I got up around 6:00 this morning and headed over to the Cosumnes River Preserve. It was sunny and a lovely 49° when I got there. The wind picked up around 11:00 am and it was about 66° there when I left.
I was glad I’d put on some insect repellent because the midges and mosquitoes were everywhere. But on the other hand, the butterflies were out, too. I saw Cabbage Whites, some Western Tiger Swallowtails and some Anise Swallowtails.
I took the route around Bruceville and Desmond Roads, and in one spot, I found a large flock of California Quails, several males and females together. I also saw two Northern Harriers on the ground. One flew off, but the other remained, finishing off a carcass. When it stepped back and walked around for a little bit, I could see that its crop was VERY full. Still, it went back to the carcass to eat some more. It’s feast or famine in the raptor world.
The wild radish (Charlock) plants were in bloom everywhere: pink, white, yellow and pastel orange, and there was mustard blooming in the fields along with tules and rushes. Fiddleneck and buttercups were growing in small patches, and the valley oak and ash trees were starting to get their new leaves.
On the valley oaks, the Oak Apple galls were starting to appear for the season, and I also found some I’d never seen before. They were little “blister-like” galls near the base of some of the new leaves on the trees. I’m looking forward to receiving Russo’s newest book on galls and hope these are included in it. [The book is supposed to be available on April 20th.]
I also found some little red-and-black striped beetles that I’d not seen before. They’re a kind of Calligraphy Beetle, and were quite near a Seven-Spotted Ladybeetle.
There were sparrows, Meadowlarks and Red-Winged Blackbirds singing from the trees and rushes. On the water, there were occasional Coots, Northern Shovelers, Green-Winged Teals and other ducks, Black-Necked Stilts and Greater Yellowlegs. The usual suspects. There were Tree Swallows everywhere, vying for nesting spots. Some were eyeing a nesting box right near the entrance gate to the preserve’s boardwalk area, but it was already being occupied by a pair of Western Bluebirds. Mama bluebird was making short trips to bring bits of soft grass to line the nest inside.
At the end of the boardwalk, a pair of Phoebes were building a nest underneath the wooden planks. And there were two others building nests under the eaves of the restroom facility there.
There were also quite a few cottontail rabbits out and about. In one spot, I saw three of them together.
I walked for about 3½ hours and then headed back home. This was hike 31 of my #52HikeChallenge.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
American Bugleweed, Lycopus americanus [like horehound]
American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
American Robin, Turdus migratorius
Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon [along a slough by the road]
Valentine’s Day. I was up around 7:00 am and headed over to William B. Pond Parkfor a walk even though I was in pain. It was about 46° when I got there, mostly cloudy and threatening rain, so I had to wear my jacket.
The first thing I noticed were the Yellow-Billed Magpies. There was one on the ground picking up bits of wood chips, and wondered what it wanted those for. Then I realized it was part of a pair of birds that were building a nest in a tree next to the parking lot. They had the cup pretty much completed.
Cornell says: “…Nest is extremely large structure with mud (or dung) and stick base, stick canopy (dome), and mud bowl lined with animal hair, grass, shredded bark, or rootlets…”
So, I figured they were lining the base of the nest with the wood chips. Cool! As I looked around, I could see two other nests being built in other nearby trees. None of them had their domed tops yet, so I figured all of the birds must’ve started building the nests around the same time. Once the domes are in place, you can’t see into the nests, so — no peeking at the babies.
The Silver Wattle trees are in bloom right now, all decorated with bright yellow puff-balls; the first sign of spring while the cottonwood and oak trees are still pretty much naked. There were tiny bittercress plants showing off, along with some of the Bur Chervil and White Horehound.
There seemed to be Spotted Towhees everywhere I looked today; down on the ground, up in the trees and bushes. You could hear their tow-weeeh calls from all around.
I also saw a solitary Red-Shouldered Hawk sitting in a tree, calling out, warming itself up in the morning sun.
The water in this part of the river was exceptionally low. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it that shallow before. If I were more sure-footed, I could have walked right across it in several spots.
The geese were taking advantage of all of the exposed riverbed and rocky sholes. In one spot there was a group of Turkey Vultures working on what I think was a salmon carcass. A Great Blue Heron was standing behind them. In a shallow pond next to them, male and female Wood Ducks were swimming around.
I got to see a Song Sparrow singing away in the branches of a tree near the shore. And later found a Mockingbird trying out his repertoire.
I only walked for about 2 hours and then headed back home, but this counted as hike #17 in my #52HikeChallenge.
Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon [heard]
Bittercress, Hairy Bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta
Bur Parsley, Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
California Sycamore, Platanus racemose
Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
Chinese Praying Mantis, Tenodera sinensis [ootheca]