Category Archives: Firsts

First Trip to Table Mountain, 03-27-21

I got up a little before 6:00 am so I could head out with my friend Roxanne to go to the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve in Oroville, about a 90-minute drive from Sacramento right up Highway 70. We had never been there before, but we’d seen photos from other people who had been up there, so we were excited to see what we could see.  Some words of warning if you go up there yourself: don’t go on a weekend, and try to get there as early as you can.

When we got there, one of the parking lots was already full, and by the time we left both parking lots were overflowing with cars, more cars were coming in, and other cars were parked on both sides of the road for about a MILE. Rox and I figured that by the time we left there were about 1000 people at the site. Now, Table Mountain is huge, but still… gad. 

After we walked for several hours, we went back to the car to sit and have some lunch. It was our original intention to go out and walk some more after lunch, but after realizing how many people were there and how the cars were stacking up, we decided to leave.

Weatherwise, it was a gorgeous day to be out walking: in the 60’s and 70’s,sunny, with a slight breeze. Just beautiful.

Sky Lupine, Pan Poppies, and Goldfields

Rox found an excellent parking space right near the front entrance to the parking lot. And right outside the doors of the car were Blue Dicks, Popcorn Flowers, Goldfields, Fiddleneck, and Sky Lupines! So pretty…and such a great start to our flower-search day.

The area is also home to free-range cattle. Signage tells you to stay at least 300 feet from the cows, but that wasn’t always possible because several of the cattle walked right up to within arm’s length of us. Sometimes they were so close, you could hear the crunch of their teeth as they browsed among the wildflowers.

Domestic Cattle, Bos Taurus

I was watching one Black Angus who was watching Rox as she checked out the various flowers on the ground below her. When she would bend down to get a picture, the cow would dip its head down like it was trying to see what she was interested in. Hah!

We avoided the heavily trafficked trails (too many people making too much noise), and just perused the top of the plateau and some of the seep areas. Everywhere you stepped there were flowers, including several I hadn’t seen before, like the glorious pink Bitterroots and white Table Mountain Meadowfoam (which are endemic to that region; found there and nowhere else on earth).

The broad landscapes were as interesting and beautiful as the close-up flowers themselves. Waves of blue lupines, yellow goldfields, orange poppies, white popcorn flowers.  Just breath taking.

Sky Lupine, Popcorn Flowers and Goldfields

We spent about 3½ combing the area, and were happy when we discovered a tiny Sierra Chorus Frog in one of the seep areas. I was able to catch him, so we could get some close up photos before releasing him back into the water.

Sierran Tree Frog, Pseudacris sierra

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

As we drove out, heading eventually back to Sacramento via Colusa, we stopped occasionally along the way to get photos of other flowering plants we saw along the way. We saw some Virgin Bower (“Old Man’s Beard”) in the treetops, but also found a whole bankside along the road covered with phacelia.

Phacelia, Caterpillar Scorpionweed, Phacelia cicutaria

We’re anxious to check out more wildflower spots in the region.  During one of those stops we also got to see a lovely Lark Sparrow sitting on a barbed wire fence line.

Lark Sparrow, Chondestes grammacus

After driving through the city of Colusa, we stopped briefly at the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge so I could show Rox where one of the Great Horned Owls were.

The mama owl wasn’t in her nest, but she was up in the trees near it.  The afternoon sun was really beating down on the tree where her nest was, and she was panting like she was overheated. 

The heat no doubt kept her eggs warm (if she had any; and I’m assuming she did, or she wouldn’t have stuck so close to that same nesting tree). We took a few distant photos of her and headed back to the car.

By then it was almost 80° outside and we were getting overheated ourselves. We headed home, stopping off to get a cold drink along the way.

We were out for a little over 10 hours. Phew! This counted as hike #30 in my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. American Coot, Fulica americana
  3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  4. Bitterroot, Lewisia rediviva [large, bright pink flowers]
  5. Black Angus Cattle, Bos taurus var. Black Angus
  6. Black Grain-Spored Lichen, Sarcogyne hypophaea [black, grainy, on rocks]
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  9. Black-Tailed Bumble Bee, Bombus melanopygus
  10. Blue Dicks, Table Mountain Blue Dicks, Dipterostemon capitatus capitatus
  11. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  12. Brown Cobblestone Lichen, Acarospora fuscata
  13. Butter-and-Eggs, Triphysaria eriantha eriantha [red stems]
  14. Brown-Headed Cowbird, Molothrus ater
  15. California Buttercup, Ranunculus californicus
  16. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  17. Cascade Onion, Allium cratericola
  18. Chickweed, Common Chickweed, Stellaria media
  19. Cinder Lichen, Aspicilia cinerea
  20. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
  21. Common Goldspeck Lichen, Candelariella vitellina [bright yellow with rimmed apothecia on rocks]
  22. Common Vetch, Vicia sativa [pink flowers]
  23. Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii
  24. Cowbag Clover, Trifolium depauperatum
  25. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  26. Deceiver Mushroom, Laccaria laccata [reddish-tan, dimpled, goblet shaped]
  27. Dot-Seed Plantain, Plantago erecta
  28. Douglas’ Violet, Viola douglasii [yellow violet with rusty back]
  29. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto [heard]
  30. Frying Pan Poppy, Eschscholzia lobbii
  31. Glue-Seed, Blennosperma nanum [yellow with white dots around the center]
  32. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  33. Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica
  34. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  35. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  36. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  37. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  38. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  39. Guernsey Cattle, Bos taurus var. Guernsey
  40. Holstein Friesian Cattle, Bos taurus var. Holstein
  41. Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
  42. Lark Sparrow, Chondestes grammacus
  43. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  44. Lupine, Sky Lupine, Lupinus nanus
  45. Miner’s Lettuce, Streambank Springbeauty, Claytonia parviflora [very small]
  46. Musk Stork’s-Bill, Erodium moschatum
  47. Northern Sanicle, Sierra Sanicle, Sanicula graveolens [very strong scent]
  48. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  49. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  50. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  51. Osprey, Pandion haliaetus
  52. Peridot Sweat Bee, Augochlorella pomoniella [bright metallic green]
  53. Pennsylvania Bittercress, Cardamine pensylvanica
  54. Phacelia, Caterpillar Scorpionweed, Phacelia cicutaria
  55. Pipestem Clematis, Old Man’s Beards, Clematis lasiantha
  56. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  57. Popcorn Flower, Pacific Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys tenellus [bright yellow center]
  58. Popcorn Flower, Stalked Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys stipitatus
  59. Prettyface, Dark-stained Prettyface, Triteleia ixioides unifolia
  60. Raven, Common Raven, Corvus corax
  61. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  62. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  63. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
  64. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  65. Rock Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia conspersa
  66. Rock Tripe, Emery Rocktripe Lichen, Umbilicaria phaea
  67. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  68. Seep Monkeyflower, Erythranthe guttata
  69. Shining Pepperweed, Lepidium nitidum
  70. Sierra Mock Stonecrop, Sedella pumila
  71. Sierran Tree Frog, Pseudacris sierra [dark stripe across the eye]
  72. Smokey-Eyed Boulder Lichen, Porpidia albocaerulescens
  73. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  74. Sticky Mouse-Ear Chickweed, Cerastium glomeratum
  75. Stonecrop, Sedum sp.
  76. Table Mountain Meadowfoam, Limnanthes douglasii nivea
  77. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  78. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  79. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  80. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  81. Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  82. Western Buttercup, Ranunculus occidentalis
  83. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  84. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  85. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  86. White-tipped Clover, Trifolium variegatum
  87. Yellow Cobblestone Lichen, Acarospora socialis
  88. Yellow-Legged Mud-dauber Wasp, Sceliphron caementarium
  89. Yellow Map Lichen, Rhizocarpon geographicum [bright yellow-green with dark spots]
  90. Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata

Taking the Car Out for a Long Drive, 03-24-21

I got up about 5:30 this morning — (Ugh!) — and was ready to head out the door with my dog Esteban to drive over to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge and Colusa National Wildlife Refuge. As I mentioned before, I wanted to take the car on a long jog to see how well it ran after its repairs last week, and I wanted to see how things were going at the refuge.

Esteban usually fusses in the car. The last time I took him with us to the refuge, he whined all the way (wanting to get up in the front seat with me). This time, he whined for about a half an hour, then settled down on my coat in the back seat and fell asleep. He was great for the rest of the trip. I was so proud of him. Occasionally, he’d stand up with his paws on the arm rest and look out the window. I wonder how his little brain processes what he sees…

I stopped off in Woodland to get a coffee before going further, and there were so many blackbirds singing in one of the trees that their sound was almost deafening.

Every “black dot” is a blackbird singing away just before sun up.

It was about 46° when I headed out, and was a lot windier during the day than I was expecting. Rough winds interfere with birding — everyone tends to hunker down. But I did okay in that department — even though I totally missed getting close up photos of an American White Pelican and a Bald Eagle. (They flew off before I could get near enough. *Sigh*)

I decided to go first to the Colusa refuge first, and the first thing I saw were small flocks of Greater White-Fronted Geese and Snow Geese. There was also a Red-Tailed Hawk sitting in a nearby tree and a White-Tailed Kite kiting in the air over the field.           

I was the only person on the refuge for about the first hour or so, so I had the whole place to myself and could go at whatever speed I wanted along the auto tour route. Several of the wetland areas were still dry, which kind of surprised me. I thought it would be all full with a least some measure of water everywhere. There weren’t very many birds near the viewing platform, which was also kind of a surprise. There are usually lots of geese and ducks around there.

Snowy Egret, Egretta thula, with White-Faced Ibises, Plegadis chihi

At the beginning of the route, there  were Wild Turkeys jogging along. They ran out into the field and I could see the males were doing their strutting thing for the females. In another area, I saw a flock of female turkeys all gathered together (avoiding the boys).

There were Coots were everywhere, and Marsh Wrens were teasing me from the tules. I could see of their nests; the males are working hard to impress the females with their construction work.

Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris

 There were lots and lots of Ibises. Some of the adults are getting their full breeding colors now and are so handsome. I didn’t see any with their white faces yet, however.

There weren’t any more large flocks of ducks, but I did see a wide variety of species: American Wigeons, Northern Shovelers, Gadwalls, Cinnamon and Green-Winged Teals, and Buffleheads. I was surprised to see a little female Hooded Merganser in one of the ponds. I couldn’t see any male around, though.

There were handfuls of Snowy Egrets and the occasional Great Egret, and of course there was the huge flock of Black-Crowned Night Herons day-roosting in the trees at the end of the route.

The sightings of the day were two different Great Horned Owls hunkered down in their nesting spots. There was also supposed to be a Barn Owl out there, but I didn’t see that one. What I DID see was owl poop around the informational kiosk — along with a few pellets.  Yay!

I then headed over to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, and the first thing I saw there was a Black-Tailed Jackrabbit. This is baby season for the jack’s and I saw a lot of the adults around, chasing one another.

The wildflowers are just starting to pop up around there even though the vernal pools are empty. It seemed all the “yellows” are coming out first. I saw outcrops of Fiddlenecks, Bird’s-foot Trefoil, amid Brass Buttons, along with fields of Goldfields.

The extra loop to the permanent wetland area is now open, and they’ve done a lot of “remodeling” around it. Most of the taller tules and weeds have been mowed down, so areas around the main pond are more visible. I was hoping to see some Bitterns around here, but had no luck. Of course, I’d gotten here “late” in the morning today (it was a little after 10:00 am. When I usually go here, I go around 6:30 or 7:00 when the sun is coming up.) Here, too, there are huge areas that have no water in them… which alters the kind of species you see (from “wet” to “dry”).

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

There was the normal cadre of sparrows everywhere, and a smattering of Western Meadowlarks. One let me get close enough to photograph it and video it singing.

Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta

There were lots and lots of Ibises here, too, many of them fishing for crayfish. I was getting some cool video of one of them, just as the battery died in the camera. By the time I got it reloaded and focused on the bird again, the Ibis was swallowing down its meal. Dang it!

I watched some male Northern Shoveler ducks trying to do some of their courtship movements for a female. There was the “Head Dip and Up-end” that looked like a mini-bath, the “Wing Flap” and “Precopulatory Head Pumping”… but the gal just wasn’t into them. D’oh! She just swam by with her face in the water looking for food.

I also watched a male Canvasback as he was feeding. They’re actually diving ducks, but here the water was exceedingly shallow, so the male rose up and stirred up the bottom of the marsh with his feet, then dipped forward to eat what he’d kicked up.

When a female Mallard got too close to him and his meal, he attacked her and chased her until her boyfriend showed up. The Canvasback turned away then, and let the Mallards depart together.

A male Canvasback Duck, Aythya valisineria, attacked a female Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos, when she got too close to where he was foraging for food.

In that same pond area there were Clark’s and Western Grebes checking out spots to build their nests (which they’ll be sitting on in the summer). There were also some Pied-Billed Grebes singing to one another.

Along the end of the auto tour route, several Ground Squirrels popped up, and one came out onto the road and gave itself a dust bath right next to the car. Hah! They’re such cute little things. I’d love to have a colony of them in the yard just so I could watch them.

California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi

Around this same area, I saw another Great Horned Owl sitting on a nest in a tree. It was pretty distant, so I couldn’t get any close ups.

Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus,in its nest

All together Esteban and I were in the car for about 10 hours! The walking I did at each of the refuges combined counted as the 29th hike in my #52HikeChallenge. Woot!

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Elm Tree, Ulmus americana
  3. American Pipit, Anthus rubesce
  4. American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  5. American Wigeon, Anas americana
  6. Arundo, Giant Reed, Arundo donax
  7. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  8. Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
  9. Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus
  10. Black Mustard, Common Wild Mustard, Brassica nigra
  11. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  12. Black-Crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax
  13. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  14. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  15. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  16. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  17. Brass Buttons, Cotula coronopifolia
  18. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  19. Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides
  20. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  21. Cackling Goose, Branta hutchinsii
  22. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  23. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  24. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  25. Canvasback Duck, Aythya valisineria
  26. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  27. Clark’s Grebe, Aechmophorus clarkii [black above the eye]
  28. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  29. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
  30. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  31. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  32. Floating Water Primrose, Ludwigia peploides ssp. Peploides
  33. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  34. Gadwall Duck, Mareca strepera
  35. Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica [6-8 petals, rounded mound-like center]
  36. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  37. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  38. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  39. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  40. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  41. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  42. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  43. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus bifrons [white flowers]
  44. Hooded Merganser, Lophodytes cucullatus
  45. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  46. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  47. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  48. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  49. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
  50. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  51. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  52. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  53. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  54. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  55. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  56. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  57. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marorata
  58. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  59. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
  60. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  61. Prickly Sowthistle, Pigweed, Sonchus asper
  62. Red Swamp Crayfish, Crawdad, Procambarus clarkii
  63. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  64. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  65. Ring-Necked Duck, Aythya collaris
  66. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
  67. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  68. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  69. Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
  70. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  71. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
  72. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  73. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  74. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  75. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  76. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  77. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  78. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  79. Western Grebe, Aechmophorus occidentalis [black below the eye]
  80. Western Kingbird, Tyrant Flycatcher, Tyrannus verticalis [nest]
  81. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  82. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  83. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  84. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  85. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi

As an Aside

Wow. Some bee-otch on the Birding California group complained about my adding scientific names to the species photos I post. (Which I do as a naturalist to be specific with my IDs and to help others learn.) She wrote: “Does listing the ‘official name’ of each bird make you feel superior? No just egotistical.”

Geez, cranky much? I consider this harassment (as it’s personally denigrating and inaccurate.) I reported her to the admin of the group, reported her to Facebook, and blocked her. No one has to take harassment and bullying from any troll — ever, anywhere.

It was nice to see others in the group stand up for me. One person wrote: “…Keep doing it. Great photos. Ignore the trolls.” and another wrote: “Great posting for us newbies. I used your photos as “flash cards” to see if I could correctly identify each bird before reading your label. Thanks teach!”

A Many Otter Morning, 03-20-21

I got up at 6:30 this morning, so I could head out with my friend Roxanne to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area. We had heard online that the Yellow-Headed Blackbirds (YHB) were starting to show up at the bypass again.

I’ve seen some juvenile and female YHBs, but they were individuals, here and there. I’ve never seen the fully mature males, which have vibrant yellow heads, and I’ve never them in flocks before. So, Rox and I decided we’d go to look for them. Then some of our naturalist friends Rachael and Karlyn said they wanted to go, too, so we told them we’d meet them over at the bypass around 8:00 am.

Rox met me at the house around 7:00 and we headed in toward Davis, stopping briefly to get some coffee and then trying to see if the Burrowing Owls were out by the ag fields. We didn’t see any owls — the fact that a woman went jogging right by where it was didn’t help –but I did catch a glimpse of a Yellowthroat and I saw my first ever Horned Lark. It was a young female, and wasn’t showing any horns (which can be raised or lowered), but, hey, it was a “lifer” for me!

Horned Lark, Eremophila alpestris

We then went to the Yolo Bypass and met up with Karlyn and Rachael at the parking lot in front of the start of the auto tour route. Rox and I went in one car, and Rachael and Karlyn went in another. Rachael couldn’t stay for the whole day, so we tried to keep an eye on the clock as we went along.

We were seeing a lot of the usual suspects: sparrows, egrets, some ibises, but also saw a handsome Raven sitting on top of a post. He posed for a while before taking off. 

As we went along, though, Roxanne spotted some dark forms galloping across the road in the distance. We realized right away that they were North American River Otters, Lontra canadensis, and saw them go into a slough/ditch area by a bridge. It was hard not to just SPEED to the spot, but we didn’t want to startle the otters, so Rox drove toward them at a moderated speed.

Our sort of stealth was rewarded when we got to the bridge and found a whole raft of otters in the water. As we watched them, the otters used the large drainage pipe adjacent to bridge to move from one side of it to another; sometimes hiding from us by piling up inside the pipe. Sometimes all we saw with the rippling effect they had on the water, or the bubbles they released when they were submerged.

Eventually, the otters felt comfortable enough to come out and climb onto the levee on the side opposite from us where they shook their fur, did some grooming, greeted and rolled over one another, and even did their “poopy dance”. All the while, one or more of them would be snorting at us; low sounds, like they were grumbling about us under their breath.

We counted SIX of them for sure, and then thought we’d spotted a SEVENTH in the water… but it was hard to keep track of everyone because they were all moving about.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I tried getting single shots of each one of them, which again wasn’t easy, in the hopes that I could maybe identify individuals later from their photos but… sorry to say, they all look pretty much the same to me. Trying to get group shots was hilarious. It was like trying to find a family photo for a Christmas card when not all of the subjects are cooperating. Some would look this way, while others looked that way, or fell out of the frame, or decided to shake their head just as the picture was snapped… Hah!

Still, what a wonderful treat! Those little guys made my day.  At that was the largest group of otters I’ve ever seen. Karlyn and Rachael were equally impressed.  Of course, I reminded all of them to log their sighting at the River Otter Ecology Project’s “Otter Spotter” site.

The other unexpected sighting was seeing some Black Crowned Night Herons day-roosting in one of the fields. There’s supposed to be a large colony of them there, but we couldn’t find them on our drive or our walk. I saw a pair of otters in the water in a field as we were going along, but they disappeared into the tules.

Black-Crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax

We never did see any of the Yellow-Headed Blackbirds, but figured that they might be foraging in another field or something. We DID get to see a Black Phoebe near a little viewing platform gathering nesting materials. They build mud nests then line the nest with fine twigs and feathers and other soft stuff.  Rox and I kind of consider the phoebes “our” birds because we see them almost everywhere we go. This one’s nest was UNDERNEATH the platform we were standing on. As long as the water level of the pond doesn’t rise too much, it should be fine there.

Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans

At that same spot, we got a glimpse of two more otters. They were fussing along the edges of the stands of tules, and then disappeared. We wondered if they had a holt in there somewhere.

As we were driving out, we flushed an American Bittern which took off flying tour left across the marsh. We had been keeping an eye out for bitterns, but didn’t see any until this one surprised us. Of course, it all happened so fast, we didn’t get any photos of it.

Between the driving and the walking out at the bypass, we were out for almost five hours!  The weather was gorgeous, the company was fun, and the animal sightings were enjoyable… A good morning all around.

Species List:

  1. American Bittern, Botaurus lentiginosus
  2. American Coot, Fulica americana
  3. American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
  4. American Wigeon, Anas americana
  5. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  6. Black Mustard, Common Wild Mustard, Brassica nigra
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Black-Crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax
  9. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  10. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  11. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  12. Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
  13. Brown-Headed Cowbird, Molothrus ater
  14. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  15. Bur Clover, Medicago polymorpha
  16. Canvasback Duck, Aythya valisineria
  17. Carrot, American Wild Carrot, Daucus pusillus
  18. Cheeseweed Mallow, Malva parviflora
  19. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  20. Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii
  21. Cut-leaved Crane’s-Bill, Geranium dissectum
  22. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  23. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  24. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  25. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  26. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  27. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  28. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  29. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  30. Greenbottle Fly, Marsh Greenbottle Fly, Lucilia silvarum
  31. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  32. Gumweed, Hairy Gumweed, Grindelia hirsutula
  33. Horned Lark, Eremophila alpestris
  34. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  35. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  36. Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
  37. Khella, Bisnaga Weed, Toothpick Plant, Bishop’s Weed, Ammi visnaga [ a kind of carrot, invasive species]
  38. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  39. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  40. Long-Billed Curlew, Numenius americanus
  41. Long-Billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus scolopaceus
  42. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  43. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
  44. Mediterranean Stork’s-Bill, Erodium botrys
  45. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  46. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  47. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  48. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  49. Paper Wasp, Black Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula
  50. Paper Wasp, Red Paper wasp, Apache Paper Wasp, Polistes apachus
  51. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
  52. Prickly Sowthistle, Pigweed, Sonchus asper
  53. Raven, Common Raven, Corvus corax
  54. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  55. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  56. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  57. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
  58. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia [saw in the field on the drive]
  59. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
  60. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium
  61. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  62. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  63. Shepherd’s-Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
  64. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  65. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  66. Sunflower, Common Sunflower, Helianthus annuus
  67. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  68. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  69. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  70. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  71. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  72. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  73. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi
  74. Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata

First Trip to Reinhardt, 02-26-21

Up at 6:00 am again and out the door at 6:30 with my friend Roxanne for a long trip to the Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park in Oakland.  “[The] Dr. Aurelia Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park is a part of the East Bay Regional Parks District in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is located in the hills east of Oakland. The park contains the largest remaining natural stand of coast redwood found in the East Bay.”  It was the hope of seeing something different in the redwoods that prompted us to make the journey.

Me trying to hug one of the Coast Redwoods. I feel such an affinity with them. [Photo by Roxanne Moger.]

We took the “scenic route” which was about 2-hours one way. Roxanne did all of the driving, for which I was immensely grateful. From Interstate 5 South, we took Highway 160 South to Highway 4 West, then from Highway 24 West to Highway 13 South, and then into the park (which is huge). 

We were following the directions of “The Google Lady”, but when we were on Highway 160 she didn’t tell us to make a left-hand turn over a drawbridge so we went straight ahead. Then The Google Lady took us in a wide circle around old levee roads back to where the bridge was. 

I was peeved that we’d been led in a circle, but if we hadn’t made that unexpected side-trip we would have missed some great sights like a Great Egret rookery, a Great Blue Heron sitting on its nest, and a huge Black-Crowned Night Heron day roost (with maybe 100 birds in it). So, I couldn’t complain too much. Hah!

Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias, on its nest

When we got to the park we found the Redwood Gate and went in through there. Normally, you have to pay a day-use fee of $5 per vehicle, but today the fees were waived. That was nice to see.

Our first priority was finding a working restroom or porta-potty. (Had to get rid of our breakfast coffee. Hah!) We found one restroom facility, but it was boarded up without-of-order signs on it, and another sign directing us to another restroom at the end of the drive. We thought it was odd, in this time of COVID, for whomever oversees the park to have EVERYONE collect at that one restroom… Wouldn’t that increase the chances of contamination? Well, at least there were flush toilets and a sink to wash your hands.  I was also pleased to see EVERYONE wearing face protection, gators or masks, everywhere we went in the park. Social distancing was also maintained, even on the trails.

We found a shaded place to park right near where a couple of trail meet, so we picked a direction and just started walking, no looking for anything in particular, just taking everything in. (Well, I HAD hoped to see a banana slug, or some newts, or a Giant Salamander… but it just wasn’t wet enough there. The creek wasn’t “creeking” much.  And the air was still a little chilly in the shadier parts. I was comfortable in my long-sleeved shirt for the most part. I was sunny but a little breezy.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Lots of lichen to look at, but only a few fungi. There was Elegant Fringe Lichen, Heterodermia leucomelos, which I had never seen before. It looked like a plain tube lichen… but had fine black hairs sprouting out all over the thallus. Very cool! The bark on some of the trees were “fluffy” with different kinds of beard lichen, and on the ends of the boards of part of a low fence along the trail we saw Powderhorn lichen. Lots to look at.

One of the most curious lichen we found (to me) was a kind of pelt lichen growing on top of moss on a boulder. The underside of each “leaf” of the pelt was covered in “teeth” that grabbed into the moss.  I’d never seen that before.

Dog Pelt Lichen, Peltigera canina [thick “skin” with lots of “teeth” on the back of the pelt]

Among the fungi we saw different kinds of Stereum and crust fungus, some Sulphur Tuft mushrooms, and some purple-black Cramp Balls. I was expecting more, but again it wasn’t wet enough there…and we only worked one area. The park is huge, so there might have been more to see elsewhere.

As we first drove in, I saw a Bewick’s Wren and a Robin greeting us.  And then as we walked the trails, we could hear little peeping birds everywhere, but catching sight of one and then being able to photograph it was quite a feat. There were tiny chickadees in the upper branches of the trees, and little spotted Brown Creepers working on the bark. Both kinds of birds are very small and hard to see even in good light. In the shade of the trees, photographing them was even more difficult because the camera’s auto-focus fought me against the dark shadows.

In one area we watched some Spotted Towhees flying amid the underbrush, and then participating in what looked like knock-down drag-out fights with one another. In other areas, we could hear the towhees calling to one another in their raspy voices, but couldn’t see them.

Later, we heard something that sounded sort of like a jay, but not exactly like the Scrub Jays we see regularly in the Valley. Looking around, we realized the sound was coming from Steller’s Jays (large blue jays with a smokey black head and crest). At yet another stop, we had a pair of ravens cawing to each other in a tree over our head.

The plants and trees, though, gave us a LOT to look at and photograph. (I took 1000 photos on this trip.) The bay trees were in blossom everywhere, and there were alders, oaks and willows, acacias, hazelnut trees, madrones and buckeye, and redwoods, of course. The understory was crammed full of a variety of plants, vines, mosses and ferns. [I figure it will take me DAYS to sort through everything and get it identified.] There were quite a few new-to-me things almost everywhere we looked so it made for a very interesting and curiosity provoking hike. 

Dotted throughout the landscape where we were, there were trees with white flowers on them that we assumed were either some kind of almond or some kind of plum. (They all look the same to me.) We also found some Flowering Currant plants that were starting to flower. The pink flowers were all on dangling racemes; some of the flowers were just starting to open.  

Red Flowering Currant, Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum

I also saw my first trillium plant. I’d seen photos of them, of course, but had never seen one “live” before. It’s bud was sitting in the middle of its large spotted leaves, but it hadn’t opened yet. Still, very interesting.

Giant White Wakerobin, Trillium albidum

Rox pointed out stands of small liverwort plants, and showed me the little pockets in which the “gemmae” were sitting.  The gemmae are tiny cellular bodies that can separate from the mother plant and form new plants. Usually, the mechanism that separates these gemmae from the liverwort plants is simple rainfall. This type of asexual reproduction is referred to as “fragmentation”.

While we were walking along, a young man came up — I think he said he was visiting from Slovenia — and asked if we knew where he could get something to eat nearby. I was so intent on trying get a photo of a Dark-Eyed Junco at the time that I didn’t say anything, and let Rox explain to him that we weren’t from the area ourselves, so we didn’t know where anything was — and there was no cellphone service there — so we weren’t able to be of much help. It wasn’t until after he left us and the Junco was gone that it occurred to me that I could have given him my lunch if he was really hungry. D’oh!

Elsewhere, we saw old willow stem galls, as well as some fresh bud galls on Coyote Brush. A new gall for me was the one on honeysuckle. It’s a kind of “rosette” gall that looks like a little bouquet of green flowers. It’s caused by the Honeysuckle Gall Midge, Lonicerae lonicera.

Gall of the Honeysuckle Gall Midge, Lonicerae lonicera [rosette gall]

A surprise for me for the day was spotting a Mourning Cloak butterfly. They’re a dark butterfly with light trim on their wings. These are interesting butterflies in that they don’t generally feed on nectar or pollen; they prefer to feed on tree sap and rotting fruit.

Mourning Cloak Butterfly, Nymphalis antiopa

They’re also a butterfly that overwinters as adults and estivate in the summer. So, they fly and mate in the late winter and spring, sleep in the treetops during the hot summer months, and then fly again in the late fall and early winter months looking for food to help them overwinter. Females lay eggs on willows, elms or hackberry trees, wrapping the eggs around twigs in circling groups. When the caterpillars hatch they feed inside a communal web before they pupate and emerge as butterflies in June or July.

One thing that really ticked us off was seeing dog-poo bags left all over the trails. I don’t understand why people pick up their dog’s poop to keep the feces from contaminating the landscape — but then leave it in a bag that will contaminate the landscape. Idiocy. On the second half of our walk, Rox brought a larger bag with her and picked up the bags of crap so she could dispose of them properly.

Another hiker saw what she was doing and thanked Rox for her efforts. The woman said she usually scolds those she sees dumping the bags and reminds them that the people who take care of the park aren’t their maids and don’t get paid to clean up after other people’s dogs. And she’s right. It’s a conundrum: do you clean up after the pigs who leave their dog’s poop bags on the trail (thereby facilitating their misbehavior), or do you leave the bags and let the environment be tainted by them?

Fellow Certified California Naturalist, Roxanne Moger, on a pretty part of the trail.

Our walk took us along a piece of the West Ridge Trail. We went out as far as I could before the trail started to incline too much for me, and then we turned around and went back the way we came. That took us back to where the car was parked, so we stopped there for lunch. Then we headed out in direction opposite from the West Ridge Trail, and took the Bridle Trail past the intersections of the Fern Trail and the Mill Trail. By then I wasn’t able to go much further, so we turned around and went back the way we’d come, ending back at the car once more. This counted as #23 of my #52HikeChallenge. Woot!

Full moon rising by the freeway

Traffic going home was horrendous. We’re not used to that around Sacramento since COVID; it took us hours to get home… with a full moon rising. We got back to the house a little before 7:00 pm. So, that was a long day for us, but I really enjoyed it. Thanks to Roxanne for doing all the driving.

Species List:

  1. American Bugleweed, Lycopus americanus [like horehound]
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  4. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  5. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon [along a slough by the road]
  6. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  7. Black-Crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax
  8. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  9. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  10. Bristly Beard Lichen, Usnea hirta [thin bristly fronds]
  11. Brown Creeper, Certhia americana
  12. Bumpy Rim-Lichen, Lecanora hybocarpa [tan to brown apothecia]
  13. California Bay, Umbellularia californica
  14. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  15. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica [dark green with brown apothecia, on trees]
  16. California Oak Moth, Phryganidia californica
  17. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  18. California Scrub Oak, Quercus berberidifolia
  19. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  20. Cherry-Plum Tree, Prunus cerasifera
  21. Chestnut-Backed Chickadee, Poecile rufescens
  22. Chickweed, Common Chickweed, Stellaria media
  23. Coast Redwood, Sequoia sempervirens
  24. Coastal Manroot, Marah oregana
  25. Coastal Woodfern, Dryopteris arguta
  26. Common Cowparsnip, Heracleum maximum
  27. Common Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale
  28. Common Hazel Tree, Corylus avellana [long catkins, no pseudo cones]
  29. Common Pincushion Moss, Dicranoweisia cirrata
  30. Common Powderhorn, Cladonia coniocraea
  31. Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus
  32. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  33. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  34. Cramp Ball Fungus, Annulohypoxylon thouarsianum
  35. Crescent-Cup Liverwort, Lunularia cruciate [look for the gemmae in the cups]
  36. Crevice Alumroot, Heuchera micrantha
  37. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  38. Dark-Eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis
  39. Dendroalsia Moss, Dendroalsia abietina [long, curling tendrils on trees]
  40. Dog Pelt Lichen, Peltigera canina [thick “skin” with lots of “teeth” on the back of the pelt]
  41. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus [along a slough by the road]
  42. Elegant Fringe Lichen, Heterodermia leucomelos
  43. European Gooseberry, Ribes uva-crispa [thorny]
  44. False Turkey-Tail, Stereum ostrea
  45. Farinose Cartilage Lichen,  Ramalina farinacea [like Oakmoss but very thin branches]
  46. Fishbone Beard Lichen, Usnea filipendula
  47. Fluffy Dust Lichen, Lepraria finkii
  48. French Broom, Genista monspessulana
  49. Fringe Cups, Tellima grandiflora [leaves similar to Crevice Alumroot]
  50. Frosted Rim-Lichen, Lecanora caesiorubella 
  51. Giant Vetch, Vicia gigantea
  52. Giant White Wakerobin, Trillium albidum
  53. Goldback Fern, Pentagramma triangularis
  54. Gouty Stem Gall Wasp, Callirhytis quercussuttoni
  55. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  56. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  57. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons [in fields along the road]
  58. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  59. Grey House Spider, Badumna longinqua [sheet web with funnel]
  60. Hermit Thrush, Catharus guttatus
  61. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus bifrons [white flowers]
  62. Honeysuckle Gall Midge, Lonicerae lonicera [rosette gall]
  63. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  64. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii
  65. Madrone, Pacific Madrone, Arbutus menziesii
  66. Mealy Rim-Lichen, Lecanora strobilina [greenish apothecia]
  67. Mourning Cloak Butterfly, Nymphalis antiopa
  68. Mustard Yellow Polypore, Fuscoporia gilva [like a bracket fungus]
  69. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  70. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri [like strap but with soredia]
  71. Ocre Spreading Tooth Fungus, Steccherinum ochraceum
  72. Onion, Allium sp.
  73. Pacific Ninebark, Physocarpus capitatus
  74. Pacific Pea, Lathyrus vestitus
  75. Periwinkle, Greater Periwinkle, Vinca major
  76. Pink Honeysuckle, California Honeysuckle, Lonicera hispidula
  77. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
  78. Raven, Common Raven, Corvus corax
  79. Red Flowering Currant, Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum
  80. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  81. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  82. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  83. Ring-Necked Duck, Aythya collaris
  84. Rose, Rosa sp.
  85. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis [in fields along the road]
  86. Sheet Weaver Spiders, Family: Linyphiidae
  87. Shield Lichen, Parmelia sulcata [greyish,veined]
  88. Shiny Copper Mushroom, Nolanea sp.
  89. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  90. Silver Wattle, Acacia dealbata
  91. Sitka Willow, Salix sitchensis
  92. Smokey-Eyed Boulder Lichen, Porpidia albocaerulescens
  93. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens [in fields along the road]
  94. Speckled Greenshield Lichen, Flavopunctelia flaventior
  95. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  96. Steller’s Jay, Cyanocitta stelleri
  97. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha [without soredia]
  98. Sulphur Tuft Mushroom, Hypholoma fasciculare
  99. Tall Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis
  100. Toothed Crust Fungus, Steccherinum ochraceum
  101. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  102. Trailing Blackberry, California Blackberry, Rubus ursinus
  103. Tree-skirt Moss, Pseudanomodon attenuates
  104. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  105. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  106. Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  107. Western Sword Fern, Polystichum munitum
  108. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  109. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  110. Whitewash Lichen, Phlyctis argena
  111. Willow Stem Sawfly Gall, Euura exiguae
  112. Wood Forget-Me-Not, Myosotis sylvatica
  113. Yerba Santa, California Yerba Santa, Eriodictyon californicum
  114. ?? Tube Lichen
  115. ?? White-flowered fruit trees

The Toad was the Stand-Out, 02-16-21

I got up around 6:30 am.  It was a lovely day; a Goldie Locks day; not too h-ot, not too cold… I had originally planned to go out to Beales Point at Folsom Lake with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne, and our new buddy Colleen, but then we discovered that the water in the lake was so low, we’d have to walk as much as a half mile just to get to it. I didn’t think I could manage that — all that walking before getting close enough to see anything — so we re-scheduled with Colleen to go out next week to Hinkle Creek, and Rox and I decided to check out the Watt Avenue access to the American River today.

We’d never been there before and didn’t really know what to expect. We ended up seeing more than we thought we might.

You enter the park from La Riviera Drive. Pay the day-use fee at the kiosk (or use your annual pass) and then drive forward. You can’t see where you’re going for a moment, because there is a very steep drop from the payment kiosk down to the riverside parking area. It looks like you’re driving off a cliff for a minute! Rox drove down the incline and parked in a designated parking spot. [I took a photo of one car that was parked right next to a NO PARKING sign, blocking part of the boat launch ramp.]

There’s a paved trail that runs alongside the oak and cottonwood tree forested riparian strip that can be used by hikers, bikers and equestrians. But there is also a narrow dirt footpath that runs closer to the riverside and even provides access to shallow beaches and the water. This is the path Rox and chose to start with. One of the first things we found were bug galls on the Coyote Brush bushes.

Walking the dirt footpath

Most of the trees are pretty much still naked, but some of the willows were bursting with catkins, and so were what looked like red maples and elderberry bushes. The vervain was growing up and leafing out, as were the Mugwort and bur chervil plants.  In a couple of months, when things green up more, it should be gorgeous there.

Manroot vines were lifting themselves up off the ground like snakes; we also found one vine that was already in flower with the male and females flowers very evident and identifiable. Some of the female flowers were starting their seed pods. On one of the vines was feeding a troupe of Boxelder Bugs.  Because it was still chilly, and a bit damp by the river, the insects were pretty torpid, so it was easy to get photos of them.

Western Boxelder Bugs, Boisea rubrolineata

The one plant we were expecting but didn’t see much of were pipevines. We only found one small plant near the end of our walk there.

In the water were Great Egrets, Mallards, Common Goldeneye ducks, Common Mergansers, Canada Geese and even a white Chinese Goose.  There was birdsong all around us and we were able to identify some of it: Spotted Towhees, Scrub Jays, Starlings, hummingbirds, Red-Shouldered Hawks.  We saw one of the hawks land in a nearby tree, but he’d chosen a very spindly soft branch to settle on and it kept bending out from under him. He had to keel adjusting his stance and flapping his wings to keep himself stable. There were also a lot of gulls in the water.

There seemed to be Nuttall’s Woodpeckers all over the place. We were able to get photos of a few of them… and wondered if it was just the same bird that kept moving from tree to tree in front of us. Hah!

Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii, male

We could hear California Quail calling to each other, and eventually came across a spot where they were running through the leaflitter into a clump of wild blackberry vines. They move so fast when they’re on the run, getting picture of them was difficult.

There were a few fungi showing themselves here and there along our route, especially the Yellow Fieldcaps which showed up in fairy circles here and there in the long grass. We found some nice specimens of Splitgills, Silky Pinkgills, Goldenhaired Inkcaps, and also some large Oyster Mushrooms among others. 

When I bent down to pull up a piece of a log that had a smudge of what looked like slime mold on it, we discovered a very large Western Toad hiding under it! Although he peed all over me when I picked him up, the toad was pretty amenable and let us take photos of him from every angle until we put him back in the grass. He was a surprise, and one of my favorite finds of the day.

And, yes, there was some slime mold on the log, some Carnival Candy, Arcyria denudata. Woot!

All along the trail, we noticed that there were white spot painted on some of the trees. At first we thought they were marking trees that needed to be cut down, but then we realized that the marks were all at the same height on each of the trees.  I speculated that maybe they were indicators of the water level of the river when it rose.

White spots on the trees, which we think are a way to measure how high the river rises.

That made me worry a little bit about the homeless people who had camps along the edge of the river. If there was a sudden release from Folsom Dam, they’d all be washed away. We were careful to avoid those encampments, or at least give them a wide berth when we saw them. The mental health of homeless folks is always a concern for me… and those people we saw weren’t wearing masks for COVID.

We walked as far as we could along the dirt trail we were on, then climbed up the bank to the paved trail along the top of the levee, and used that to walk back to the car.  The round-trip route was a little over a mile so it counted as hike #18 of my #52HikeChallenge.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos from the Watt Avenue Access.

We were still feeling strong and nature-curious, so we went over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve and did a mile turn there, too. That’s a lot of walking for me, and I was dragging at the end of it, but there were a few surprises for us along the way here, too.

While I was waiting for Rox to get her annual park pass, I waited outside on the opening of the main trail and saw a Red-Shouldered Hawk sitting on a nearby tree. I kept saying to myself, “Stay there until Rox gets here, stay there until Rox gets here…” Hah!  The hawk did stay there, and when Rox joined me on the trail, the hawk’s mate showed up. There was a very brief interaction, and then the two sat side-by-side for a moment before the mate flew off again. Wham-bam, thank you, ma’am.

As we then headed out on our walk there, we found an outcropping of several large Blewit mushrooms. One was around 5 inches wide across the cap!  All of them were old specimens that had started to lose their lavender hue, but still held onto some of that on the stipe.

Along the trail, we also found other mushrooms like Yellow Fieldcaps, some Jack-o-Lanterns, Brittlestems, and a Grey Knight. The best find, though, was one by Rox. She found a nice group of perfect little Bleeding Mycena.

The Bleeding Mycena (also called Bleeding Fairy Caps, eew) don’t bleed blood, of course. They bleed a dark red latex when the cap or stipe is broken, but they have a white spore print. These ‘shrooms, along with the mycelia that support them, are supposed to be bioluminescent. The first cluster that Rox found was right near some Jack-o-Lanterns, which are also bioluminescent… so it was like a whole Halloween theme going on there!

Near the back of the nature center there was a pipevine plant that was in blossom. We knew that fungus gnats often get into the calabash shaped flowers to pollinate them, so I held one of the blossoms up to the sunlight. We could see the gnat shadows inside of it, flittering around. As Rox opened up the belly of the flower, the gnats emerged. I tried getting video, but the camera kept shifting its focus. I DID get some still shots, though.

I showed Rox where I had seen the Red Raspberry Slime Mold the other day, and there were still some remnants of it, but it was mostly dark and gone to spore by this time. Further along the trail, we came across some white slime mold, Stemonitopsis typhina, sometimes called White-Finger Slime Mold (or “Dead Man’s Fingers” because the white fingers eventually turn black and disintegrate as they go to spore. Their spores are lilac-brown.)

Remember, that slime molds start out as single-celled amoeba-like critters that roam free all over the forest floor, feeding on detritus and bacteria. When temperatures are right and food sources start to dwindle, the single-celled guys get together with hundreds of others (finding each other through hormone secretions) and form a plasmodium which continues as a group to move along until they find a place that will be support them while they reproduce. Then the plasmodium changes into the sporangia, the fruiting body stage. In some slime molds, some of the critters sacrifice themselves and form the stalks that support fruiting heads. Those that form the stalks die and never reproduce. Those that fruit, go to spore… and then the whole cycle starts again.

The white slime mold we found was in two sections: one was in the sporangia stage with white fruiting heads on top of black stalks, and the other was in the plasmodium stage, the watery-white plasma just starting to form globules. Very cool.

We saw several deer along the trail, including a doe being harassed by a persistent buck. She must have been in estrus because he wasn’t leaving her alone — but she could hardly walk. It looked like one of her hips wasn’t working right and she limped badly as she tried to walk away and avoid the buck’s advances. At one point, she actually fell to the ground and sat there for a moment before getting back onto her feet.  We felt sooooo bad for her. When I got home, I sent an email to the nature center to alert them to the does distress.

This interaction was taking place near the bee-tree. I’ve been lamenting because I haven’t seen any bee action at the tree for a couple of months. Today, both Rox and I saw some single bees moving around the tree. I’ll keep an eye on it over the spring to see if the hive revives… 

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos from the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve.

We walked for over a mile here, too, so it counts as hike #19 of my #52HikeChallenge. Of course, it takes us “forever” to go a mile because we stop to look at everything.  We were out for about 6 hours!

By the time we were done at Effie, we were both hungry, so Rox treated us to a lunch at Bella Bru. We haven’t been able to do that since COVID started… just about a year to the day. It was a kind of “celebration” for us.

Lunch at Bella Bru: club sandwich and fries, with a side of clam chowder and a large Mocha Freezo. YUM!

Species List:

  1. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  2. Bark Rim Lichen, Lecanora chlarotera [looks like Whitewash Lichen but has apothecia]
  3. Barometer Earthstar, Hygroscopic Earthstar, Astraeus hygrometricus
  4. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  5. Bleeding Mycena, Bleeding Fairy Helmet, Mycena haematopus
  6. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  7. Blewit Mushroom, Purple Core, Lepista nuda
  8. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  9. Boreal Button Lichen, Buellia disciformis [pale gray to bluish with black apothecia on wood]
  10. Brazilian Vervain, Verbena brasiliensis
  11. Broad-Leaved Dock, Rumex obtusifolius
  12. Brown Jelly Fungus, Leafy Brain, Phaeotremella foliacea
  13. Bur Parsley, Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  14. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  15. California Gull, Larus californicus [yellow legs; dark eye; red spot]
  16. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  17. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  18. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  19. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  20. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  21. California Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  22. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  23. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  24. Carnival Candy Slime Mold, Arcyria denudata
  25. Cherry-Plum Tree, Prunus cerasifera
  26. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  27. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  28. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  29. Common Sunburst Lichen, Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina [yellow-orange,on wood/trees]
  30. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  31. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  32. Cramp Ball Fungus, Annulohypoxylon thouarsianum
  33. Crowded Parchment, Stereum complicatum [like Turkey-tail but very flat]
  34. Dark-Winged Fungus Gnat, Bradysia sp.
  35. Deceiver Mushroom, Laccaria laccata [reddish-tan, dimpled, goblet shaped]
  36. Dog, Canis lupus familiaris
  37. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  38. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  39. Fairy Parachutes, Marasmiellus candidus [like oysterlings, but more fanned out]
  40. False Turkey-Tail, Stereum hirsutum [thin, flattish, brown underside]
  41. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  42. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  43. Golden- Haired Inkcap Mushroom, Parasola auricoma
  44. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  45. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  46. Grey Knight Mushroom, Tricholoma terreum [gray-white cap, light gills, flattened stipe]
  47. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  48. Hoverfly, Large-tailed Aphideater, Eupeodes volucris
  49. Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
  50. Lords and Ladies, Wild Arum, Arum italicum
  51. Lupine, Lupine sp.
  52. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  53. Manyflower Marshpennywort, Hydrocotyle umbellata [white flowers, leaves rounded like nasturtium]
  54. Mouse-Eared Stereum, Stereum ochraceoflavum
  55. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  56. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  57. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  58. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  59. Oyster Mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus
  60. Pale Oysterling, Crepidotus caspari [tiny, white, well-spaced gills]
  61. Pussy Willow, American Pussy Willow, Salix discolor
  62. Red Edge Brittlestem Mushroom, Psathyrella corrugis
  63. Red Maids, Fringed Red-Maids, Calandrinia ciliata
  64. Red Maple, Acer rubrum
  65. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  66. Redstem Filaree, Stork’s Bill, Erodium cicutarium [corkscrew seed pods]
  67. Sheet Weaver Spiders, Family: Linyphiidae
  68. Silky Pink Gill Mushroom, Nolanea sericea (Entoloma sericeum ssp. sericeum) [very dark brown cap with a nipple on top]
  69. Silverleaf Fungus, Chondrostereum purpureum [sort of like Stereum with white/pale edges]
  70. Silvery Bryum Moss, Bryum argenteum
  71. Splitgill Mushroom, Schizophyllum commune
  72. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  73. Swan Goose, Anser cygnoides [can be white, or gray/brown, knob on the bill]
  74. Trailing Blackberry, California Blackberry, Rubus ursinus
  75. Tube Slimes, Stemonitis sp.
  76. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  77. Western Black Widow Spider, Latrodectus hesperus
  78. Western Boxelder Bug, Boisea rubrolineata
  79. Western Jack-O’-Lantern Mushroom, Omphalotus olivascens
  80. Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis
  81. Western Toad, Anaxyrus boreas
  82. White Finger Slime Mold, Stemonitopsis typhina
  83. Witch’s Butter Jelly Fungus, Tremella mesenterica
  84. Yellow Fieldcap Mushroom, Bolbitius titubans

Lots Happening at the River, 02-08-21

I was feeling pretty good this morning, “ahead of the pain”, so I went on a walk at the American River Bend Park again. I went down different trails this time and got to see a wide variety of things.  It was 41° when I got there; just a bright, chilly, lovely morning.

I found quite a few different lichen including Rim, Sunburst, Camouflage, Hooded Rosette, Whitewash, Oakmoss, and others, and also found the crop of Mealy Pixie Cups. I’ve only been able to find those in one spot along the trail on a stump that sits slightly off to the side of the trail. The mosses were all out, bright green and fluffy, adding an extra dimension to the trees and landscape.

There still aren’t a lot of mushrooms out yet, but I did find Magpie Inkcaps, Hare’s Foot Inkcaps and some White Stubble Rosegill. Those are bright white with a thick, slick, shiny cap that feels heavy in the hand. Their gills have a very pale pink tinge that can fade as the ‘shroom ages.

White Stubble Rosegill, Volvopluteus gloiocephalusi

The Wild Turkeys were out strutting again, bachelor groups working on their hierarchies separate from the females for the moment. When they’ve hammered that out, it will be the highest ranking males that will get to mate with the females. 

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I’m still seeing bucks with antlers, but also saw a couple of them that have lost theirs.  The deer shed their antlers every year and grow new ones from the spring and into the summer that harden and sharpen right before the rut at the end of the year.

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus

In and near the river, I watched as a Snowy Egret paced a female Common Merganser duck along the shore. When the Merganser would catch something, the egret tried to steal it from her. This kind of behavior, called kleptoparasitism, is common in gulls, but I’d never heard of an egret doing this.

I also saw a lovely male/female pair of the Mergansers swimming in the water. They came pretty close to the shore where I was standing, and I got some nice photos of them. At one point, the male gave the female a “Salute” (stretch neck until bill points straight up), and called to her… I don’t think the female was impressed, though. She gave him a Threat gesture (lowering her head and jabbing out her bill) before they continued on. I think he wanted sex and she said no. Hah!

About the Mergansers, I was surprised to read in Cornell: “…As a top predator in aquatic food chains, this species has served as an indicator of environmental health both for contaminants (pesticides, toxic metals) and lake acidification…” The American River must be pretty healthy then; there are Mergansers all around it.

As I walked along the trail, I was startled by the sight of about five or six Turkey Vultures sitting on the side of the hill that looked down over the river. A few were also in the low branches of trees that looked out over the water. When I got close enough, I found Turkey Vultures sitting on rocks in the river and along the banks… I think the fishermen further upstream were dumping fish parts in the water after they caught and cleaned salmon.  Among the vultures was a Great Blue Heron who challenged some of them for their spot on the rocks.

Among other birds I encountered today were Dark-Eyed Juncos, Western Bluebirds, Nuttall’s Woodpeckers, Acorn Woodpeckers, Flickers and others. I walked for about 3 ½ hours before heading home.  This was walk #14 in my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  2. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  3. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  4. Black Jelly Roll Fungus, Black Witches’ Butter, Exidia glandulosa
  5. Boreal Button Lichen, Buellia disciformis [pale gray to bluish with black apothecia on wood]
  6. Bumpy Rim-Lichen, Lecanora hybocarpa [tan to brown apothecia]
  7. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  8. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica
  9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  10. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  11. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  12. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica [heard]
  13. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  14. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  15. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  16. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  17. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  18. Common Sunburst Lichen, Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina [yellow-orange,on wood/trees]
  19. Coyote Brush Stem Gall moth, Gnorimoschema baccharisella
  20. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  21. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  22. Dark-Eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis
  23. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  24. Fancy Frost Lichen, Physconia americana
  25. Foothill Shoulderband Snail, Helminthoglypta cypreophila
  26. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  27. Frosted Rim Lichen, Lecanora caesiorrubella [light gray with light gray apothecia on wood]
  28. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  29. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  30. Hare’s Foot Inkcap, Coprinopsis lagopus
  31. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  32. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  33. Magpie Inkcap, Common Inkcap, Coprinopsis picacea
  34. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  35. Mealy Pixie Cup, Cladonia chlorophaea
  36. Mealy Rim-Lichen, Lecanora strobilina 
  37. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  38. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  39. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  40. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri [like strap but with soredia]
  41. Pale Oysterling, Crepidotus caspari [tiny, white, well-spaced gills]
  42. Pleated Inkcap, Parasola plicatilis
  43. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus [heard]
  44. Ring-Billed Gull, Larus delawarensis [ black ring, light eye, yellow legs]
  45. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  46. Rosette Lichen, Physcia millegrana [dense grainy greenish with dark apotheca]
  47. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  48. Silvery Bryum Moss, Bryum argenteum
  49. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  50. Speckled Greenshield Lichen, Flavopunctelia flaventior
  51. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  52. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha [without soredia]
  53. Tall Psathyrella Mushroom, Psathyrella longipes
  54. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  55. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  56. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  57. Western Gull, Larus occidentalis [spot on bill, pink legs, orange circle around eye]
  58. Western Sycamore, Platanus racemosa
  59. White Stubble Rosegill, Volvopluteus gloiocephalusi [white mushroom, slick cap with colored center, pale pink to gills, papery volva]
  60. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  61. Whitewash Lichen, Phlyctis argena
  62. Yellow Fieldcap Mushroom, Bolbitius titubans