Category Archives: General Blog

Waiting for a Meeting, 12-09-19

I was about 20 minutes early for a meeting a the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve, and I got a few photos while I was waiting. I take my camera and cell phone with me everywhere I go.

Start Time: 9:00 am
Start Temperature: 45ºF
End Temperature: 48º F
Weather: Overcast, foggy, sprinkling rain
Total Hours in the field (includes travel time): 2
Miles Walked: 0.25
Number of Individual Species Noted Today: 8

CLICK HERE for the full album pf photos.

Species List:

  • Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  • Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  • Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  • Mower’s Mushroom, Haymaker Mushroom, Panaeolus foenisecii
  • Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
  • Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  • Split Porecrust, Schizopora paradoxa 
  • Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans

A Perfect Day for Termite Flights, 12-05-19

Start Time: 8:00 am
Start Temperature: 49ºF
End Temperature: 61º F
Weather: Bright, sunny, clear
Total Hours in the field (includes travel time): 4.5
Miles Walked: 3

I got up around 7:30 this morning, and after giving Esteban his breakfast and letting him outside for potty, I headed over to the American River Bend Park.  It was about 49º when I got there, and the skies were mostly sunny. We’re in between rainstorms, so I was hoping to be able to get some decent photos before the heavy rains came in tomorrow.

I stopped first at the first turnout after the main gate because I saw a Red-Shouldered Hawk sitting out in one of the trees there.  I got a few photos of him before he flew off and kept walking for a short distance to see if I could find any indications of beavers along the riverbank.  (The beavers come up to get to the cottonwood trees when the river swells.)  I didn’t see any beaver sign, but I dd get to see lots of spider webs decorated with clinging rain drops and a fat fawn sitting in the grass with his mom.  I also heard a Great Horned Owl but couldn’t catch sight of it.

Orb-weaver spider’s web

The Coyote Brush was in bloom (mostly the female plants), and I even found some wild grapes still hanging from the vines there. I stopped exploring, though, when I came across the tent of a homeless person. I didn’t want to intrude on “his” space, so I went back to the car and then drove further into the park. 

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

As I was going along the main road (which wasn’t as full of puddles as I expected it to be considering all the rain we’ve had lately) I caught sight of some deer and a Black-Tailed Jackrabbit. The rabbit took off before I could get photos of him, but the deer were somewhat obliging.  It was a small herd of mostly females, one or two fawns, a spike buck and the big 5-pointer buck I normally see over at the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve.  I hadn’t seen him at Effie Yeaw the last time I was there and wondered if he’d crossed the river to get into the River Bend Park, and apparently he had! I was glad to see him.  He’s such a handsome thing.  Later, I saw him and his harem a few more times as I was walking.

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus, 5-point buck

 I also caught sight of what looked like a big stand of Honey Fungus under one of the trees. I couldn’t park where I was on the road, so I continued up to the area where the restroom facility and camping area is, and then slowly made my way back on foot to where I’d seen the mushrooms. 

In several places steam was rising off the trunks of the trees as the morning sun hit them. It was like seeing the forest breathe. So neat.

Trees steaming in the morning sun.

Not a great many species of mushrooms are awake yet, but the mosses and lichen were all “fluffed out” from the rains and there was lots of crust fungi and Turkey Tail fungus out showing off.  I saw some great specimens of Black Jelly Roll fungus, Brown Jelly Fungus and Lace Lichen as well. And I also found some Barometer Earthstars.

When I got back to the Honey Fungus, I found large stands of them on both sides of the road, one species, Armillaria mellea, on one side of the road and another, Armarilla tabescens, on the other side of the road. I thought that was interesting.  [A. mellea has an annulus Armillaria mellea around the neck of the stipe (a felty ring around the stem), and A. tabescens doesn’t.]

The individual mushrooms themselves were large, 4- and 5-inches across the cap, and the groups covered 2 or 3 feet of ground, so they were impressive.  On one of the patches of the Armillaria mellea, I also saw tiny white larvae crawling around them, so I got out the macro attachment for my cellphone and took some close-up photos and video of them.  When I got home, I was able to identify them as the larvae of Flat-footed Flies, Melanderomyia sp. I don’t remember ever seeing those before, so I was excited to have gotten the images.

Across the road, some of the ringless Armarilla tabescens mushrooms had Dark-Winged Fungus Gnat, Bradysia sp., larvae on them – and that’s what I normally see infesting old mushrooms.  They’re easily differentiated from the all-white fly larvae by their shiny black heads.

I knew that today’s weather was perfect for termite migrations, so I kept an eye out for them, and was eventually rewarded by finding three separate colonies sending their winged agents off to form new colonies.  The winged termites aren’t very strong fliers, so it’s relatively easy to see them and to follow their flight paths back to the colonies. 

Western Drywood Termite, Incisitermes minor

All of the colonies were emerging from the wooden fence posts along the road. Because they usually emerge en masse from their mounds and don’t fly very well, they’re easy pickings for the birds.  I saw one Oak Titmouse just sitting on top of one of the fence posts gobbling up the termites as they came up into the sunlight. The bird flew off when I approached, so the insects got a little bit of a reprieve from predation while I was there.  [[When I posted photos of the termites on my Facebook page, some of my fellow naturalists said they’d also spotted them today, so… it WAS a perfect day for termites, I guess.]]

I walked for about 3½ hours and then headed home.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Barometer Earthstar fungus, Astraeus hygrometricus
  3. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  4. Black Jelly Roll fungus, Exidia glandulosa
  5. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  6. Brown Jelly Fungus, Jelly Leaf, Tremella foliacea
  7. California Buckeye Chestnut, Aesculus californica
  8. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta [chrysalis]
  9. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  10. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  11. Chinese Praying Mantis, Tenodera sinensis [ootheca]
  12. Chinese Tallow tree, Triadica sebifera
  13. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  14. Cottonwood, Fremont Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  15. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  16. Coyote, Canis latrans [scat]
  17. Dark-Eyed Junco (Oregon morph), Junco hyemalis
  18. Dark-Winged Fungus Gnat, Bradysia sp. [larvae]
  19. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  20. False Turkey Tail fungus, Stereum hirsutum
  21. False Turkey Tail fungus, Stereum ostrea
  22. Flat-footed Fly, Melanderomyia sp. [larvae]
  23. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  24. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus [heard]
  25. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  26. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  27. Honey Fungus, Armillaria mellea
  28. Honey Fungus, Ringless Honey Fungus, Armarilla tabescens
  29. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  30. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  31. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii
  32. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  33. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  34. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  35. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
  36. Pipevine, California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  37. Pleated Ink Cap, Parasol Ink Cap, Parasola plicatilis
  38. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  39. Rusty Tussock Moth, Orgyia antiqua [cocoons]
  40. Split Gill Fungus, Schizophyllum sp.
  41. Sulphur Shelf Fungus, Western Sulphur Shelf Fungus, Laetiporus gilbertsonii
  42. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  43. Western Drywood Termite, Incisitermes minor
  44. Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis [webs]
  45. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  46. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis [heard]
  47. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  48. Winter Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa
  49. Yellow Curtain Crust Fungus, Stereum subtomentosum

First Slime Mold of the Season, 12-03-19

Start Time: 7:30 am
Start Temperature: 54ºF
End Temperature: 61º F
Weather: Overcast, no rain
Total Hours in the field (includes travel time): 4 hours
Miles Walked: 3.5
Number of Individual Species Noted Today: 47

I got up around 7:30 am and headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. I REALLY needed to get outside and walk.  My car, Vincenzo, is still in the shop today, so Melissa let me borrow her car. It was 54º at the river and overcast.  The cloud cover all day but we didn’t get any rain.

I only got periodic glimpses of the deer at the preserve, but there were a lot of different bird species around, the lichens were all fluffed up from the rains, and the fungi are starting to make an appearance like the crust fungi, jelly fungi and some spent Barometer Earthstars,

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

 I get excited about weird things… like the first slime mold sighting of the season! Woo-hoo!  I found a small specimen of Red Tube Slime Mold (Stemonitis fusca), also called Brown Tube Slime Mold or “Birthday Cake”. It starts out pure white, then the tubes lengthen and stand up on threads and the whole group turns red or pink or burgundy. Then as the mass goes to spore, it all turns brown and disintegrates into “dust”. ((The “Birthday Cake” variation of this slime mold retains light-colored tops of each of the stems, so it looks like frosting on top of a Red Velvet cake.)) You can see a video of how this slime mold forms at:

Red Tube Slime Mold, Stemonitis fusca

I saw a lot of evidence of mole activity on and around the trails, and one spot where it looked like a coyote had dug into the ground trying to get one of them.

I also found a Jerusalem Cricket in one of the puddles on the trail. It was dead, drowned, and I wondered if it had been driven there by Horsehair Worm parasites. I took photos of the cricket but didn’t cut it open to see if there were any worms in its brain or body.

Jerusalem Cricket, Stenopelmatus fuscus

In the river I tracked a huge, well-traveled, worn out Chinook Salmon in the shallows along the bank. There were gulls and Turkey Vultures sitting along the river waiting for the fish to die.

Chinook Salmon, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, swimming in the shallows

I ended up walking for about 3 hours and then headed back home.

