I got up around 7:00 am with the dog this morning, and after getting some breakfast and letting Esteban out for potty, I took a fast shower and got dressed to go to theEffie Yeaw Nature Preserve with my friend Roxanne. We left the house about 8:30 am and it was already 78° outside. [It got up to 102° today.]]
We went to the preserve for a volunteer brunch. Before we even got through the front entrance, we saw a lovely female Flame Skimmer dragonfly who had landed on the antenna of a truck in the parking lot. She was very cooperative and we were able to approach her to get a few photos with our cellphones.
Usually, these brunches are held indoors with all of the volunteers together in one room. The staff prepares food for everyone and it’s eaten buffet style. Because of COVID, this time, small groups of volunteers were let in in shifts, about 30 to 45 minutes apart. Rather than having a buffet, the staff had put together bagged lunches for everyone, and had personally decorated each bag with their own artwork. I got a bag with a deer on it, and Rox got one with a little gray mouse and sparkly dandelion puffs. So cute!
My bag had a huge blueberry muffin in it along with a banana, mandarin orange, and hard-boiled egg. Along with that we each got a cup of apple cider. As free gifts for the volunteers there were “Save the Frogs” water bottles from KEEN, little pins and magnets.
And rather than having folks sit close to one another at tables, there were chairs spread out all over the main lawn in the shade. Rox and I grabbed two of them and got them situated the way we wanted them by the little pond, and then enjoyed our meal. We noticed some Tongue Galls on a nearby alder tree and got some photos of them. Ever the naturalists. Hah!
After our meal, we headed out to go to William Pond Park and look for some galls there. On our way out of the preserve, we met with Mary Messenger, a fallow trail steward, who was just coming in. She’d brought me a 2021 wall calendar and a bag of figs from her tree at home to share with everyone. I thought that was so sweet of her.
At William Pond Park, I was going to show Rox where the “Reverend Mother” tree is, but it was just too hot to do anything. So, we walked along parts of the manicured lawn there and got some photos of the galls on some of the Valley and Live Oak trees. On our way back to the car, we saw a White-Breasted Nuthatch in a tree, pulling on spiders’ webs and eating bugs.
Once I got home, for the rest of the day, I stayed indoors with the dog for the most part, went through my photos, and posted stuff to iNaturalist.
Speaking of iNaturalist:
A pair of people in California spotted specimens of a species of cicada that haven’t been seen for over 100 years! It was a Clear-Winged Red Manzanita Cicada, Okanagana arctostaphylae. Considered the “holy grail” of cicadas, it hadn’t been seen in the wild since 1915. A woman found one near a standoff blueberry bushes on her property (which is surrounded by manzanita),and the other one was found by a guy who read about her experience and went out to the same area looking for them.
The cicada is reddish brown and blends into the wood of the manzanita trees. The guy who found it wrote, “…Collecting this species and including it in our research was going to be big news for maybe fifteen people on the entire planet.” Hahahahahahaha!
He continued: “…Finding that beautiful insect, camouflaged so perfectly against the smooth red bark, and knowing that I’m the first scientist in 100 years to see this creature—that’s a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life…”
CLICK HERE to read more about it. So cool! You never know what you might see out there, so keep observing and document your observations.
Alder Tongue Gall Fungus, Taphrina alni
Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
Flame Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula saturata
Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
Round Gall Wasp, Cynpis conspicuus [round gall near base of leaf on Valley Oaks, formerly Besbicus conspicuus]
Spiny Turban Gall Wasp, asexual, fall generation, Antron douglasii
Today, I attended a “Sticker Party” at the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. My friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne, volunteered too, as did “The Other Mary” (Mary Messenger). I think there were seven volunteers in all there.
The organization had something like 3500 brochures for their kids/school programs that had been accidentally printed with “2019-2020” on them so we had to put sticky labels over that with the correct “2020-2021” dates. Some of the school districts also required special liability disclaimers on them, so those brochures also got labels with the language specified by the district.
The Effie Yeaw volunteer coordinator, Rachael, had set up coffee, water and Danishes for us, and while we were working, the Executive Director, Kent, came in with a plate full of Girl Scout cookies for us, too. That was nice.
Roxanne, The Other Mary and I worked on the brochures for about three hours. Between all of us volunteers we labeled a little over 1500 of them, so we felt really good about that.
One of the other volunteers there was a gentleman named Mike who I had met earlier in the year on a fungus walk I led at the preserve. He had liked the Nikon the camera I use so much that he went out and bought one for himself. He showed me some of the photos he’d gotten with it, and they were great! I’m so glad he was as pleased with the camera as I am.
When we were done working, The Other Mary left, but Roxanne and I stopped for a little bit to take photos around the nature center. Bushtits have setup a nest in a Redbud tree there and I was able to see the mom fly back to the nest with a mouthful of what looks like bits of plant fluff and lichen. So cute! The resident Black Phoebes are also nesting under the eaves of the building and I got a few photos of them.
Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
In another month or so, it should be more spectacular to look at, when the trees all have leaves on them, but right now there were mostly cultivated tulips, daffodils and other bulb-flowers… and I don’t get too excited about non-native plants. I was surprised, for example, by the amount of common ivy and periwinkle on the grounds. They’re both invasive species. From a naturalist standpoint, I would have been happier to see native plants and flowers throughout the place.
On the grounds, there’s a huge Victorian house, silo and barn that are just pristine and gorgeous, and the grounds abut agricultural land. I wanted to see the chicken coop, which is supposed to be spectacular, but I missed it.
I was walking across the lawn with the giant pecan tree in the middle of it, though, and came across a super-tall door. There were glass inserts in the top of it, but too high for me to look through, and hedges on either side. I noticed that there was a handicapped button next to the door, so I pushed it… and the door opened slowly to reveal a huge swimming pool. Very impressive. ((I was also kind of jazzed to see battery hook-ups for cars in their parking lot.)) There’s also a large fountain full of koi fish and a “carved” English garden across from it. Just lovely.
I did get to see my first Painted Lady butterfly of the season and a Common Checkered Skipper.
And I got photos of a robin, Spotted Towhee, Yellow-Billed Magpie, and Red-Breasted Nuthatch, among other birds. The Nuthatch had landed on a ball of twigs and threads that one of several hanging from the limbs of the pecan tree. At first I thought they were little hanging nests, but on closer inspection I could see that they were most likely man-made balls of excelsior, threads and fine ribbons for the birds around to use as extra nesting materials.
I walked the grounds and took photos for about 2 hours and then headed back home.
Napa Trip Day One: My friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne and I, took Highway 113, and stopped in Davis for a little breakfast (breakfast sammich and coffee) and then we stayed pretty much on Highway 128 through Winters, past the Monticello Dam and around Lake Berryessa to the city of Angwin. At a market across the street from Pacific Union College, we met with some of my other naturalist class graduates: Pam, Patty, Elaine, and Deborah (who was the one who organized the group and hosted us at her home). It was so great to see them all again and to spend the day with them out in nature.
“The forested lands of Pacific Union College were once the winter camp of the Wappo tribe of California Indians, who enjoyed a bountiful supply of acorns. In 1843 the land became part of a Mexican land grant to George Yount. After the Mexican-American war, settlers used the redwoods to build homes and make grape stakes for vineyards.
Lumber was the primary industry on Howell Mountain until Edwin Angwin built his resort hotel in 1883. PUC purchased Angwin’s resort in 1909. Since then, the forest has supported the mission of the college by providing lumber for classroom buildings and residence halls, firewood for heat, and recreation in the ‘back 40’. In the 1950s, the biology faculty began to enrich student learning by studying native trees, shrubs, and wildlife.
Today the PUC Demonstration and Experimental Forest is protected by a conservation easement in partnership with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) and the Land Trust of Napa County. As such, it will always remain forest and provide learning opportunities for PUC students as well as 35 miles of recreational trails—for mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding—for students, college employees, and community members. Home to a nesting pair of Northern Spotted Owls, the rare Napa False Indigo, and some of the easternmost Coastal Redwood trees, the rich biodiversity of the PUC forest makes is especially valuable to conservationists and researchers. Our forest truly sets PUC apart and makes Angwin a unique and special place to live, learn, and grow.”
Because of the part of the trail system we were on, we didn’t see a lot of fungi, but the lichens were everywhere and we also found some insects and a tiny, beautiful California Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps attenuates). These little guys are nearly-endemic to northern California and breathe through their skin (so we were careful not to handle it).The one we found was snuggled down into a hole under a log and wrapped around a stick. It’s hard to describe how small they are; most people mistake them for little worms…
According to Wikipedia: “…From May to October, aestivation is the norm for this species. Unlike other members of its genus, egg-laying occurs quite early, as soon as December in the southern part of its range. Oviposition is thought to occur primarily in the tunnels of other creatures, but clusters have commonly been found on moist surfaces beneath bark, rocks, or other types of forest detritus. Clutches contain approximately five to twenty individual eggs, but five to ten different females may use the exact oviposition site; in any case, hatching occurs around March or April, somewhat later in the extreme northern part of the range.”
Such neat little dudes.
As I mentioned, we saw a lot of lichen there that we don’t get to see in the valley. I’d been looking all over for some “Toy Soldier” and “Lipstick” lichen in Sacramento, and just wasn’t finding it anywhere. They’re both lichens that stand straight up and have red “lips” at the end of their stalks. There in the PUC forest, I found several specimens of both… and was surprised by how small they are. In books, you see photos of them and they look as big as your fingers, but they’re really quite tiny.
Along with those two, I also got to see live for the first time specimens of Beaded Tube Lichen, FishboneBeard Lichen, Crabseye Lichen, Speckled Greenshield, Farinose Cartilage Lichen, Mealy Pixie Cups and others.
We also found some great specimens of Woolly Birdsnest Fungus, which unlike the Common Birdsnests we see here, are taller and covered in fine hairs.
And we got to see some Candlesnuff Fungus, also called Carbon Antlers. These were very unobtrusive-looking little “antlers” that were stickling straight up from the ground around a burl. When Deb touched them, they spewed frost-looking smoky clouds of spores all around them. [[I was so busy watching Deb flick the antlers and video the spores, that I forgot to take photos myslef! D’oh! So, I hope she shares her video with everyone.]]
Here’s a little bit of a write upon it from Wikipedia: “Specimens found earlier in the season, in spring, may be covered completely in asexual spores (conidia), which manifests itself as a white to grayish powdery deposit. Later in the season, mature ascocarps are charcoal-black, and have minute pimple-like bumps called perithecia on the surface. These are minute rounded spore bearing structures with tiny holes, or ostioles, for the release of sexual spores (ascospores).”
So, what we were seeing was the release of the asexual spores. How fascinating is that?! The fungus has two ways of reproducing: asexually and sexually. Nature tries everything.
As for mushrooms, there weren’t a whole lot on the part of the trail we traveled, but we did find a few specimens of ones like Cowboy’s Handkerchief, Milky Caps and Slippery Jacks. (Who names these things? Hah!)
I figured we walked from about 9:30 am to 2:00 pm, taking a break once for snacks. I hadn’t carried any food into the woods with me (it was all sitting in the back of the car). I wasn’t really hungry at all but Elaine shared her tea with me, and Deb gave me part of her PB&J sandwich which I thought was super-sweet of them.
I liked Elaine’s idea of taking hot tea out into the forest with you. Seems very “Downton Abbey” to me…except that I’d have to carry the tea myself instead of having servants carrying it and setting it up for me – along with petit fours and cucumber sandwiches – further up the trail. How fun would THAT be! I need to organize something like that sometime… (Where’s my Publishers Clearinghouse money!?)
I’d very much like to go to the PUC forest again sometime, and maybe attack some of the other trails. There’s supposed to be an area where there are young Redwood trees, and wetter more riparian habitat. It’s just that lo-o-o-o-n-g drive back and forth. The gals said, though, that the hotel in Winters is finally finished and that’s kind of at the halfway point between here and Napa, so that might help.
After our walk, Elaine, Pam and Patty all went back to their respective abodes, but Roxanne and I did an overnight visit at Deb’s place. Her house is very cozy and lovely, filled with art and craftwork, some of it done by her and her mom. Her mother does pottery, so there were example of her work in the plates, bowls and trays used throughout the house. And Deb does really incredible work with gourds. You can see some of them here.
The first thing we did when we got to Deb’s was sit around the kitchen table with our cellphones and cameras, and piles of field guides, and tried to make a list of everything we’d see that day. It was so much fun being surrounded by people who get as excited about identifying a “new-to-me” lichen as I do, pouring through the books, comparing photos and notes. I loved it! These ladies are so “my tribe”. Hah!