Category Archives: #MigrationCelebration

A Lovely Drive at the Yolo Bypass, 12-09-22

Since I last posted, when I quit chemotherapy, things haven’t changed a whole lot. But I do see little improvements in my condition. I can walk a little further without getting winded; over the last few days the vertigo has receded a bit and only seems to get triggered if I bend over. Every tiny improvement helps.

Today, I was literally in tears when my friend Roxanne took me out to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area. I hadn’t been outside in Nature for a MONTH, and was getting very depressed about that. We were out for about 5 hours, and because we stayed on the auto tour loop I never had to get out of the car. The vertigo wasn’t as issue as long as she didn’t drive too fast taking turns… and was only triggered when I needed to use a porta potty and had to bend over to lift the lid on the toilet. Hah! 

The other issue for me was that I catch a chill really easily now – I don’t know what that’s about – so I was in my heavy coat and knit cap.  When we’re birding from the car, we keep the windows open so the camera can see out without obstruction. It was maybe 53º outside, but with windchill it felt like 47º.  Luckily, Roxanne has a car that lets you set different inside temperatures for the driver and passenger, so she set her side of the car to 66º and I set mine to78º and we were comfy even with the windows open.

And, oh my gosh, as I said, I was literally in tears with happiness when we first headed out to the bypass. And I was surprised to hear the sound of my own voice laughing over our in-car chatter as we drove along the auto tour route. I literally hadn’t heard myself laugh for over a month. The chemo has taken so much from me, it was nice to get a little joy back. Nature heals…literally. Before I left the house I took my blood pressure and pulse. They were 141/81 and 129. (My pulse has run real fast since chemo.) When I got back home from being out in nature, they were 127/87 and 113.  I needed that sooooo much.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos. I may add more to this as I process more of the photos.

While we were out we saw over thirty different species of birds, but the coolest thing we found were American Bitterns. They’re somewhat secretive birds that usually hang out in the high grasses and tules, so we’re happy when we can spot one. Today, we spotted FIVE of them. I was so excited!  

We also came across two young, “orphaned” Snow Geese in different ponds. There was no flock of Snow Geese anywhere around them, so we surmised the youngsters couldn’t keep up with the flock and either dropped out when the flock was flying over the bypass, or had been left behind when the flock left the bypass. They seemed healthy enough; I hope they’ll be okay. 

We did see quite a few dead birds in the water, and I wondered if they had been affected by avian flu.

As I said, we were out for about 5 hours and got back to the house around 1:30 PM. It was SUCH a nice day; I hope to be able to get out again soon.

Species List:

  1. American Bittern, Botaurus lentiginosus
  2. American Coot, Fulica americana
  3. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  4. American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
  5. American Wigeon, Anas americana
  6. Ash, Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  7. Bisnaga, Visnaga daucoides
  8. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  9. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  10. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  11. Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
  12. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  13. Gadwall Duck, Mareca strepera
  14. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  15. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  16. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  17. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  18. Grebe, Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  19. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  20. Gull, Herring Gull, Larus argentatus
  21. Gull, Larus sp.
  22. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  23. Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla
  24. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  25. Meshweaver Spider, Family: Dictynidae
  26. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  27. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  28. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  29. Pigeon, Rock Pigeon, Columba livia
  30. Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans
  31. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus
  32. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  33. Rose, California Wild Rose, Rosa californica [pink]
  34. Saltbush, Big Saltbush, Atriplex lentiformis
  35. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
  36. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  37. Sparrow, House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  38. Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  39. Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  40. Sparrow, White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  41. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  42. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  43. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  44. Wren, Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris

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Walking a Different Trail at the River Bend Park, 03-05-22

I got up around 7:00 AM and fed Esteban his breakfast before I headed over to the American River Bend Park for a walk. It was chilly, in the 40’s, overcast and threatening rain. But the rain didn’t hit the park and eventually the sun was peeking through the clouds.

I took a trail that I don’t travel on very often. I was looking for flowering redbud trees inside the park, but didn’t see any of them. There are redbud budding OUTSIDE the park in the residential area, many of them hand-planted and well-watered, but not INSIDE the park where all of the redbuds are wild.

One of the Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis, blooming ouside of the park

Even the vetch in the park isn’t awake yet. It was nice, though, to see so many pipevine plants flowering and winding their way through branches, twigs and grasses.

I was also looking for lichen, but just found the usual suspects: Green Shield, Hoary, Sunburst… and I kind of got carried away photographing the Boreal Button Lichen.

They’re lovely, but I’m getting anxious to go somewhere where I can see something new and different. The cost of gasoline is a big barrier for me. It’s currently $5.49 at the Shell station down the road from us. It costs about $75 to $80 to fill my tank. And with my limited income, I can’t afford to fill up very often… so that limits where I can go and when. Sigh.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I saw a lot of Mourning Doves today. I think they’re just starting to look for nesting spots.  The male Wild Turkeys are out, strutting around, showing off their fanned tails and red caruncles. And, of course, I saw quite a few Black Phoebes. They’re like my “spirit birds”; I see them everywhere.

There were also small flocks of Audubon’s Warblers flitting allover the place, playing tag in the grass. So cute. But also so fast! Getting photos is often difficult.

I heard a choir of Red-Shouldered Hawks in the forest; about four or five birds all calling to one another from different directions. I finally caught sight of one of them, a young female, that did a dive-bombing thing from the branch of a tree into the high grass on the ground. I lost sight of it for a few seconds, and then it flew up again, talons and beak empty. She didn’t catch whatever she had been after.

Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans

I’ve been looking for springtime galls on the trees and plants but haven’t really found a lot yet. The weather has been so weird and sporadic, I’m sure that plays havoc with the gall wasps and midges and their seasonal activity. I am finding a lot of new Two-Horned galls, though, and some leaves with twins and triplets on them. I also found one with what looked like tiny clear eggs along the leaf’s midrib. Is that what the wasp eggs look like? Or am I seeing something different?

On my way out of the park, I came across a small herd of about a half dozen deer. I think it was a bachelor group of young males, most of which had just lost their antlers. You could see the exposed pedicles on the top of their heads.

You can READ MORE about the pedicles in an article I wrote a few years ago.

I walked for about 3 hours and sat in the car for another 30 minutes watching the deer. This was hike #9 in my #52HikeChallenge for the year.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  4. Bark Rim Lichen, Lecanora chlarotera [looks like Whitewash Lichen but has apothecia]
  5. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  6. Bittercress, Hairy Bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  9. Boreal Button Lichen, Buellia disciformis [pale gray to bluish with black apothecia on wood]
  10. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  11. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  12. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  13. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  14. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta [old chrysalis]
  15. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  16. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  17. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  18. Common Sunburst Lichen, Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina [yellow-orange, on wood/trees]
  19. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos [heard one “clacking”]
  20. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  21. Giraffe Spots Crust Fungus, Peniophora albobadia
  22. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  23. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  24. Hoary Rosette Lichen, Physcia aipolia [hoary, brown apothecia]
  25. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  26. Manroot, California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  27. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  28. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  29. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  30. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  31. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  32. Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans
  33. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  34. Shepherd’s-Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
  35. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  36. Speckled Greenshield Lichen, Flavopunctelia flaventior
  37. Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica
  38. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha [without soredia]
  39. Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  40. Trashline Spider, Humped Trashline Orbweaver Spider, Cyclosa turbinata
  41. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor [flyover]
  42. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  43. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  44. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, unisexual gall, summer generation,  Dryocosmus dubiosus [small, green or mottled, on back of leaf along the midvein]
  45. Velvet Ash, Fraxinus velutina
  46. Velvety Tree Ant, Liometopum occidentale
  47. Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa
  48. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  49. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis [heard]

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Saw Lark Sparrows at Gristmill, 03-02-22

I got up a little before 7:00 and gave the dog his breakfast before I headed over to the Gristmill Access on the American River for a walk. I hadn’t been there in a while and wanted to see if anything was happening there yet.

The odd mix of nut trees (mostly almonds) were in bloom, but some of the other trees, like the valley oaks, boxelders, and elderberries, were just starting to get their new leaves. The manroot vines were coming up but I didn’t see seed pods on any of them yet. The willow trees were just staring to leaf out, too, and “pussying” all over. Hah!

I saw a lot of Boxelder Bugs in the grass and flitting around but couldn’t get one to sit still long enough for me to get a photo of it. I also saw what looked like midge-like flies hanging around leaves on the live oak trees where there were concentrations of Whitefly larvae. I wonder if the flies eat or parasiticide those guys.

The air was full of the sound of House Wrens and other small birds.

The Western Screech Owl wasn’t in her box, but there were Wood Ducks in the trees, some of them looking for places to nest. One female was standing on top of a duck box, crying, like she needed to lay an egg but wasn’t sure of that particular box was the one she wanted. The male was standing on a nearby branch, watching her.

According to Cornell: “…Nest-search Call of males is a multisyllable jibjibjib; used when females are searching for nest cavities and reinforces the pair bond…High-intensity Hauk Call of females is perhaps the most familiar vocalization of Wood Ducks. It is a loud oo-eek, oo-eek and is often given when females take flight after being disturbed. A low-intensity Hauk Call is given by courting females to advertise their presence and attract males. Females appear to use the same multisyllable call note, tetetetetetet, when nest searching…” It’s the tetetetetetet that I was hearing.

There were also quite a few Northern Flickers around, many coming down to the ground to gobble up ants. On the ground there were also a few Dark-Eyed Juncos and Audubon’s Warblers. My favorite sighting of the day, however, were several Lark Sparrows. I don’t get to see them very often, so it’s always a treat when I do. I think they’re probably the prettiest sparrow, IMAO.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I could hear Red-Shouldered Hawks screaming at each other, and followed one with my eye as it flew overhead with something in its beak. I found it later, as it stood on a nest (the same nest the hawks had used in the previous year) next to its mate. It had a lizard in its mouth…but apparently wasn’t willing to share it, because it flew off again with the meal still in its mouth.

I saw a few Ground Squirrels keeping close to their burrows, and also got to see a coyote. It ran down the drive to parking lot toward me, being “chased” by a guy in a truck. Grrr. It looked like a youngster, but I couldn’t get a decent shot of it because it was moving too quickly and I didn’t have time to adjust the focus on my camera. Ugh!

I walked for about 3 hours before heading back home. This was hike #8 in my #52HikeChallenge for the year.

Species List:

  1. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis [white pronotum]
  4. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  5. Bark Rim Lichen, Lecanora chlarotera [looks like Whitewash Lichen but has apothecia]
  6. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  7. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  8. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica [dark green with brown apothecia, on trees]
  9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  10. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  11. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  12. Common Sunburst Lichen, Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina [yellow-orange, on wood/trees]
  13. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  14. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  15. Coyote Brush Rust Gall, Puccinia evadens
  16. Coyote, Canis latrans
  17. Crown Whitefly, Aleuroplatus coronata
  18. Dark-Eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis
  19. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  20. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  21. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  22. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  23. Hybotid Fly, Platypalpus sp. [tiny, midge-like]
  24. Lark Sparrow, Chondestes grammacus
  25. Live Oak Erineum Mite Gall, Aceria mackiei
  26. Manroot, California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  27. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
  28. Non-Biting Midges, Family: Chironomidae
  29. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  30. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  31. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  32. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  33. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  34. Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans
  35. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  36. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  37. Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica
  38. Stork’s Bill, Musk Stork’s-Bill, Erodium moschatum
  39. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha [without soredia]
  40. Western Boxelder Bug, Boisea rubrolineata
  41. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  42. Willow, Salix sp.
  43. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa

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Lots to See at William Land Park, 02-22-22

 I got up a little before 7:00 AM, let my dog Esteban go potty, and fed us breakfast before I went out to William Land Park and the WPA Rock Garden for a walk. It was sunny but in the 40’s all the while I was out, so I wore my Owl Kitty sweatshirt.

Inside the garden, flowers are starting to bloom. Another week or two and it should be spectacular — if the weather doesn’t change again and knock the snot out of the plants.  The Grevillea (red and orange) bushes are blooming as are the Portuguese Squill. The squill always remind me of Easter; they look like frilly eggs in a blue-flowered basket to me. I was happy to see lots of pipevines running through the other plants in the place.

I saw doves and Bushtits, lots of Western Bluebirds and Audubon’s Warblers, and Dark-Eyed Juncos.

The fun sighting, though, was a Hermit Thrush. Those little speckled-bellied guys always make me smile.

Another thing that made me smile, was seeing a squirrel pulling the rough hairy stuff off the side of a palm tree.  It took a huge a mouthful of the stuff and rolled it up into a big ball then ran off with it. I assumed that it was gathering nesting material for its drey. I tried following it, to see where it went, but lost track of it. It was too fast for me.

Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger [rusty belly]

In the middle pond at the park, more than half of the water surface was covered with dead lotus. It’s an eyesore, and it discourages the ducks and geese from enjoying and utilizing the full pond. The maintenance crew really needs to dredge that crap up.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

In the largest pond, the water was green, and didn’t look very clean. Among the birds there was a small flock of Ring-Billed gulls, some in their winter plumage, some in their breeding colors (with a red ring around each eye).

 Because the gulls are so common these days, I was surprised to read, “… This species was nearly wiped out by human persecution and development between 1850 and 1920, but has since rebounded to become a common and familiar bird…”

Cornell also reports that the gulls are believed to be monogamous (which I didn’t know), but it’s not uncommon for there to be female-female couples who share nests.

The gulls were very loud, and were gesturing a lot with their heads and bodies. According to Cornell: “…Long Calls, by lowering head to feet then raising it to shoulder level while calling [are considered to be aggressive]. Several Head-tosses, each a single extreme backward toss of head, given before call terminates… Oblique-gakkering Call, a-a-a-a-a-a-a… or kuh-uh-uh-uh-uh… heard during ground disputes, length depends on dispute type, syllable number not restricted…”  I took video of some of it to document the posturing the birds were assuming.

The gulls weren’t the only ones being antsy and pushy. I saw a large collection of Red-Eared Slider Turtles on the edge of the island in the big pond and watched as a Western Pond Turtle approached the group from the water, and proceeded to try to shove another turtle out of the way so it could have its sunning spot. Hah!

I walked for three hours and then headed back home. This was hike #7 in my #52HikeChallenge with this year.

Species List:

  1. African Flag,  Chasmanthe floribunda
  2. Aloe, Candelabra Aloe, Aloe arborescens
  3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  4. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  5. Barberries, Berberis sp.
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Blue Statice, Limonium sinuatum
  8. Borage, Borago officinalis
  9. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  10. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  11. California Sycamore, Western Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  12. Calla Lily, Zantedeschia aethiopica
  13. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  14. Ceanothus, Mahala Mat, Ceanothus prostrates
  15. Cedar Waxwing, Bombycilla cedrorum
  16. Chinese Quince, Chaenomeles Lagenaria [white or pink flowers]
  17. Coastal Rosemary, Westringia fruticosa
  18. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  19. Crested Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Crested
  20. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  21. Daffodil, Wild Daffodil, Narcissus pseudonarcissus
  22. Dark-Eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis
  23. Douglas’ Squirrel, Tamiasciurus douglasii [small brown squirrel, white belly]
  24. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger [rusty belly]
  25. Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis [white belly]
  26. Elephant’s-Ears, Bergenia crassifolia
  27. Fortnight Lily, Dietes grandiflora
  28. Fuchsiaflower Gooseberry, Ribes speciosum
  29. Garden Snail, Cornu aspersum
  30. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  31. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  32. Grevillea, Juniper Leaved Grevillea, Grevillea juniperina [spidery,orange]
  33. Grevillea, Rosemary Grevillea, Grevillea rosmarinifolia [spidery, red]
  34. Greylag Goose × Domestic Swan Goose, Anser anser domesticus × anser cygnoide
  35. Gull, Ring-Billed Gull, Larus delawarensis
  36. Hellebore, Stinking Hellebore, Helleborus foetidus
  37. Hermit Thrush, Catharus guttatus
  38. Honeywort, Blue Shrimp Plant, Cerinthe major ssp. purpurascens [purple]
  39. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  40. Japanese Aralia, Fatsia japonica [stalks of white flowers, huge leaves]
  41. Laurustinus Viburnum, Viburnum tinus [bunches of pink buds that open to mall white flowers]
  42. Love-in-a-Mist. Nigella damascena
  43. Magnolia, Saucer Magnolia, Magnolia × soulangeana [pink flowers]
  44. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  45. Marguerite, Dimorphotheca polyptera
  46. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  47. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  48. Oregon Grape, Berberis aquifolium
  49. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marmorata
  50. Paperwhite, Narcissus papyraceus
  51. Pekin Duck, Domestic Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus
  52. Portuguese Squill, Scilla peruviana
  53. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans
  54. Redvein Abutilon, Callianthe picta
  55. Roldana, Roldana sp. [clusters of medium-sized yellow flowers]
  56. Rosemary, Salvia rosmarinus
  57. Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera
  58. Sea Mallow, Malva subovata [kind of looks like hibiscus]
  59. Spurge, Eggleaf Spurge, Euphorbia oblongata
  60. Spurge, Mediterranean Spurge, Euphorbia characias
  61. Summer Snowflake, Leucojum aestivum [like lily of the valley with green spots]
  62. Swan Goose, Anser cygnoides
  63. Tobacco, Coyote Tobacco, Nicotiana attenuata
  64. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  65. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  66. White Brodiaea, Triteleia hyacinthina
  67. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  68. Wild Celery, Angelica sp.
  69. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
  70. Yew Tree, Taxus sp.

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