Category Archives: Naturalist

River Bend Day 1, 03-17-20

I got up around 7:00 am again today. It’s overcast and chilly (37° F when I got up) but no rain today.  I had a bout of vertigo again just as got up, but I took some Dramamine and muscled through it. 

Right around 8 o’clock, I headed out to the American River Bend Park, figuring that if the vertigo was going to compromise my ability to drive, I’d know that within the first few minutes of the car moving.  I actually had no trouble driving – COVID-19 has cut the traffic down to nothing — but I took my cane with me in case I needed extra support when I was walking.  I had to stop twice, while walking, to vomit, but then after that I was fine.  [TMI, I know, Sorry.] It’s so weird.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I came across several seniors on the trail, all of them happy to be outside and walking. “It’s this great!” seemed to be a recurring theme.  Even with a “shelter in place” order, folks are allowed to go outside for fresh air and exercise as long as everyone stays at least 6 feet away from one another.  We were able to do that for the most part on the trails, but some of the trails are pretty narrow. 

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus

I saw quite a few deer today, including some bucks who had just lost their antlers.  There was also a small herd of them –- mostly does, some yearlings and a fawn with an odd, yellowish patchy-looking coat.  I couldn’t get any photos of him because he was running.  There were about seven deer in that group, and they all ran across the road in front of me. I only got a few photos of one of them.

I could hear lots of birds in the trees including Acorn Woodpeckers, Starlings, White-Breasted Nuthatches and House Wrens, but they were all moving and flitting around, so I only got pictures of a few of them.

House Wren, Troglodytes aedon

Most of my time was spent taking photos of the lichen on the trees, which has plumped up a lot over the past few rainy days, and some of the little flowers and nettles in the grassy areas.  I found some jelly fungi and several Destroying Angel mushrooms along the way, too.  While I was doing that I got an IM from my friend Roxanne asking if I wanted to go to the Riverbend park tomorrow.  I told her I was already there, but I’d like to come back tomorrow with her if she wanted.  It turned out that was a good idea…

Destroying Angel Mushroom, Amanita ocreata

Most of the lichen, flower and fungi photos were taken with my cellphone, and I was thoroughly disappointed when, after I got home and tried to pull them from my phone into my computer, they disappeared.  Lost in the ether.  Guh!!  I’ll try again for those tomorrow.

Anyway, I’d originally gone out to the park because I’d heard through social media that the owls are nesting there again, and I wanted to see if I could find the nest.  I looked in the few places where I knew the owls had been in previous years, but no luck.  While I was photographing some lichen, a homeless man came up to me and asked if I was taking photos of birds, and had I seen the owl’s nest yet.  I told him I couldn’t find the nest and he said it was by the “little parking lot where the hawks had nested last year.”  I knew right where that was, so as I was leaving the park, I went to that spot and… yay!  There was the owl.

Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus

Her nest is in a tough spot to photograph so I walked all the way around the tree it was in, and at different distances, to see where the nest was most visible. (I’d like to take my spotting scope next time to see if I can get a better look at it.)  I’m not sure, because it was hard to see, but I think the mom has at least one fuzzy white baby in there.

I walked for 3 hours and then headed home.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Audubon’s Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  3. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  4. Black Jelly Roll fungus, Exidia glandulosa
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  7. Brown Jelly Fungus, Jelly Leaf, Tremella foliacea
  8. Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  9. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica
  10. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  11. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  12. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  13. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  14. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  15. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  16. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  17. Destroying Angel Mushroom, Amanita ocreata
  18. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  19. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  20. False Turkey Tail fungus, Stereum Ostrea
  21. Giraffe’s Head Henbit, Henbit Deadnettle, Lamium amplexicaule
  22. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  23. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  24. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  25. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  26. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii
  27. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  28. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliate
  29. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  30. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  31. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
  32. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  33. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis [heard]
  34. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  35. Santa Barbara Sedge, Carex barbarae
  36. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  37. Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica
  38. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha
  39. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  40. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  41. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  42. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  43. White Ash Tree, Fraxinus Americana
  44. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  45. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare

Very Windy Today, 03-12-20

I got up around 5:30 this morning and was out the door by 6:00 am with Esteban to go to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  After stopping for gas, coffee and snacky stuff we got to the refuge around 8:00 am just as my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne drove in.  It was about 49° when we arrived and there was a stiff wind blowing – which doesn’t bode well for birding.

I took Roxanne in my car through the auto tour route (with Esteban) so we could help each other spot birds and other critters.  I was limited in how many photos I could take because I’d forgotten to recharge the backup batteries for my camera. D’oh! 

All of the large flocks are gone now, but there are still smaller flocks and individual birds to see there.  The sightings and photo-taking would have been better of the wind wasn’t as strong.  Roxanne kept a list of the species we saw, though, and it was up to over 100 by the time we headed back home.

A very cooperative Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta, singing just outside the car door on the auto tour route.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

There was nothing in the areas where the vernal pools normally are and only a few wildflowers, mostly fiddlenecks. We saw quite a few jackrabbits – including one that was hunkered down in a field; we at first mistook it for a rock — and lots of Northern Harriers in flight.  We also spotted an adult Bald Eagle flying, and got to see a juvenile sitting in a tree on the way out of the preserve. His back was to us, so we didn’t get to see a lot of him before we moved on.

Not a very good shot of a juvenile Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus. We figured he was around a year and a half to two years old.

We heard a lot of Marsh Wrens, but they kept themselves hidden, so I only got photos of one of the males singing and a few of their nests.

A male Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris. The males build several nests then sing (up to 18 per day)to attract females. The female then chooses which nest she likes the best.

It took us about four hours to get through the auto tour route there, then we went on to the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge to check out the birds there.  It was still very windy, and we didn’t see much of anything new there.  The Black Crowned Night Herons were in their regular day-roost spot, though, so we got to see and get a few photos of them.  By the time we were done at that refuge, it was a little after 2:00 pm. We ate a bit of lunch at the picnic tables there then headed home.

An adult Black-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax

Got back to the house around 4:00 pm.  Phew! A long day!

Species List:

  1. American Bittern, Botaurus lentiginosus
  2. American Coot, Fulica americana
  3. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  4. American Wigeon, Anas Americana
  5. Arundo, Giant Reed, Arundo donax
  6. Audubon’s Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  7. Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
  8. Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus
  9. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  10. Black-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax
  11. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  12. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  13. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  14. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  15. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  16. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  17. Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
  18. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus [nests]
  19. California Dock, Rumex californicus
  20. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  21. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  22. California Praying Mantis, Stagmomantis californica (smallest 2-2.5 inches) [ootheca]
  23. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  24. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  25. Cheeseweed Mallow, Malva parviflora
  26. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  27. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  28. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
  29. Common Groundsel, Senecio vulgaris
  30. Common Mustard, Brassica rapa
  31. Common Raven, Corvus corax
  32. Common Stork’s-Bill, Red Stemmed Filaree, Erodium cicutarium
  33. Common Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum
  34. Coyote, Canis latrans [smooshed on the road]
  35. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus [one from Alaska]
  36. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  37. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  38. Field Mustard, Brassica rapa
  39. Floating Water Primrose, Ludwigia peploides ssp. Peploides
  40. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  41. Gadwall duck, Mareca Strepera
  42. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  43. Goldfields, Lasthenia sp.
  44. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  45. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  46. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Tringa melanoleuca
  47. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  48. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
  49. Green Alga (freshwater), Chlorophyta ssp.
  50. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  51. Himalayan (Armenian) Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  52. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  53. Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
  54. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  55. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  56. Lincoln’s Sparrow, Melospiza lincolnii
  57. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  58. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
  59. Milk Thistle, Blessed Milkthistle, Silybum marianum
  60. Mistletoe, American Mistletoe, Big Leaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
  61. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  62. Narrowleaf Cattail, Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  63. Non-biting Midges, Family: Chironomidae
  64. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  65. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  66. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  67. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  68. Pacific Chorus Frog, Western Chorus Frog, Pseudacris triseriata
  69. Pacific Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  70. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marorata
  71. Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula [individual queens and nests]
  72. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  73. Pink Squirrel Grass, Hordeum jubatum [barley] ?
  74. Pink Squirrel-Tail Rye, Sitanion elymoides [formerly Elymus elymoides, CA native]
  75. Popcorn Flowers, Plagiobothrys sp.
  76. Prickly Sow Thistle, Sonchus asper
  77. Quail Bush, Big Saltbrush, Atriplex lentiformis
  78. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  79. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  80. Ring-Necked Duck, Aythya collaris
  81. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
  82. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  83. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
  84. Sandbar Willow, Salix exigua var. hindsiana
  85. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  86. Sheet Weaver Spiders, Family: Linyphiidae
  87. Shepherd’s-Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
  88. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
  89. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  90. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  91. Stork’s Bill, Broadleaf Filaree, Erodium botrys
  92. Striped Skunk, Mephitis mephitis [smelled; assume it’s this one]
  93. Swamp Smartweed, Persicara hydropiperoides
  94. Tall Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis
  95. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  96. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  97. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  98. Valley Oak, Quercus lobate
  99. Velvetleaf, Abutilon theophrasti
  100. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  101. White Cabbage Butterfly, Pieris rapae
  102. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  103. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  104. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi
  105. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis
  106. ?? Dragonfly
  107. ?? Gull
  108. ?? Small Blue Butterfly

We Walked for 5 Hours, 03-10-20

I got up around 5:45 this morning and headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my weekly volunteer trail walking gig.  It was clear and about 41° at the river, but warmed up to about 60° by the time we left.

I wanted to get there around 7:00 – forgetting that with the Stupid Time Change it would still be DARK when I got there.  My friend Roxanne and “The Other Mary” (Mary Messenger) showed up, too, and we all had to laugh about standing around in the dark until the sun came up.  What was cool, though, was the fact that the Worm Moon was still up, so we were able to get photos of that…and we could hear a Great Horned Owl hooting in a nearby tree (but it was too dark to see it).

The Worm Moon. It’s the first full moon in the month of March and coincides with the time when earthworms reappear after the winter months.

Once the sun came up a bit, we started walking in earnest and came across deer and turkeys right away.  Several of the turkeys were up in the trees, and we were able to get some silhouette shots of them with the few morning clouds painted by the rising sun behind them.

Later, Roxanne and I came across a small flock of the males following after a small flock of females.  (By that time The Other Mary had left; she’s still dealing with sciatica and couldn’t walk without pain anymore.) One of the female turkeys settled down in the grass, but presented her SIDE, not her back, to the males.  For a moment, I thought maybe she was injured or something, but no.  She eventually got up again and walked away when the males converged on her.  Wutta tease! 

Because it’s breeding season, all of the tom are looking fabulous in their iridescent copper and gold feathers and brightly colored faces.  We also saw a leucitic tom among them.  (Leucism is a condition in which there is partial loss of pigmentation in an animal—which causes white, pale, or patchy coloration of the skin, hair, feathers, scales or cuticle, but not the eyes.)  He had white edges on many of his feathers and a bright white bar across one wing.  I don’t know if that odd coloring if off-putting to the females, but the males kept trying to run him off so they must’ve considered him “competition”.

A leucistic Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia

Mama Red-Shouldered Hawk was up in her nest, and we saw several other hawks, including a Red-Tail along the trail.  One of the Red-Shouldered Hawks flew right down in front of us and landed on a tree stump, where it posed for a while.  The lighting kind of sucked, but we were still able to get some photos of him.

Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus

There were quite a few deer out today, mostly does and their yearlings, but we also found a small bachelor group of bucks, all of whom had just recently lost their antlers.  We could still see the swollen pedicles on the top of their heads.  We did come across one buck, though, who was still hanging onto his rack, an impressive 4-pointer.

We’re also starting to see the birds “fight” for nesting spots and doing some of their early courtship behavior. We spotted an Acorn Woodpecker checking out a nesting cavity in one of their granary trees. He got inside of it for a bit, but then came out to chase off some European Starlings and Tree Swallows who were also looking at the tree.  Starlings and Tree Swallows can’t excavate their own cavities, so they depend on the woodpeckers to do that for them. 

We watched one female Starling doing her courtship thing where she acted like a baby bird, flapping her wings and peeping loudly, to try to get the males to bring her something. I got a little video snippet of that behavior. It’s kind of funny because the females are SO LOUD when they’re doing that.

Among the other birds we saw today were Oak Titmice, Bewick’s and House Wrens, Bushtits, some Western Bluebirds and Turkey Vultures, among others.  We also got to see some Cottontail rabbits and a Jackrabbit along the trail.

Except for the invasive Periwnkle, there aren’t a lot of wildflowers blooming at the preserve yet. (The weird weather has them sooooo confused.) But we did find a couple of Blue Dicks and some Fringepod along the trail.  The warm weather made the Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies emerge a little earlier than usual and now they’re having trouble finding nectar to drink… 

I was happy, though, to see the bees in the “Bee Tree” again.  I thought they’d left, but now I think they were just hibernating.  Waiting for it to warm up again and for the flowers to start budding.  All of the oak trees in the preserve have their pollen-bearing catkins out right now, so the bees have something to collect until the flowers bloom.

We’re not seeing the galls of the Live Oak gall wasps yet, though, and that’s a little troubling.  We’re seeing a LOT of Two-Horned galls, though, which is unusual at the preserve.

At one tree, Roxanne and I stopped for several minutes and got loads of photos of the different lichen on it. We also saw tiny bundles of dried Witch’s Butter (jelly fungus)in among the lichen, and that was kind of surprising to see considering how dry it’s been lately.  I thought the jellies would be long-gone by now.            

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Roxanne and I actually walked for about FIVE HOURS (!); it was noon when we left the preserve.  I was really astonished that I’d lasted that long.  I think I was buoyed up by adrenaline; we kept finding one interesting thing after another to photograph. 

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
  3. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  4. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  5. Audubon’s Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  6. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  7. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  8. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  9. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  10. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  11. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  12. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
  13. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  14. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  15. Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  16. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  17. Cabbage White butterfly, Pieris rapae
  18. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  19. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  20. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  21. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  22. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  23. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  24. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  25. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  26. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  27. Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly, Phoebis sennae
  28. Coffeeberry, California Buckthorn, Frangula californica
  29. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  30. Common Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes
  31. Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus
  32. Common Stork’s-Bill, Red Stemmed Filaree, Erodium cicutarium
  33. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  34. Cranefly, Mosquito Hawk, Tipula dietziana
  35. Crown Whitefly, Aleuroplatus coronata [larvae]
  36. Cumberland Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia
  37. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  38. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  39. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  40. Farinose Cartilage Lichen,  Ramalina farinacea [like Oakmoss but very thin branches]
  41. Feral European Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  42. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  43. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  44. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  45. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  46. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  47. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  48. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  49. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  50. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  51. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous [heard lots]
  52. Live Oak Erineum Mite gall, Aceria mackiei [kind of looks like rust on the backside of the leaf]
  53. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [old]
  54. Lords and Ladies, Wild Arum, Arum maculatum
  55. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  56. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor [just the leaves right now, no flowers]
  57. Mistletoe, American Mistletoe, Big Leaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
  58. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  59. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  60. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard lots]
  61. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus [old]
  62. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  63. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
  64. Olive Tree, Olea europaea
  65. Periwinkle, Vinca major
  66. Pin-cushion Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona polycarpa
  67. Plum, Prunus cerasifera
  68. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  69. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  70. Purple Deadnettle, Lamium purpureum [a kind of henbit but with a purple tinge to some of the leaves]
  71. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  72. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  73. Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Bucculatrix albertiella [cocoons]
  74. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  75. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  76. Rusty Tussock Moth, Orgyia antiqua [cocoons]
  77. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen Polycauliona candelaria
  78. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  79. Soap Plant, Wavy Leafed Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  80. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  81. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha
  82. Stream Mayflies, Family: Heptageniidae [exuvia]
  83. Streambank Springbeauty, Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia parviflora
  84. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans
  85. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  86. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  87. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus dubiosus 
  88. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  89. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  90. Western Chorus Frog, Pseudacris triseriata [heard]
  91. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  92. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis [heard lots]
  93. Witches Butter, Tremella mesenterica
  94. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis

Attending the Sticker PArty, 03-09-20

Today, I attended a “Sticker Party” at the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. My friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne, volunteered too, as did “The Other Mary” (Mary Messenger). I think there were seven volunteers in all there.

The organization had something like 3500 brochures for their kids/school programs that had been accidentally printed with “2019-2020” on them so we had to put sticky labels over that with the correct “2020-2021” dates.  Some of the school districts also required special liability disclaimers on them, so those brochures also got labels with the language specified by the district.

Some of the brochures we “stickered” today

The Effie Yeaw volunteer coordinator, Rachael, had set up coffee, water and Danishes for us, and while we were working, the Executive Director, Kent, came in with a plate full of Girl Scout cookies for us, too.  That was nice.

Roxanne, The Other Mary and I worked on the brochures for about three hours. Between all of us volunteers we labeled a little over 1500 of them, so we felt really good about that.

One of the other volunteers there was a gentleman named Mike who I had met earlier in the year on a fungus walk I led at the preserve.  He had liked the Nikon the camera I use so much that he went out and bought one for himself.  He showed me some of the photos he’d gotten with it, and they were great! I’m so glad he was as pleased with the camera as I am.

When we were done working, The Other Mary left, but Roxanne and I stopped for a little bit to take photos around the nature center.  Bushtits have setup a nest in a Redbud tree there and I was able to see the mom fly back to the nest with a mouthful of what looks like bits of plant fluff and lichen.  So cute!  The resident Black Phoebes are also nesting under the eaves of the building and I got a few photos of them.

American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus,nest in a Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis, tree
Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  3. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  4. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  5. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  6. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  7. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  8. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  9. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  10. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

Mostly Mating Newts, 03-07-20

I got up around 5:30 this morning, got the dog pottied and fed, and then headed out to Auburn with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne Moger to look for newts. We’d been told by another one of my naturalist class graduates, Pam Hofsted, that California Newts had been found swimming and mating in the Shirland Canal by the China Bar Trail in the Auburn State Recreation Area, so we had to go see if we could find any.

It was about 46° at the Rec Area and rain was threatening but we thought the cooler weather and wet might make the newts more apt to come out.  It’s been too hot and too dry lately for them.

After a quick stop for coffee and a breakfast biscuit, we got to the Rec Area in about an hour and found the main gate. 

According to their website: “…In the heart of the gold country, the Auburn State Recreation Area (Auburn SRA) covers 40-miles of the North and Middle Forks of the American river. Once teeming with thousands of gold miners, the area is now a natural area offering a wide variety of recreation opportunities to over 900,000 visitors a year… Black tailed deer and rabbits can be seen during the daylight hours, while raccoons, opossums, gray foxes and coyotes rule the night. Black bears, rattlesnakes, mountain lions and bobcats live in the park. The riparian habitat host California quail and canyon wrens. Red tailed hawks and bald eagles soar overhead, seeking their next meal… Auburn State Recreation Area Auburn Dam via Shirland Canal and Cardiac Bypass Trail is a 5 mile moderately trafficked loop trail that features a river and is rated as moderate. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash…”

We arrived there around 7:00 am but found that the main gate didn’t open until 8:00… but then were confused by the fact that there was a sign on the gate stating that there was supposed to a runners’ race there from 6:00 am until 9:00 am.  How could the runners get in if the gates were locked? Weird.

Right next to the gate was a small parking lot, a water fountain, payment kiosk (there’s a $10 fee for parking), and porta-potty. While I made use of the facility, Roxanne studied the lichen on the nearby boulders and paid the day-use fee. 

Then we both did a little bit more lichen hunting and looking for galls on the nearby coyote brush (and found a few). We decided that since the gate was still closed, we’d try walking down to the trailhead we wanted, but after walking just a few yards, my body needed to get back to the porta-potty (Bad breakfast sandwich, I think. *sigh*), so I headed back there and told Roxanne to look for “cool stuff” while I was ocupado. TMI, I know.

Common Gold Cobblestone Lichen, Pleopsidium flavum [bright yellow]; Scattered Button Lichen, Buellia dispersa [gray/off white on rocks with black spots] and some Sidewalk Firedot Lichen, Xanthocarpia feracissima [bright orange, on rocks]

While I was in the porta-potty, I could hear someone drive up, and heard Roxanne talking to whoever the driver was. It was one of the park maintenance crew, and he opened the gate for us.  Woot!  Once we got back into the car and started driving in, we were sooooo happy that the gate had been opened. The drive to the trailheads was downhill and relatively long.  If we had tried to walk it, I would have been exhausted by the trip down and probably not too able to make the walk back up to the parking lot. So, that was Nice Happenstance #1 today.

Roxanne below the cut rock-face at the river side,

I had forgotten to bring the map with the trails on it, d’oh!, so we followed the maintenance truck – which led us down to the river, below the trailhead we were actually looking for. Along the way we spotted a few wildflowers making their debut including some Bush Monkeyflower, Filddlenecks and some sort of Paintbrush.  ((We’d seen a few Lupin along the highway on the way into Auburn, but nothing around the trails.)) We took a few photos and headed back up the road, turning in to the little parking lot where the Cardiac Bypass Trail was.  Yes, that’s really its name. Hah!

There was a woman (with her two UNLEASHED dogs) setting up a table for the runners there, and we did eventually see maybe 20 of the runners as they passed through. While we were there we checked out the lichen on the trees, and found what we thought might have been some kind of dodder (red-orange thread stuff) on an old Cottonwood Tree. 

At first we thought this might be some kind of dodder… but it might also be Golden Hair-Lichen, Teloschistes flavicans. Need to do more research.

There was also a lot of Buckbrush in bloom there, and the pine trees were all doing their “male thing” sending out pollen all over everything. 

Pollen coming off the pine trees.

We were also a little surprised to see rust fungus, similar to what we found elsewhere on Coyote Brush, emerging from galls on some of the pines.  We’re assuming it’s from the same genus but a different species.

After a short while, we looked down the cliffside at the trail and figured it wasn’t one I’d be able to navigate at all – and it didn’t show any signs of hooking up with the canal anywhere, so we decided to nix that and go looking again for the China Bar trailhead. As we were loitering around, though, we met an older gentleman named Richard who was also deciding against taking the Cardiac Bypass Trail.  He said he knew where the canal was and offered to lead us there with his car.  So nice!  So, we followed him over to that trailhead and thanked him profusely for his help. That was Nice Happenstance #2.

The Shirland Canal by the China Bar Trail

The Shirland Canal was right off a little parking lot and we were finally able to start walking the trail there.  We came across another gentleman who was walking his elderly dog back to his car, and he asked us if we were looking for the newts. We told him, yes, and he said, “They’re here! I saw some balls of them.  Look for them in the more still shallow parts of the canal.” That was Nice Happenstance #3.

As we walked along, I was so focused on the water in the canal to my right that I’m sure I missed a lot of stuff along the left-hand side of the trail. I DID note the Golden Dwarf Mistletoe, Western Buttercups, a few Blue Dicks, and Turkey Tail Fungus, though.

Golden Dwarf Mistletoe, Western Dwarf Mistletoe, Arceuthobium campylopodum

The canal didn’t disappoint, and Roxanne and I counted 10 newts, some of them single, some in pairs, and some in en masse in a mating ball of four.  Because they were in the water it was hard to get any close-ups of their faces, but I was still pretty satisfied with the photos and video clips I was able to get.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Mating ball of newts.

Rant: I WASN’T pleased when someone let their UNLEASHED dog jump into the canal, lay down and splash around in there right next to where the newts were. Unleashed dogs in wildlife areas is a pet peeve of mine – and I was especially upset by the fact that the humans made no effort whatsoever to clean up after their pets on the trail even though the Rec Area provided free doggie-dooley bags at the head of each trail.  There was dog crap EVERYWHERE. Guh!

I WASN’T pleased when someone let their UNLEASHED dog jump into the canal, lay down and splash around in there right next to where the newts were.

Anyway, we walked the trail until we came to a “slide” area where the canal started its downhill tilt.  I felt it was unsafe (for me), and figured the water would be running too fast for the newts to be settling in, so we turned around and headed back to the car.  Nice Happenstance #4 was that throughout our excursion the rain had held itself off, and didn’t start until just before we got back to the parking lot.

I figured we walked about 4 hours all together, but I still felt pretty good and energized because of the adrenaline rush I got from seeing the newts.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Bark Rim Lichen, Lecanora chlarotera
  3. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  4. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
  5. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
  6. Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  7. Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons
  8. Bush Monkeyflower, Diplacus aurantiacus
  9. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  10. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis [flight overhead]
  11. Chinese Praying Mantis, Tenodera sinensis [ootheca]
  12. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  13. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
  14. Common Gold Cobblestone Lichen, Pleopsidium flavum [bright yellow]
  15. Common Mustard, Brassica rapa
  16. Common Vetch, Vicia sativa
  17. Common Water Strider, Aquarius remigis
  18. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  19. Coyote Brush Rust, Puccinia evadens
  20. Coyote Brush Stem Gall moth, Gnorimoschema baccharisella
  21. Cumberland Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia
  22. Dark-Eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis
  23. False Turkey Tail fungus, Hairy Curtain Crust, Stereum hirsutum
  24. Giraffe’s Head Henbit, Henbit Deadnettle, Lamium amplexicaule
  25. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  26. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  27. Golden Dwarf Mistletoe, Western Dwarf Mistletoe, Arceuthobium campylopodum
  28. Golden Hair-Lichen, Teloschistes flavicans
  29. Gray Pine, California Foothill Pine, Pinus sabiniana
  30. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  31. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  32. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  33. Ink Lichen, Placynthium nigrum [pitch black, fine grained]
  34. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  35. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  36. Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
  37. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous [heard at river]
  38. Mazegill Fungus, Daedalea quercina
  39. Mistletoe, American Mistletoe, Big Leaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
  40. Mud-dauber Wasps and Allies, Subfamily: Sceliphrinae
  41. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  42. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  43. Oleander, Nerium oleander
  44. Pin-cushion Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona polycarpa
  45. Pine-Pine Gall Rust, Endocronartium harknessii
  46. Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa
  47. Popcorn Flowers, Plagiobothrys sp.
  48. Purple Sanicle, Sanicula bipinnatifida
  49. Pyracantha, Pyracantha coccinea
  50. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  51. Rock Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia conspersa
  52. Rock Tripe, Emery Rock Tripe, Umbilicaria phaea
  53. Scattered Button Lichen, Buellia dispersa [gray/off white on rocks with black spots]
  54. Shepherd’s Purse, Capsella bursa-pastori
  55. Short-lobed Paintbrush, Castilleja brevilobata
  56. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen Polycauliona candelaria
  57. Sidewalk Firedot Lichen, Xanthocarpia feracissima  [bright orange, on rocks]
  58. Sierra Newt, Taricha sierrae
  59. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  60. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha
  61. Streambank Springbeauty, Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia parviflora
  62. Tile Lichen, Lecidea tessellata
  63. Toothed Crust Fungus, Basidioradulum sp.
  64. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  65. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  66. Western Buttercup, Ranunculus occidentalis
  67. Western Chorus Frog, Pseudacris triseriata
  68. White Leaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida ssp. viscida
  69. Whitewash Lichen, Phlyctis argena
  70. Willow Pinecone Gall midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides

At Park Winters, 03-05-20

I got up around 6:30 this morning, and gave Esteban his breakfast before getting myself ready to go out to Park Winters in, duh!, Winters.

The Inn at Park Winters

It was about 49°, sunny and clear when I got there. I immediately started taking photos, but focusing on the flowers and whatever birds I could see rather than taking photos of the venue itself. 

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

In another month or so, it should be more spectacular to look at, when the trees all have leaves on them, but right now there were mostly cultivated tulips, daffodils and other bulb-flowers… and I don’t get too excited about non-native plants.  I was surprised, for example, by the amount of common ivy and periwinkle on the grounds.  They’re both invasive species. From a naturalist standpoint, I would have been happier to see native plants and flowers throughout the place.

Garden Tulips, Tulipa gesneriana

On the grounds, there’s a huge Victorian house, silo and barn that are just pristine and gorgeous, and the grounds abut agricultural land. I wanted to see the chicken coop, which is supposed to be spectacular, but I missed it. 

I was walking across the lawn with the giant pecan tree in the middle of it, though, and came across a super-tall door.  There were glass inserts in the top of it, but too high for me to look through, and hedges on either side. I noticed that there was a handicapped button next to the door, so I pushed it… and the door opened slowly to reveal a huge swimming pool.  Very impressive.  ((I was also kind of jazzed to see battery hook-ups for cars in their parking lot.))  There’s also a large fountain full of koi fish and a “carved” English garden across from it.  Just lovely.

Koi Fish, Cyprinus carpio

I did get to see my first Painted Lady butterfly of the season and a Common Checkered Skipper. 

And I got photos of a robin, Spotted Towhee, Yellow-Billed Magpie, and Red-Breasted Nuthatch, among other birds.  The Nuthatch had landed on a ball of twigs and threads that one of several hanging from the limbs of the pecan tree.  At first I thought they were little hanging nests, but on closer inspection I could see that they were most likely man-made balls of excelsior, threads and fine ribbons for the birds around to use as extra nesting materials.

Red-breasted Nuthatch, Sitta canadensis, on a ball of nesting material

I walked the grounds and took photos for about 2 hours and then headed back home.

Species List:

  1. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  2. Bearded Iris, Iris x Germanica
  3. Begonia, Begonia sp.
  4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  5. Blue Magic Hyacinth, Muscari armeniacum
  6. Common Grape Hyacinth, Muscari botryoides
  7. Border Forsythia, Forsythia × intermedia
  8. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  9. Calla Lily, Zantedeschia aethiopica
  10. Camelia, Camellia japonica
  11. Canary Grass, Reed Canary Grass, Phalaris arundinacea
  12. Cardoon, Artichoke, Cynara cardunculus
  13. Chinese Pistache, Pistacia chinensis
  14. Common Asparagus Fern, Asparagus setaceus
  15. Common Blue Hyacinth, Hyacinthus orientalis
  16. Common Checkered-Skipper, Burnsius communis
  17. Common Ivy, Hedera helix
  18. Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii
  19. Crevice Alumroot, Heuchera micrantha
  20. Double Daffodil, Narcissus sp.
  21. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  22. European Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  23. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  24. Garden Tulip, Tulipa gesneriana
  25. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  26. Hen-and-chickens Echeveria, Echeveria secunda
  27. Hoverfly, Long-tailed Aphideater, Eupeodes fumipennis
  28. Hydrangea, Mophead Hydrangea, Hydrangea macrophylla
  29. Intermediate Periwinkle, Vinca difformis
  30. Italian Cypress, Cupressus sempervirens
  31. Jonquil, Narcissus jonquilla
  32. Koi Fish, Cyprinus carpio
  33. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  34. Lodgepole Pine, Pinus contorta
  35. Mistletoe, American Mistletoe, Big Leaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
  36. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  37. Oleander, Nerium oleander
  38. Olive Tree, Olea europaea
  39. Ornamental Freesia, Freesia alba × leichtlinii
  40. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui
  41. Pecan Tree, Carya illinoinensis
  42. Pincushion Flower, Mourningbride, Scabiosa atropurpurea
  43. Primrose Jasmine, Jasminum mesnyi
  44. Purple Passionflower, Passiflora incarnata,
  45. Ranunculus, Ranunculus sp.
  46. Red Maple, Acer rubrum
  47. Red Tip Photinia, Photinia × fraseri
  48. Red Valerian, Centranthus ruber
  49. Red-breasted Nuthatch, Sitta canadensis
  50. Rosemary, Salvia rosmarinus
  51. Saucer Magnolia, Magnolia × soulangeana
  52. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  53. Spring Sowbread Cyclamen, Cyclamen repandum
  54. Spurge, Euphorbia atropurpurea
  55. Star Magnolia, Magnolia stellata
  56. Strawberry Tree, Arbutus unedo
  57. Summer Snowflake, Leucojum aestivum
  58. Topped Lavender, Lavandula stoechas
  59. Weeping Willow, Salix × sepulcralis
  60. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  61. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  62. Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli