Category Archives: photography

Mostly Mantids and Some Woolybears, 09-27-19

Around 6:30, I headed out to the Cosumnes River Preserve for a walk.  It was overcast and chilly all day, in the 70’s.  A twenty degree drop from Wednesday. So, I actually had to wear a light jacket. 

As I got closer to the preserve, I drove down Bruceville and Desmond Road to see if there was anything to see there.  The fields were full of cattle. In one of the fields I could see Turkey Vultures gathered on the ground. Between two adults was a dark-headed young one.  They were so far away that I couldn’t see what they were eating, but it’s always a treat to see these large birds so nearby.

A juvenile Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura, with two adults.

When I got to the preserve, the gate wasn’t open at the boardwalk, so I parked on the street.  I wasn’t really expecting to see much of anything.  Folks had mentioned that the Sandhill Cranes were returning to the area, but I thought it was still too early to see them.  One or two flew overhead, and then I saw a small flock flying later during my walk, but none of them landed anywhere near where I was. 

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Most of the fields and “wetlands” are still entirely dry, but I did find a few birds around a shallow pool along the boardwalk. It looks like, too, that they’ve cut down a lot of the high grass and tules, so when the water is pumped back in, viewing of the waterfowl should be a bit easier.  Saw a few different sparrow species including white-Crowned Sparrows, Golden-Crowned Sparrows and Song Sparrows. The Song Sparrows as somewhat “residential”, but the White- and Golden-Crowned Sparrows migrate in and out of the area. So, it was nice to see them back again.

And I also saw a very small smattering of duck species: Mallards, Green-Winged Teals and Northern Pintails. The Pintails always seem to migrate in before most of the other species, so it wasn’t too surprising to see a few of them out there today.

While I was watching a couple of Greater Yellowlegs, I saw something moving on the surface of the water. It was backlit, so I never got a good look at it, but I did get a video snippet.  I think maybe it was a bird or a vole or something that was dead, and little fish were pulling at from underneath making it bob and propelling it across the water.  So weird.  What do you think?

I found a few galls, including some I hadn’t found yet this year: the galls of the Hairy Gall Wasp, Sphaeroteras trimaculosum.  They’re sometimes called “woolybears” because when they line up on the backside of a leaf, they look like woolybear caterpillars. 

This is an interesting gall in that they seem to show up in the late part of the season, and they take two years to mature.  They form on the leaves of Valley Oaks and stay on the leaves when the leaves fall off the tree in the winter.  Then the larvae inside the galls stay there, on the ground in the leaf litter for two years before the wasps emerge.  I always seem to find them on the younger smaller Valley oaks, and on the leaves closest to the ground.

What I saw the most of today, though, was Praying Mantises, greens one and tan ones. They seemed to be everywhere in the branches of the sandbar willow trees along the boardwalk.  Their bodies are the same shape and relative size of the leaves on the trees, but once I managed to see one of the mantises, I suddenly saw lots of them.       

Once you see one mantis amid the willow leaves, you can see more… Can you spot the one in this photo?

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed home. 

Species List:

  1. Ash Flower Gall Mite, Eriophyes fraxinivorus
  2. Bindweed, Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis
  3. Bush Sunflower, Encelia californica
  4. California Dancer Damselfly, Argia agrioides
  5. California Dock, Rumex californicus
  6. California Praying Mantis, Stagmomantis californica (smallest 2-2.5 inches) Can be brown, yellow or green
  7. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  8. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  9. Charolais Cattle, Bos Taurus var. Charolais
  10. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  11. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  12. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  13. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  14. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  15. Hairy Gall Wasp, Sphaeroteras trimaculosum 
  16. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  17. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  18. Lavender Dancer Damselfly, Argia hinei [female]
  19. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  20. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  21. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  22. Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula
  23. Pennyroyal, Penny Royal, Mentha pulegium
  24. Prickly Lettuce, Lactuca serriola
  25. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium
  26. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  27. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  28. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  29. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  30. Water Smartweed, Persicaria amphibiaI
  31. Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis
  32. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  33. Willow Pinecone Gall midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides
  34. Willow Stem Gall Wasp, Euura exiguae

Lots of Sulphur Shelf, 09-24-19

I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my normal weekly volunteer trail walking gig. 

Again, there wasn’t a while lot to see today, although I did get to see quite a few deer. As I was watching a group of deer – a doe, a fawn, and a spike buck – I can see out of the corner of my eye a Cooper’s Hawk flying low between the trees. It lands on this branch, flies low over the ground, swoops up onto a different branch in a different tree, but it’s always in the shadow so I can’t get a good photo of it.  That area must’ve been its general hunting ground.

There was lots of Sulphur Shelf fungus out, including some pretty large handsome structures. I got photos of them.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

And I also came across a couple of different California Ground Squirrels including a very young, small one spoking its head out of its burrow. It ventured out a little bit further while I watched it, but never left the edge of the front door. 

Young California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi, peeping out of its burrow.

I also found the chubby adult ground squirrel who’s blind on one side.  I’d seen her before but wasn’t able to get many photos of her.  Today, she was a little more cooperative.  I notice that she tended to rock and swivel a bit whenever she was standing still (like an owl moving its head to get a better view of what it’s looking at).  I think that helps her with depth perception.  She’s able to maneuver all right and is obviously well fed… so her blindness isn’t interfering too much with her life. What a strong gal.

The “bee tree” is still full of bees. For some reason that makes me really happy. Lots of life going on in there.

Feral Honeybees, Apis mellifera, in their hive in a tree.

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed home.  On my way out, I saw one of my naturalist graduates, Eric, standing near the entrance to the preserve with some other people.  I didn’t want to interrupt his conversation, so I kept heading to my car. As I got to it, he came up to me to say “hi” and give me a hug.  He’s now a docent at Effie Yeaw and also works with the California Native Plants Society.  I’m so happy he’s being able to continue and expand on the use of his naturalist skills.

Species List:

  1. Alder Tongue Gall Fungus, Taphrina alni
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  4. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  5. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  6. California Buckeye Chestnut, Aesculus californica
  7. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  8. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  9. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  10. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  11. Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii
  12. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  13. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  14. Feral Honeybees, Apis mellifera
  15. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  16. Olive Tree, Olea europaea
  17. Pacific Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  18. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  19. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  20. Sulphur Shelf Fungus, Western Sulphur Shelf Fungus, Laetiporus gilbertsonii
  21. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  22. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  23. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  24. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

Avoiding the Crowd, 09-22-19

I went over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk — and forgot that this was their “Nature Fest” day.  D’oh! My bad. As early as it was, they’d already blocked off the parking lot (so I parked on the road) and were having vendors come in, so there were a lot of food trucks and stuff. 

I walked through where they were setting up chairs and display tables and past the huge fish mobile fish tank the Department of Fish and Wildlife had brought with them (full of live bass, trout and salmon) before I was able to get into the trails.  The weather was nice though: 55º when I got there and about 77º when I left; sunny and breezy.  It was actually pretty much perfect for the “Nature Fest” thing.

Because there was so much noise and movement in the front of the preserve, the wildlife was pretty much invisible, so I didn’t see a lot.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I did see a few deer hiding out in the bushes, and at one point the mama with her twin fawns came up from the river onto the trails near me, but they all looked panicked by the noise and after their initial startle when they saw me, they took off.  I got a couple of photos of one of the fawns, but not much else. And the fawn I was able to get a photo of was the one I’d seen before with a gash down its nose.  Its nose is now pretty much healed, and it looked like he’d just lost the scab.  So… yay!

Fawn and mama Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus

There were Killdeer, some Common Merganser ducks, and a Great Blue Egret (quite a distance away from me up the bank) on the river as well as a couple of fly-fishing fishermen.  The water’s shallower and moving more slowly now to accommodate salmon, and it made me wonder if some of the deer from the preserve didn’t cross it to get away from the noise of the festivities. I got a short video snippet of one of the female Mergansers fishing in the river: they move along with the current with their face underneath the surface of the water to look for prey. 

A female Common Merganser, Mergus merganser

I cut my walk short and was only out there for about 2½ hours. As I was walking out, I was greeted by one of my naturalist class graduates, Charlie Russel. He had an unna-boot on one of his feet, and jokingly told me that a gorilla had stepped on his foot during his recent trip to Africa. (He got some amazing shots on that trip!) But then he admitted that he had tendon sprain in that foot, and had ignored it on his trip, but was now paying the price for that.

I also caught a glimpse of The Other Mary (Mary Messenger) at the outer parking lot getting set up for her shift the day.  She later sent me a photo of her with one of the animal ambassadors, a skunk.  She said she could use it for this year’s Christmas card. Hah! I love that!

Fellow volunteer Trail Walker, The Other Mary (Mary Messenger) and friend

Species List:

  1. Alder Tongue Gall Fungus, Taphrina alni
  2. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  3. California Buckwheat, Eriogonum fasciculatum
  4. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  5. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  6. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  7. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  8. Coyote Mint, Monardella villosa
  9. Coyote, Canis latrans [scat]
  10. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  11. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  12. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  13. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  14. Meadow Spittlebug, Philaenus spumarius
  15. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  16. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  17. Rusty Tussock Moth, Orgyia antiqua [cocoons]
  18. Sticky Goldenrod, Solidago simplex
  19. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  20. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  21. Yarrow, Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium