Category Archives: Volunteering

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

We Walked for 5 Hours, 03-10-20

I got up around 5:45 this morning and headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my weekly volunteer trail walking gig.  It was clear and about 41° at the river, but warmed up to about 60° by the time we left.

I wanted to get there around 7:00 – forgetting that with the Stupid Time Change it would still be DARK when I got there.  My friend Roxanne and “The Other Mary” (Mary Messenger) showed up, too, and we all had to laugh about standing around in the dark until the sun came up.  What was cool, though, was the fact that the Worm Moon was still up, so we were able to get photos of that…and we could hear a Great Horned Owl hooting in a nearby tree (but it was too dark to see it).

The Worm Moon. It’s the first full moon in the month of March and coincides with the time when earthworms reappear after the winter months.

Once the sun came up a bit, we started walking in earnest and came across deer and turkeys right away.  Several of the turkeys were up in the trees, and we were able to get some silhouette shots of them with the few morning clouds painted by the rising sun behind them.

Later, Roxanne and I came across a small flock of the males following after a small flock of females.  (By that time The Other Mary had left; she’s still dealing with sciatica and couldn’t walk without pain anymore.) One of the female turkeys settled down in the grass, but presented her SIDE, not her back, to the males.  For a moment, I thought maybe she was injured or something, but no.  She eventually got up again and walked away when the males converged on her.  Wutta tease! 

Because it’s breeding season, all of the tom are looking fabulous in their iridescent copper and gold feathers and brightly colored faces.  We also saw a leucitic tom among them.  (Leucism is a condition in which there is partial loss of pigmentation in an animal—which causes white, pale, or patchy coloration of the skin, hair, feathers, scales or cuticle, but not the eyes.)  He had white edges on many of his feathers and a bright white bar across one wing.  I don’t know if that odd coloring if off-putting to the females, but the males kept trying to run him off so they must’ve considered him “competition”.

A leucistic Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia

Mama Red-Shouldered Hawk was up in her nest, and we saw several other hawks, including a Red-Tail along the trail.  One of the Red-Shouldered Hawks flew right down in front of us and landed on a tree stump, where it posed for a while.  The lighting kind of sucked, but we were still able to get some photos of him.

Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus

There were quite a few deer out today, mostly does and their yearlings, but we also found a small bachelor group of bucks, all of whom had just recently lost their antlers.  We could still see the swollen pedicles on the top of their heads.  We did come across one buck, though, who was still hanging onto his rack, an impressive 4-pointer.

We’re also starting to see the birds “fight” for nesting spots and doing some of their early courtship behavior. We spotted an Acorn Woodpecker checking out a nesting cavity in one of their granary trees. He got inside of it for a bit, but then came out to chase off some European Starlings and Tree Swallows who were also looking at the tree.  Starlings and Tree Swallows can’t excavate their own cavities, so they depend on the woodpeckers to do that for them. 

We watched one female Starling doing her courtship thing where she acted like a baby bird, flapping her wings and peeping loudly, to try to get the males to bring her something. I got a little video snippet of that behavior. It’s kind of funny because the females are SO LOUD when they’re doing that.

Among the other birds we saw today were Oak Titmice, Bewick’s and House Wrens, Bushtits, some Western Bluebirds and Turkey Vultures, among others.  We also got to see some Cottontail rabbits and a Jackrabbit along the trail.

Except for the invasive Periwnkle, there aren’t a lot of wildflowers blooming at the preserve yet. (The weird weather has them sooooo confused.) But we did find a couple of Blue Dicks and some Fringepod along the trail.  The warm weather made the Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies emerge a little earlier than usual and now they’re having trouble finding nectar to drink… 

I was happy, though, to see the bees in the “Bee Tree” again.  I thought they’d left, but now I think they were just hibernating.  Waiting for it to warm up again and for the flowers to start budding.  All of the oak trees in the preserve have their pollen-bearing catkins out right now, so the bees have something to collect until the flowers bloom.

We’re not seeing the galls of the Live Oak gall wasps yet, though, and that’s a little troubling.  We’re seeing a LOT of Two-Horned galls, though, which is unusual at the preserve.

At one tree, Roxanne and I stopped for several minutes and got loads of photos of the different lichen on it. We also saw tiny bundles of dried Witch’s Butter (jelly fungus)in among the lichen, and that was kind of surprising to see considering how dry it’s been lately.  I thought the jellies would be long-gone by now.            

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Roxanne and I actually walked for about FIVE HOURS (!); it was noon when we left the preserve.  I was really astonished that I’d lasted that long.  I think I was buoyed up by adrenaline; we kept finding one interesting thing after another to photograph. 

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
  3. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  4. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  5. Audubon’s Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  6. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  7. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  8. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  9. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  10. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  11. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  12. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
  13. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  14. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  15. Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  16. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  17. Cabbage White butterfly, Pieris rapae
  18. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  19. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  20. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  21. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  22. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  23. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  24. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  25. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  26. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  27. Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly, Phoebis sennae
  28. Coffeeberry, California Buckthorn, Frangula californica
  29. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  30. Common Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes
  31. Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus
  32. Common Stork’s-Bill, Red Stemmed Filaree, Erodium cicutarium
  33. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  34. Cranefly, Mosquito Hawk, Tipula dietziana
  35. Crown Whitefly, Aleuroplatus coronata [larvae]
  36. Cumberland Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia
  37. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  38. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  39. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  40. Farinose Cartilage Lichen,  Ramalina farinacea [like Oakmoss but very thin branches]
  41. Feral European Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  42. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  43. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  44. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  45. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  46. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  47. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  48. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  49. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  50. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  51. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous [heard lots]
  52. Live Oak Erineum Mite gall, Aceria mackiei [kind of looks like rust on the backside of the leaf]
  53. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [old]
  54. Lords and Ladies, Wild Arum, Arum maculatum
  55. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  56. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor [just the leaves right now, no flowers]
  57. Mistletoe, American Mistletoe, Big Leaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
  58. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  59. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  60. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard lots]
  61. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus [old]
  62. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  63. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
  64. Olive Tree, Olea europaea
  65. Periwinkle, Vinca major
  66. Pin-cushion Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona polycarpa
  67. Plum, Prunus cerasifera
  68. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  69. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  70. Purple Deadnettle, Lamium purpureum [a kind of henbit but with a purple tinge to some of the leaves]
  71. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  72. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  73. Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Bucculatrix albertiella [cocoons]
  74. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  75. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  76. Rusty Tussock Moth, Orgyia antiqua [cocoons]
  77. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen Polycauliona candelaria
  78. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  79. Soap Plant, Wavy Leafed Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  80. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  81. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha
  82. Stream Mayflies, Family: Heptageniidae [exuvia]
  83. Streambank Springbeauty, Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia parviflora
  84. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans
  85. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  86. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  87. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus dubiosus 
  88. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  89. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  90. Western Chorus Frog, Pseudacris triseriata [heard]
  91. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  92. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis [heard lots]
  93. Witches Butter, Tremella mesenterica
  94. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis

Attending the Sticker PArty, 03-09-20

Today, I attended a “Sticker Party” at the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. My friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne, volunteered too, as did “The Other Mary” (Mary Messenger). I think there were seven volunteers in all there.

The organization had something like 3500 brochures for their kids/school programs that had been accidentally printed with “2019-2020” on them so we had to put sticky labels over that with the correct “2020-2021” dates.  Some of the school districts also required special liability disclaimers on them, so those brochures also got labels with the language specified by the district.

Some of the brochures we “stickered” today

The Effie Yeaw volunteer coordinator, Rachael, had set up coffee, water and Danishes for us, and while we were working, the Executive Director, Kent, came in with a plate full of Girl Scout cookies for us, too.  That was nice.

Roxanne, The Other Mary and I worked on the brochures for about three hours. Between all of us volunteers we labeled a little over 1500 of them, so we felt really good about that.

One of the other volunteers there was a gentleman named Mike who I had met earlier in the year on a fungus walk I led at the preserve.  He had liked the Nikon the camera I use so much that he went out and bought one for himself.  He showed me some of the photos he’d gotten with it, and they were great! I’m so glad he was as pleased with the camera as I am.

When we were done working, The Other Mary left, but Roxanne and I stopped for a little bit to take photos around the nature center.  Bushtits have setup a nest in a Redbud tree there and I was able to see the mom fly back to the nest with a mouthful of what looks like bits of plant fluff and lichen.  So cute!  The resident Black Phoebes are also nesting under the eaves of the building and I got a few photos of them.

American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus,nest in a Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis, tree
Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  3. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  4. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  5. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  6. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  7. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  8. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  9. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  10. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

Spring is Springing, 03-03-20

I got up around 6:30 am this morning and after giving Esteban his breakfast, I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my weekly volunteer trail walking gig.

I HEARD a lot of creatures today, but didn’t manage to get photos of everyone… especially missed the coyotes. I could hear a pack of them yip-yowling near the pond area, but they were gone by the time I got over that way.  As I was walking near the river, I encountered a group of women who were walking together—and they had to stop me to show me the cellphone photos they got of a lone coyote who followed them for several yards along the rover trail.  That coyote was CLOSE; the cellphone photos they got of it were great.  So envious.

At one point, I sat on a bench and just let my cellphone record the sounds around me: Scrub Jays, wrens, nuthatches… Just lovely. CLICK HERE to listen in.

I did get to see a few cool things, though.  The Red-Shouldered Hawks are still working on the nest in the tree at the head of the main trail. I saw the female bringing more twigs to that one (while hubby sat in a tree further along the trail). While she was away looking for more sticks, an Eastern Fox Squirrel climbed “her” tree and sat in the nest for a while like he was testing it out. Then, he climbed out of the nest and started chewing off the tree’s new leaf-buds all around it.

The hawk came back and saw him there, and tried several times to smack him out of the tree and away from the nest, but the squirrel was persistent.  After several attempts to oust him, the hawk flew up into a nearby tree, and preened herself – while she kept an eye on the nest – until the squirrel finally left. 

A female Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus, watching the squirrel from an adjacent tree.

I was surprised the hawk didn’t just kill the intruder; she was certainly capable of doing that.  One good grip with her talons and she could’ve crushed him to death. The squirrel was lucky that he went near the nest of a live-and-let-live hawk. 

It will be interesting to see if he tries that again in the future.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

Later, on another part of the trail, I could hear Acorn Woodpeckers having a fit around one of their granary trees (where they store their acorns and sometimes also use their nesting cavities.) I was surprised to see a pair of Wood Ducks in the tree, with the woodpeckers dive-bombing them and yelling at them. 

Acorn Woodpeckers, Melanerpes formicivorus, harassing a pair of Wood Ducks, Aix sponsa

Wood Ducks nest in cavities, and they actually depend on woodpeckers, especially Northern Flickers, to drill the cavities for them when man-made duck boxes aren’t available.  The Wood Ducks in this granary tree were a pair, male and female, and I have no doubt that they were hoping to be able to nest there.  The Acorn Woodpeckers weren’t having that, though.  They did their raspy tantrum-thing until they were successful in chasing the ducks away from their tree.

There are quite a few duck boxes at the preserve, so I’m sure the ducks will be able to find somewhere else to nest.

Near the woodpeckers’ tree, I also came across some deer: a 4-pointer buck and another buck who had recently lost his antlers.  I got quite a few photos of them before they moved on. In other areas, I also found other small groups of deer, mostly does and their yearlings.

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus

I also saw several groups of Tree Swallows who seemed to be staking out territories and looking for nests. It’s almost impossible to tell the males from the females because their markings are the same, but the males do a “vertical posture” courtship thing where they get up on a high branch, stretch their neck up, bill skyward and chatter to attract the females.  Then they take the females over to potential nesting cavities and let the females check them out.  Haven’t seen anyone settle on a spot yet, but it’s very early in the season.

According to Cornell, Tree Swallows are generally monogamous for the season, and sometimes carry their “marriages” from one season to the next if their nests are successful. Some males will mate with more with one female but only if the nests are a good distance away from one another; and it’s the female who solicits that extramarital mating. (The males never force it.)

This is another cavity-nester that relies on the woodpeckers (or humans) to build nesting sites for them.  The birds line their nesting cavities with feathers and big fights can break out over who has what feathers.

According to Cornell, “Birds in possession of feathers sometimes enter a cavity, but depart still carrying feather to rejoin melee. Also, birds carrying feathers but not being chased have been seen repeatedly dropping a feather high in the air, which results in attracting birds that begin chasing. These observations suggest that chases for feathers may serve some social function in addition to acquiring feathers for the nest.”

All of the Live Oak trees in the preserve are getting their catkins, and the Valley Oaks are just starting to get their leaves.  The Western Redbud trees are starting to bloom, and I found a few Pipevine and Manroot plants around. 

Catkins on Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni

On some of the oak trees I found the tiny white cocoons of the Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moths.  The air was full of Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies, all hungry I presume after escaping from their chrysalises, but none of them landed anywhere around me where I could get photos of them. Most of them were in the air or high in the trees. 

Cocoon of a Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Bucculatrix albertiella

There aren’t any wildflowers in bloom yet, so nectar is in short supply. Since these butterflies ONLY drink nectar (and don’t use fruit or other food sources) I’m assuming they’re having to get what they need from local gardens, manroot flowers, and the like.  [[The caterpillars will eat the pipevines, but the butterflies need nectar.]]  I also saw a few Sulphur butterflies which I think were female Orange Sulphurs.  I wasn’t able to get photos of them either. Dang it.

I walked for about 3 ½ hours and then went back home.            

As an aside: to maintain my naturalist certification and get a pin for 2020, I have to volunteer at least 40 hours per year.  It’s only March 3rd, and my walk today put me at my 40 hours already. Woot! 

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
  3. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  4. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  5. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  6. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  7. Bark Rim Lichen, Lecanora chlarotera [looks like Whitewash Lichen but has apothecia]
  8. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  9. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  10. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  11. Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  12. California Buckeye Chestnut, Aesculus californica
  13. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  14. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  15. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  16. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  17. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  18. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  19. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  20. California Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  21. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  22. Coffeeberry, California Buckthorn, Frangula californica
  23. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  24. Common Goldspeck Lichen, Candelariella vitellina [bright yellow with rimmed apothecia on rocks]
  25. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea
  26. Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus
  27. Cowpie Lichen, Diploschistes muscorum [light gray on rocks, similar to Crater Lichen but more pruinose]
  28. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  29. Crown Whitefly, Aleuroplatus coronata [larvae]
  30. Cumberland Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia
  31. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  32. European Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  33. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  34. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  35. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  36. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  37. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  38. Ink Lichen, Placynthium nigrum [pitch black, fine grained]
  39. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  40. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous [heard]
  41. Lords-And-Ladies, Arum maculatum
  42. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
  43. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  44. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  45. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  46. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  47. Orange Sulphur Butterfly, Colias eurytheme 
  48. Pacific Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  49. Peregrine Falcon, Wek-Wek, Falco peregrinus
  50. Periwinkle, Vinca major
  51. Plum, Prunus cerasifera
  52. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  53. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  54. Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Bucculatrix albertiella
  55. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  56. Rock Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia conspersa
  57. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  58. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens
  59. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen Polycauliona candelaria
  60. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen, Porpidia albocaerulescens
  61. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  62. Stonewall Rim Lichen, Lecona muralis [pale green/gray thallus with rose/tan apothecia gathered in the center; color can be quite variable]
  63. Stork’s Bill, Broadleaf Filaree, Erodium botrys
  64. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  65. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  66. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  67. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus dubiosus
  68. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  69. Velvety Tree Ant, Liometopum occidentale
  70. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  71. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  72. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  73. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  74. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
  75. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis

A Raptor Morning, 02-26-20

I got up around 6:00 this morning, so I could get the dog fed and get myself dressed to go to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my weekly volunteer trail walking gig there.

My friend Roxanne joined me at the preserve. We saw and heard quite a few raptors throughout our walk, especially at the beginning of it.  A pair of Red-Shouldered Hawks were calling to one another across the treetops along the trail, and we were able to get photos of the female sitting in the top of a tree. 

A pair of mating Red-Shouldered Hawks, Buteo lineatus

A little while later, the male, who had been calling to the female, flew up and we got to see them mating.  The female was on a kind of precarious perch, so the male had to struggle to stay on top of her.  Eventually, he moved off to the side of her and then flew off.  Later, as we were leaving the preserve, we saw the female up near the rim of a nest that she and the male had built earlier in the year.  She didn’t linger near it though, so I don’t know if she’s going to choose that nest to lay her eggs and raise her brood. [[Hawks may build several different nests in a breeding season, and then the female chooses which one she likes.]]

After seeing the Red-Shouldered Hawks mating, we caught sight of another hawk in the top of a tree further along the trail. When we got abut closer we could see it was what I thought was a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk and it was eating its breakfast. We were able to get quite a few photos of it from slightly different angles as it ate.  At first, we couldn’t tell what it was eating; and I had to wait until I got home and blew up the photos to see that the breakfast was some kind of bird. The hawk had yanked out the majority of the feathers, so, on the trail all we could see was pink skin and flesh. 

A Merlin, Falco columbarius,eating its breakfast

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Later, Ken Ealy, one of my naturalist class graduates and a birding expert, took a look at my photos and corrected the ID.  It was actually a Tiaga morph a Merlin, Falco columbarius!  My first close-up of a Merlin; so exciting!  The Merlins in the US have three color morphs: Tiaga, Black and Prarie.

As we were walking away from the Merlin, I saw a bird fly into a tree back down the trail and by its shape and size I thought it might be a Kestrel.  I used my camera’s telephoto lens like a monocular and could see that it was indeed a Kestrel – a male, and there was a female on the branch below it. I alerted Roxanne to the birds, and we back-tracked down the trail to see them. [[I wonder if this was the same pair I’d seen last week.]]

A pair of American Kestrels, Falco sparverius. The male is on top and the female is below him.

So, that was three different species of raptors on just one part of one trail, one after the other. An auspicious start to our walk… we thought.  For most of the rest of the walk, however, we were able to HEAR a lot of birds, but couldn’t see them, or could see them but couldn’t get decent photos of them.

We did see quite a few deer, small groups of bucks and small groups of does with their fawns and yearlings.  We saw a big 4-pointer buck who was still sporting his antlers.

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus

The wildflowers are just starting to appear – well, their leaves are anyway; no flowers just yet. And we looked over some lichen on both the trees and the rocks. 

We walked for about 3 hours before heading out.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Alder Tongue Gall Fungus, Taphrina alni
  3. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
  4. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  5. Bark Rim Lichen, Lecanora chlarotera [looks like Whitewash Lichen but has apothecia]
  6. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  7. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii [not sure; saw some kind of wren]
  8. Black Grain-Spored Lichen, Sarcogyne hypophaea [black, grainy, on rocks]
  9. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus [scat]
  10. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  11. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  12. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  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, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  18. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  19. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  20. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  21. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  22. Cinder Lichen, Aspicilia cinerea [gray to light gray/white on rocks with or without small black dots]
  23. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  24. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  25. Common Stork’s-Bill, Red Stemmed Filaree, Erodium cicutarium
  26. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  27. Crater Lichen, Diploschistes scruposus [gray/dark grey on rocks with dark apothecia]
  28. Cumberland Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia
  29. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  30. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  31. Farinose Cartilage Lichen,  Ramalina farinacea [like Oakmoss but very thin branches]
  32. Giraffe’s Spots Fungus, Peniophora albobadia
  33. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  34. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  35. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  36. Green Trichoderma Mold, Trichoderma viride 
  37. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  38. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  39. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  40. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria [fly by]
  41. Lords and Ladies, Wild Arum, Arum maculatum
  42. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  43. Merlin, Falco columbarius
  44. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  45. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura [heard]
  46. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus [heard; caught a glimpse of]
  47. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  48. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus [heard]
  49. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
  50. Olive Tree, Olea europaea
  51. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  52. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  53. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  54. Scattered Button Lichen, Buellia dispersa [gray/off white on rocks with black spots]
  55. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen Polycauliona candelaria
  56. Sierra Plum, Prunus subcordata
  57. Soap Plant, Wavy Leafed Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  58. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  59. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha
  60. Streambank Springbeauty, Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia parviflora
  61. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans
  62. Tile Lichen, Lecidea sp.
  63. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  64. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  65. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  66. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  67. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  68. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  69. Witches Butter, Tremella mesenterica
  70. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis

The Seasons are Changing, 02-18-20

I got up around 7:00 this morning and was out the door by about 7:30 to head to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my weekly volunteer trail walking gig.

I was feeling pretty strong today; the pain in my left lower abdomen was very minor and seemed to be “referred” into my groin, so I didn’t have any trouble walking.  And the weather was lovely, too.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

As I drove down California Street, I could see a flock of female Wile Turkeys in the street, and slowed down for them.  I was sad to see that someone else, on the other side of the road, had not stopped and had struck one of the hens.  The other hens were gathering around the dead one in what I presume was a “mourning group”. Among them was the leucitic hen I’ve seen at Effie Yeaw on and off for a few years. 

I debated with myself as to whether I should stop and check on the dead one, to make doubly sure it was dead. But I decided against that.  If the downed hen, wasn’t dead, there wasn’t a lot I could do for her.  I didn’t have a blanket to wrap her in or a crate to put her in, and that early in the morning, I didn’t know of a rescue place that would be open… So, sadly, I left her where she was.

On the first part of the trail, I came across a pair of American Kestrels, male and females, high in a tree. They were pretty far away but the light on them was good, so I took a few photos. Because of the distance, the pictures aren’t the best but you can clearly see the two birds and their markings, so I was pleased with that.

A pair of American Kestrel, Falco sparverius. That’s the female on the top of the branch and the male beneath her

Later, I found a small herd of bucks,2-, 3- and 4-pointers, and two that had just lost their antlers.  So, that HAS come earlier this year. It’s because of the warm weather, I’m sure.

According to the Sacramento Bee, Sacramento is heading for the first February on record without rain.  Not good news.  The vernal pools all over the region are dry, or losing the water they got in January due to evaporation, which means the populations of rare and specialized insects and animals they support either have no way of emerging or are dying in their ever-shrinking habitats.  But some people still insist that Climate Change doesn’t exist… It’s just sad.

Further along the trail, I found an Eastern Fox Squirrel grooming himself in a tree, and watched the Acorn Woodpeckers moving their acorns around in their granary trees. Oh, and the bees have left the bee tree, it seems.  No sign of even a single one of them…

Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus

And then there was the guy with a drone. I could hear this ridiculously loud buzzing sound that seemed to be coming from everywhere around me, and I thought maybe the preserve landscape crews were out with some kind of weird weed-whacker.  Then I saw the drone, a little black job that a bearded guy had sneaked in inside his backpack. As soon a he saw me, he few the thing back to him and walked off with it — which made me conclude that he was flying it illegally and he knew it. 

There are a lot of laws and restrictions about flying drones in California, and Sacramento County has added their own layer of laws and permit requirements. To me, just having that noisy thing inside a designated wildlife preserve was enough to piss me off.  He was scaring the deer and some of the birds.  I saw him off-trail in another part of the preserve, and headed over to him to tell him to get back onto the trail surfaces… but he’d run off and disappeared before I reached him.

I walked for about 3 hours before heading out.

When I went into the nature center after my walk to log my hours, I met two new trail walkers who were just going out for the day.  I’m glad the trails are getting a lot of coverage.

I’d gotten emails from the nature center this morning letting everyone know that Sophia the Saw-Whet Owl at Effie Yeaw had died over the weekend. She actually lived about 10 years longer than she was expected to, so she was a grand old lady.  I saw her every time I went into the nature center to log my volunteer hours, and Melissa and I went to a “painting party” where we painted portraits of her and got to see he face-to-beak. It was sad to see her empty enclosure inside the center today.

RIP, Sophia!

As I was leaving the preserve, I saw two unattended children, a boy and his younger sister, around the small demonstration pool.  First, they set off to chase the turkeys, and I had to ask them to stop.  Then they went over to the pond and tried to climb into it to harass the pair of Mallards that was resting in it.  I went up to the pond, made sure they could see me taking photos of them, and then told them to “please stay out of the water and leave the ducks alone”.  The kids gave me dirty looks, and the boy tried pushing his sister into the water.  She shrugged him off and then both of them stopped their horrid behavior the moment their mother finally walked in from the parking lot. *Sigh*

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
  3. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  4. Audubon’s Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  5. Bark Rim Lichen, Lecanora chlarotera [looks like Whitewash Lichen but has apothecia]
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  8. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  10. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  11. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  12. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis [fly overs]
  13. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  14. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos [heard]
  15. Common Orange Lichen, Xanthoria parietina
  16. Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii [heard]
  17. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  18. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  19. Cranefly, Mosquito Hawk, Tipula sp.
  20. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  21. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  22. Farinose Cartilage Lichen, Ramalina farinacea [like Oakmoss but very thin branches]
  23. Fluffy Dust Lichen, Pacific Fluffy Dust Lichen, Lepraria pacifica
  24. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  25. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  26. Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina
  27. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  28. Green Trichoderma Mold, Trichoderma viride
  29. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  30. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  31. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  32. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  33. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
  34. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  35. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard several]
  36. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  37. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  38. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  39. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  40. Shield Lichen, Parmelia squarrosa [gray, foliose, on trees, soredia and very branched eyelashes (isidia) on the tips]
  41. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen Polycauliona candelaria
  42. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  43. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha
  44. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  45. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  46. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  47. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  48. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  49. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis