by the huge swaths of Flatface Calicoflowers (downingia) that we could see from various vantage points along the auto tour route. Charlie Russell, one of our favorite botanists, had told us the flowers were there, but that was several weeks ago, so we thought they’d all be dried up and gone by now.

One of the really fun finds for me was a new-to-me gall on one of the Goodding’s Willow trees near a parking area along the route. It was listed in Russo as the gall Willow Bud Gall Mite, Aculops aenigma.  The mites cause the tree to create crenulated bunches of plant material on its leaves, catkins and stems. [They kind of look like ash flower galls to me.]

In that same area, I saw several damselflies: Tule Bluets and Pacific Forktails.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

We then headed over to the Ibis Rookery in Woodland. The pond was flooded, and there were no ibises there yet [they usually nest in the summer months.] It was hard to get close-ups of anyone because what birds there were, were mostly in the ponds and furthest from the edge of the driving route.  There were some of the usual suspects including  Canada Geese, Ruddy Ducks, and Black-Necked Stilts, but a big surprise for us was spotting a solitary Eared Grebe in full breeding plumage.

I’ve seen the grebe before in their dull, gray non-breeding plumage, but not in the breeding plumage which is spectacular. Cornell describes it as: “[having] a black head, neck, breast, and upperparts, cinnamon-brown sides and flanks, white belly, and head with black crest and bright golden ear tufts (elongated feathers extending distally from around rear eye); foreneck sometimes largely tinged brownish; crown feathers erectile, usually forming peaked profile, sometimes crest…”

On our way out of the area, in a drainage ditch on the side of the road, we were looking for turtles or maybe a Green Heron… but instead saw something moving slowly just under the surface of the water! We waited for it to show itself but it disappeared into the tight collection of plant life near the end of the ditch. Dang! We speculated that it might have been a mink, or a small muskrat or maybe a big-ass snake… but we didn’t see enough of it to know for sure. Very creepy.

We were out for about 6 hours. It was a very productive day.

Species List:

  1. Alkali Heliotrope, Heliotropium curassavicum
  2. American Coot, Fulica americana
  3. American Goldfinch, Spinus tristis
  4. Bee, European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  5. Bisnaga, Visnaga daucoides
  6. Black Mustard, Brassica nigra
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  9. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  10. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  11. Blue-Winged Teal, Spatula discors
  12. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  13. Broadleaved Pepperweed, Lepidium latifolium
  14. Brown-Headed Cowbird, Molothrus ater
  15. Bullfrog, American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus [tadpoles breathing]
  16. Cabbage White Butterfly, Pieris rapae
  17. California Bulrush, Schoenoplectus californicus
  18. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  19. Caterpillar Hunter Beetle, Calosoma cancellatum [like a Darkling with a sculpted carapace]
  20. Chamomile, Stinking Chamomile, Anthemis cotula
  21. Cheeseweed Mallow, Malva parviflora
  22. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  23. Clover, Bur Clover, Medicago polymorpha
  24. Common Spikeweed, Centromadia pungens
  25. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  26. Curly Dock, Rumex crispus
  27. Damselfly, Pacific Forktail, Ischnura cervula
  28. Damselfly, Tule Bluet, Enallagma carunculatum
  29. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii
  30. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  31. Downingia, Flatface Calicoflower, Downingia pulchella
  32. Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis
  33. Field Mustard, Brassica rapa
  34. Gadwall Duck, Mareca strepera
  35. Grasses, Lesser Canary Grass, Phalaris minor
  36. Grasses, Rabbitfoot Grass, Polypogon monspeliensis
  37. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  38. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  39. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  40. Grebe, Eared Grebe, Podiceps nigricollis
  41. Gumweed, Great Valley Gumweed, Grindelia camporum
  42. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  43. Jointed Charlock, Raphanus raphanistrum
  44. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  45. Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla
  46. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  47. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  48. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  49. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  50. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  51. Orange Sulphur Butterfly, Colias eurytheme
  52. Pigeon, Rock Pigeon, Columba livia
  53. Pineappleweed, Chamomilla suaveolens
  54. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
  55. Raven, Common Raven, Corvus corax
  56. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  57. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
  58. River Bulrush, Bolboschoenus fluviatilis
  59. Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
  60. Saltbush, Big Saltbush, Atriplex lentiformis
  61. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  62. Sow Thistle, Common Sow-Thistle, Sonchus oleraceus
  63. Sparrow, House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  64. Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  65. Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni
  66. Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
  67. Tamarisk, Saltcedar, Tamarix ramosissima
  68. Tick, American Dog Tick, Dermacentor variabilis
  69. Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis
  70. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  71. White Blister Rust Disease, Wilsoniana bliti [looks like white plaque on the leaves]
  72. White Sweetclover, Melilotus albus
  73. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi
  74. Willow Bud Gall Mite, Aculops aenigma [look like the ash mite galls]
  75. Willow, Goodding’s Willow, Salix gooddingii
  76. Wren, Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
  77. Yellow-Headed Blackbird, Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus

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City Nature Challenge, Day 3, 05-01-22

It’s the City Nature Challenge Day #3 and my friend Roxanne and I went over to the American River Bend Park with my dog Esteban to look for more species to add to our totals. Esteban walked the whole trail along with us and never complained or asked to be picked up and held. I was very proud of him. The weather was lovely: cool and breezy. It was so nice.

There were so-so many California Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars everywhere. We even found one that was just starting to go into it’s metamorphosis. CLICK HERE for an excellent video (not mine) about the butterfly’s life cycle.

At one spot, we noticed that a White-Breasted Nuthatch was whizzing back and forth with food for its babies, and followed it back to its nest: a hole at the end of a downed log in the grass. It’s usually really difficult to get clear photos of this species of bird because it’s small, moves a lot, and usually has its back to you. But at this particular nesting site, we were able to get quite a few face and full body photos of the birds.

There were a lot of tiny House Wrens singing from various trees all around us, but it took a while before we were able to find one that was within photographing range.

Roxanne had really wanted to see some of the Rough-Winged Swallows I saw the last time I was at the park, but they were being shy today. We finally did see a few in flight, and one landed on a tree nearby, so at least she was able to get pictures of that one.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

In the river, we saw a pair (male and female) of Common Mergansers. In this species, the males don’t look anything like the females (sexual dimorphism). According to Cornell: “…Adult sexes strongly dimorphic in size and plumage most of year. Male has iridescent, greenish-black head with rounded crest, brilliant white neck, underparts, and secondaries contrasting with black upperwings, gray back and tail, and long narrow scarlet-orange bill. Female plumage has rusty-brown head with long crest and distinct white chin patch, slaty-gray breast, back, wings and tail, white flanks and belly, and scarlet-orange bill; brown of head and upper neck sharply demarcated from white lower neck..” I’m looking forward to them having lots of red-headed ducklings.

A big surprise, for me, was seeing my first Townsend’s Warbler: a little yellow guy with thick black eyeliner. So cute.  This species is migrating through right now, and flies between because Alaska and Central America each year. The species hasn’t been studied very much, so most of the information on it is anecdotal.

Throughout the park, we found several different kinds of lichen, and also were able to find an identify a few species of grasses.

On our way out, we spotted a mama Wild Turkey with about four or five little poults. As soon as she realized we were trying to get photos of the babies, she hurried them into the long grass where they were all but invisible – except for the grass-tops moving over them.

We were out for about 3½  hours and then headed home. This was hike #23 in my #52Hike Challenge for the year.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Alder, White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  4. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens
  5. Bark Rim Lichen, Lecanora chlarotera [looks like Whitewash Lichen but has apothecia]
  6. Bee, Leafcutter Bee, Megachile sp.
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  9. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  10. Bur Parsley, Anthriscus caucalis
  11. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  12. California Black Walnut Pouch Gall Mite, Aceria brachytarsa
  13. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  14. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  15. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  16. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  17. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  18. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  19. Chinese Pistache, Pistacia chinensis
  20. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  21. Common European Greenbottle Fly, Lucilia sericata
  22. Common Greenshield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  23. Common Hover Fly Parasitoid Wasp, Diplazon laetatorius [colorful, yellow legs]
  24. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  25. Confusing Petrophila Moth, Petrophila confusalis [tiny, pale, striped]
  26. Cranefly, European Crane Fly, Tipula paludosa
  27. Creeping Woodsorrel, Oxalis corniculata
  28. Crust Fungus, Split Porecrust, Xylodon paradoxus
  29. Deerweed, Acmispon glaber
  30. Dove’s-Foot Crane’s-Bill, Geranium molle
  31. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger [rusty belly]
  32. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata [red line on leaves]
  33. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  34. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  35. Farinose Cartilage Lichen, Ramalina farinacea [like oakmoss but with very fine strands]
  36. Frosted Lichen, Physconia sp.
  37. Genista Broom Moth, Uresiphita reversalis
  38. Grasses, Bristly Dogtail Grass, Cynosurus echinatus
  39. Grasses, Common Barley, Hordeum vulgare
  40. Grasses, Flowering Oloptum, Oloptum sp.
  41. Grasses, Silver Hairgrass, Aira caryophyllea
  42. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  43. Hairypink, Pink Grass, Windmill Pink, Petrorhagia dubia
  44. Harvestman, Superfamily: Phalangioidea
  45. Humped Trashline Orbweaver Spider, Cyclosa turbinate
  46. Iris, Yellow Iris, Iris pseudacorus
  47. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus
  48. Jalisco Petrophila Moth, Petrophila jaliscalis [tiny, black dots long edge of hindwings]
  49. Ladybeetle, Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens
  50. Ladybeetle, Seven-Spotted Lady Beetle, Coccinella septempunctata
  51. Lauxaniid Fly, Family: Lauxaniidae [small, reddish, brown or black]
  52. Live Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Spring generation, Amphibolips quercuspomiformis [upside down volcano on the edge of the leaf, green or brown]
  53. Live Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Summer Generation, Amphibolips quercuspomiformis [spiky ball]
  54. Live Oak Folded Leaf Aphid, Stegophylla essigi [in live oaks, folds the leaf over itself; sometimes the leaf turns red/reddish]
  55. Lupine, Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  56. Lustrous Camouflage Lichen, Melanohalea exasperatula [brown, shiny]
  57. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  58. Mantis, Arizona Mantis, Stagmomantis limbata [large ootheca]
  59. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
  60. Monkeyflower, Orange Bush Monkeyflower, Diplacus aurantiacus
  61. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  62. Non-Biting Midge, Cricotopus sp.
  63. Northern California Black Walnut, Juglans hindsii
  64. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  65. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  66. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  67. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  68. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
  69. Popcorn Flower, Rusty Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys nothofulvus
  70. Poplar Sunburst Lichen, Xanthomendoza hasseana [sunburst on Cottonwood]
  71. Poppy, California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  72. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans
  73. Rim Lichen, Lecanora carpinea
  74. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  75. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens [on live oaks]
  76. Scarab-Hunter Wasp, Toltec Scoliid Wasp, Dielis tolteca
  77. Stork’s Bill, Mediterranean Stork’s-Bill, Erodium botrys
  78. Swallow, Northern Rough-Winged Swallow, Stelgidopteryx serripennis
  79. Swallow, Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  80. Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  81. Townsend’s Warbler, Setophaga townsendi
  82. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, unisexual gall, summer generation,  Dryocosmus dubiosus [small, green or mottled, on back of leaf along the midvein]
  83. Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa
  84. Wax-Leaf Ligustrum, Ligustrum japonicum
  85. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis [pregnant female]
  86. Western Hoptree, Ptelea crenulata
  87. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  88. Western Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly, Papilio rutulus
  89. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  90. Wren, House Wren, Troglodytes aedon

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City Nature Challenge, Day 1, 04-29-22

This was the City Nature Challenge Day #1 and I got up at 5:30 AM to get the dogs all fed and pottied, and to get myself and Esteban ready for a day out in the field with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne. We went into Placer County and up along the length of Drum Powerhouse Road. My right arm still hurt from the COVID booster, all the way down to my wrist. I pretty much tried to ignore it, but sometimes I had to change which hand I held my camera/cellphone in.

On the way up into the foothills, Roxanne took a short detour to show me a spot where there were white globe lilies blooming along the road side. Such pretty things.

Next we stopped at a rest stop along the highway to use the restroom, get Esteban walked and pottied, and check out the colony of Cliff Swallows there. I could watch those little guys all day. They’re so entertaining.

Once we got going, we got confused by some of the road signs, and ended up going down a road we didn’t mean to, but at an intersection there we saw more Cliff Swallows. They were on the ground near a puddle collecting mud for their nests. We noted that the birds were flapping their wings all the while they were on the ground.

I suggested it might be to confuse and ward-off predators, but according to bird-photographer expert Ron Dudley it has a different purpose. He writes: “…It’s thought to be a defensive posture used by both sexes and meant to prevent extra-pair copulations (EPCs). At almost any opportunity males try to copulate with swallows other than their own mates and those sexually aggressive males often mistake other males for females. So swallows on the ground, both males and females, typically raise and flutter their wings in an effort to prevent those unwelcome matings while their gathering behavior makes them more vulnerable. As a result, vicious fights often break out…”

So, the wing-flapping is sort of like the swallows’ version of birth control. Hah!

The drive took us up through the foothills, past huge outcroppings of serpentinite, seeps  and small waterfalls, and one spot where water (from melting snow above) was actually trickling through the rocks and mosses. It seemed that everywhere we stopped along the road, we saw a generous variety of species.

The first spot was one we’d gone to a year or so ago where we saw giant trillium, Bleeding Hearts, and Mountain Misery among other things. And we found some Trumpet Lichen among the moss on the side of a stump.  We also got to see a Brown Creeper bird creeping up the side of a fir tree. It was collecting little bits of bark and needles along the way.

Further along the road we found groupings of Yellow Star Tulips and Rainbow Irises along with Goldback Fern and other plants.

In a more rocky area we found lots of lichen including Emery Rocktripe, Black Eye Lichen, and Yellow Map Lichen.

In between some of the boulders Lace Lip Ferns were peaking out. But the standout find was several flowering Mountain Jewelflower plants. I’ve been trying to find a jewelflower for almost a decade, and this was my first! I was sooooo excited! It was nice to see, too, that there were so many healthy-looking plants growing out from the rocks. Tucked in closer against the rock walls were lots of Canyon Live-Forever Dudleya, most of them in bloom, too.

On the opposite side of the road was a steep drop-off covered in trees. We could hear a loud bird singing from the top of a tree nearby. I caught a glimpse of it, and could see it was a male Black-Headed Grosbeak, but it flew into another tree before I could get a photo of it. Luckily, it didn’t go too far, and we were able to take some photos and a video snippet of it before it flew off.

In other areas we found end-of-the-season larkspur, some Pacific Hounds Tongue (“Dog Lick”), and flowering Broad-leaved Stonecrop.

We also found that several of the Dogwood trees were in bloom. Sooooo lovely. All the “green”, cool temperatures and fresh air was just what I’ve been needing. We were also pleased to see the huge outcroppings of serpentinite along the road: shiny, slick, almost glassy, in varying shades of green.

According to KQED: “…Serpentinite is a metamorphosed version of rocks that make up oceanic crust after they are incorporated into subduction zones (plate boundaries where oceanic plates are thrust under continental plates). The recognition and study of serpentinite in California contributed to the understanding of modern plate tectonic theory… Serpentinite has a unique association with California for many reasons including: its association with gold deposits and the resulting California Gold Rush history, many plants unique to California grow on serpentinite-rich soils, the fact that serpentinite is thought to promote slow (and less hazardous) ‘creep’ along faults, and others…”

In 2009, there was a bill introduced in the state Senate to remove serpentinite as California’s state rock. The bill suggested that serpentinite shouldn’t be the state rock because “serpentine contains the deadly mineral ‘chrysotile asbestos, a known carcinogen, exposure to which increases the risk of cancer mesothelioma.”

The fact that there is no such thing as the mineral chrysotile asbestos was ignored in the bill.  According to KQED: “…There is a mineral ‘chrysotile’ that crystallizes into a fibrous material referred to as asbestos but not all varieties of serpentinite contain it…” The only real danger from the stone was if someone threw a chunk of serpentinite at you and it struck you in the head. So, the bill failed – as it should have.

We drove past the plot of ground, a shallow meadow, that is regularly used as a makeshift shooting range by locals. It’s so sad to see all of this destruction in the middle of such a lovely environment. The ground is literally covered in shot gun shells, shot up boxes and other trash. There are circles cut into the ground by morons doing “donuts” with their vehicles, and rocks painted with lurid green smiley faces and graffiti. It’s all just sickening to look at.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

We were hoping to get to see the powerplant at the end of the road but access was blocked by a gate that, although it was open, was covered in “no trespassing” and other warning signs. The powerhouse, a hydroelectric plant run by PG&E, is over 100 years old. It’s adjacent to the New Drum Afterbay dam which is over a mile long. There is so little information available about the dam and the powerhouse that it makes me a bit suspicious about it. Like, what’s really going on beyond that closed gate? Hah!

For me, it was extra fun to also be able to find several galls on the canyon live oak trees including Clustered Blister Galls, Fluted Gall, Gouty Stem Galls, and Hair Capsule Gall.

We were out from 6:30 AM to 3:30 PM. Phew! A long day, but we saw over 100 different species. A great start to the challenge.

Species List:

  1. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  2. American Yellowrocket, Barbarea orthoceras
  3. Aphid, Macrosiphum sp. [pink or green]
  4. Balsamroot, Carey’s Balsamroot, Balsamorhiza careyana
  5. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  6. Bigleaf Maple, Acer macrophyllum
  7. Black Chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa
  8. Black-Eye Lichen, Tephromela atra
  9. Black-Headed Grosbeak, Pheucticus melanocephalus
  10. Broom, Scotch Broom, Cytisus scoparius
  11. Brown Creeper, Certhia americana
  12. Brown Fritillary, Fritillaria micrantha
  13. Bumpy Rim-Lichen, Lecanora hybocarpa
  14. Buttercup, Western Buttercup, Ranunculus occidentalis
  15. California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  16. California Incense-Cedar, Calocedrus decurrens
  17. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  18. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  19. California Saxifrage, Micranthes californica
  20. California Tortoiseshell Butterfly, Nymphalis californica
  21. Ceanothus, Deerbrush Ceanothus, Ceanothus integerrimus
  22. Ceanothus, Mahala Mat, Ceanothus prostrates
  23. Clover, Rose Clover, Trifolium hirtum
  24. Clustered Blister Gall Wasp, Family: Cynipidae [Russo, Plate 230, Page 158. On canyon live oak]
  25. Cobwebby Thistle, Cirsium occidentale
  26. Common Button Lichen, Buellia erubescens [black eye on white]
  27. Common Drone Fly, Eristalis tenax
  28. Common Duckweed, Lemna minor
  29. Conical Brittlestem Mushroom, Parasola conopilea
  30. Crevice Alumroot, Heuchera micrantha
  31. Dandelion, Common Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale
  32. Douglas Fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii
  33. Dudleya, Canyon Live-Forever, Dudleya cymosa
  34. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata [red line on leaves]
  35. Emery Rocktripe Lichen, Umbilicaria phaea
  36. Eucalyptus, River Redgum, Eucalyptus camaldulensis
  37. Fern, Common Bracken, Pteridium aquilinum
  38. Fern, Goldback Fern, Pentagramma triangularis
  39. Fern, Lace Lip Fern, Myriopteris gracillima
  40. Fern, Narrowleaf Sword Fern, Polystichum imbricans
  41. Fig, Common Fig, Ficus carica
  42. Fluffy Dust Lichen, Lepraria finkii
  43. Fluted Gall Wasp, Family: Cynipidae [Russo, plate 231,page 158. On canyon live oak]
  44. Fringepod, Mountain Fringepod, Thysanocarpus laciniatus
  45. Globe Lily, White Globe Lily, Calochortus albus
  46. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  47. Goldenrod, Coast Goldenrod, Solidago spathulata
  48. Gouty Stem Gall Wasp, Callirhytis quercussuttoni
  49. Grasses, Bulbous Bluegrass, Poa bulbosa
  50. Grasses, Italian Ryegrass, Lolium multiflorum
  51. Grasses, Ripgut Brome, Bromus diandrus
  52. Grasses, Wild Oat, Avena fatua
  53. Hair Capsule Gall Wasp, Heteroecus sp. [Russo, plate 214,page 150. On canyon live oak]
  54. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  55. Iris, Rainbow Iris, Iris hartwegii
  56. Jewelflower, Mountain Jewelflower, Streptanthus tortuosus
  57. Larkspur, Zigzag Larkspur, Delphinium patens [dark purple-blue]
  58. Lomatium, Foothill Desert-Parsley, Lomatium utriculatum
  59. Lupine, Arroyo Lupine, Lupinus succulentus
  60. Miner’s Lettuce, Streambank Springbeauty, Claytonia parviflora
  61. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
  62. Moss, Bristly Haircap Moss, Polytrichum piliferum [like little porcupines]
  63. Moss, Clustered Feather-Moss, Rhynchostegium confertum
  64. Moss, Fountain Apple-Moss, Philonotis fontana
  65. Moss, Nuttall’s Homalothecium Moss, Homalothecium nuttallii [looks like thread]
  66. Moss, Rough-Stalked Feather-Moss, Brachythecium rutabulum
  67. Moss, Silvery Bryum, Bryum argenteum
  68. Moss, Turf-Forming Moss, Trichostomum sp.
  69. Mountain Misery, Chamaebatia foliolosa [fern-like leaves]
  70. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri [like strap but with soredia]
  71. Orange Hangingfly, Bittacus chlorostigma
  72. Pacific Bleeding Heart, Dicentra formosa
  73. Pacific Dogwood, Cornus nuttallii
  74. Pacific False Bindweed, Calystegia purpurata
  75. Pacific Hound’s Tongue, “Dog Lick”, Adelinia grande
  76. Paintbrush, Harsh Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja hispida
  77. Peppered Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia conspersa
  78. Periwinkle, Greater Periwinkle, Vinca major
  79. Phacelia, Virgate Scorpionweed, Phacelia heterophylla
  80. Pine Violet, Viola lobata
  81. Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa
  82. Poppy, California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  83. Powdered Ruffle Lichen, Parmotrema hypotropum
  84. Prettyface, Foothill Triteleia, Triteleia ixioides scabra
  85. Propertius Duskywing Butterfly, Erynnis propertius
  86. Rose, Hoary Rock-Rose, Cistus criticus
  87. Sawfly, Pristiphora sp. [caterpillar]
  88. Sheep’s Sorrel, Rumex acetosella
  89. Solitary Oak Leafminer Moth, Cameraria hamadryadella [form whole-leaf blisters on oak]
  90. Sow Thistle, Common Sow-Thistle, Sonchus oleraceus
  91. Spurge, Eggleaf Spurge, Euphorbia oblongata
  92. Stonecrop, Broad-Leaved Stonecrop, Sedum spathulifolium
  93. Stork’s Bill, Musk Stork’s-Bill, Erodium moschatum
  94. Sunflower, Common Woolly Sunflower, Eriophyllum lanatum
  95. Swallow, Cliff Swallow. Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
  96. Thrip, Subfamily: Thripinae
  97. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  98. Trillium, Giant White Wakerobin, Trillium albidum
  99. Trumpet Lichen, Cladonia fimbriata
  100. Tube Lichen, Imshaug’s Tube Lichen, Hypogymnia imshaugii
  101. Twining Snakelily, Dichelostemma volubile
  102. Variable Wrinkle-Lichen, Tuckermanopsis orbata [green or brown]
  103. Velvet Ash, Fraxinus velutina
  104. Vetch, Common Vetch, Vicia sativa [pink flowers]
  105. Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa
  106. Wart Lichen, Verrucaria sp.
  107. Water-Cress, Nasturtium sp.
  108. Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  109. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  110. Western Solomon’s Plume, Maianthemum racemosum amplexicaule
  111. Western Stoneseed, Lithospermum ruderale
  112. Western Wallflower, Erysimum capitatum
  113. Western Waterleaf, Hydrophyllum occidentale [looks like phacelia]
  114. White Fir, Abies concolor
  115. White Meadowfoam, Limnanthes alba
  116. White Nemophila, Nemophila heterophylla
  117. Whiteleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida
  118. Whitewash Lichen, Phlyctis argena
  119. Woodland Strawberry, Fragaria vesca
  120. Yellow Map Lichen, Rhizocarpon geographicum
  121. Yellow Star-Tulip, Calochortus monophyllus [fuzzy throat]
  122. ?? Ant

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First Oriole of the Season, 05-12-21

I got up around 5:30 this morning and got myself ready to meet with my friend Roxanne at 6:00 am and head out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.

We stopped for some coffee and alight breakfast, and made good time getting to the refuge. As is usual for us, we counted the number of hawks we saw along the way, and we got a final count of six. It seems to us that we’re seeing fewer hawks this year than we saw last year. Insects seems to be declining, so it’s only a matter of time that their absence would start impacting higher animals…

Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis

At the refuge, as we drove into the parking lot, we saw a Killdeer running around, then realized she had about four babies with her. The kids were scattering all over the place, and we were worried they’d get under the wheels of the car. So, I got out and herded the birds to another part of the lot, so Roxanne could park the car out of their way. When then both started taking as many photos of the scurrying babies as we could. Baby Killdeer are sooooo cute; little striped fuzz balls on legs that are longer than their bodies.

We then went in toward the nature center to use their facilities and look for more birds. The center’s pollinator garden was in bloom with datura, Flannelbush, two kinds of milkweed, Cleveland Sage, and Saint Catherine’s Lace (a kind of giant buckwheat).

While we were taking photos (and looking for interesting bugs)one of the rangers came out and talked with us. He noted a tiny Anna’s Hummingbird waiting on a twiggy branch on a tree in the demonstration pond, and said that sometimes the hummers fly right down into his face until he refilled heir feeder. Hah!

He went inside to refill it, and also came out with a jar of grape jelly. He said they’d been seeing Orioles around the center(lots of Bullock’s and a few Hooded passing through), and they love the jelly. As soon as he put some of the jelly onto the feeder and walk away from it, we saw a male Bullock’s Oriole show himself in a nearby tree. Layer, we also saw one eating the jelly right out of the feeder. They’re such handsome birds!  We were also surprised by the sudden and brief visit of a male Western Tanager in the same area. I didn’t get any useable photos of him, but Rox got a couple.

We saw three different species of swallow throughout the preserve. Cliff Swallows were collecting mud from the slough when we drove in. Barn Swallows were checking out a spot on the roof of the nature center where the flashing had been lifted up by recent high winds. And Tree Swallows were whizzing around the trees along the auto tour route. A three-fer!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos

Black Phoebes and Mourning Doves were also in abundance, as were Black-Tailed jackrabbits.

Little Marsh Wrens were singing their buzzy advertising song from (seemingly) everywhere. At one of the park-and-stretch areas, we could see one wren building one of his nests. He dragged wet tule-skin to his construction site, then tried to pull some stalks down to add to it…but he wasn’t strong enough, and the stalk would “twoing!” away from him again. Hah!

Along the auto tour route we didn’t see any damselflies or dragonflies to speak of, but they may come out in another month or so as things warm up a bit more. We saw lots of Cabbage White butterflies, but no other species. The teasel is just starting to bloom, though. When that’s in flower, there are usually lots of pollinators. So a return trip in June may be in order.

In the permanent wetland area we saw pelicans, and geese, including an unusual number of Snow Geese. Some of the Greater White-Fronted Geese are residents, but the Snow Geese migrate. I expected all of them to have moved on by now.

Greater White-Fronted Geese, Anser albifrons, and Snow Geese, Chen caerulescens

            There were only a handful of Clark’s Grebes in the water, and their numbers should increase as the summer comes on. We saw a pair starting to do their mirroring dance on the water, but they were either distracted or just not into one another because they gave it up after just a few seconds.

 As we finished off the auto tour route and drove back into the parking lot, we found a California Ground Squirrel “splooting” in the shade of the welcome sign. A sploot is a type of stretch (dogs do it a lot); the animal lays on its belly with all of its legs stretched out,  So funny looking.

A California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi, in full sploot.

We were out for about 5½,but because we were in the car most of the time, I didn’t count this as one of my #52HikeChallenge excursions.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  3. American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  4. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  5. Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [pink flower]
  6. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens
  7. Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica
  8. Black Mustard, Common Wild Mustard, Brassica nigra
  9. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  10. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  11. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  12. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  13. Bristly Fiddleneck, Amsinckia tessellata
  14. Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides
  15. Brown-Headed Cowbird, Molothrus ater
  16. Bullock’s Oriole, Icterus bullockii
  17. California Flannelbush, Fremontodendron californicum
  18. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  19. California Mule Deer, Odocoileus hemionus californicus
  20. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  21. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  22. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  23. Clark’s Grebe, Aechmophorus clarkii [black above the eye]
  24. Cleveland Sage, Salvia clevelandii [purple, circles]
  25. Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
  26. Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
  27. Common Spikeweed, Centromadia pungens
  28. Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens
  29. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  30. Downigia, Downigia sp.
  31. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  32. Floating Water Primrose, Ludwigia peploides ssp. peploides
  33. Gadwall Duck, Mareca Strepera
  34. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  35. Grass-Poly, Lythrum hyssopifolia [tiny purple flowers]
  36. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  37. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  38. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  39. Harding Grass, Phalaris aquatica [a type of canary grass]
  40. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  41. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  42. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  43. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  44. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
  45. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  46. Mullein, Wand Mullein, Verbascum virgatum
  47. Narrowleaf Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  48. Narrowleaf Milkweed, Mexican Whorled Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis
  49. Narrowleaf Willow, Salix exigua
  50. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  51. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  52. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii
  53. Oregon Ash Tree, Fraxinus latifolia
  54. Paper Wasp, Black Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula
  55. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  56. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
  57. Popcorn Flower, Rusty Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys nothofulvus [tiny]
  58. Q-Tips, Micropus californicus
  59. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  60. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  61. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
  62. Sacred Datura, Datura wrightii
  63. Saint Catherine’s Lace, Eriogonum giganteum [a kind of buckwheat]
  64. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa
  65. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
  66. Stinking Chamomile, Anthemis cotula
  67. Tall Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis
  68. Tasmanian Blue Gum Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus globulus
  69. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  70. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  71. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
  72. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  73. Western Kingbird, Tyrant Flycatcher, Tyrannus verticalis
  74. Western Marsh Cudweed, Gnaphalium palustre
  75. Western Tanager, Piranga ludoviciana
  76. Wild Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum
  77. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis