Category Archives: galls

The Buttermilk Trail, 04-26-21

I got up around 5:30 this morning, so I could head out with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne to go into the South Yuba River State Park in the Penn Valley area of Nevada County. We were interested in hiking the Buttermilk Bend Trail. It was partly cloudy, slightly breezy and cool all day. A lovely day for a nature walk.

It took about 2 hours to get to the park, including stops for gas, coffee and a potty break. We got there via highways 70, 49 and 20 to Pleasant Valley Road. For the most part, there was a lot to see on the drive, especially as we got closer to the park. Some of the roadside embankments were covered in white Globe Lilies, irises, yellow Pretty Face, blue Ithuriel’s Spears, and French broom. Pretty!

Prettyface, Triteleia ixioides

We went past the historic barn and the covered bridge(which is undergoing a complete overhaul), and pulled into the main parking lot near the head of the trail. We attacked the trail from near the kiosk and had to climb a steep incline to get to the trail itself. Next time, we’ll enter the trail from the end of the parking lot where there’s a shallower incline and several small bridges that lead up onto the trail. After that initial incline, the rest of the trail was VERY easy to walk, and provided beautiful views of flowers, the river, and acres of a wide variety of trees.

All the while we were walking, we were lulled by the sounds of the river.

Between the views, the research we were able to do, the company, and the weather, it was a great hike.

CLICK HERE for photo album #1.
CLICK HERE for photo album #2.

We could smell and see smoke in some spots on the other side of the river, and figured that they were controlled burns. Cal Fire was out there — and that turned out to be a good thing for me. I’ll tell you more about that later.

There were several different kinds of oak trees in the area: coast live, interior live, blue, valley and black oaks.  So, we got to see quite a few galls including some folded leaf galls, some old Gray Mid-Rib Galls, Round Leaf Galls, spring generation galls of the Live Oak Gall Wasp (that look like funnels with a cap on them), and lots of spring generation galls of the Two-Horned Gall Wasp (that look like shiny brown beaks).

We were surprised to find galls on some of the wild lupine, and some examples of “witches’ broom” on a toyon bush.  The broom is caused by a fungus that creates “…an abnormal brush-like cluster of dwarfed weak shoots arising at or near the same point…” Very cool-looking. I’d seen photos of them, but had never seen a live one before.

Also on toyon, was found some wrinkled leaf effects created by woolly aphids. There was one leaf that was so full of the little guys that the honeydew they produced literally poured out onto our hands making everything sticky.

We got to see quite a few butterflies including Pipevine Swallowtails, a Tiger Swallowtail, several beautiful Checkerspots, and some Cabbage Whites. We also saw some species of Blood Bees, mason bees, a camel cricket, and caterpillars. 

As I mentioned before, the flowers were just lovely. We saw one of my favorites: the Twining Snake Lily. They have a spray of dark pink florets at the end of a long stem that twines its way through the trees, bushes and undergrowth to find the sunlight. One of them was growing over our head and came down from the side of the hill and into the tree branches above us.

New-to-me flowers included the White Globe Lilies, Linear-Lobed Owl’s-Clover, Blue Head Gilia and Ookow. The Ookow were so intensely purple-blue they really stood out.

We saw a couple of squirrels and could hear a few different species of birds, including Lesser Goldfinches. They were eating the seeds and tufts from the plants along the trail.

On some of the rocks along the trail, we came across a handful of Western Fence Lizards (the “blue belly” lizard that do push-ups), including one that had splayed itself over the warm surface of the rock, stretching its legs out in all directions so it could flatten its belly on the stone.  On another rock, we found a VERY pregnant female. She had to lift herself up on her front legs to keep her belly from dragging on the ground. Poor baby.

We walked for a little over four hours, which is usually past my strength and pain threshold, but we were seeing so many thing, and the weather was so beautiful, I didn’t stop when I should have.  Just as we got close to the parking lot, I “hit the wall”. I was dizzy, suddenly completely exhausted, and couldn’t walk. Even the feel of the camera and my carry bag around my neck and shoulders was too much. I found a fence post and leaned over it for support while Roxanne went to get the car and bring it closer to me.

As fate would have it, that was the same time the firefighters were returning to their vehicles after working on the controlled burns. I wasn’t going to bother them, but as the seconds went by, I was feeling worse and worse, so I called out with a very weak voice. Thankfully, some of them heard me and two came right over to see if I was okay. Those two firefighters ushered me back to the car while another one ran to get me a bottle of water. 

The Cal Fire crew

I felt I was hydrated well enough, but I hadn’t stopped anywhere along the four hours to get something to eat, so I think my glucose levels had just crashed. The firefighters made sure I was safe in the car with Rox and hung around until I ate something. A few minutes later, after some rest and something to eat I was fine. [[THANK YOU to Rox, the Universe, and the guys from Cal Fire @CALFIRENEU]]

It was a long day, but one of my favorite outings in a long time. I was so happy we were told about this trail.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  3. Arabesque Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona arabesca
  4. Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis
  5. Bark Rim Lichen, Lecanora chlarotera [looks like Whitewash Lichen but has apothecia]
  6. Barometer Earthstar, Hygroscopic Earthstar, Astraeus hygrometricus
  7. Bedstraw, Graceful Bedstraw Galium porrigens [very tiny leaves and flowers]
  8. Big Berry Manzanita, Arctostaphylos glauca
  9. Bigelow’s Spike Moss, Selaginella bigelovii
  10. Bird’s Foot Cliffbrake, Pellaea mucronata
  11. Black Grain-Spored Lichen, Sarcogyne hypophaea [black, grainy, on rocks]
  12. Black Locust Tree, Robinia pseudoacacia
  13. Blood Bee, Sphecodes sp.
  14. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  15. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  16. Bluehead Gilia, Gilia capitata
  17. Bowltube Iris, Iris macrosipho
  18. Bristly Fiddleneck, Amsinckia tessellate
  19. Broad-Nosed Weevil, Subfamily: Entiminae
  20. Brown-Eyed Shingle Lichen, Pannaria rubiginosa [on trees]
  21. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
  22. Bulbous Meadow-Grass, Poa bulbosa
  23. Bumble Bee, Bombus sp.
  24. Cabbage White butterfly, Pieris rapae
  25. California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  26. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  27. California Bumble Bee, Bombus californicus
  28. California Buttercup, Ranunculus californicus
  29. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica [dark green with brown apothecia]
  30. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  31. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  32. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  33. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  34. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  35. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  36. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  37. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  38. Camel Cricket, Gammarotettix sp.
  39. Canyon Live-Forever, Dudleya cymosa
  40. Canyon Live Oak, Quercus chrysolepis
  41. Chaparral Honeysuckle, Lonicera interrupta
  42. Chinese Houses, Purple Chinese Houses, Collinsia heterophylla
  43. Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
  44. Common Sunburst Lichen, Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina [yellow-orange]
  45. Concentric Boulder Lichen, Porpidia crustulata [circles of black spots on rock]
  46. Conical Trashline Orbweaver, Cyclosa conica
  47. Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens
  48. Copper Underwing Moth, Amphipyra pyramidoides [caterpillars are green with thin white stripe]
  49. Coppered White-Cheeked Jumping Spider, Pelegrina aeneola
  50. Cowpie Crater Lichen, Diploschistes muscorum [pale grey with sunken black apotheca]
  51. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  52. Cretanweed, Hedypnois rhagadioloides [small, yellow, dandelion-like]
  53. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  54. Deerbrush Ceanothus, Ceanothus integerrimus [white]
  55. Dendroalsia Moss, Dendroalsia abietina [long, curling tendrils on trees]
  56. Dove’s-Foot Crane’s-Bill, Geranium molle
  57. Elegant Camouflage Lichen, Melanohalea elegantula [leafy like hoary lichen but much darker gray/black]
  58. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata [red line on leaves]
  59. False Turkey-Tail, Stereum ostrea
  60. Flame Firedot Lichen, Caloplaca ignea [orange on rock, elongated lobes and orange apothecia]
  61. Flower Buprestid Beetle, Acmaeodera hepburnii
  62. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  63. French Broom, Genista monspessulana
  64. Fringepod, Sand Fringepod, Common Lacepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes
  65. Gabb’s Checkerspot Butterfly, Chlosyne gabbii
  66. Gall Inducing Wooly Aphid, Stegophylla essigi [in live oaks, folds the leaf over itself; sometimes the leaf turns red/reddish]
  67. Goldback Fern, Pentagramma triangularis
  68. Grassy Tarweed, Madia gracilis
  69. Gray Mid-Rib Gall Wasp, Besbicus multipunctatus
  70. Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana
  71. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  72. Gumweed, Grindelia integrifolia
  73. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa 
  74. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus bifrons [white flowers]
  75. Hoary Rosette Lichen, Physcia aipolia [hoary, brown apothecia]
  76. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  77. Ithuriel’s Spear, Triteleia laxa
  78. Labyrinth Orbweaver Spider, Metepeira labyrinthea
  79. Lecidella Lichen, Lecidella elaeochroma [round black spots on white background]
  80. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  81. Linear-Lobed Owl’s-Clover, Castilleja lineariloba
  82. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [looks like a soft funnel, green to brown]
  83. Lupine Stem Gall Midge, Neolasioptera lupini
  84. Lupine, Bush Lupine, Silver Lupine, Lupinus albifrons var. albifrons
  85. Lupine, Chick Lupine, Lupinus microcarpus
  86. Lupine, Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  87. Lupine, Spider Lupine, Lupinus benthamii
  88. Madrone, Pacific Madrone, Arbutus menziesii
  89. Musk Stork’s-Bill, Erodium moschatum
  90. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  91. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri [with soredia]
  92. Ookow, Dichelostemma congestum
  93. Osage-Orange, Maclura pomifera
  94. Periwinkle, Greater Periwinkle, Vinca major [on the roadside]
  95. Phacelia, Caterpillar Scorpionweed, Phacelia cicutaria [white]
  96. Pine Spittlebug, Aphrophora cribrata
  97. Pineapple-Weed, Matricaria discoidea
  98. Pipestem Clematis, Old Man’s Beards, Clematis lasiantha
  99. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  100. Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa
  101. Popcorn Flower, Common Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys fulvus
  102. Potter’s Wasp, Stenodynerus sp.
  103. Prettyface, Triteleia ixioides
  104. Q-Tips, Micropus californicus
  105. Red Maids, Calandrinia menziesii
  106. Redberry, Hollyleaf Redberry, Rhamnus ilicifolia
  107. Resurrection Plant, Selaginella lepidophylla
  108. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia [on the roadside]
  109. Rock Tripe, Emery Rocktripe Lichen, Umbilicaria phaea
  110. Rose Clover, Trifolium hirtum
  111. Round Leaf Gall Wasp, Heteroecus flavens [formerly Andricus flavens, ball in the middle of the leaf, live oak]
  112. Sanicle, Pacific Sanicle, Sanicula crassicaulis [large, yellow flowers]
  113. Seven-Spotted Lady Beetle, Coccinella septempunctata [larva]
  114. Shining Pepperweed, Lepidium nitidum
  115. Silver Hairgrass, Ghost Grass, Aira caryophyllea
  116. Silverpuffs, Uropappus lindleyi [like blow wives but with pointed ends]
  117. Simbicid Sawfly, Abia americana [pale caterpillar with black and yellow markings]
  118. Slender Clarkia, Clarkia gracilis
  119. Small-Flowered Catchfly, Silene gallica
  120. Smooth Cliffbrake, Pellaea glabella
  121. Snake Apple Vine, Ibervillea lindheimeri
  122. Snakefly, Agulla adnixa
  123. Striped Volcano Gall Wasp, Andricus atrimentus, Spring generation [looks like a ball at the base of the leaf; dark inside]
  124. Sunflower, Common Woolly Sunflower, Eriophyllum lanatum
  125. Thread-Waisted Wasps, Family: Sphecidae [mud dauber]
  126. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  127. True Babystars, Leptosiphon bicolor [green puffball with pink flowers]
  128. Tufted Poppy, Eschscholzia caespitosa
  129. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  130. Twining Snakelily, Dichelostemma volubile
  131. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, bisexual gall, spring generation,  Dryocosmus dubiosus [looks like a hard, shiny, brown “beak” on the edge of the leaf]
  132. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  133. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  134. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  135. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  136. Western Spotted Cucumber Beetle, Diabrotica undecimpunctata undecimpunctata
  137. Western Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly, Papilio rutulus
  138. Western Tussock Moth, Orgyia vetusta
  139. Western Virgin’s Bower, Clematis ligusticifolia
  140. White Globe Lily, Calochortus albus
  141. Wild Oat Grass, Chrysopogon aciculatus
  142. Windmill Pink, Hairy Pink, Petrorhagia dubia
  143. Winter Moth, Operophtera brumata [little green caterpillar on oak]
  144. Witches’ Broom on Toyon, Phytoplasma sp.
  145. Wooly Oak Aphid, Stegophylla essigi
  146. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium

Earth Day 2021, 04-22-21

Happy Earth Day, #EarthDay2021. I got up at 6:00 am and headed out to the American River Bend Park for a walk.

I stopped first to check in on the owl family again. I immediately saw mom up in a scraggly-looking tree holding breakfast in her talons — a fresh caught rabbit. The rabbit was a large one, but looked like a cottontail (or maybe someone’s pet rabbit) rather than a jackrabbit. I didn’t see any of the owlets, so I started to walk around the tree, keeping an eye on mom in case she decided to come after me. 

The mother Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus, with a freshly killed rabbit.

I was surprised when I came across one of the owlets sitting on a fallen log on the ground. It was mostly hidden by the tall grass, but I still worried about it — there are coyotes in the park — yet, I was reassured that the owlet’s mom was close by and able to defend him if necessary.

Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus

After walking around the tree for a bit, and getting more photos, another photographer showed up. He pointed out a second owlet in a nearby tree, and said that a Ranger had told him there was a second owl nest in the park somewhere in the old boy scout camping area. He hadn’t gone searching for it yet, so he wasn’t sure exactly where it was. The second owlet at this nesting area looked like the youngest of the clutch. It’s plumicorns weren’t as developed as the owlet sitting on the ground.

Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus, owlet in the tree.

 Nearby, the male Rio Grande Wild Turkeys were strutting for the females, wings down, tails fanned. One of them decided my car was a rival, and it kept standing in front of the car, posturing and pecking at it. When I wanted to leave the spot where I had parked to go farther into the park, I had to inch the car forward a little at a time to get the turkey to finally move. Honking didn’t help anything; it just made the turkeys gobble.  Hah!

I drove to the intersection, just a few yards away, and stopped to watch a deer eating leaves off a black walnut tree. The deer looked like buck to me, but wasn’t sporting any bumps that would indicate it was going to get antlers this year.

I pulled into the area where the horse trailers can park, and parked by the water trough for a little while. Often, I get to see birds and other critters come to the trough to get a drink. Today, I got close ups of an Acorn Woodpecker, and got some photos of a fox squirrel flagging its tail nearby.  

I then drove into the picnic area and parked there.  When I was walking the trail from there to where the amphitheater is, I could hear Killdeer calling from the rocky shore of the river. Even though I’m VERY unsteady on my feet among the rocks, I went down as close as I could to the shoreline, to see if I could spot the birds and their nests in the rocks.

The adults birds were pretty easy to locate, but I was surprised to see a baby running across the rocks by itself. I tried to get some photos of it, but it was VERY small. Baby Killdeer duck down when they feel afraid or threatened. When I was trying to get photos of this baby, something startled it and it ducked down… camouflaged so well that it disappeared among the rocks. Wow! Amazing.

Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous, babies are so well camouflaged that they can vanish amid the rocks if they want to.

Across the river from where the Killdeer were, I could see Turkey Vultures flying overhead. Some of them swooped in and landed on the porch railing of a house over there. Hah! I wonder what the humans inside the house thought of that.

Turkey Vultures, Cathartes aura, resting on the railing of a deck on a home across the river.

Along the trail I was hoping to see some Elegant Clarkia in bloom. I found the plants, but no flowers yet.  There WERE poppies, miniature lupine and bush monkeyflower, however, along with lots and lots of Dogtail Grass.

There was pipevine growing everywhere along the trail, and the first blush of Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars munching on them. The butterflies themselves were flitting all over the place.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Along the river, there were Canada Geese and Common Mergansers sunning themselves on the rocks, and a Great Blue Heron fishing along the shore. Farther down, there was a turtle stretched out among some logs floating in the water. The water in the river was running very clear and shallow. Looking down into it, I could see the rocks on the river’s bottom.

While I heading back toward the car, I noticed that the Red-Shouldered Hawks were occupying the nest right above the trail again. I didn’t see them here last year.

Along the way, when I stopped to get some photos of some Scarab Hunter Wasps, I found a hummingbird’s nest on the ground. I’ll add it to my shadowbox collection. Based on those hummingbirds typical to this area, it probably belonged to an Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna.

The Scarab Hunter Wasp flies low along the ground using a super-sensitive sensor in her abdomen that can detect “kairomones” to find beetle grubs. Kairomones are described as “… pheromones and allomones that have evolutionarily backfired and…are normally used by one organism but exploited by an illegitimate receiver…”When the female wasp locates a grub, she digs it up, and lays her eggs on it, then builds a “cell” around the grub and egg and re-buries it. When the baby wasp larva hatches from its egg, it eats the grub, then pupates underground. It emerges from the ground the next spring as an adult.

I also came across a pair of mating craneflies (mosquito hawks).

I walked for almost five hours(!) today, and my feet were killing me (hurting more than my hip).  This was hike #37 of my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis [larva]
  4. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  5. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon [flyby, heard]
  6. Black Locust Tree, Robinia pseudoacacia
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Black Walnut Pouch Gall Mite, Aceria brachytarsa
  9. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  10. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  11. Bristly Dogtail Grass, Cynosurus echinatus
  12. Bur Parsley, Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  13. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  14. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  15. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  16. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  17. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  18. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  19. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  20. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  21. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  22. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  23. Chinese Pistache, Pistacia chinensis
  24. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  25. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
  26. Common Hoptree, Ptelea trifoliata
  27. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  28. Common Vetch, Vicia sativa [pink flowers]
  29. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  30. Coyote Brush Rust, Puccinia evadens
  31. Cranefly, California Tipula, Tipula californica
  32. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  33. Damselfly, Vivid Dancer, Argia vivida [blue or tan, arrowheads]
  34. Deerweed, Acmispon glaber
  35. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  36. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  37. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata [red line on leaves]
  38. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  39. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  40. Fire-Colored Beetle, Pedilus sp.
  41. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  42. Fringepod, Sand Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes
  43. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  44. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  45. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  46. Grey House Spider, Badumna longinqua
  47. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa 
  48. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  49. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  50. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus
  51. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  52. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [looks like a soft funnel, green to brown]
  53. Long-Horned Caddisfly, Family: Leptoceridae
  54. Long-Jawed Orb Weaver Spider, Tetragnatha sp.
  55. Lupine, Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  56. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  57. Mayfly, Small Squaregilled Mayfly, Family: Caenidae
  58. Meadow Spittlebug, Philaenus spumarius
  59. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
  60. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  61. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  62. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  63. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  64. Orange Bush Monkeyflower, Diplacus aurantiacus
  65. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  66. Pacific Pea, Lathyrus vestitus
  67. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  68. Popcorn Flower, Rusty Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys nothofulvus [tiny]
  69. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans
  70. Red Head Spider, Castianeira longipalpa
  71. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  72. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  73. Sachem Skipper, Atalopedes campestris
  74. Scarab Hunter Wasp, Yellow Scarab Hunter Wasp, Dielis pilipes
  75. Snakefly, Agulla adnixa
  76. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  77. Stem Sawfly, Family: Cephidae
  78. Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica
  79. Sweat Bee, Tribe: Halictini
  80. Tapered Stem Gall Wasp, Protobalandricus spectabilis
  81. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  82. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  83. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  84. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  85. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis
  86. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  87. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  88. White Clover, Trifolium repens
  89. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  90. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  91. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophry
  92. Windmill Pink, Hairy Pink, Petrorhagia dubia
  93. Yellow Rabbitbrush, Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus

First Visit to the Mississippi Bar, 04-20-21

I got up at 6:00 am, and headed over to the Mississippi Bar area along the American River.  I stopped first at the American River Bend Park to check on the owlets.

According to the folks who have been watching the nest every day, the owlet we were able to see today, who was sitting high in its tree, was the youngest of the three siblings and so the last to fledge. It seemed to me that it was too soon for the other babies to be fully fledged, so I took what was said with a grain of salt.

Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus, owlet

I didn’t see mama owl anywhere; we guessed she was out trying to find the last baby something to eat. I found a dead lizard under the tree, which I’m presuming was a tidbit mama brought for her baby — that was either rejected, or fell out of the nest.

Northern Alligator Lizard, Elgaria coerulea

I also found the Black Phoebe’s new nest; it was on the opposite side of the ranger kiosk from last year’s nest. Hah! I saw one of the parents fly in, feed the kids and fly out again. Woosh!

Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans

Then I was off to the Mississippi Bar. The bar is a part of the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area, covers about 11,500 acres, and provides access to the American River, part of Lake Natoma, several trails, open plains and oak woodlands.

In the past, the area was dredged for gravel, gold and silver, so the landscape is pretty scarred and wild in most places. I pulled off to park in the Snowberry Creek Assembly Area adjacent to the Shadow Glen Family Stables.  I had never been there before, so I just basically flipped a coin in my brain as to which direction to go and what trail to start with.  I chose the Shady/Middleridge Trail, and will go back and do the Snowberry Creek Trail at another time.

The Shady/Middleridge Trail cuts across a broad flat plain with some small plateaus in it, and abuts a riparian strip along one side. I was investigating a lot as I went along, so I didn’t get along as far as I might have. I didn’t get as far as the water, for example; maybe next time.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I perused the riparian strip for the most part. Although I heard a lot of birds, I only caught glimpses of most of them: Acorn Woodpeckers, mockingbirds, wrens, Tree Swallows, Turkey Vultures, and a Phainopepla.

Phainopepla, Phainopepla nitens

Among the trees I saw cottonwoods, live oaks, valley oaks, what looked like blue oak/valley oak cross, some maple trees, black walnut trees, sycamores, hawthorns, coyote brush bushes, elderberry tree/bushes, and willows among others. 

The plants included pipevine, mistletoe, stinging nettle, Shepard’s Purse, poison oak, pineapple weed, vetch, poppies, lupines, clovers, thistles… nothing new, really. And sooooo many grasses. I suck at ID-ing grasses.

On the pipevine plants, I found some of Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars in their early instars.  I also found a Tussock Moth caterpillar, a Sulphur Tubic Moth, and the brown inchworm caterpillar of a kind of Geometrid Moth. Those little guys try to make themselves look like twigs when disturbed, so this one straightened out stiff when I touched its leaf.

There were also quite a few spring galls on the trees including the big “oak apples”, stem galls, bud galls, some old Flat-Top Honeydew galls, and a few others.

The weather was lovely, breezy and around 51°. I walked for about three hours before heading home. This was hike #36 of my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [pink flower]
  4. Bishop Pine, Pinus muricata [fascicles of TWO needles
  5. Black Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis
  6. Black Locust Tree, Robinia pseudoacacia
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Black Walnut, Northern California Black Walnut, Juglans hindsii
  9. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  10. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  11. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  12. Broadleaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron macrophyllum
  13. Bur Parsley, Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  14. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  15. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  16. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  17. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  18. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  19. California Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  20. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis [heard]
  21. Common Cat’s-Ear, Hypochaeris radicata
  22. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
  23. Common Hawthorn Tree, Crataegus monogyna
  24. Common Soft Brome, Bromus hordeaceus (grass)
  25. Coyote Brush Bud Gall Midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  26. Coyote Brush Stem Gall Moth, Gnorimoschema baccharisella
  27. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  28. Coyote, Canis latrans
  29. Cranefly, European Crane Fly, Tipula paludosa
  30. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  31. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  32. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  33. Geometer Moth, Family: Geometridae [brown inchworm, twig-like]
  34. Giant Western Crane Fly, Holorusia hespera
  35. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  36. Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla rufilabris
  37. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa 
  38. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  39. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  40. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  41. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus
  42. Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
  43. Leaf Gall Wasp/ Unidentified per Russo, Tribe: Cynipidi [on Valley Oak]
  44. Liquid Ambar, American Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua
  45. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [looks like a soft funnel, green to brown]
  46. Lupine, Sky Lupine, Lupinus nanus
  47. Mistletoe, American Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
  48. Mullein, Wand Mullein, Verbascum virgatum
  49. Musk Stork’s-Bill, Erodium moschatum
  50. Narrowleaf Willow, Salix exigua
  51. Northern Alligator Lizard, Elgaria coerulea
  52. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  53. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  54. Oak Leaf Blister (pathogen), Taphrina caerulescens
  55. Phainopepla, Phainopepla nitens
  56. Pineapple-Weed, Matricaria discoidea
  57. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  58. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  59. Rose Clover, Trifolium hirtum
  60. Round Leaf Gall Wasp, Andricus flavens
  61. Shepherd’s-Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
  62. Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica
  63. Sulphur Tubic Moth, Esperia sulphurella [tiny black and yellow]
  64. Tapered Stem Gall Wasp, Protobalandricus spectabilis [live oak]
  65. Trailside Grasshopper, Lactista gibbosus [gray, blends with gravel]
  66. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  67. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  68. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  69. Wall Barley, Hordeum murinum
  70. Western Sycamore, Platanus racemosa
  71. Western Tussock Moth, Orgyia vetusta [caterpillar]
  72. White Mulberry, Morus alba
  73. Yerba Santa, California Yerba Santa, Eriodictyon californicum
  74. ?? Blue Oak x Valley Oak hybrid

From Owlets to Muskrats, 04-10-21

I got up around 6:00 am and went to the American River Bend Park first just to check on mama Great Horned Owl and her owlets, then I was off to Mather Lake Regional Park to see how things were going there.

At the River Bend Park, I parked near the “owl tree” and immediately saw mama Great Horned Owl sitting on a branch to the right of the nest. She was dozing. Inside the nest I could see two owlets. One was standing up, while the other stayed down inside the nest; only the top of its head was visible.

On the nearby lawn, the male Wild Turkeys were strutting for the females. In the early morning light, their iridescent feathers took on a deep copper tone. They’re really such beautiful animals.

After taking several photos, I headed over to Mather Lake. All of the trees are starting to leaf-out including the willows, cottonwoods and oaks, so there were varying shades of green all around the lake.  One of the first things I saw there was a House Finch flying onto a nest she had under the roof of one of the kiosks. The nest had a mud base and was filled with spun dried grass.

House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus, and her nest

The male Red-Winged Blackbirds were out in force, singing from the trees and tules; and a Great Tailed Grackle was joining in from an adjacent tree.

In yet another tree, I saw a Green Heron.  It was croaking at a second heron that I only saw when the two of them took off and flew out of the park.

Several of the Coyote Brush bushes and Willow Dock plants were infested with aphids; light green on the Coyote Brush and deeper, richer green on the dock… But I’m not sure of the species. There are so many different ones, it’s hard to tell. I’ll have to do more research.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Along the trail I got a brief glimpse of a cottontail rabbit, and also saw a tiny pocket gopher running by.  Oh, I saw my first Western Kingbird of the season, and also saw my first Sankefly of the season, so those were cool.

Snakefly, Agulla adnixa

The biggest surprise of the say, though, was seeing a muskrat swimming back and forth in the water several times. It was gathering greenery from the bottom of the lake, bringing it to the surface, and carrying it to the opposite side of the little island in the lake. I assumed it was taking the greenery to fill its nest, wherever that was. Maybe feeding babies?

Unfortunately for the muskrat, the island was being occupied by Canada Geese. Some of the geese chased the muskrat and nipped at him, and another goose stole the muskrat’s greenery and ate it! Poor little thing. Even with all the abuse, the muskrat kept focused on its task. I watched it go back and forth three times before I lost track of it.

On my way out to the parking lot, I noticed that two pairs of the Canada Geese had goslings with them — three babies each — and were walking them from the water’s edge, then back up onto the grass, where the adults tried to settle down to rest in the sunshine. Some of the goslings weren’t interested in napping, though, and rushed back to the water. Hah!  Brats!

Canada Goose, Branta canadensis, and goslings

On the way home, I drove down Eagle’s Nest Road beside the protected vernal pool area.  There’s no water out there that I could see, but some of the goldfields flowers and pan poppies were out blooming.

In another field, surrounded by temporary fencing, was a huge herd of Nubian Goats (the ones with the long floppy ears) working to clear the field. The herd included adult and baby goats, and when the baby goats ran, they looked like Cocker Spaniels running, ears flapping. One of the babies’ hide was covered in dots and splotches, and one of the splotches looked like a white heart on its side. How cute is that?!

I was out walking for almost 4 hours. This was hike #34 of my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. ?? Ants farming the aphids
  2. Aphid, Family: Aphididae [pale green on coyote brush]
  3. Aphid, Family: Aphididae [rich green on willow dock]
  4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  5. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  6. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  7. Bur Parsley, Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  8. California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  10. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  11. Cattle, Bos taurus
  12. Cobwebby Thistle, Cirsium occidentale
  13. Common Cat’s-Ear, Hypochaeris radicata
  14. Cork Oak, Quercus suber
  15. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  16. Coyote Brush Rust, Puccinia evadens
  17. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  18. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  19. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  20. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  21. Frying Pan Poppy, Eschscholzia lobbii
  22. Goat, Nubian Goat, Capra aegagrus hircus
  23. Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica
  24. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  25. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  26. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  27. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
  28. Green Heron, Butorides virescens
  29. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa
  30. Hermit Thrush, Catharus guttatus
  31. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  32. Lincoln’s Sparrow, Melospiza lincolnii
  33. Lupine, Arroyo Lupine, Lupinus succulentus
  34. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  35. Mossy Stonecrop, Crassula tillaea [red]
  36. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  37. Multiflora Rose, Rosa multiflora [like white rock rose]
  38. Muskrat, Ondatra zibethicus
  39. Mustard Yellow Polypore, Fuscoporia gilva [like a bracket fungus]
  40. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  41. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  42. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  43. Ribwort Plantain, Plantago lanceolata
  44. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  45. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  46. Snakefly, Agulla adnixa
  47. Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica
  48. Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni
  49. Swedish Blue Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Swedish Blue
  50. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  51. Wall Barley, Hordeum murinum
  52. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  53. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  54. Western Kingbird, Tyrant Flycatcher, Tyrannus verticalis
  55. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  56. Willow Dock, Rumex salicifolius

Birds, Bees and Spring Galls, 04-08-21

I got up around 6:00 am and was out of the house before 6:30 to go to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. It was 41° out at the river when I got there.

I’m still dealing a little bit with COVID-brain, I guess, because I forgot to leave a note for Lissa, so she knows where I am, and also forgot to take my cellphone with me. D’oh! So, I couldn’t call to tell my sister where I was — and I also couldn’t take the real close up photos of some of the things I was seeing (which I normally do when I’m out in the field).

When I was driving near the preserve, I saw two deer stepping slowly out of someone’s driveway and into the street. I know they were being cautious about the road, but to me it looked like they were tip-toeing away from the scene of the crime or something, like they’d done something wrong. Hah!

There were also quite a few deer visible along the trails. In one spot, I saw nine of them all together, grazing on the spring grasses and wildflowers. Some of the bucks were already showing the buds of this year’s antlers. By June, they’ll be in their velvet.

At the preserve itself there were lots, and lots and lots of squirrels out today; in fact, the first thing I saw when I drove into the parking lot was a Western Gray Squirrel running past the car with a mouth full of dried grasses and weeds to line its nest (drey). Later, when I was on the trail, I saw another Western Gray Squirrel running up a tree to check out its drey.

Squirrels build their drey out of leaves, grasses, small twigs, feathers, and pretty much whatever else they can carry in their mouths. [They’ll use tree cavities, too, if they’re available to nest in, but still line the inside with soft stuff.] They build the drey close to the trunk of the tree and/or forked branches to give the structure more support…which is what I was seeing here.

Right now, there are only Blue Dicks and Miniature Lupine making themselves conspicuous there, but as the month progresses we should see more variety. Near the nature center the planted Sonoran Sage and Douglas Irises were in bloom. The Redbud trees were flowering, some getting and showing off new blossoms, some done for the season and shedding old ones.

All of the oak trees and the black walnut trees are sporting catkins, so folks with allergies have a hard time being outdoors right now.

On the live oaks, I saw quite a few spring generation Live Oak Gall Wasp galls (that look like little funnels with a cap on them), and, surprisingly, a lot of Ball Gall Wasp galls (that look like a round tumor near the center of the leaf — visible from both the front and back of the leaves). I hadn’t seen any of those at the preserve for over a year, I think, and even then it was just one or two.

The little male House Wrens were all out singing, advertising nesting places for the females.  The Starlings were yelling and flapping their wings. And a fussy Acorn Woodpecker chased a dove out of its granary tree, but ignored a pair of Tree Swallows sitting in the next branch. Weird.  I also caught a fast glimpse of a pair of California Quail.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Lots of Spotted Towhees were in the underbrush, making themselves visible on occasion, and I spotted (hah!) a Lincoln’s Sparrow in the grass.  I’m seeing more and more Lincoln Sparrows all over the place now. I don’t know if it’s because they’re actually increasing in numbers in the region, or if I’m just getting better at seeing them and differentiating them from other sparrows, like Song Sparrows.

The big surprise of the day was seeing a young coyote running down the trail toward me. It looked thin and long-legged so my initial impression was that it was a young male. But when it crossed through a grassy area and onto an adjacent trail, I think I spotted teats on the belly… so it might have been a young mom, thin because she’s giving her all to her pups.

There were Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies flitting around, but in smaller numbers than I’m used to seeing this time of year. Some of them are already looking “ragged” from their journeys. I wasn’t able to see eggs on any of the pipevine plants I saw.

California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta. A sub-species endemic to the Central Valley of California.

A nice thing to see, though, was a swarm of bees in the doorway of the bee tree. The queen must’ve finally woken up from her winter doze and put her colony back to work.

I walked for about 3 ½ hours and then headed back home. This was hike #33 of my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis
  3. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  4. Blue Dicks, Dipterostemon capitatus
  5. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  6. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  7. Bur Parsley, Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  8. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  9. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  10. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  11. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  12. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  13. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  14. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  15. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  16. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  17. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  18. Coyote, Canis latrans
  19. Cranefly, European Crane Fly, Tipula paludosa
  20. Digger Bee, Tribe: Anthophorin
  21. Douglas Iris,Iris douglasiana
  22. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  23. Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis
  24. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  25. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  26. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  27. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  28. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  29. Lincoln’s Sparrow, Melospiza lincolnii
  30. Live Oak Erineum Mite Gall, Aceria mackiei
  31. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [looks like a soft funnel, green to brown]
  32. Lupine, Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  33. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  34. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  35. Periwinkle, Greater Periwinkle, Vinca major
  36. Red Deadnettle, Lamium purpureum
  37. Round Leaf Gall Wasp, Heteroecus flavens [single large blister on live oak leaves]
  38. Sonoma Sage, Salvia sonomensis
  39. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  40. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  41. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  42. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  43. Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  44. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  45. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  46. ?? caterpillar between live oak leaves

No Fooling…and owlets, 04-01-21

I got up at 6:00 this morning, and headed out to the American River Bend Park.  It was 51°F when I got to the river (and then spiked at 88° by the late afternoon.)

My hip was hurting, but seemed to be less painful when I was moving. My back pain was less than it was yesterday, but I still had a few “gasp” moments walking or driving on the more uneven parts of the trail and dirt-and-gravel roadways.

My first priority was to look in on mama Great Horned Owl. There was another photographer there when I arrived, and after a few minutes he asked, “Are you Hanson K. Mary?” (My Facebook name) I was astonished and asked, “How did you know that?” He said he’d seen a lot of my photos on the birding group sites. Hah! I’m famous — sort of.

Mama owl was in a tree opposite from the nest, warming her chest and belly in the early morning sunlight. In the nest were two owlets that I could see. [Later, other photographers on the site said they’d seen three babies yesterday.] I was so excited for mama. She’d had two last year and three the year before, and she’d always been good about keeping everyone fed. I hope she’s as successful this year.  The owlets were, of course, adorable, still in their super puffy fluff-dry stage.

After a little while, mama flew into the tree next to the nest, and when I came back to check on her about an hour later, she was sitting on everyone. It’s so exhilarating to see all of them.

Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus

I walked for a while at the park, and came across a pair of Western Bluebirds who were flying around. I also saw a pair of Mourning Doves in the high branches of a tree. It looked to me like the female was sitting, waiting for the male to mount her, but the male just couldn’t get himself oriented correctly. On a few attempts he approached her “backwards”, his head to her tail. And once, rather than mounting her, he just stepped on her and walked over to a different part of their branch. D’oh!

Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura

In that same area, I saw a male European Starling doing one of his courtship rituals. He was sitting on a branch where he could be seen by passing females, sang loudly to them and flapped his wings in a circular motion.

Cornell says: “…Once males have established a nesting territory, they advertise by singing. When females approach, the males often stop singing and move to the nesting cavity, where they resume singing. Wing-waving, a circular flapping of the wings while perched, often accompanies the singing, especially in the presence of females…”

The redbud trees in the park are all blossoming. Beautiful, huge swaths of pink in unexpected places. Just gorgeous.

As I was checking out the manroot vines and Santa Barbara Sedge (what I consider my “proof of Spring” plant in this area), I could hear California Quails giving out their “Chi-ca-go!” calls. It sounded like one was getting pretty close to me, but I was still startled when a male popped up from the side of a hill in front of me. I stood stock still, because they’re nervous birds and flush really easily, and got some photos of him, then realized he had a lady friend with him. She was down in the twigs and grass, and ran off with him when he realized I was looking at them.

A male California Quail, Callipepla californica

As I headed back toward my car, I was attracted to movement at the bottom of one of the oak trees. I crept up toward it, and realized it was a tiny White-Breasted Nuthatch. She was tugging at a short length of cord, trying to pluck out threads to take back to her nest.

According to Cornell: “…Only the female builds [the nest]. Little known about nest construction or structure, but nuthatches observed to carry hairs and pieces of bark to the cavity site…”  I’ve seen them use tufts of dog hair and feathers myself.

In that same area, I caught sight of an Oak Titmouse singing in a tree. Cornell says: “…The frequency of occurrence of song types used by males changes seasonally, with some songs becoming more prevalent in the repertoire as breeding season progresses while the prevalence of other songs declines…”

I’d lost the clip-in macro lens for my cellphone somewhere at Table Mountain, I think, so I bought a new one. It’s a little more powerful than my old one, so it’s taking some getting used to the precise focal point. It also shifts a little when I try to use it, slipping away from the phone’s eye. Gotta get used to avoiding that, too. Otherwise, I like it.     

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.     

I then drove over to the nearby Gristmill Recreation Area to check on the Red-Shouldered Hawk nest and man-made nesting boxes. When I first got there and looked up into the hawk’s nest I was worried that it had been abandoned. I couldn’t see mom (or any sign of babies) anywhere.  When I came back that to same spot on my way back to the car, however, I could see her sitting on the nest, calling loudly to her mate. Guess she was hungry and wanted some breakfast. Hah!

There were lots of California Pipevine Swallowtail and Western Tiger Swallowtail butterflies all over the area, but not one of them sat still long enough for me to get a photo of it.

House Wrens seemed to be singing from everywhere, and I saw one pair using one of the smaller nest boxes.

At other boxes, the Western Screech Owl was dozing, a pair of Western Bluebirds were rushing back and forth, and a cadre of Tree Swallows were fussing and flying around. Of course, as soon as I got into a position where I could better see and photograph the bluebirds and swallows, they ducked out of sight. So, I didn’t get as many photos as I’d like. Sigh. Such is the life of a nature photographer.

The surprise here today was seeing two Turkey Vultures sitting in trees near the river. Th trail runs along the high edge of the river with a drop down of maybe 20 or 30 feet to the water in some places. So, when one of the vultures decided to sit up “high” in the tree, his branch was actually right in the eye-line of hikers on the trail. I got a few good close-up photos of him. The second vulture was further down the cliffside nearer to the water. That one looked like a juvenile to me; its beak wasn’t fully bone-white yet and still had a gray tip.

Below that vulture, on a log in the water, were three Red-Eared Slider Turtles sunning themselves in the morning light. The vultures, of course, weren’t interested in them, so the turtles had nothing to fear from them.

Altogether, I walked for about 4 hours and headed back home. This was hike #32 of my #52HikeChallenge.

No fooling. April is Citizen Science Month

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Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
  3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  4. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  5. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  6. Black Grass Bug, Irbisia pacifica
  7. Black Locust Tree, Robinia pseudoacacia
  8. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  9. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  10. Bur Parsley, Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  11. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  12. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  13. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  14. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  15. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  16. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  17. Common Pea, Pisum sativum [rounded leaves, flower is light pink and dark pink]
  18. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  19. Dove’s-foot Crane’s-Bill, Geranium molle
  20. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  21. Field Elm Tree, Ulmus minor [soft flakey seed pods]
  22. Ghost Spider, Family: Anyphaenidae
  23. Giraffe’s Head, Henbit Deadnettle, Lamium amplexicaule
  24. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  25. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  26. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa
  27. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  28. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  29. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  30. Lincoln’s Sparrow, Melospiza lincolnii
  31. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [looks like a soft funnel, green to brown]
  32. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Summer Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [spiky ball]
  33. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  34. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
  35. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  36. Non-Biting Midge, Cricotopus bicinctus [black and white, turned up tail]
  37. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  38. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  39. Popcorn Flower, Rusty Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys nothofulvus [tiny]
  40. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans
  41. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  42. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  43. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens
  44. Santa Barbara Sedge, Carex barbarae
  45. Soldier Beetle, Silis sp.
  46. Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica
  47. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  48. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  49. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  50. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  51. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  52. Western Screech Owl, Megascops kennicottii
  53. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis