Category Archives: Surprises

A New to Me Gall, 09-17-21

I got up around 6:30 this morning and headed out to Lake Solano Park with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne. The park hadn’t been open since the start of COVID-19, so we hadn’t been there in “forever”. The weather was fairly cooperative, about 61º when we got there, but it warmed up fast and was a  bit humid, so after only two hours we were starting to sweat. Still, we were out there for about 3½ hours.

Canada Geese, Branta canadensis

After stopping off for some coffee, we got to the park right around 8:00 am when the gates opened. We drove down to the PAD D parking lot, and went looking right away for the little Screech Owl that lives in a tree around there. Driving along to the parking area, we could see how close the year’s wildfires had come to the park. The firefighters were pretty much able to stop the fires at the edge of the parking lots and paved areas. Amazing.

We didn’t see the little owl right away, and were worried that he had abandoned his tree. Later, though, as we were resting before leaving the park, a couple of birders came by and let us know that he was back in his regular spot again. (I’m saying “he”, but I don’t know if it’s a male or a female.) We went over to his tree and there he was, poking his head out and showing off his beautiful yellow eyes!  After a few seconds, he ducked back into his tree, and waited to see if he’d come back up again.  I played some screech owl calls to try to lure him out, but he wasn’t buying it.  He DID answer, though; we could hear him hooting softly from inside his tree. Awwwwww!

Western Screech Owl, Megascops kennicottii

There were lots of Acorn Woodpeckers around, filling up and defending their granary trees. We saw some chase away a squirrel and others go after other birds that got too close. Eventually, one male came down to a tree trunk near us and posed for a while before getting back to work.

We chased a little yellow bird around the park, but couldn’t get a clear shot of it. I thought it might have been a migrating Yellow Warbler.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

We caught fleeting sight of some other birds and heard a lot of them but we couldn’t get photos of most of them. It’s still super early in the migration season, so I wasn’t too concerned with the lack of solid sightings.

One very cool sighting though was when Rox noticed a bird flying quickly past us with something in its talons. I knew if it had something in its talons it had to be some kind of raptor, so I walked a little ways down the lakeside to see if I could see where it landed. It was in a spot where it was backlit, so we couldn’t get the best of photos, but we could still see it was an Osprey feasting on a huge fish! So cool!                  

Some of the local peacocks were walking around the park. Like most birds this time of year, they were molting. Neither of the males we saw had any of their long fan feathers.

We saw a few galls on the oak trees in the park, but were surprised to find that some of the trees were absolutely sticky with some kind of residue. We thought it might have been honeydew, but there was sooooo much of it; it got our hands totally dirty, so we had to detour to the restroom facility to wash up before continuing on with our searches. We were happy to come across some live oak kermes on one of the trees.  We still have not seen a single spiny-ball Live Oak Wasp Gall. That’s so distressing to me.

We found a large, dark Orbweaver spider on one of her two webs, and also came across quite a few assassin bugs and their egg cases.  There were also LOTS of midges in the air, and I had to be careful not to take in any deep breaths when around them; I didn’t want to get a mouthful of them. Hah!

We were able to walk down the two lengths of the trail at the end of the park. They’re usually overgrown with blackberry vines and horsetails, but the groundskeepers have gone through them and cut out all of the overgrowth making it possible to get down to the water’s edge down there. We were hoping to see some birds and maybe even an otter or two there, but…nope. Maybe next time.

We DID eventually see some otters in the water across the lake from us. We tried to keep up with them, but they were very fast. We decided to drive to the other end of the park to see if we could catch them there, but they fooled us, and stalled mid-lake, so we couldn’t get any closeup photos of them. Wiley critters. I did report them to Otter Spotter site.

River Otters, North American River Otters, Lontra canadensis

We were out for about 3½ hours and by then I was tired, so we headed into Winters for lunch.  We wanted to go to the Putah Creek Café but couldn’t find a place to park. Rox suggested she’d drop me off in front of the restaurant and she’d go find a place to park nearby. I nixed that idea, so Rox drove around and went into the parking lot of Rotary Park that was kitty-corner to the restaurant. She found an open spot in the shade of a tree, and exclaimed, “What’s that on the leaves?” We looked closely and realized they were pale fuzzy galls — galls we’d never seen before. We were so excited. It was as though we were SUPPOSED to park there!

The galls were those of the Wool-Bearing Gall Wasp and were on a Southern Live Oak, a tree we had never seen before as well. According to cecidologist Joyce Gross: “…This oak is not native in California but is sometimes planted in parks and other locations in the state. The galls on this oak are made by wasps also not native to California. Both the oak and wasp are native to the eastern U.S…”

We thought it was amazing that the wasps were able to follow or travel with the trees and establish themselves here.

Oh, and cecidologist is like our new word. Hah! It means one who studies plant galls (known in botany as cecidia).  That discovery kind of made our day. We then had a yummy lunch at the Putah Creek Café including some Bacon Bloody Marys before going home.

This was hike #80 of my annual hike challenge. (I’m trying to do 104 before the end of the year; twice the #52HikeChallenge.) #MigrationCelebration

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Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
  3. Arundo, Giant Reed, Arundo donax
  4. Assassin Bug, Leafhopper Assassin Bug, Zelus renardii
  5. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon [heard, glimpsed]
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  8. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  9. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  10. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  11. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  12. Club Gall Wasp, Atrusca clavuloides
  13. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  14. Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
  15. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  16. Damselfly, Arroyo Bluet, Enallagma praevarum
  17. Damselfly, Pacific Forktail Damselfly, Ischnura cervula [males have 4 spots on thorax]
  18. Damselfly, Pond Spread-Wing, Lestes sp.
  19. Disc Gall Wasp, Andricus parmula [round flat, “spangle gall”]
  20. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  21. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  22. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  23. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  24. Gall Inducing Wooly Aphid, Stegophylla essigi [in live oaks, folds the leaf over itself; sometimes the leaf turns red/reddish]
  25. Great Horsetail, Equisetum telmateia
  26. Green Heron, Butorides virescens [Rox spotted some]
  27. Himalayan Blackberry, European Blackberry, Rubus bifrons [white flowers]
  28. Indian Peafowl, Pavo cristatus
  29. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  30. Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  31. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [looks like a soft funnel, green to brown]
  32. Live Oak Kermes, Allokermes cueroensis
  33. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  34. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  35. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  36. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus [glimpsed]
  37. Osprey, Pandion haliaetus
  38. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  39. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  40. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  41. Red Spider Mite, Tetranychus cinnabarinus
  42. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus
  43. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
  44. Round Gall Wasp, Cynpis conspicuus [round gall near base or midrib of leaf on Valley Oaks, formerly Besbicus conspicuus]
  45. Southern Live Oak, Quercus virginiana
  46. Spined Turban Gall Wasp, Cynips douglasii [summer gall, pink, spikey top]
  47. Trout, Brown Trout, Salmo trutta
  48. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  49. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  50. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  51. Water Strider, Trepobates subnitidus
  52. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  53. Western Goldenrod, Euthamia occidentalis
  54. Western Screech Owl, Megascops kennicottii
  55. Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis
  56. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  57. Whitestem Hedgenettle, Stachys albens [stinks!]
  58. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
  59. Wool-Bearing Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuslanigera [fuzzy, eggshell color, with hard pip under the fuzz]
  60. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi 

Doves at the House, 09-07-21

We have a pair of Eurasian Collared Doves (Streptopelia decaocto) building a late-season nest in the palm tree in the backyard. The male was bringing the female twigs for the construction. #CABiodiversityDay

According to Cornell: “…Building usually done by female with male gathering material. Male gives excitement calls while bringing female nest material; on arrival pair give nest calls and billing occurs… Male may push nesting materials directly under female. Build nest during daylight hours; usually takes 1–3 days…Incubation by both parents, with female sitting on nest through night and male relieving female in early morning for about 8 hours. Incubating bird usually summons mate for relief; male gives advertising call, female gives nest call…In warmer regions, Eurasian Collared-Doves can nest year-round, which may help explain their success as colonizers…”

“…Eurasian Collared-Doves made their way to North America via the Bahamas, where several birds escaped from a pet shop during a mid-1970s burglary; the shop owner then released the rest of the flock of approximately 50 doves. Others were set free on the island of Guadeloupe when a volcano threatened eruption. From these two sites the birds likely spread to Florida, and now occur over most of North America…Eurasian Collared-Doves are one of very few species that can drink “head down,” submerging their bills and sucking water as though drinking through a straw. Most birds must scoop water and tip the head back to let it run down into the throat…”

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Species List:

  • Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  • Queen Palm, Syagrus romanzoffiana

Earth Day 2021, 04-22-21

Happy Earth Day, #EarthDay2021. I got up at 6:00 am and headed out to the American River Bend Park for a walk.

I stopped first to check in on the owl family again. I immediately saw mom up in a scraggly-looking tree holding breakfast in her talons — a fresh caught rabbit. The rabbit was a large one, but looked like a cottontail (or maybe someone’s pet rabbit) rather than a jackrabbit. I didn’t see any of the owlets, so I started to walk around the tree, keeping an eye on mom in case she decided to come after me. 

The mother Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus, with a freshly killed rabbit.

I was surprised when I came across one of the owlets sitting on a fallen log on the ground. It was mostly hidden by the tall grass, but I still worried about it — there are coyotes in the park — yet, I was reassured that the owlet’s mom was close by and able to defend him if necessary.

Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus

After walking around the tree for a bit, and getting more photos, another photographer showed up. He pointed out a second owlet in a nearby tree, and said that a Ranger had told him there was a second owl nest in the park somewhere in the old boy scout camping area. He hadn’t gone searching for it yet, so he wasn’t sure exactly where it was. The second owlet at this nesting area looked like the youngest of the clutch. It’s plumicorns weren’t as developed as the owlet sitting on the ground.

Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus, owlet in the tree.

 Nearby, the male Rio Grande Wild Turkeys were strutting for the females, wings down, tails fanned. One of them decided my car was a rival, and it kept standing in front of the car, posturing and pecking at it. When I wanted to leave the spot where I had parked to go farther into the park, I had to inch the car forward a little at a time to get the turkey to finally move. Honking didn’t help anything; it just made the turkeys gobble.  Hah!

I drove to the intersection, just a few yards away, and stopped to watch a deer eating leaves off a black walnut tree. The deer looked like buck to me, but wasn’t sporting any bumps that would indicate it was going to get antlers this year.

I pulled into the area where the horse trailers can park, and parked by the water trough for a little while. Often, I get to see birds and other critters come to the trough to get a drink. Today, I got close ups of an Acorn Woodpecker, and got some photos of a fox squirrel flagging its tail nearby.  

I then drove into the picnic area and parked there.  When I was walking the trail from there to where the amphitheater is, I could hear Killdeer calling from the rocky shore of the river. Even though I’m VERY unsteady on my feet among the rocks, I went down as close as I could to the shoreline, to see if I could spot the birds and their nests in the rocks.

The adults birds were pretty easy to locate, but I was surprised to see a baby running across the rocks by itself. I tried to get some photos of it, but it was VERY small. Baby Killdeer duck down when they feel afraid or threatened. When I was trying to get photos of this baby, something startled it and it ducked down… camouflaged so well that it disappeared among the rocks. Wow! Amazing.

Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous, babies are so well camouflaged that they can vanish amid the rocks if they want to.

Across the river from where the Killdeer were, I could see Turkey Vultures flying overhead. Some of them swooped in and landed on the porch railing of a house over there. Hah! I wonder what the humans inside the house thought of that.

Turkey Vultures, Cathartes aura, resting on the railing of a deck on a home across the river.

Along the trail I was hoping to see some Elegant Clarkia in bloom. I found the plants, but no flowers yet.  There WERE poppies, miniature lupine and bush monkeyflower, however, along with lots and lots of Dogtail Grass.

There was pipevine growing everywhere along the trail, and the first blush of Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars munching on them. The butterflies themselves were flitting all over the place.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Along the river, there were Canada Geese and Common Mergansers sunning themselves on the rocks, and a Great Blue Heron fishing along the shore. Farther down, there was a turtle stretched out among some logs floating in the water. The water in the river was running very clear and shallow. Looking down into it, I could see the rocks on the river’s bottom.

While I heading back toward the car, I noticed that the Red-Shouldered Hawks were occupying the nest right above the trail again. I didn’t see them here last year.

Along the way, when I stopped to get some photos of some Scarab Hunter Wasps, I found a hummingbird’s nest on the ground. I’ll add it to my shadowbox collection. Based on those hummingbirds typical to this area, it probably belonged to an Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna.

The Scarab Hunter Wasp flies low along the ground using a super-sensitive sensor in her abdomen that can detect “kairomones” to find beetle grubs. Kairomones are described as “… pheromones and allomones that have evolutionarily backfired and…are normally used by one organism but exploited by an illegitimate receiver…”When the female wasp locates a grub, she digs it up, and lays her eggs on it, then builds a “cell” around the grub and egg and re-buries it. When the baby wasp larva hatches from its egg, it eats the grub, then pupates underground. It emerges from the ground the next spring as an adult.

I also came across a pair of mating craneflies (mosquito hawks).

I walked for almost five hours(!) today, and my feet were killing me (hurting more than my hip).  This was hike #37 of my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis [larva]
  4. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  5. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon [flyby, heard]
  6. Black Locust Tree, Robinia pseudoacacia
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Black Walnut Pouch Gall Mite, Aceria brachytarsa
  9. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  10. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  11. Bristly Dogtail Grass, Cynosurus echinatus
  12. Bur Parsley, Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  13. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  14. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  15. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  16. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  17. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  18. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  19. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  20. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  21. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  22. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  23. Chinese Pistache, Pistacia chinensis
  24. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  25. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
  26. Common Hoptree, Ptelea trifoliata
  27. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  28. Common Vetch, Vicia sativa [pink flowers]
  29. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  30. Coyote Brush Rust, Puccinia evadens
  31. Cranefly, California Tipula, Tipula californica
  32. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  33. Damselfly, Vivid Dancer, Argia vivida [blue or tan, arrowheads]
  34. Deerweed, Acmispon glaber
  35. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  36. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  37. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata [red line on leaves]
  38. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  39. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  40. Fire-Colored Beetle, Pedilus sp.
  41. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  42. Fringepod, Sand Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes
  43. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  44. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  45. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  46. Grey House Spider, Badumna longinqua
  47. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa 
  48. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  49. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  50. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus
  51. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  52. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [looks like a soft funnel, green to brown]
  53. Long-Horned Caddisfly, Family: Leptoceridae
  54. Long-Jawed Orb Weaver Spider, Tetragnatha sp.
  55. Lupine, Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  56. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  57. Mayfly, Small Squaregilled Mayfly, Family: Caenidae
  58. Meadow Spittlebug, Philaenus spumarius
  59. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
  60. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  61. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  62. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  63. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  64. Orange Bush Monkeyflower, Diplacus aurantiacus
  65. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  66. Pacific Pea, Lathyrus vestitus
  67. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  68. Popcorn Flower, Rusty Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys nothofulvus [tiny]
  69. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans
  70. Red Head Spider, Castianeira longipalpa
  71. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  72. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  73. Sachem Skipper, Atalopedes campestris
  74. Scarab Hunter Wasp, Yellow Scarab Hunter Wasp, Dielis pilipes
  75. Snakefly, Agulla adnixa
  76. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  77. Stem Sawfly, Family: Cephidae
  78. Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica
  79. Sweat Bee, Tribe: Halictini
  80. Tapered Stem Gall Wasp, Protobalandricus spectabilis
  81. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  82. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  83. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  84. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  85. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis
  86. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  87. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  88. White Clover, Trifolium repens
  89. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  90. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  91. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophry
  92. Windmill Pink, Hairy Pink, Petrorhagia dubia
  93. Yellow Rabbitbrush, Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus

Bear Valley Road in the Drought, 04-12-21

I got up a little before 6:00 this morning to get everything ready to go out with my friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne Moger, to Bear Valley Road.

On this trip, we took my dog Esteban with us. He traveled in his soft crate (which takes up most of the back seat) and his pillow, and got out for potty breaks and lunch along the way. He was about 90% good during the trip, only melting down once when we stopped to look at wildflowers along the roadside, and I made him stay in the car.   

After stopping to get some coffee for breakfast, we headed up Interstate 5 (I5) toward the town of Williams, and then cut across toward the foothills on Highway 20. All along the way, we were struck by the fact that we weren’t seeing many wildflowers at all. Usually, this time of year, there are lupines everywhere. We were seeing nothing.

Here’s some of what we saw last year:

In a normal rainy season here, we get about 20 inches of rain. This year we only got 6.58 inches… Everything is super dry, which cut the wildflower season down to nothing. We were certainly seeing that as we drove along.

Off of Highway 20 on the entrance to Bear Valley Road there’s a corral. Usually, around and in the corral we see lots of Tidy Tips, Pepperweed, and Blow Wives. Once again, here we saw next to nothing today. There were minimal flowers and most of the Pepperweed looked like it was used up and going dry. It was very shocking and disappointing.

There were some spots along the road that held little outcroppings of wild onions, lupine, paintbrush, and lots of Q-Tips. I was hoping to find at least one jewelflower plant but — nuthin’.

What seemed to have weathered the drought was the dodder. We saw hillsides covered with the stuff.

Dodder is a kind of parasitic plant (that’s related to morning glories).  I think the stuff is very interesting to look at; it feels like thin strands of rubber. 

Dodder, California Dodder, Cuscuta californica

Here’s what the Encyclopedia Britannica says:

            “…The dodder contains no chlorophyll and instead absorbs food through haustoria; these are rootlike organs that penetrate the tissue of a host plant and may kill it. The slender, stringlike stems of the dodder may be yellow, orange, pink, or brown in color… The dodder’s seed germinates, forming an anchoring root, and then sends up a slender stem that grows in a spiral fashion until it reaches a host plant. It then twines around the stem of the host plant and throws out haustoria, which penetrate it. Water is drawn through the haustoria from the host plant’s stem and xylem, and nutriments are drawn from its phloem. Meanwhile, the root of the dodder rots away after stem contact has been made with a host plant. As the dodder grows, it sends out new haustoria and establishes itself very firmly on the host plant. After growing in a few spirals around one host shoot, the dodder finds its way to another, and it continues to twine and branch until it resembles a fine, densely tangled web of thin stems enveloping the host plant…”

Rox and I were able to get photos not only of the dodder strands, but of the haustoria as well. It’s an invasive species, I know, but still think it’s so fascinating!  The plant gets tiny white flowers on it, but we didn’t see any in bloom.

We did see the tamarisk trees blooming.  Those trees, also called Saltcedar, are beautiful, showing off thousands of pale pink flowers, but they’re also invasive. They take over the areas where they grow and dump tons of salt into the ground and waterways.

Tamarisk, Saltcedar, Tamarix ramosissima

There were quite a few growing along Bear Creek, especially near the Wilbur Hot Springs.  (The springs and surrounding preserve are open to guests by reservation only.) The hot mineral springs create a milky look to the adjacent creek waters.  We found a nice stand of phacelia there, and I wondered if the spring had anything to do with that.

A little farther down the road, we stopped under a large oak tree and had our lunch in the shade before moving on.

Continuing down Bear Valley Road we came across a cowgirl on horseback with two very well-trained dogs trying to herd some cattle into nearby fields. The dogs looked like Border Collie mixes, and they were trained to verbal commands and to specific whistling. It was neat to watch.

Cowgirl and her trained dogs.

In that same area, there were dozens of Cliff Swallows collecting mud for their nests. They move so fast, it’s really hard for me to get any kind of photo of them.

We also came across a coyote carcass in one of the distant fields that was surrounded by Turkey Vultures and some ravens. It was difficult to get any clear photos of them because of their distance from the car and the heat-waves rising from the car and ground. But it was very cool to see.

When we got to the property where we normally view the wildflowers we were stunned to see the whole thing mowed flat to the ground. The only flowers were those outside of the fence line. It was just emotionally crushing to me to see all that virtually barren ground; so disappointing.

Even though we only saw small smatterings of flowers, I still ended up with a pretty good list of individual species, so even though the empty field was disappointing, I felt the trip as a whole was worthwhile. And my dog was with me and the company was nice. 😊✨

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Driving back past where the coyote carcass was, we were surprised to see a juvenile Bald Eagle poking at the carcass. I couldn’t get my camera up and focused fast enough before the eagle was driven off by Ravens.  Dang it!

We passed the cowgirl and her dogs once again, and they were working on another small herd of cattle, trying to get the beasts to go down the side of the road. One of the caws jumped the metal guard on the side of the road, and the dogs went after it, nipping at its heals and legs until it re-jumped the guard and returned to its fellows. Once the cattle were safely out of the car’s way, we drove past them and headed back home.

We were out for about nine hours, but because we spent much of that in the car, I didn’t count this outing toward my #53HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
  2. Beaked Hazelnut Tree, Corylus cornuta
  3. Bee Fly, Family: Bombyliidae
  4. Birchleaf Mountain Mahogany, Cercocarpus betuloides
  5. Bird’s-Eye Gilia, Gilia tricolor
  6. Blow Wives, Soft Blow Wives, Achyrachaena mollis [rounded ends]
  7. Blue Dicks, Dipterostemon capitatus
  8. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  9. Blue-eyed Marys, Collinsia sp.
  10. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  11. Bristly Fiddleneck, Amsinckia tessellata
  12. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
  13. Bush Lupine, Silver Lupine, Lupinus albifrons var. albifrons
  14. California Ash, Fraxinus dipetala
  15. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  16. Canyon Live-Forever, Dudleya cymosa
  17. Cattle, Bos taurus
  18. Chamise, Adenostoma fasciculatum
  19. Chia, Salvia columbariae [roundish, purple]
  20. Chinese Houses, Purple Chinese Houses, Collinsia heterophylla
  21. Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
  22. Common Manzanita, Arctostaphylos manzanita
  23. Coyote, Canis latrans
  24. Creamcups, Platystemon californicus
  25. Deervetch, Foothill Deervetch, Acmispon brachycarpus
  26. Deerweed, Rockpea, Ottleya rigida
  27. Dodder, California Dodder, Cuscuta californica
  28. Dog, Canis lupus familiaris
  29. Dot-Seed Plantain, Plantago erecta
  30. False Babystars, Leptosiphon androsaceus
  31. Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis
  32. Fringepod, Sand Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes
  33. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  34. Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica
  35. Goldpoppy, Eschscholzia parishii
  36. Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana
  37. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa 
  38. Horse, Equus caballus
  39. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  40. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  41. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  42. Ithuriel’s Spear, Triteleia laxa
  43. Lomatium, Foothill Desert-Parsley, Lomatium utriculatum
  44. Lupine, Arroyo Lupine, Lupinus succulentus
  45. Lupine, Chick Lupine, Lupinus microcarpus
  46. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  47. Metallic Wood Boring Beetle, Acmaeodera labyrinthica
  48. Mountain Dandelion, Agoseris heterophylla
  49. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  50. Narrowleaf Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  51. Narrowleaf Onion, Allium amplectens [white flower]
  52. Nightshade, Parish’s Nightshade, Solanum parishii
  53. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  54. Phacelia, Lacy Phacelia, Phacelia tanacetifolia [bluish purple]
  55. Phacelia, Mountain Phacelia, Phacelia imbricata [white]
  56. Pineapple-Weed, Matricaria discoidea
  57. Popcorn Flower, Rusty Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys nothofulvus [tiny]
  58. Purple Owl’s-Clover, Castilleja exserta
  59. Q-Tips, Micropus californicus
  60. Red Mite, Superorder: Acariformes
  61. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  62. Rufous-Crowned Sparrow, Aimophila ruficeps
  63. Seablush, Shortspur Seablush, Plectritis congesta
  64. Shining Pepperweed, Lepidium nitidum
  65. Silverpuffs, Uropappus lindleyi [like blow wives but with pointed ends]
  66. Strap Flame Lichen, Dufourea ligulata [dark orange]
  67. Sunflower, Common Woolly Sunflower, Eriophyllum lanatum
  68. Tamarisk, Saltcedar, Tamarix ramosissima
  69. Tidytips, Frémont’s Tidytips, Layia fremontii
  70. True Babystars, Leptosiphon bicolor [green puffball with pink flowers]
  71. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  72. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  73. Two-Spotted Grass Bug, Stenotus binotatus [small, yellow and black]
  74. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  75. Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  76. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  77. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  78. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  79. Western Wallflower, Erysimum capitatum
  80. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  81. Whiteleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida
  82. Woolly Desert Dandelion, Malacothrix floccifera [white with yellow center]
  83. Woolly Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja foliolosa
  84. Woollyfruit Desert Parsley, Lomatium dasycarpum
  85. Yellow Sweetclover, Small Melilot, Melilotus indicus
  86. Yerba Santa, California Yerba Santa, Eriodictyon californicum