Category Archives: galls

Lots of Deer on a Birding Trip, 02-22-23

Around 9:00 AM this morning I headed out to the Gristmill Recreation Area for a walk even though my cancer was making my left leg hurt a lot (around a 7). I was hoping the movement would help to unbind the affected muscles in my thigh and hip area, but it actually started to make it worse. So I only stayed out there for about an hour.

In that hour, though, I saw quite a bit. There was a huge Bay Tree that was in bloom., the only tree in bloom besides the Almond Trees in the park. The Boxelder Trees were starting to push out their leaves and catkins, and the Mugwort plants and Manroot Vines were starting to come up.

The willow trees were all starting to “pussy” getting their early catkins. On the Arroyo Willows there were the old galls of the Willow Rosette Gall Midge, Rabdophaga salicisbrassicoides. They were all silvery black with age.

I saw a few birds including Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, Lesser Goldfinches, Bewick’s Wrens, and a Nuttall’s Woodpecker. I also caught sight of a Red-Shouldered Hawk sitting in the top of a tree with her breast to the morning sun. I saw it just as a group of birders further back on the trail behind me saw the bird. One of the birders with a huge camera on a tripod tried moving in closer to the tree to get some pictures of the hawk. I was able to get one shot in before the bird, spooked by the approaching birder, flew away. The birder was still moving and didn’t get any photos.

I went back to the car and took some pain pills and waited for a few minutes before heading over to the nearby American River Bend Park. By the time I got to the park the pain pills had kicked in and I was able to walk more freely.

The first critters I encountered at the park was a bachelor group of Wild Turkeys. During this time of the year their coloring is especially brilliant. I know some people consider the birds a nuisance, but I think they’re such handsome birds.

There were also deer all over the place on both sides of the road: does, yearlings and bucks. Most of the bucks were younger ones, spike bucks and 2-pointers. But among them was a large 4-pointer (going on 5-). He was stunning.

When I was getting a video snippet of one group of the deer, I saw something zooming back and forth in the grass, and I didn’t know what it was. When I got a better look I realized it was Black-Tailed Jackrabbits chasing one another. I got a video snippet of one of them dashing around.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

There were Pipevine plants starting to show off with their calabash pipe flowers and heart-shaped leaves. They’re the precursors of the Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies and caterpillars.

Among the birds I saw were a Red-Shouldered Hawk, a Western Bluebird, Oak Titmice, Audubon’s Warblers, Acorn Woodpeckers [one of them chasing a Nuttall’s Woodpecker out of its granary tree], and a Northern Flicker. In the water, I saw Common Mergansers, Crows, Common Goldeneyes, a flock of Bufflehead flying over the river, Mallards, gulls, and a small Spotted Sandpiper.

On the other side of the river I watched some Great Egrets fighting over fishing spots, and a Belted Kingfisher nattering angrily at a pair of Canada Geese that decided to float through its fishing grounds.

As I was leaving the park, I came across a Eastern Fox Squirrel that was “bathing” itself on the perch of a tree stump. It was soooo cute!

I was out in the park for about 3 hours, so I walked for a total of 4 hours on this excursion. It was fun, and wonderful to be outdoors, but it was also very wearing and I crashed when I got home. This was hike #6 in my #52HikeChallenge for the year.

Species List:

  1. Acorn WoodpeckerMelanerpes formicivorus
  2. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
  3. Anna’s HummingbirdCalypte anna
  4. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  5. Bay Laurel, California Bay, Umbellularia californica
  6. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  9. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  10. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola [flyby]
  11. Bumpy Rim-Lichen, Lecanora hybocarpa [tan to brown apothecia]
  12. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  13. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  14. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica 
  15. California MugwortArtemisia douglasiana
  16. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  17. California Scrub JayAphelocoma californica
  18. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  19. Columbian Black-Tailed DeerOdocoileus hemionus columbianus
  20. Common Chickweed, Stellaria media
  21. Common GoldeneyeBucephala clangula
  22. Common Merganser, American Common Merganser, Mergus merganser americanus
  23. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  24. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  25. Eastern Fox SquirrelSciurus niger [rusty belly]
  26. Flies, Black-Margined Flower Fly, Syrphus opinator
  27. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  28. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  29. Gull, Herring Gull, Larus argentatus
  30. Gull, Larus sp.
  31. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  32. Mallard DuckAnas platyrhynchos
  33. Manroot, California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  34. Mistletoe, Broadleaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron macrophyllum
  35. Mosses, Bonfire Moss, Funaria hygrometrica
  36. Mourning DoveZenaida macroura
  37. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  38. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  39. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  40. Oak TitmouseBaeolophus inornatus
  41. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  42. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  43. Powder-Edged Speckled Greenshield , Flavopunctelia soredica [pale green, lots of soredia]
  44. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans
  45. Rio Grande Wild TurkeyMeleagris gallopavo intermedia
  46. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  47. Spotted Sandpiper, Actitis macularius
  48. Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus [heard]
  49. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  50. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  51. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  52. White HorehoundMarrubium vulgare
  53. Willow Rosette Gall Midge, Rabdophaga salicisbrassicoides [on stem]
  54. Willow, Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
  55. Wren, Bewick’s WrenThryomanes bewickii

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River Bend, 10-12-22

I got up around 7:00 AM, and headed over to the American River Bend Park for a walk. Thankfully, my left leg was relatively quiet and cooperative, and I didn’t feel the nerve pain creep back in until I was in the car on my way back home.

I saw a pair of does along the side of the road as soon as I drove in. Then further along I saw some large bucks, 3-pointers, but trying to get them to lift their heads so I could get a clear shot of their racks was pretty much impossible. Further along still, I found two young spike bucks. One of them was just starting to rub the velvet off his antlers. It’s nice to see them all up and about.

I also saw a couple of wild turkey parades going across the road. And there were a few jackrabbits hiding in the grass.

The first sulphur shelf specimen I came across was one that had been hacked away from the tree, just leaving the white butt behind.  Elsewhere, though, there were some very robust and brightly colored specimens. There were also a couple of small ones, about the size of your palm, that looked like shells. So pretty.

I was trying to keep a look out for migratory warblers, but didn’t fine any of them. I did find other birds, however. On the top of one of the cottonwood trees there was a small flock of Cedar Waxwings. In the river there were Mallards, Canada Geese, Common Mergansers, gulls… but no migratory birds.  One the “resting rocks” in the water there were a Canada Goose, a Spotted Sandpiper, a Double Crested Cormorant sunning itself in the morning light, a Great Blue Heron and a Green Heron.  Wow!

I saw a small flock of Mourning Doves on the ground doing a display I’d never seen before. One or more of the birds would raise one wing straight up as though trying to shoo away another bird near them. Cornell says: “…Defensive-threat Display. Immature and adult birds crouch, tuck in neck, and orient head toward intruder; then erect plumage, lift and spread wing farthest from threat toward vertical, and spread tail in direction of threat. Usually occurs while defending nest or food source…”            

It looked so odd! I got a little video snippet of it. Later, I saw some of the doves drinking water from the horse trough.

I found my first Alder Tongue Gall of the season; and also found a bud gall on what I think was some kind of rabbitbush or something. I walked for about 2½ hours and then headed home.

Alder Tongue Gall

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Alder Tongue, Western American Alder Tongue Gall Fungus, Taphrina occidentalis
  3. Alder, White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  5. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  6. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  7. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  8. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  9. Cedar Waxwing, Bombycilla cedrorum
  10. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  11. Common Merganser, American Common Merganser, Mergus merganser americanus
  12. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  13. Desert Stink Beetle, Eleodes acuticauda
  14. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auritus
  15. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger [rusty belly]
  16. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  17. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  18. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  19. Green Heron, Butorides virescens
  20. Gull, Larus sp.
  21. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  22. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  23. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  24. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  25. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  26. Oaks, Quercus sp.
  27. Ochre Spreading Tooth Fungus, Steccherinum ochraceum
  28. Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans
  29. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  30. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  31. Speckled Greenshield Lichen, Flavopunctelia flaventior
  32. Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  33. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  34. Western Hardwood Sulphur Shelf, Laetiporus gilbertsonii
  35. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  36. Whitewash Lichen, Phlyctis argena
  37. Wormwoods and Sagebrushes, Artemisia sp.

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The Sulphur Shelf have been Activated, 09-29-22

I got up around 6:00 this morning and, after feeding Esteban his breakfast, I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. It had been a while since I’d been there and I was hoping to see some deer. I walked down the main trail to the Meadow Trail and then around to the Pond Trail and back toward the nature center. It was a cool and breezy morning; perfect for a walk.

I saw some deer when I first got into the preserve – mostly does and yearlings; none of the big boys. And I saw one young spike buck, but after that it was slim pickings as far as the deer went.

I was surprised about halfway through my hike, though, by a pretty female fawn who stepped briefly out from the cover of the forest to get a look at me. She even tentatively stomped her tiny hoof at me. OMG, she was sooooo darling. I was able to get a short video snippet and a few still shots of her before she ran off back into the brush.

How beautiful is she? Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus

Another nice surprise was to see how many of the larger Sulphur Shelf fungi had sprouted out since the rain of last week. The Sulphur Shelf don’t need a lot of rain to get them “activated”; in fact, they don’t like it when it’s real wet outside. They are the harbingers of the fungus season, though; usually the first fungi we see each year. I saw quite a few very large, very brightly colored specimens (along with a few that were already fading). I’d come around a bend in the trail, and there would be another specimen. When they’re new and young, as most of these were, they’re absolutely gorgeous: brilliant orange and yellow. 

California has two species of Sulphur Shelf: Laetiporus gilbertsonii, which grows on hardwood trees and stumps including oaks and eucalyptus trees, and Laetiporus conifericola which grows on conifer trees. Laetiporus gilbertsonii, also called “Chicken of the Forest” is edible when it’s young, but Laetiporus conifericola really isn’t because it pulls in the pine tar taste from the trees.

According to Mykoweb: “…Edible with caution. Prized by many, this species is also known to occasionally cause gastrointestinal upsets. This appears to be caused by eating old and/or insufficiently cooked specimens. If you decide to try it, eat only the young, fresh, growing margins, in small quantities, and cook it thoroughly…”

On some of the specimens, I could see examples of “guttation”, droplets of moisture exuded from the fungus as it grows. The droplets on Sulphur Shelf are clear, like tears, but on other fungi they can be orange, red or even black.

An example of “guttation” of the Sulphur Shelf Fungus.

“…Transpiration and guttation are the two important process of removal of excess water from the plants. However, the two processes are different from each other. Transpiration is the removal of water from the stomata [minute pores in the surface of the epidermis] present on the leaves. On the contrary, guttation is the process of removal of water from the hydathodes [pores along the margins]…” 

I was also happy to see a lot of bee activity in the “bee tree”.  This is one of two natural bee hives in the preserve.

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed back home.

This was hike #52 (!)in my #52HikeChallenge for the year. Woot! I got the 52 hikes done in 39 weeks. Go me!

Species List:

  1. Bee, European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  2. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  3. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  4. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  5. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  6. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  7. Dragonfly, Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
  8. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger [rusty belly]
  9. Fly. Flower-Loving Fly, Apiocera sp.
  10. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  11. Moss, Crisped Pincushion, Ulota crispa
  12. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  13. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  14. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  15. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  16. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  17. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  18. Primrose, Tall Evening Primrose, Oenothera elata
  19. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  20. Snowberry, Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus
  21. Towhee, California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  22. Western Hardwood Sulphur Shelf, Laetiporus gilbertsonii
  23. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  24. Wren, Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  25. ?? Spider egg case

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A Short Wet Walk at River Bend, 09-21-22

I got up around 6:00 this morning to head out to the American River Bend Park with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne.  It was RAINING, but we thought the storm was pretty much finished and wouldn’t cause a problem. Sunshine was pouring through holes in the cloud cover.

Early morning sunlight peaking through the clouds and trees.

I was hoping to see puddles, and slime molds, and migrating birds, but we found none of that. Surprisingly, all of the rain that had fallen had already been sucked up by the perched ground and there wasn’t a puddle to see anywhere. [Puddles sometimes hold hairworms, which a super cool to finds]

In the horse corral area, we saw a Black Phoebe who posed for us, but just slightly out of my camera’s range. As we walked in one direction along the trail that follows the river, we got glimpses of White-Breasted Nuthatches, Acorn Woodpeckers, and Western Bluebirds but nobody really stopped to let us get a good at them. Even the Starlings, who were making themselves conspicuous everywhere, calling from the tops of the trees were, once more slightly out of range.

We could hear California Quail somewhere in the shrubbery below the trail, and the crackling call of Sandhill Cranes overhead, but we didn’t see either of them.

We came across some fishermen who were making a lot of noise. Two in their group had caught huge salmon in the river. One had managed to pull his catch to shore, and his friends were telling him to sit and rest for a bit. He’d earned it.

[I used to go fishing with my mom – not so much to catch fish, but just to sit in nature, in each other’s company. We would have died if we’d ever caught anything that big on our little bamboo poles. The biggest thing I ever pulled out of the water on my fishing line was a moray eel from the ocean along the rocks at Dana Point.]

Anyway, there was another fisherman, up in the parking area, putting his catch in a bag. It too was a huge salmon. Roxanne talked to him for a bit, and he told her that he fished as often as he could and filled up his freezer with the meat. Then when the freezer was full, he’d take the fish up to Franklin Street, I think he said, and cooked them up for the homeless. He said it felt like a reciprocal thing: if he shared the fish, the river would be generous and let him catch more. Awwww.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos [such as it is].

By then it had started to rain hard enough that it was soaking through our clothes, and we worried about keeping our cameras dry.  [I need to get some of those disposable rain ponchos to carry in my backpack. They’d be easier to use than an umbrella in the field.] So, we headed back to the car. Then the rain let up a bit and just as it did, Roxanne spotted a Red-Shouldered Hawk we had seen along the trail earlier. We “stalked” it and found it sitting on a branch of a tree, so well camouflaged by the dappled colors on its back that it was actually difficult to see at first. It sat still long enough for us to get some photos of it before it took off through the woods.

Then, it started raining harder again, so we decided to cut the walk short and head home. We didn’t walk far enough for this to count toward my #52HikeChallenge for the year.

Species List:

You can tell it’s a rough walk when the species list is THIS short.

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  3. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  4. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  5. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  6. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  7. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  8. Chinook Salmon, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha
  9. Cytospora Canker, Cytospora chrysosperma
  10. English Walnut, Juglans regia
  11. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  12. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  13. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  14. Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans
  15. Tobacco, Coyote Tobacco, Flowering Tobacco, Nicotiana attenuata
  16. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  17. Western Hardwood Sulphur Shelf, Laetiporus gilbertsonii
  18. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  19. Whiteflies, Family: Aleyrodidae
  20. Wren, House Wren, Troglodytes aedon

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