I got up around 6:30 AM and decided to do some self-care and go for a short walk at the American River Bend Park with my dog Esteban. I hadn’t been able to get out for a walk in about a week and I really needed to move and get some fresh air.
We had a little rain in Sacramento yesterday — yes, rain in JUNE — and then it was warm and humid for the rest of the day. Today, it was totally overcast and rained most of morning – even during my walk. I can’t handle the dog, my camera, my bag and an umbrella, so I did without the umbrella and just covered my camera with my shirttails when the rain was hard. The dog and I were fairly soaked through after a couple of hours. It got up to about 77º by the late afternoon. We’re supposed to be over 100º by the end of the week. Not looking forward to that.
The first thing I saw when I got into the park was a doe and her yearling. The doe looked kind of thin to me; I could see the bones in her hips. And he face and right shoulder were cut and scarred, like she’d run into barbed wire or something. She was moving okay, and her fawn looked fine… I hope she’s on the mend, and they’ll both be safe now.
I could hear birds all around me, but couldn’t seem to get photos of all of them: Western Bluebirds, Acorn Woodpeckers, Nuttall’s Woodpeckers, Mallards, Black Phoebes, Ash-Throated Flycatchers, White-Breasted Nuthatches, House and Bewick’s Wrens, Bushtits, California Scrub Jays, Mourning Doves, Spotted Towhees, and California Towhees.
There were small troupes of Wild Turkeys here and there, and many of them ran right toward the car when they saw it. I continue to believe that this behavior has been caused by the homeless people who live in their cars in the park – and regularly feed the turkeys around them. Human interference.
On the river’s edge below the trail there were some Canada Geese with a handful of fuzzy yellow goslings. The goslings were intrigued by a Killdeer that rushed past them, and they chased after it for a little while. So cute.
Along the trail, the rain plumped up some of the lichen and mosses on the trees and gave them a nice dark background of wet bark.
Didn’t see a lot of insects; they don’t come out in the rain, but I did see a Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar going into the first stages of its metamorphosis, and on another tree I saw a completed chrysalis. Very cool. Oh, and I also found my first cocoon of a Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth (Oak Ribbed Skeletonizer, Bucculatrix albertiella). Usually, those cocoons have a “fence” of fine white hairs around them, but this one didn’t. I wondered if that was an aberration or if the rain had washed the hairs away.
I only walked for about 2 hours and then headed home.
Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens
Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
I got up a little before 6:00 AM this morning and got myself ready to head out to Ice House Roadwith my friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne. We left about 7:00 AM. The drive is a relatively straight forward one – go up Highway 50 East to Ice House Road — but you go up to over 4000 feet in elevation, and temperatures can vary greatly depending on where you are.
A lot of the area was affected by the Caldor Fire, a large wildfire that burned 221,835 acres in the El Dorado National Forest and other areas of the Sierra Nevada in El Dorado, Amador, and Alpine County during the 2021 California wildfire season. Where we were driving, the trees looked fine, but you look across to the adjacent foothills and you can see the burn scars all up and down them.
Before the 2021 fire season, a project called “Fire Adapted 50” was introduced in the area. In the places where the program was applied, the fire fighters had an easier time getting in and out of the areas, and fire suppression was easier. (You can read more about that HERE.)
What kind of ticked me off during this trip was that ALL of the picnic areas and ranger stations were closed, gated off, so we couldn’t picnic or use the restroom facilities anywhere. *Sigh* As far as I could tell, looking at the Forest Service website, everything’s shut down for “the winter”. I admit, we were surprised when we drove through areas where there was still snow on the ground!
Rox and I had gone up looking for wildflowers. We didn’t really find any – as I said, there was actually snow still on the ground in some spots! But because we weren’t “distracted” by lots of pretty flowers, we focused on whatever was in front of us at the moment, and that made for an interesting drive. Everywhere we stopped, it seemed, we found something of interest.
When looking for a restroom at the around the reservoir, we pulled off the road and into a shallow turnout area near an education center. The gate to the center was closed, so we didn’t get to see what that was either. What we did find there were lots of cedar trees and Ponderosa Pines, Mountain Misery plants, and lupines that were leafed out but weren’t flowering yet.
Here, too, we found some Erineum Mite galls on Canyon Live Oak, some Ruptured Twig Galls, and some psyllid lerps on the leaves of a manzanita tree. I’d seen the lerps on eucalyptus trees before, but never on manzanita. The tiny insects even have their own species name, Manzanita Lerp Psyllid, Neophyllura arctostaphyli.
And we found several different kinds of lichen. Lichen was actually the standout for us on this trip, including those species on the trees and the boulders. We saw both Wolf Lichen and Brown-Eyed Wolf Lichen, Chiseled Sunken Disk Lichen and Crater Lichen, Scaly Pelt Lichen, Powdered Ruffle Lichen, Tube Lichen, Variable Wrinkle-Lichen, and various Shield Lichens. So, so many.
When we were looking at the various kinds of lichen we saw, we wondered about the wolf lichens, one has “brown eyes”, the other doesn’t.
The brown eyes on Brown-Eyed Wolf Lichen (Letharia columbiana) are the apothecia, the reproductive fruiting bodies that produce the spores. When these fungal spores drop, they have to find their own algal buddies to form new lichen.
The other Wolf Lichen (Letharia vulpine) doesn’t have “eyes”; it reproduces by propagules (soredia). The soredia are the hyphae from the fungal component of the lichen wrapped around cells of the algal component. They’re shed through openings in the cortex (outer layer) of the lichen. After they land the shed soredia create clones of the original lichen. So, we have one wolf lichen that reproduces sexually, and one that reproduces asexually. Nature is so cool.
Some of them, especially the pelt lichen, were seen alongside the wispy Bridal Veil Falls at around 3200 feet elevation.
“…Bridal Veil Falls was basically a drive-to waterfall with a chance to stretch out the legs while making the high-speed yet twisty drive along Hwy 50 between Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe… The 150 foot waterfall pours down on massive polished granite boulders… The fall is on Esmeralda Creek, and flows into a large picturesque pool, dotted with boulders around the border. The creek and falls lie along the Mormon Immigrant Trail, and the Pony Express Trail…”
At another stop off, we found some bright pink Kellogg’s Monkeyflowers – a first for me – and some tiny yellow Seep Monkeyflowers. Roxanne also found a lovely little Yellow and White Monkeyflower (Erythranthe bicolor). Elsewhere, we pulled off into an area where there were a lot of Buckbrush ceanothus bushes in bloom, many of them covered with bees and hoverflies of various species. In this spot, the sun was beating on us, and we got so warm we had to take out jackets off.
Then we continued driving, looking for somewhere where we could have our lunch and were stunned when we came around a bend in the road to find snow on the ground.
On a manzanita tree there, I found some slimemold on the end of one of the branches and along some of the leaves. It was already in its sporangia stage, little metallic purple balls of spores sitting on top of thread-like stems. It was so unexpected – like the snow. I guess, with the weather being so odd, the slimemold had to take a chance, as soon as there was some snow melt, to rush through its life stages and lay down new spores for the summer months.
Around the same area we found several large patches of a cream colored Dog Vomit Slimemold. One of the patches looked kind of like snow, and Rox drove through it, squishing some of slime onto the ground with the treads of her tires. Weird!
We drove down Sly Park Road (off of Ice House) to the Sly Park Recreation Area at Jenkinson Lake, hoping to picnic there, but were waylaid briefly by a cadre of motorcycles and some large pick-ups. That group made it to the lake before we did, and were super-noisy. They were friends and family members, I think, yelling at and laughing with one another. Too much noise. The picnic area there, we discovered, was also closed, so the large group couldn’t use it. They decided instead to bypass a closed gate and walk out onto a levee-like trail across part of the lake.
We didn’t want to be anywhere around them or their noise, so we drove back Ice House, and stopped at a turnout where there were some fallen logs we could use a tables (or benches). We had our lunch there and got to watch the antics of a darling little Red-Breasted Nuthatch who was singing away, trying to woo a lady-friend, and excavating a nesting hole in the side of a tree.
There were also several Steller’s Jays calling to one another from the surrounding trees. They sound very much like the Scrub Jays but have their own pitch and nuances to their voices. They were difficult to get photos of. They stuck to the shadows for the most part, and moved too quickly for me to focus my camera on them. I got a few fuzzy photos, mostly of a youngster, but nothing noteworthy.
On our way back toward Ice House/Highway 50, we saw several Robins on the ground and stopped to get photos of them. Then I caught sight of a White-Headed Woodpecker, a bird I had never seen before. [I’d seen it in photographs before, but never “live”.] It flitted from tree to tree for a while, darting out of sight before we could get any photos. Then, mercifully, it stopped on the side of a stump and rooted around for bugs for a few minutes. Click-click-click, both Rox and I got some photos of it. It was highlight of the trip. A “lifer” bird for both of us.
A one point we saw a large gall on the branch of a pine tree along and assumed it might have been caused by now dead golden dwarf mistletoe. More research, though, revealed it was a gall created by Western Gall Rust (also called Pine-Pine Gall Rust). We’ve seen rust galls on Coyote Brush, but this was the first time I’d found one on a pine tree.
It’s called Pine-Pine Gall Rust because it takes TWO trees for the fungus to complete its life cycle. (There’s also a Pine-Oak Galls Rust). Or as Wikipedia says: :…[it’s]an autoecious, endocyclic, rust fungus that grows in the vascular cambium of the host. The disease is found on pine trees with two or three needles, such as ponderosa pine, jack pine and scots pine…” Lots of cool words in there.
“…The fungal infection results in gall formation on branches or trunks of infected hosts. Gall formation is typically not detrimental to old trees, but has been known to kill younger, less stable saplings…” This one was on a Ponderosa Pine.
We stopped at one turnout on the highway to get some photos of the water rushing through the South Fork American River. Snow-melt is filling the river with a lot of fast moving water right now.
Eventually, we started the long drive back into Sacramento. Got home around 3:30 pm. It was a long day, but we saw a LOT. It’s going to take days to sort through all my photos.
American Robin, Turdus migratorius
Barberries, Berberis sp.
Bark Beetle, Subfamily: Scolytinae
Bee, European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
Bigleaf Maple Tree, Acer macrophyllum
Bird’s Foot Cliffbrake, Pellaea mucronata
Bittercress, Hairy Bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta
Boreal Button Lichen, Buellia disciformis [pale gray to bluish with black apothecia on wood]
Broad-Leaved Stonecrop, Sedum spathulifolium
Brown-Eyed Wolf Lichen, Letharia columbiana
Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
Bumpy Rim-Lichen, Lecanora hybocarpa [tan to brown apothecia]
California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica [dark green with brown apothecia, on trees]
Canyon Live Oak, Quercus chrysolepis [dark on top, light underneath]
Chickweed, Common Chickweed, Stellaria media
Chiseled Sunken Disk Lichen, Circinaria contorta
Coast Redwood, Sequoia sempervirens
Cobwebby Thistle, Cirsium occidentale
Cranefly, European Crane Fly, Tipula paludosa
Crater Lichen, Diploschistes scruposus [pale gray with black craters]
Cumberland Rock Shield, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia
I got up around 7:00 AM and headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. I was hoping to take advantage of the early morning sunshine. When I got to the preserve, it was cold(37º) and breezy but the sun was shining. Within about 20 minutes, though, all the clouds moved back in threatening rain. Luckily, the rain didn’t start until after I was done with my walk and had gotten back into my car.
The highlight of the walk was all of the deer I saw. I counted 22 along the way. Most of them were in small groups of two or three, but the largest concentration I saw was 10 in one field, six does and four bucks including a handsome four-pointer, and the one with the wonky antlers.
They were close enough to the trail that I could smell the boys’ heady musky scent. I love that smell: a sort mix of burning wood and horse manure. All of these deer were laying in the grass except for one of the bucks who stood up when he saw me coming down the trail and kept in eye on me.
I’m used to seeing the Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus, with their large mule-deer ears (right). But on Sunday, I found some deer with shorter ears (left). I wonder if they have some Sitka, Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis, genes in there.
The Sitkas are another subspecies of mule deer that are usually only found in coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest and in British Columbia. They have shorter ears and spotted coats. I suppose some cross breeding has been going on, or, more likely, the short ears are from throwback genes in the black-tailed deer gene pool.
There were lots of puddles on the trails from the recent rains, and I checked those I passed for any sign of hairworms. Nada. It might be the wrong time of year for them.
I found quite a few different mushroom species, but nothing outside of the norms.
I also found some pinkish/flesh-colored slime mold on the underside of a log. It was too early in its fruiting body stage to tell exactly what species it was, but it could have been Red Raspberry Slime Mold, Tubifera ferruginosa, or (more likely) very early stage of Carnival Candy Slime Mold, Arcyria denudata.