Species List:

  1. Barometer Earthstar fungus, Astraeus hygrometricus
  2. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  3. Black Fan Fungus, Thelephora cuticularis
  4. Black Jelly Roll fungus, Exidia glandulosa
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Brown Jelly Fungus, Jelly Leaf, Tremella foliacea
  7. Bryum Moss, Bryum capillare
  8. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  9. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  10. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  11. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  12. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  13. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  14. Chinook Salmon, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha
  15. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  16. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  17. Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus
  18. Cottonwood, Fremont Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  19. Coyote, Canis latrans [scat]
  20. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  21. False Turkey Tail fungus, Stereum hirsutum
  22. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  23. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  24. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  25. Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina
  26. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  27. Jelly Spot Fungus, Dacrymyces stillatus
  28. Jerusalem Cricket, Stenopelmatus fuscus
  29. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  30. Mazegill Fungus, Daedalea quercina
  31. Mole, Broad-Footed Mole, Scapanus latimanus [holes and piles]   
  32. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  33. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  34. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
  35. Ocre Spreading Tooth Fungus, Steccherinum ochraceum
  36. Pipevine, California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  37. Red Tube Slime Mold, Stemonitis fusca
  38. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  39. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  40. Stereum Crust Fungus, Golden Curtain Crust, Stereum complicatum
  41. Sulphur Shelf Fungus, Western Sulphur Shelf Fungus, Laetiporus gilbertsonii
  42. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans
  43. Tree of Heaven, Ailanthus altissima
  44. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  45. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  46. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  47. Western Gull, Larus occidentalis

Mostly Antlers and Nubs, 11-26-19

Start Time: 7:00 am
Start Temperature: 36ºF
End Temperature: 51º F
Weather: Overcast; rain pending; some ground fog
Total Hours in the field (includes travel time): 3.25 hours
Miles Walked: 2.5
Number of Individual Species Today: 20

Rio Grande Wild Turkeys, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia, males

It was a very chilly 36º this morning when I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my regular volunteer trail walking gig.  I was ahead of the rain for my entire walk, but the heavier rain clouds were starting to move in just as I left. 

I love this time of year for several reasons, and one is because the “big boys” are out in nature right now in their full regalia… and some of the yearlings are just starting to get their “nubs.”  Because the adult bucks are in rut right now, too, they’re all walking around in their manly-man scent. You can smell them before you see them: that animal hide and musk scent. I love it.

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus. 4-Point buck approaching and crossing the trail in front of me.

I also saw quite a few does and some fawns, including some young boys who were just starting to get their nubs or were in their first-year spikes, but still hanging out with mom and their siblings. Among the big bucks, I didn’t see the 5-pointer today, but I did see two handsome 4-pointers.

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus . A more “blonde” 4-pointer.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

And the deer dominated the day for photo-taking.  There wasn’t much else showing itself, and I didn’t see any bees in or around the “bee tree” (probably because it was still so cold, and “winter is coming”.) I walked for about 2½ hours and then headed out.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  3. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  4. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  5. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  6. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  7. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  8. Coyote, Canis latrans [tracks and scat]
  9. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  10. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  11. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  12. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  13. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  14. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  15. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  16. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  17. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  18. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  19. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis [tracks]
  20. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis [heard]

River Otter Sighting, 11-24-19

I got up around 6:30 this morning and headed out to the Cosumnes River Preserve for a walk.  It was 38º when I got there, and I was glad I’d brought my heavier coat with me.

There were far less birds there today than there were when my friend Roxanne and I were last there on the 15th, so birdwatching was exceedingly disappointing.  I saw two photographers and a small group of birders out along the boardwalk, but none of them were having any luck.  The crisp fresh air was nice, but from a nature walk standpoint it was pretty much a bust… But then I saw the North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis.

I took the trail that went from the boardwalk to Franklin Blvd., and then walked along the side of the road where there’s a slough that runs alongside it. I saw the otter on the opposite side of the slough, preening.  I moved as quietly as I could and got photos of through the scrubby trees that stand between the road and the water. 

I saw the otter preening, swimming, and digging in the mud to roust out some catfish. He caught one of them, ate it and then swam right up in front of me to check me out before heading off on the rest of his morning jaunt. The closest he got was about 8 feet, so I was able to get a good shot of his face floating on the surface of the water, and also got quite a few videos of him.            

When I got home, I made sure to get him recorded in the “Otter Spotter” database with the River Otter Ecology Project .

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.
Otter on the shore:
Otter Preening:
Otter Swimming:

Otter fishing along the shore of the slough

When I was driving home, I saw quite a few hawks in the trees and along the fence lines, a pair of American Kestrels and a Prairie Falcon.  But the standout was a gorgeous juvenile Golden Eagle sitting on the top of a short tree right at the freeway access point.  I couldn’t get photos because there were cars behind me all the way.  Dang it!

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
  4. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  5. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  6. Golden Eagle, Aquila chrysaetos
  7. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  8. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  9. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  10. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
  11. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  12. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  13. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  14. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  15. Prairie Falcon, Falco mexicanus
  16. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  17. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
  18. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium
  19. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  20. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys