Category Archives: Sacramento Zoo Grant

Plant Studying At the Silver Spur Ranch, 04-16-19

Up at 5:30 am, so I could leave before 6:30 and head out to Woodland to the Tuleyome office.  It was overcast and drizzling when I left the house, but by mid-morning the clouds had broken up, letting the sun in, so it was a beautiful day.

My coworker, Nate, had set aside this day to take me out to Tuleyome’s Silver Spur Ranch property where we’re doing the wildlife study paid for in part by a grant from the Sacramento Zoo. We weren’t servicing the field cameras today, instead we were doing a plant and wildlife photo outing.  And volunteer Roxanne came with us.  It’s about a 90-minute drive to the property, but we were pretty much out in the middle of nowhere, so traffic was never an issue. The roads are all dirt, and some of them were pretty scarred up by illegal OVH users and the recent hard rains, but Nate knew the path well, so we didn’t have any issues with that either.

The last time I’d seen the Silver Spur property was after the Pawnee Wildfire in 2018, and everything was dirt and blackened trees. Now it’s all bursting with new life and new growth. Green grasses, fields and hillsides covered in wildflowers, water in the seasonal pond and streams, critters in the water… I’m so glad I got see it!  ((So, Nate, once again: thank you, thank you, thank you, ad infinitum…)

Nate was also awesome on the trip. He helped me over uneven ground, pulled me out of a divot when I accidentally sat down in it at lunchtime (D’OH!), he pulled me back up onto my feet… and he did the “pack-mule” thing for me, carrying all of my bag, on the way out of the property.

And how great that Roxanne got to go with us! My sister Melissa jokingly says, “You can’t go out with Roxanne anymore, you never get home.” Hah! ((I’d spent a whole day out with Roxanne when he did the wildflower outing together, and then again today.  Two long days.  This one was actually longer. I didn’t get back to the house until almost 7:00 pm!))

When we got to the property, Nate ran off to the south-camera to see if he could find the pouch associated with it that fell off of Bill’s motor scooter on their trip out to service the cameras there last Thursday.  He couldn’t find the pouch, but on the way back to meet up with Roxanne and I, he did find some wildflowers that we didn’t get to see – and even laid down in a field of them and took a selfie.

So. Many. Flowers. In some areas, they lined the dirt road, in other areas they covered whole fields and hillsides. It seemed like the farther we walked in, the more spectacular they got.  We saw a lot of stuff that Roxanne and I had seen on our wildflower excursion (as many of the wildflowers are common and natives) but there were some new ones (for us), like Golden Violets, Mosquito Bill Shooting Stars (also called Henderson’s Shoot Stars), California Indian Pink (which is sub-species of the Cardinal Catchfly), Long-Spurred Seablush (that kind of looks like double-decker clover), what we think might have been Gambleweed (Pacific Sanicle), and some wicked-looking thistle with twisting purple-blue, thorn-rimmed leaves.

I insisted on getting myself to the seasonal pond on the property, so it was a long walk. The dirt road into the property is too damaged by erosion to get a car in there, so Nate parked at the gate and we walked in. Going in, it’s all downhill, so coming back (obviously) it’s all uphill which can be especially trying when you’re already tired from the rest of the day’s walk. I think I covered about 4 kilometers altogether.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

We picnicked in the shade of a big oak by the seasonal pond before heading back to the car, stopping every now and then to take more photos, and more photos, and more photos.  We got to the point where we’d seen so many Painted Native butterflies sipping nectar from wildflowers that we pretty much ignored them on the way out. Hah!

At the pond, Nate dipped a dish and net in to see if we could find anyone interesting: Water Boatmen, Water Striders, some insect larva… I was hoping to see some of the California Newt eggs or some of their tadpoles, but there was just the “jelly” left from the eggs and all of the babies (except one or two newborns) had apparently ridden the streams out to more permanent water structures.  In the puddle, though, I did get some video of what I think were crab shrimp and some mosquito larvae.  By the pond, where the water-striders were I also saw some small crustacean-looking things that I’ll need to work on identifying. The mosquito larvae were in a turgid-looking puddle and when my shadow passed over the puddle, they all dove down from the surface, only to rise, very slowly again later. Eeew! Hah!

When Nate, Roxanne and I were eating lunch, there Red-Winged Blackbirds tending to their nests and courtship rituals in the tules at the far end of the pond.  I watched while one of the males flew out to the side of the stream that fed the pond, and then started rolling rocks over so he could eat what he found underneath them. I had never seen that behavior before, so that was cool to see!

We didn’t see much wildlife, so I only got a few photos of birds, but we could ear more birds than we could see… and at one point saw a large crow fly over our heads with a beak full of nesting material.  We tried to see where it landed, but it disappeared over the crest of a hill.  There was also a Mourning Dove nest near the front gate, but it was unoccupied.

The trip was totally exhausting, but totally fun.

Species List:

1. American Robin, Turdus migratorius,
2. Baby Blue Eyes, Nemophila menziesii,
3. Bay Laurel, Laurus nobilis,
4. Bedstraw, Sticky Willy, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine,
5. Big Heron’s Bill, Erodium botrys,
6. Bird’s Eye Gilia, Gilia tricolor,
7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
8. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum,
9. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum,
10. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii,
11. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus,
12. Bulbous Blue Grass, Poa bulbosa,
13. Butter ‘n’ Eggs, Johnny Tuck, Triphysaria eriantha,
14. California Burclover, Medicago polymorpha,
15. California Clam Shrimp, Cyzicus californicus,
16. California Geranium, Geranium californicum,
17. California Golden Violet, Viola pedunculata,
18. California Indian Pink, Silene laciniata ssp. californica, (as subspecies of the Cardinal Catchfly),
19. California Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum jordanii,
20. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus,
21. California Newt, Taricha torosa
22. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica,
23. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
24. Chamise, Adenostoma fasciculatum,
25. Chinese Houses, Collinsia heterophylla,
26. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
27. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos,
28. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia intermedia,
29. Common Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes,
30. Common Mustard, Brassica rapa,
31. Common Woodland Star, Lithophragma affine,
32. Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,
33. Damselfly, Vivid Dancer Damselfly, Argia vivida (note the arrow-markings on the abdomen),
34. Damselfly, Western Forktail, Ischnura perpava (note the mostly black abdomen),
35. Dwarf Sack Clover, Castilleja exserta ssp. exserta,
36. Fragrant sumac, Rhus aromatica,
37. Frying Pan Poppy, Eschscholzia lobbii
38. Giant Death Camas, Zigadenus exaltatus,
39. Giraffe’s Head Henbit, Henbit Deathnettle, Lamium amplexicaule,
40. Golden Fairy Lantern, Diogenes’ Lantern, Calochortus amabilis,
41. Goldfields, Lasthenia californica,
42. Gray Pine, California Foothill Pine, Pinus sabiniana,
43. Hawksbeard, Crepis sp.,
44. Hog Fennel, Lomatium utriculatum,
45. Houndstongue, Pacific Houndstongue, Cynoglossum grande,
46. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
47. Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja affinis,
48. Jeweled Onion, Allium serra,
49. Larkspur, Delphinium decorum,
50. Lichen, Rock Firedot Lichen, Caloplaca Saxicola,
51. Lomatium, Lomatium sp.,
52. Long-Spurred Seablush, Plectritis ciliosa,
53. Lupine, Lupinus sp.,
54. Manzanita, Arctostaphylos sp.,
55. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor,
56. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia parviflora
57. Mosquito, family Culicidae,
58. Mosquito Bill Shooting Star, Primula hendersonii,
59. Mouse Ear Chickweed, Cerastium fontanum,
60. Mule’s Ears, Smooth Mules Ears, Wyethia glabra,
61. Narrow Leaf Collinsia, Collinsia linearis
62. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii,
63. Oregon Grape, Mountain Grape, Berberis aquifolium,
64. Owl’s Clover, Dense Flower Owl’s clover, Castilleja densiflora,
65. Pacific Peavine, Canyon Sweet Pea, Lathyrus vestitus,
66. Pacific Sanicle, Gambleweed Sanicula crassicaulis,
67. Painted Lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
68. Pepperweed, Common Pepper Grass, Lepidium densiflorum,
69. Pineapple Weed, Matricaria discoidea,
70. Pink Grass, Windmill Pink, Petrorhagia dubia,
71. Plectritis ciliosa, Long spurred plectritis,
72. Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys chorisianus,
73. Purple Sanicle, Sanicula bipinnatifida,
74. Q Tips, Slender Cottonweed, Micropus californicus var. californicus,
75. Red Maids, Calandrinia ciliate,
76. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus,
77. Scarlet Pimpernel, Lysimachia arvensis,
78. Shrubby Butterweed, Bush Groundsel, Senecio flaccidus,
79. Spinster’s Blue-Eyed Mary, Few Flowered Collinsia, Collinsia sparsiflora,
80. Tomcat Clover, Trifolium willdenovii,
81. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia,
82. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor,
83. True Babystars, Leptosiphon bicolor,
84. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
85. Valley Tassels, Castilleja attenuate,
86. Variable-leaf Nemophila, Canyon Nemophila, Nemophila heterophylla,
87. Wallflower, Erysimum capitatum,
88. Water Strider, Aquarius remigis
89. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
90. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis,
91. White Seablush, Plectritis macrocera,
92. Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. varia,

Cosmo the Baby Flamingo and Other Critters, 01-22-19

I treated myself to a walk at Sacramento Zoo to celebrate my birthday. It was bright and clear outside, and on the cold side. It was about 44° when I got to the zoo and only in the 50’s when I headed back home.

Tuleyome’s post-wildfire restoration project was up on one of the wishing wells in the zoo (and it will stay up there all year).

You get a metal token when you winter the zoo, and you can toss it into one of the three wishing wells lined up along the front of the zoo. There’s a pot of money set aside for the well projects, and whoever gets the most tokens, get the most money out of the pot… So, I’m trying to get as people as I can to put tokens into Tuleyome’s well. Hah! We’re up against a wildcat rescue group and a Grevy’s Zebra project.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Because it was chilly, some of the animals were vying for sunny spots in their enclosures. The White-Ruffed Lemurs, for example, were lined up along the fence, some of them stretched out in the sun with their arms over their heads to warm up their limbs and bellies.

On top of their enclosure, there was an Eastern Fox Squirrel who found a warm metal corner on the screen and was stretch out on top of it with his chin resting on top of it. Hah-2!

The Wolf’s Guenon monkeys weren’t out when I went by their enclosure. Their latest baby, Rori, died suddenly of a respiratory illness last week, so maybe the momma was still in mourning.

I had never heard the big Crested Screamer birds scream before, but today, the keepers had returned one of the Screamers on exhibit, and the other two Screamers yelled when they saw him. What a racket! The one that had been returned had been off-exhibit for several weeks because it had a bad case of vertigo and couldn’t walk. Tests couldn’t find any indication of infection or disease, so they just kept the bird quiet for several weeks until it recovered by itself. It was still walking a little bit like a drunk today, and the other two Screamers kept close to it to help it along.

What was extra cute about the situation was the fact that the Screamers were followed everywhere by a little brown Fulvous Whistling Duck. The keepers said, that particular duck had bonded with one of the Screamers and followed it everywhere. When the Screamers nest and lay eggs, the duck sits in the nest with them… Awwwww… I guess he doesn’t mind the screaming.

Although I didn’t get to see Coconut today, I did get to see baby Cosmo, the young flamingo chick. She was walking with her keepers and went to the flamingo pond for a bath. At first, she didn’t want to go into the water, and kept fast-walking, just out of reach of her keepers, when they tried to grab her to set her into the pond. Finally, she walked into the water by herself and gave herself a bath for about 20 minutes. While she was doing that, the adult flamingos on the opposite side of the pond were having a fit, flapping their wings and honking at each other in excitement.

Cosmo didn’t seem to recognize them and didn’t acknowledge them in any way. She was the single hatchling in 2018 and was raised by humans, so I guess she doesn’t know she’s a flamingo yet. She is starting to pink-up, but still had a lot of gray feathers and though fully fledged is still pretty small.

The Meerkats were out, and always make me laugh. They rush all over the place, sometimes chasing their own reflections in the glass around their enclosure. And today, one of them found its way to the top of the high tower in the middle of their exhibit and kept looking around like a little furry telescope. A couple of them also spotted a helicopter flying overhead and tracked it all the way across the sky. So funny.

In the Chimps’ enclosure, one of them was lying in the sun on the floor, while the others were up near the open roof… And two of them decided to pee and pooped all over everything just as I was taking photos of them. I couldn’t help but chuckle. So rude! The orangutan was a little more polite.

The lions came out just as I walked by their enclosure, and the male was feeling kind of randy. He kept following the female around, making overtures to her, trying to get close to her back end, licking her tail. At one point, he put one of his front paws against her inner back thigh and kind of tugged softly at her. She just gave him a dirty look and kept on walking. Snub. Poor dude.

They’ve had several successful pairings in the past. They had their last litter about 5 years ago, though – three cubs – so maybe dad thinks it’s time to have some more.
I noticed the lioness licking at the wooden structures inside their enclosure (which is where the male usually “sprays”). I wonder if she wanted the uretic salt or something. I tried to get some close-up of where she was licking, and it DID look like there was something there, but I couldn’t tell for sure what it was.

I also got to see the sloth today. He’s hardly every out, but it’s really hard to get photos of him because he’s inside an enclosure that has a really tight fence-weave. The camera can’t ready see through the openings.

I had lunch at the zoo — a club sandwich, side salad and tea — but couldn’t eat it all. Their portions are either too large or my stomach is getting smaller (which would be okay with me).

I walked for a little over 3 hours, so I was at the edge of my limit for the day. I wanted to try for one last go-round to see if Coconut the Snow Leopard had come out before I left, but I just couldn’t walk anymore, so I went back to the car.

Placing the Trail Cameras, 10-12-18

Today, we had Nate and Bam Bam, and two of my naturalist class graduates, Roxanne Moger and Lori Thomas (who is Sergeant Margie’s vet) and went off to Lake County to place the trail cameras.  (CLICK HERE to read more.) Nate had rented an SUV and Bam Bam drove his 4-wheel drive truck, so there was plenty of room for everyone. We made a brief pit stop at one of the turnouts for the Cache Creek Regional Park. It was brisk and breezy outside, and we got to see and hear Nutthall’s Woodpeckers, Acorn Woodpeckers, Scrub Jays and Northern Flickers.

The drive to the ranch was mostly uneventful except that in one spot along Highway 16, construction was taking place, so there was a queue to get through the one land that was open. It’s weird to see “so much” traffic on that highway (like, 12 trucks. Hah!)

When we got to the site and unpacked, Nate showed us all of the detailed tracking sheets and maps he’d made up for the project. He had overhead maps of the ranch with yellow “push pins” marking each of the spots where we would place cameras (and some white push pins for other prospective spots). Each push pin was marked with a name for easy reference: Staging Area, Gray Pine, Side of Cliff, Cattail Pond, Crossroads, Top of Ridge, Intersection, River and Gate. Then on other sheets, he had data-collection spreadsheets set up that not only included the general name for the camera spots but also included space to write down the camera serial number placed at each spot, the GPS coordinates, in which direction the camera was facing, and the key number for the camera cable’s lock.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

At the Staging Area, we found that the lash for the camera didn’t fit around the fat tree, so Nate climbed up into the branches to place it up a little higher where the trunk was thinner. We all tested our compasses to get the direction in which the camera was facing, and none of the them were the same. Hah! The on-phone apps couldn’t access the internet (no signal) to coordinate place and direction data… so they’re pretty much useless. Guess I’ll have to buy some real compasses for this project.

The other placements went easier. While we were walking to the Gray Pine, I was at the back of the group (because I walk more slowly than the others) and was surprised to see two large trucks with ATV’s driving across the property. I approached them to see who they were and what they were doing there. Turns out they were personnel from the US Geological Survey who had come to check on the landslide area again. They’re worried that with all of the plant life burned off of it by the fires that it will slide when the rains start…

I wasn’t able to climb the steep hills for the placement of the Top of Ridge and Intersection spots, so while the rest of the crew did those, I took some more landscape photos and watched for wildlife: saw a California Sister butterfly, several Variegated Meadowhawk dragonflies, a few Yellow Jackets, Crows, Northern Flickers, quail, three deer, and a Cooper’s Hawk… and heard Nutthall’s Woodpeckers. And that’s with the place in a burnt-out condition; I can’t wait to see what’s out there when it’s green and the creek has water in it.

I told Nate that going out once a month light be okay in the fall and winter, but we’ll need to get out there more often in the spring. Because it’s a “seasonal” creek and pond there, life will come in and leave in that small window of time when there’s abundant water and food for the critters… Once the creek and pond dry up again, there won’t be much to see. He was all for going out more often. (As we were driving away from the site in the afternoon, he kept saying, “I wonder if the cameras have seen anything yet.” Hah!)

We also used today’s outing to place the six signs I’d had made for us around the area that read: “Wildlife Research Area. Do Not Enter. This area is under video surveillance 24/7.” We’re hoping they’ll help to keep the trespassing OHV users and hunters off of the property. (Although it wouldn’t surprise me if next time we go up there, the signs will be shot up or destroyed. Some humans are assholes.)

I found a couple of baby Blue Oak trees that were fighting their way back already after the fire. I need to get some tomato-plant cages to take up to the site later to help enclose and protect them while they grow. Blue Oaks don’t reproduce very often, so the babies are important…

When Nate decided he wanted to drive up to the River spot, I stayed behind at the staging area while he, Bam Bam, Lori and Roxanne went up in Bam Bam’s truck. I can’t get into the truck (the step up is too high for my old legs) and it would be too claustrophobic for me with all the people in it… and besides, it was a little after noon by that time and I was tired and hungry. It took them about 90 minutes to make the drive up, place the camera and come back to the staging area. Nate said the “road” up was really rough and treacherous, and he wasn’t really pleased about where the camera was placed, so we just pull that one later.

By the time Nate and the others got back from the River spot, it was after 1:30 pm; time for us to head back to Woodland. Bam Bam decided to remain behind with Roxanne, though, so they could place the last remote-site camera we had left.

The others were “starving” by then; they hadn’t taken breaks or eaten lunch yet, so they all ate during the drive. We got back to the office by about 3:30 – 3:45 pm.