Category Archives: photography

Two Mathers in One Day, 03-26-20

I got up around 7:00 am and got the dog fed and pottied before heading out to the Mather Field Vernal Pools with my friend Roxanne.  We’d heard that the wildflowers are starting to show themselves out there, so we had to check it out. 

When we were near the vernal pool area, I spotted a very large and healthy-looking coyote walking between a couple of fields, so Roxanne pulled the car over so I could get some photos and video of it.  Such a handsome animal.  It stretched, yawned and laid down in the grass, enjoying the early morning sunshine.

Coyote in the field

The field across the road from the pools was filled with bright yellow Frying Pan poppies.  They weren’t open yet (because it was still kind of cloudy and chilly outside), but there were so many of them that they still made quite a statement. So, we went into that field first.  There was a scattering of things in bloom, but I think it will take another two weeks for their fields to really start showing off.  Along with Miniature Lupine, we found some Blue Dicks, Butter ‘n’ Eggs, Pineappleweed, Little Rattlesnake Grass, and Jointed Charlock (wild radish).  Roxanne also found one Red Maids plant.

We then walked over into the vernal pool area.  There’s no water in the pools but there were flowers growing up out and around where the pools would have been.  We found several different kinds of Popcorn Flowers and Goldfields (some of the most difficult flowers to ID correctly because there are so many variations), a couple of different kinds of Stork’s Bill, Shining Pepperweed and some really beautiful Fringepod. 

Common Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes

In one corner there were some Tidy Tips flowers just starting to emerge and open up. There were also some things we’d seen for the first time, so we weren’t really sure what they were.  Research time!

Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I enjoyed seeing all the stuff, but to get close-up photos of the flowers, I was constantly having to bend over and stand up again, bend over and stand up again, bend over and stand up again… After about an hour, the vertigo was kicking in enough that I was feeling nauseous. Roxanne is so great, though, that she was willing to cut her own outing short to accommodate me.

As we were heading back to the car, a police officer drove by and asked, “Are you ladies okay?”  We told him yes, and thank you, and remarked that we thought it was nice of him to check on us in this Time of Plague, considering how many other things the police have to deal with, and understanding that while they’re out there encountering so many people they’re putting themselves as risk.

When we got back into the car, I told Roxanne I had to sit still for a little while to let my “inner gyroscope” balance itself out again.  So, we went through the photos we’d taken thus far and started putting together our species list.  I also had to stop at one point and vomit outside the car door. *Sigh*  Again, Roxanne was great about it and just let me take my time.

Purple Sanicle, Sanicula bipinnatifida

As we were heading away from the vernal pools area, I spotted some Purple Sanicle plants on the side of the road.  It was a plant we didn’t expect to see in an area like that, so we pulled over to get some photos. The flowers kind of look like Corona Virus cells, round with spikey things all around the surface.  For some reason, I don’t know why, my brain associates with them voodoo. Weird.  I needed my cane to get up and down the embankment, so Roxanne helped me with that.

Then, back in the car again, we passed the golf course and park off of Douglas, Mather Regional Park, and decided to go in there to walk for a bit more… and I’m glad we did. We saw quite a bit without my having to move too quickly or bend over a lot for photos. So, no more bad vertigo.

I didn’t know the park was over there, but it’s one I’ll definitely add to my go-to list.  It’s 1600 acres and brags a large pond (which they refer to as a “lake”).  According to the park’s website, “Mather Lake is stocked with bass or trout, depending on the time of year.”  There were a handful of people out there fishing, but I don’t know if anyone caught anything.

The “lake” in the park

Roxanne and I did our social distancing thing while we were there, but she’s more gregarious than I am, so when a mom with her two kids came by, she stopped to talk with them – while I moved away to the other side of a large coyote bush.  In my mind, kids are vectors for Every Disease Known to Man and I have enough to deal with right now with my cancer and vertigo.  I also felt it was very careless of the mom to let her kids gets in such close contact with someone they didn’t know (in this Time of Plague).  On the good side: the kids were VERY well-behaved and respectful of the space. Their mom said they’d been quietly fishing for two hours and didn’t complain when they didn’t catch anything. 

My Mom and I used to do the same thing; stay out for hours fishing, not caring if we got a fish…

When Roxanne and I first got into the park we were immediately met by ducks and a few geese looking for handouts. I had an old bag of peanuts in my bag, so I let them have those.  Some blackbirds also go into the mix and ran off with whatever peanuts they could grab from under the ducks. There were also Mute Swans on the water, which I didn’t particularly like to see.  They’re considered an invasive species in California and no one is supposed to have them without a permit.  I’m guessing they were part of the park when it was part of the Air Force Base there before permitting was required.  They’re super-aggressive birds that tear up their habitat; not good.  I saw one driving two Canada Geese from their resting spot.

Mute Swans, Cygnus olor,are beautiful, but they’re also considered an invasive species in California

In the water, we got to see a pair of Pied-Billed Grebes do a little of their courtship “mirroring” dance.  I got a super-short video snippet of the end of it. One Grebe called out to second one hidden in the tules, then the first one dove under the water. A few seconds later, both Grebes popped to the surface and started the “mirroring” ritual before the first one swam away again. I guess he wasn’t that into her. Hah!

A tiny pat of the Grebes’ courting ritual

There were a couple of Gallinules in the water, too.  They kind of look like Coots but are more streamlines and have a red shield on the front of their face.  These were the first ones Roxanne had ever seen, so that was a nice treat for her.

There were a lot of songbirds around, mostly sparrows, and we saw several Robins searching for breakfast in the grass.  Roxanne noted that they each seemed to cock their head to one side of the other as they hunted, and she wondered if they could hear the worms they were searching for.  She was right: “…The bird has very sharp eyesight and hearing; the familiar back and forth cocking of its head as the bird hops along the ground is the Robin’s effort to see and hear the movement of worms or beetles beneath the ground…” Cool!

American Robin, Turdus migratorius

There were lots of California Ground Squirrels around, too, some of them chasing and rolling over one another. We noticed that they seem to have “redder” coats than the ones along the American River.  I wonder if it has something to do with the type of soil they live in… As we were leaving, we stopped at a picnic table to rest for a minute, and one of the Ground Squirrels came up from its burrow, climbed up onto a tree stump across the walkway from us, and stretched itself out to warm its belly on the wood of the stump.  Then it scooted down over the edge of the stump just far enough to reach some grass so it could chew on it.  Hah!  So funny to watch.

We also found a California Glowworm, Western Firefly, Ellychnia californica.  “Firefly” isn’t really an appropriate name for it because it doesn’t actually “fire” in beetle form. According to resources, “…[It’s] a modest sized beetle with two red marks on its pronatum (the shield shaped structure covering the thorax behind the head and in front of the wings). Although it cannot glow, it is believed that the larva, like those of Pterotus, can…”  Still, it was cool find.

California Glowworm, Western Firefly, Ellychnia californica

Not too many galls out get, but we did see some old Oak Apple Galls and some Willow Pinecone Galls, and some new bug and stem galls on the Coyote Brush bushes.  The bug galls are made by midges, and the stem galls are made by moths.

We walked around the park for several hours and got back to the house around 12:30 pm, so that was a 4½ hour excursion for the day.  As we headed back home, we looked at the big clouds in the sky and tried to name them… That cloud looks like Godzilla… That cloud looks like an elephant… That one looks like a snail with barnacles on its shell… That one looks like a seahorse…  Simple pleasures.

Even with the vomiting, it was a fun day. When I got back into the house, I crashed for the rest of the afternoon… and Esteban sat on top of me so I couldn’t go anywhere else today. Hah!

Me and my dog Esteban.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. American Plantain, Plantago rugelii
  4. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  5. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
  8. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  9. California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  10. California Glowworm, Western Firefly, Ellychnia californica
  11. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  12. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  13. California Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  14. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  15. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  16. Cattle, Bos Taurus [heard]
  17. Cherry-Plum, Prunus cerasifera
  18. Chinese Praying Mantis, Tenodera sinensis [ootheca]
  19. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  20. Common Field Daisy, Common Daisy, Bellis perennis
  21. Common Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes
  22. Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
  23. Cork Oak, Quercus suber
  24. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  25. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  26. Coyote Brush Stem Gall moth, Gnorimoschema baccharisella
  27. Coyote, Canis latrans
  28. Del Norte Willow, Salix delnortensis [red on catkins]
  29. Dwarf Checkermallow, Sidalcea malviflora
  30. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  31. Field Mustard, Brassica rapaCoyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  32. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  33. Frying Pan Poppy, Eschscholzia lobbii
  34. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  35. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  36. Goldfields, Alkali Goldfields, Lasthenia platycarpha  [6-8 petals, “daffodil” center]
  37. Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica [6-8 petals, rounded mound-like center]
  38. Goldfields, Vernal Pool Goldfields, Lasthenia fremontii [8 petals, circle-in-circle center]
  39. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  40. Hairy Woodpecker, Leuconotopicus villosus
  41. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  42. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  43. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  44. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  45. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  46. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  47. Jacaranda, Blue Jacaranda Tree, Jacaranda mimosifolia
  48. Johnnytuck, Butter ‘n’ Eggs, Triphysaria eriantha
  49. Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
  50. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  51. Little Rattlesnake Grass, Briza minor
  52. Low Woolly Marbles, Psilocarphus brevissimus
  53. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  54. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  55. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  56. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  57. Narrowleaf Willow, Salix exigua
  58. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  59. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard several]
  60. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercusc
  61. Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula [nest]
  62. Pekin Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Pekin
  63. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  64. Pigeon, Domestic Pigeon, Columba livia domestica
  65. Pineappleweed, Matricaria discoidea
  66. Purple Finch, Haemorhous purpureus
  67. Purple Milk-Vetch, Astragalus danicus  [based on leaves]
  68. Purple Sanicle, Sanicula bipinnatifida
  69. Red Maids, Calandrinia ciliata
  70. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  71. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  72. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus [heard]
  73. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  74. Rusty Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys nothofulvus
  75. Sheet Weaver Spiders, Family: Linyphiidae [web]
  76. Shining Peppergrass, Lepidium nitidum
  77. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  78. Soap Plant, Wavy Leafed Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  79. Stork’s Bill, Big Heron Bill, Broadleaf Filaree, Erodium botrys
  80. Stork’s Bill, Musky Stork’s Bill, Whitestem Filaree, Erodium moschatum
  81. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha
  82. Swedish Blue Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Swedish Blue
  83. Tidy Tips, Layia platyglossa
  84. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  85. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  86. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  87. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  88. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  89. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  90. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  91. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  92. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  93. Whitehead Navarretia, Navarretia leucocephala
  94. Willow Pinecone Gall midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides

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

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