Category Archives: Naturalist

Lots of Ibises at the Refuge Today, 04-03-20

I got up around 7:00 this morning, gave Esteban his breakfast, and then we headed out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  I wanted to go today because it’s supposed to rain over the next several days. I had to stop on the way to put gas in the car and was pleased by the $2.65 per gallon price.  That’s where it should be.  The almost-four-dollar price was ridiculous!

Driving out to the refuge was without any hiccups; I’m liking the reduced traffic everywhere. I counted hawks along the way and got up to eight (most of the Red-Tails) before I reached the gates of the refuge.  It was a cool and breezy day, bright and clear; about 42° when I went out and about 68° when I got back to the house around 2:30 pm.

The first thing I saw was a pair of Killdeer on the edge of the parking lot.  They were working together to create a “scrape”, a shallow divot on the ground they’ll use as a nest. They use their chests and their feet to create it.

These little birds are monogamous and mate for life.  According to Cornell: “… In [a] typical Scrape Ceremony, male lowers breast to the ground and scrapes with feet to form shallow depression; female then approaches male with her head lowered and displaces him from scrape. Male then stands with body tilted slightly forward, tail raised and spread. This posture is usually accompanied by rapid calling, approaching a Trill…” This is pretty much the behavior I was seeing.  I got a couple of video snippets of them.

Usually, it’s the male that starts the scrape, and then the female joins him if she likes the spot.  This pair seemed somewhat uncertain about their scrape.  One was committed to it while the other wandered around looking elsewhere.  It WAS a somewhat precarious place, so close to where vehicles park. I worried a little bit about that particular placement. After a scrape is completed, and both birds like it, it might take a week or so before the female lays her first egg. So, I’d like to go back to the refuge in a week or so to see if they’re still there.

[[Once the female lays the eggs, she incubates them during the day and the male incubates at night.  So, both birds lose some of the breast feathers, exposing their naked skin to the eggs.]]

There was no water in the vernal pools but there were some flowers coming up in their empty hollows including Gold Fields and purple-blue Downingia.

Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica

            There were LOTS of White-Faced Ibis along the auto-tour route and at the new viewing platform along the trail. Some of them were even sporting their breeding “white faces”. I also saw and heard a lot of Marsh Wrens singing in the tules.

White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I was hoping to see some Bitterns, but they weren’t showing themselves.  I heard one of them “pumper-lunking” in the distance, though.

It was nice to see the Clark’s and Western Grebes starting to show up in the permanent wetland area.  There was no water in there last year, so I missed seeing them all year.  It was great to have them back.  I’m looking forward to seeing them build their floating nests as we get closer to summer.  I was not, however, happy to see a Mute Swan in the water. They’re considered an invasive species in California.

Western Grebes, Aechmophorus occidentalis

There were some Tree Swallows nesting in a tree along the route, but they were on the passenger side of the car. You’re not allowed to get out of your vehicle on the route, so, I had to lay down in the front seat and shoot up, out of the window, to snag some photos of them as they entered the nesting cavity.

On the way out of the refuge, I found a young Bald Eagle sitting in a tree. It was just starting to get its white coloring so it was probably about 2½ to 3 years old. That was another bird that forced me to lay down in the seat to get photos of it.

I was out on the auto tour route for about 4 hours before heading home.

Esteban was great throughout the whole ride.  He slept most of the time when we were on the freeways, but looked out the windows when I drove slowly at the refuge.  When we got home, I eventually settled on the bed, and he laid on top of me, tuckered out from his long day in the field.

Esteban chillaxing after his long day in the field.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  3. Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
  4. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  5. Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  8. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  9. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  10. Bristled Downingia, Doublehorn Calico Flower, Downingia bicornuta 
  11. Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides
  12. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  13. Bull Mallow, Malva nicaeensis
  14. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  15. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  16. Chinese Praying Mantis, Tenodera sinensis [ootheca]
  17. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  18. Clark’s Grebe, Aechmophorus clarkii
  19. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  20. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
  21. Common Stork’s-Bill, Red Stemmed Filaree, Erodium cicutarium
  22. Common Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum
  23. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  24. Dunlin, Calidris alpina
  25. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  26. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  27. Field Mustard, Brassica rapa
  28. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  29. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  30. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  31. Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica 
  32. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  33. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  34. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  35. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  36. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  37. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  38. Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
  39. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  40. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  41. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
  42. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  43. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  44. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  45. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  46. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marorata
  47. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  48. Pineappleweed, Matricaria discoidea
  49. Pink Squirrel-Tail Rye, Sitanion elymoides
  50. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
  51. Prickly Sow Thistle, Sonchus asper
  52. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  53. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  54. Ring-Necked Duck, Aythya collaris
  55. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
  56. Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
  57. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  58. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  59. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  60. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  61. Western Grebe, Aechmophorus occidentalis
  62. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  63. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  64. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi

Not Too Many Flowers at Kenny Ranch, 04-02-20

Got up around 6:30 this morning. It’s chilly, bright and crisp outside. It was about 39°F when mt friend Roxanne arrived to take us to Kenny Ranch in search of wildflowers. The drive was nice; traffic is nearly nonexistent because of COVID-19.  Mostly just big trucks on the road.  We saw several people wearing face masks even while they were driving. That didn’t make a lot of sense to me – unless maybe they were LYFT drivers or something and were anticipating being around other people in their cars.

We were surprised that we didn’t see any wild flowers all on the way to Grass Valley or much of anything at Kenny Ranch.  They seem to be about 2 weeks behind what we’re seeing in Sacramento County. 

Most of the Black Oak trees didn’t have their leaves yet, so we couldn’t look for any new galls on them… The French Broom, however, was blooming everywhere, and we saw a lot of Butter ‘n’ Eggs and Buckbrush.  We found some Fringepod that look like a different species than what we saw at Mather, and we also came across a few Goldfields.

French Broom, Genista monspessulana, already going to seed.

There seemed to be a lot of grasshoppers with yellow wings all over the trail.  I managed to catch one of them, so we got a few close-up photos of that one.  I tried to get photos of them in flight so I could document their bright wings, but they were so small and moved so fast that the camera couldn’t focus on them.  We also saw a couple of Checkered Skippers, and caught sight of a Painted Lady and Tiger Swallowtail butterfly on the wing. 

We were hoping to maybe see some newts along the slough, but the current was really running too fast for that. 

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

It was kind of a disappointing outing because we didn’t see the flowers we were hoping to see, but the fresh air and exercise was good.  When we were done at the ranch, Roxanne drove us further down the Rough and Ready Highway just to see what was there, and we were able to make a loop over surface streets back to Highway 49.  Lots of ranch properties out there. Everything is green right now and I can see why people like living up there.  Atone point we stopped along the road that looked out over the hills to the snow-capped mountains beyond.  So pretty!

We also stopped at someone’s house where a Red-Shouldered Hawk was sitting on the telephone lines. He gave us a dirty look over his shoulder before flying off.

Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus

            We were out for about 6 hours, and got back home without incident.

Species List:

  1. American Plantain, Plantago rugelii
  2. Beaked Twig Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis plumbella
  3. Bittercress, Hairy Bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta
  4. Broad-leaved Sweet Pea, Lathyrus latifolius
  5. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
  6. Bulbous Meadow-Grass, Poa bulbosa
  7. California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  8. California Incense-Cedar, Calocedrus decurrens
  9. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  10. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  11. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  12. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  13. Common Checkered-Skipper, Burnsius communis
  14. Common Greenbottle Fly, Lucilia sericata
  15. Common Stork’s-Bill, Red Stemmed Filaree, Erodium cicutarium
  16. Cumberland Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia
  17. Dark-Eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis
  18. French Broom Gall Mite, Aceria genistae
  19. French Broom, Genista monspessulana
  20. Giant Chain Fern, Woodwardia fimbriata
  21. Goldback Fern, Pentagramma triangularis
  22. Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana
  23. Hillside Woodland Star, Lithophragma heterophyllum
  24. Hoverfly, Long-tailed Aphideater, Eupeodes fumipennis
  25. Johnnytuck, Butter ‘n’ Eggs, Triphysaria eriantha
  26. Mountain Fringepod, Thysanocarpus laciniatus
  27. Mountain Misery, Chamaebatia foliolosa
  28. Oregon Grape, Berberis aquifolium
  29. Plum, Prunus cerasifera
  30. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  31. Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa
  32. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  33. Rock Tripe, Emery Rock Tripe, Umbilicaria phaea
  34. Rose Clover, Trifolium hirtum
  35. Salad Burnet, Sanguisorba minor  [not sure of this ID]
  36. Shining Peppergrass, Lepidium nitidum
  37. Smokey-eyed Boulder Lichen, Porpidia albocaerulescens
  38. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  39. Stork’s Bill, Big Heron Bill, Broadleaf Filaree, Erodium botrys
  40. Streambank Springbeauty, Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia parviflora
  41. Tomcat Clover, Trifolium willdenovii
  42. Western American Alder Tongue Gall Taphrina occidentalis
  43. Western Meadow-Rue, Thalictrum occidentale
  44. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  45. White Clover, Trifolium repens
  46. White Leaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida ssp. viscida
  47. Willow, Salix sp.
  48. Yellow Cobblestone Lichen, Acarospora socialis
  49. Yellow-Winged Grasshopper, California Sulphur Winged Grasshopper, Arphia behrensi
  50. ?? Unidentified  Asteraceae

Wildflowers on Highways 16 and 20, 03-30-20

I got up around 7:00 am to get myself ready to head out with my friend Roxanne in search of wildflowers.  It was mostly cloudy today and cool, but we didn’t get any rain.

Around 8:00 am Roxanne and I went out toward Woodland to catch Highway 16 and take that to Highway 20, looking for wildflowers.  With the weird weather, we didn’t know if we’d see anything, but we were pleasantly surprised. 

Here’s the route for this self-guided auto tour

On the way, we saw a lot of birds including thirteen hawks (most of them Red-Tails), crows, Red-Wing and Brewer’s Blackbirds, Turkey Vultures (including two on the top of a power pole and one in field sitting next to a carcass of something), wild turkeys, Mourning Doves and several flocks of chickens and roosters.  When we stopped to get photos of the flowers, however, we barely heard or saw any birds at all which we thought was kind of odd. As we were heading home, though, near the end of the trip, we did get to see our “spirit bird”, a Black Phoebe.

We took Highway 16 up into the foothills and stopped along the way at various turnouts, wherever we saw something that caught our eye… blue and yellow lupine, red and orange Indian Paintbrush, clematis vines that climbed up and over large trees in a cascade of white flowers…  I was so happy to see the flower out and showing off that I actually laughed and squealed along the way.  It takes so little to make me happy sometimes. Hah!

Lupines

It was also nice to see water flowing at a healthy pace in Cache Creek and Bear Creek.  After so many years of drought, seeing the water made me very hopeful.

At each turn out, we’d stop the car and walk along the edges of the road to see what else might be hiding in the grasses and around the boulders. We found several different kinds of insects including Checkerspot caterpillars and a large yellow Crab Spider.  There were also lots of little moths that looked like bird poop on the leaves of Sticky Monkeyflower plants.  The turned out to be Mountain-Mahogany Moths; very cool.  That was a first for me.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

We tend to dilly-dally a bit when we’re out exploring, taking photos of everything from flowers to insects to lichen… and we lose track of time.  When we were walking along the river side at Cache Creek, I suddenly felt very hungry and couldn’t understand why.  Then I realized it was already after 12:30 pm.  We’d been driving and walking for over four hours already! I could hardly believe it. So, we stopped and had a little lunch while we went through our photos and tried to identify things.

We still wanted to go up Bear Valley Road, but there wasn’t really time. That full trip alone would take another 4 hours or more.  We did drive up to the corral at the entrance to the road, and found there weren’t many flowers there (or in the big field across the freeway) that usually indicate what the flowering will be like along Bear Valley Road. So, we decided to do that next week, figuring it will be gorgeous out there by then.

We took Highway 20 back to Interstate 5 and went home from there. 

I got back to the house after 3:30 pm, so that was long day in the field, but we saw so many pretty things that I felt energized as well as tired;  y’know that kind of happy exhaustion? It was a great day.

Species List:

  1. ?? Northern Variable Dart Moth, Xestia badicollis [green with white stripes] NOT SURE OF THIS ID
  2. Alder-leaved Mountain-Mahogany, Cercocarpus montanus
  3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  4. Arundo, Giant Reed, Arundo donax
  5. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
  8. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  9. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  10. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
  11. Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons
  12. Bush Monkeyflower, Sticky Monkeyflower, Diplacus aurantiacus
  13. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  14. California Lomatium, Lomatium californicum [yellow, kind of looks like fennel blossoms]
  15. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  16. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  17. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  18. California Pore Lichen, Pertusaria californica [white/pale gray nubbly surface]
  19. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  20. Chamise, Adenostoma fasciculatum
  21. Cinder Lichen, Aspicilia cinerea [gray to light gray/white on rocks with  or without small black dots]
  22. Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
  23. Cocklebur, Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium
  24. Coffee Fern, Pellaea andromedifolia
  25. Common Cat’s-Ear, Hypochaeris radicata [yellow, dandelion-like flower]
  26. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  27. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
  28. Common Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes
  29. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea
  30. Common Stork’s-Bill, Red Stemmed Filaree, Erodium cicutarium
  31. Common Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum
  32. Common Vetch, Vicia sativa
  33. Concentric Boulder Lichen, Porpidia crustulata
  34. Cork Oak, Quercus suber
  35. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  36. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  37. Coyote, Canis latrans
  38. Crater Lichen, Diploschistes scruposus [gray/dark grey on rocks with dark apothecia]
  39. Cumberland Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia
  40. Cutworms and Dart Moths, Subfamily: Noctuinae
  41. Deerweed, Acmispon glaber
  42. Dimpled Camouflage Lichen, Montanelia tominii [ink black on wood]
  43. Domesticated Chicken, Gallus domesticus
  44. Dot-Seed Plantain, Plantago erecta
  45. European Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  46. False Blister Beetle, Oedemera podagrariae [brown and tan, kind of looks like a Soldier Beetle]
  47. Field Mustard, Brassica rapa
  48. Foothill Deervetch, Acmispon brachycarpus [small yellow “lotus”]
  49. Fragrant Sumac, Rhus aromatica
  50. Fremont’s Tidy Tips, Layia fremontii
  51. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  52. Goldenrod Crab Spider, Misumena vatia
  53. Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana
  54. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  55. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  56. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa
  57. Hawksbeard, Smooth Hawksbeard, Crepis capillaris
  58. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  59. Ink Lichen, Placynthium nigrum [pitch black, fine grained]
  60. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  61. Ithuriel’s Spear, Triteleia laxa
  62. Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
  63. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  64. Lupine, Arroyo Lupine, Lupinus succulentus [dark purple-blue]
  65. Lupine, Chick Lupine, Lupinus microcarpus
  66. Lupine, Large-Leaved Lupine, Lupinus polyphyllus
  67. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  68. Meadow Spittlebug, Philaenus spumarius [spit]
  69. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  70. Mountain-mahogany Moth, Ethmia discostrigella [looks like bird poop]
  71. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  72. Mule’s Ears, Smooth Mule-Ears, Wyethia glabra
  73. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  74. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
  75. Pacific Pea Lathyrus vestitus
  76. Pin-cushion Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona polycarpa
  77. Pineappleweed, Matricaria discoidea
  78. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  79. Purple Owl’s-Clover, Castilleja exserta
  80. Purple Sanicle, Sanicula bipinnatifida
  81. Pyralid and Crambid Snout Moths, Superfamily: Pyraloidea
  82. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  83. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  84. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  85. Rock Greenshield Lichen, Flavoparmelia baltimorensis
  86. Rusty Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys nothofulvus
  87. Sandbar Willow, Salix exigua var. hindsiana
  88. Scattered Button Lichen, Buellia dispersa [gray/off white on rocks with black spots]
  89. Shining Peppergrass, Lepidium nitidum
  90. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  91. Sidewalk Firedot Lichen, Xanthocarpia feracissima  [bright orange, on rocks]
  92. Slender Cottonweed, Q-Tips, Micropus californicus
  93. Small-Flowered Blue-Eyed Mary, Collinsia parviflora [tiny, pale purple and white]
  94. Smooth Shadow Lichen, Phaeophyscia ciliate [hoary gray with brown apothecia on trees]
  95. Soap Plant, Wavy Leafed Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  96. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha
  97. Streambank Springbeauty, Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia parviflora
  98. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans
  99. Sunflower, Common Woolly Sunflower, Eriophyllum lanatum
  100. Sweet Clover, Small Melilot, Melilotus indicus [small, yellow]
  101. Tamarisk, Saltcedar, Tamarix ramosissima
  102. Tidy Tips, Layia platyglossa
  103. Tile Lichen, Lecidea sp.
  104. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  105. True Babystars, Leptosiphon bicolor
  106. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  107. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  108. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  109. Variable Checkerspot, Euphydryas chalcedona caterpillar [black, spiky with orange spots]
  110. Virgin’s Bower, Old Men’s Beards, Pipestem Clematis, Clematis lasiantha
  111. Wavyleaf Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja martini var. martini [red-orange]
  112. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  113. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  114. Western Wallflower, Erysimum capitatum
  115. White Leaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida ssp. viscida
  116. White Nemophila, Nemophila heterophylla
  117. Woolly Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja foliolosa [red]
  118. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium
  119. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis

A Butterfly on the Lens, 03-24-20

I got up around 7:00 this morning, and have no vertigo today.  I wish I knew what triggers the flares ups… I headed over to the American River Bend Park again to check in on the owls and get some exercise in before the forecast rains come in.

It was kind of chilly when I got there, about 39°F, but it warmed up relatively quickly as the sun got up further in the sky.  Clouds were coming in, but were mostly pretty “sofa clouds” until they started to get coordinated in the late afternoon for a little rain.

Clouds over the “lawn” at the River Bend Park.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Mama Great Horned Owl was in her nest and sitting up in the early morning sunlight so it was easier to get some photos of her. I also got a little video snippet of her in the nest and could see an owlet moving around next to her. It’s still too small to look out over the rim of the nest – and there might be more than one in there – so I haven’t gotten any good picture of it yet.

The Blue Elderberry trees are starting to get their blossoms.  They’re also starting to attract the caterpillars of the Elder Moths, who wrap themselves up in the leaves as they grow and pupate.  I was able to find a few of them.  They’re still small but they’ll fatten up over the next few weeks.

Elder Moth, Achatodes zeae, caterpillar in the leaf of a Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea,plant

There were also quite a number of Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies out.  Some of them were sitting in the grass waiting to warm up, and others were flitting around the tops of the trees where the sun was already hitting them.  At one point, one of the butterflies I was photographing climbed onto the lens of my cellphone camera, so I got a super close-up of her.

California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta

I watched a House Sparrow and a White-Breasted Nuthatch arguing over a nesting cavity.  Neither bird can build their own, so they rely on old woodpecker nests and natural openings in the tree to nest in.  I think the wren won this particular battle.

Someone had hung a little wooden angel from a branch along the trail. I usually don’t like this kind of “litter”, but today it seemed kind of sweet and affirming.

As I was heading out of the park, I saw some Western Bluebirds and stopped to get photos.  The male was cooperative for a while; the female, not so much.  They’re such cheery, pretty little birds.

I was out for about 3 hours and only saw two people all the while I was out there.  So nice.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. Audubon’s Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  3. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  4. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  5. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  6. Boreal Button Lichen, Buellia disciformis [pale gray to bluish with black apothecia on wood]
  7. Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  8. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  10. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  11. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  12. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  13. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  14. Common Vetch, Vicia sativa
  15. Cranefly, Mosquito Hawk, Tipula dietziana
  16. Elder Moth, Achatodes zeae
  17. Elegant Camouflage Lichen, Melanohalea elegantula [leafy like hoary lichen but much darker gray/black]
  18. Elfin Saddle, Compressed Saddle, Helvella compressa
  19. Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina
  20. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  21. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  22. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  23. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  24. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  25. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  26. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii
  27. Mosquito, Common House Mosquito, Culex pipiens
  28. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  29. Mower’s Mushroom, Haymaker Mushroom, Panaeolus foenisecii
  30. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  31. Pin-cushion Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona polycarpa
  32. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  33. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  34. Rusty Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys nothofulvus
  35. Santa Barbara Sedge, Carex barbarae
  36. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  37. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans
  38. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  39. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  40. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  41. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  42. White Ash Tree, Fraxinus americana
  43. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  44. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

A Blond Fawn, 03-20-20

 I got up around 7:00 am and headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.  I was surprised by how many people were there; no social distancing.  At one point, I had to raise my cane and nudge a woman back who came up on me and asked me what I was taking photos of.  Six feet, please.  At the River Bend Park I came across maybe 5 people on the trails; at Effie there were at least 50. I don’t think I’ll go back there any time soon. 

Saw a lot of usual suspects today but among them were some neat spottings. One was a California Ground Squirrel that had just come up out of its burrow and was snacking on the plants outside its door.

California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi

Another was a Black Phoebe building a new nest under the eaves of the nature center.  The female does all the nest building while the male watches and protects the site. This female went to the little pond in the front of the nature center, dug up some mud and flew it back to the building under the eaves to the nest site over and over again. She didn’t like it when I got too close to the pond, so I didn’t get any clear shots of her collecting the mud in her beak. [[If you want to attract Phoebes to nest around your home, remember, they need a water/mud source nearby.]]

Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans, building her nest
Working on the new nest
Collecting mud for the nest

There are two other old nests near this same area at the preserve, and it’s not unusual for Phoebes to use the same nest over and over again, so I’m assuming the previous nests are either unstable or are filled with mites or something… so the female is starting a new one. It may take this mom about 2 weeks to finish the mud cup and fill it with grasses.

Phoebes can have three broods in one year, so here’s hoping this nest will get a lot of use.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Then I also came across a Columbian Black-Tailed Deer doe who had two older fawns with her.  One of the fawns was the normal tan/brown color with a typical black tail, but the other one was very blond, a very light straw color, and had a brown tail.  I don’t know if it was leucistic or what, but it will be interesting to see if it retains its light coat as it ages.            

The blond Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,fawn
A male Rio Grande Wild Turkey in full strut beside a Columbian Black-Tailed deer fawn.

I tried to get a picture of a tiny cynipid wasp (the kind associated with galls on oak trees).  They’re very small, black and shiny, and don’t live very long, so they’re hard to spot.  I got my camera on it, but it was so small and moved so fast that the only clear shot I got of it was of its butt on the edge of a Live Oak leaf.  Hah!

Live Oak Gall Wasp, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis

It was nice outside, and my vertigo was under control so I was able to walk for about 4 hours. 

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Assassin Bug, Zelus luridus
  4. Audubon’s Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  5. Bark Rim Lichen, Lecanora chlarotera [looks like Whitewash Lichen but has apothecia]
  6. Bittercress, Hairy Bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
  9. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  10. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  11. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
  12. Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons
  13. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  14. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  15. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  16. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  17. California Pore Lichen, Pertusaria californic
  18. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  19. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  20. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  21. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii [scat]
  22. Destroying Angel Mushroom, Amanita ocreata
  23. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  24. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  25. Fluffy Dust Lichen, Pacific Fluffy Dust Lichen, Lepraria pacifica [blue-green dust lichen]
  26. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  27. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  28. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  29. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  30. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
  31. Long-Jawed Orb Weaver, Tetragnatha sp .
  32. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  33. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  34. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  35. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  36. Santa Barbara Sedge, Carex barbarae
  37. Sheet Weaver Spiders, Family: Linyphiidae [webs]
  38. Shepherd’s-Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
  39. Slime Mold, Insect Egg Slime Mold, Badhamia sp.
  40. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  41. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  42. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus dubiosus
  43. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  44. Wall Barley, Hordeum murinu
  45. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis

River Bend Day 2, 03-18-20

Up at 6:45 am on this totally overcast, chilly and rainy morning. No vertigo today.  I got Esteban fed and pottied and then headed out to the American River Bend Park again but this time with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne.  She wanted to see the owls’ nest and get some fresh air and exercise.

This is a photo Roxanne took of my while I was photographing mushrooms.

It rained for the first hours or so we were out there, but then the rain tapered off, so we didn’t get too wet – except for our shoes.  I’d brought my umbrella with me and used it when needed, but then I accidentally left it behind somewhere along the trail.  D’oh!  By the time I realized that, I was too tired to go back and look for it, so, I hope that someone else finds it who really needs it.

We started our walk near where the owls’ nest is.  The mother owl was on a different side of the nest today than she was yesterday, so there was a slightly clearer view of her.  She didn’t look too thrilled about sitting in the rain, and we couldn’t see her owlets.  I assumed that she was shielding them from the wet and cold.

Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus,mamain the rain.

In that same area, we found a large flock of Wild Turkeys, including a pair of leucistic females.  The males were in full strut, wings down, tails fanned, snoods extended.  Some of them were snorting under their snoods, too.  A kind of “tsk!” sound. 

At one point, we also saw some of the males fighting: jumping up and kicking one another with their spurs, chasing each other, gobbling harshly.  I think there were rival “gangs” of males there running off guys who didn’t belong on the main group’s stomping ground. I couldn’t tell if the males were avoiding or ignoring the leucistic females, but all of the females were pretty much ignoring the males.  No one got down into a crouch while we were there.

There aren’t a lot of wild flowers up yet, but we did see some Blue Dicks and some Hillside Woodland Star, but that was about it. We DID come across, however, what I think was an Oracle Oak tree.  I’d passed that tree dozens of times and never really paid attention to it until today. Oracles are a cross between a Black Oak and an Interior Live Oak.  Both trees are considered “red oaks”, based partly on the color of their wood and what the interior of their acorns look like.

Oracle Oak, Quercus × moreha

Lots of Destroying Angel mushrooms all over the place, and some Black Jelly Roll fungus.  On one of the pipevine plants, Roxanne found a flower overflowing with fungus gnats.  The gnats are one of the major pollinators of this plant, so that was fun to see.  I got a video snippet of them emerging. 

Dark-Winged Fungus Gnats, Bradysia sp., emerging from the blossom of a California Pipevine plant, Aristolochia californica

Oh, and we found a crop of Compressed Elfin Saddle mushrooms, Helvella compressa.  They look like dark brown fortune cookies mounted on white sticks.  Very cool.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

Roxanne also found two other things I’d never seen before.  The first one was Curling Moss, also called Bonfire Moss, Funaria hygrometrica. It was made up of stingy bits of plant material laid out in stiff curls.  Rox joking referred to it as “river scrubbie”. Hah! 

The other thing she found was a Tussock Moth cocoon covered in newly hatched caterpillars.  I’ve found the cocoons all over the place before, along with the mature caterpillars, but I’d never seen the caterpillars at this early stage.  The mother moth lays her eggs on top of the cocoon from which she emerged and then covers them with a sort of self-hardening foam that protects them until they hatch.  Each caterpillar was totally black and covered in sparse long hairs.  There were about 30 of the tiny things occupying the exterior of a cocoon that was about an inch long.

We walked for about 4 ½ hours before heading back home. 

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Audubon’s Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  3. Bark Rim Lichen, Lecanora chlarotera [looks like Whitewash Lichen but has apothecia]
  4. Barometer Earthstar fungus, Astraeus hygrometricus
  5. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  6. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  7. Bittercress, Hairy Bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta
  8. Black Jelly Roll fungus, Exidia glandulosa
  9. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  10. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  11. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  12. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
  13. Brown Jelly Fungus, Jelly Leaf, Tremella foliacea
  14. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  15. Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  16. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica
  17. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  18. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  19. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  20. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  21. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  22. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  23. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  24. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  25. Click Beetle, Limonius canus 
  26. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  27. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  28. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
  29. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  30. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  31. Common Vetch, Vicia sativa
  32. Coyote Brush Stem Gall moth, Gnorimoschema baccharisella
  33. Curling Moss, Bonfire Moss, Funaria hygrometrica
  34. Dark-Winged Fungus Gnat, Bradysia sp.
  35. Destroying Angel Mushroom, Amanita ocreata
  36. Dove’s-foot Crane’s-Bill, Geranium molle
  37. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  38. Elfin Saddle, Compressed Elfin Saddle, Helvella compressa
  39. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  40. False Turkey Tail fungus, Stereum Ostrea
  41. Farinose Cartilage Lichen,  Ramalina farinacea [like Oakmoss but very thin branches]
  42. Fluffy Dust Lichen, Pacific Fluffy Dust Lichen, Lepraria pacifica
  43. Giraffe’s Head Henbit, Henbit Deadnettle, Lamium amplexicaule
  44. Giraffe’s Spots Fungus, Peniophora albobadia
  45. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  46. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  47. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  48. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  49. Hillside Woodland Star, Lithophragma heterophyllum
  50. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  51. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  52. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  53. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  54. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii
  55. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  56. Mazegill Fungus, Daedalea quercina
  57. Mealy Pixie Cup, Cladonia chlorophaea
  58. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliate
  59. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  60. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  61. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  62. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
  63. Oracle Oak, Quercus × moreha
  64. Petty Spurge, Euphorbia peplus
  65. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  66. Red Phanerochaete pathogen, Phanerochaete sanguinea
  67. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis [heard, saw in flight]
  68. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  69. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens
  70. Santa Barbara Sedge, Carex barbarae
  71. Shepherd’s-Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
  72. Shingle Moss, Neckera pennata
  73. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  74. Split Gill Fungus, Schizophyllum commune
  75. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  76. Star Moss, Syntrichia ruralis
  77. Stem Rust Fungus, Puccinia evadens [on Coyote Brush]
  78. Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica
  79. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha
  80. Streambank Springbeauty, Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia parviflora [small]
  81. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans
  82. Termite, Reticulitermes sp.
  83. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  84. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  85. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  86. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  87. Velvety Tree Ant, Liometopum occidentale
  88. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana [caught a glimpse of one]
  89. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  90. Western Tussock Moth, Orgyia vetusta
  91. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  92. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  93. Whitewash Lichen, Phlyctis argena
  94. ?? Tiny mushrooms on twig
  95. ?? A kind of crust fungus