Category Archives: wildflowers

City Nature Challenge, Day 1, 04-29-22

This was the City Nature Challenge Day #1 and I got up at 5:30 AM to get the dogs all fed and pottied, and to get myself and Esteban ready for a day out in the field with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne. We went into Placer County and up along the length of Drum Powerhouse Road. My right arm still hurt from the COVID booster, all the way down to my wrist. I pretty much tried to ignore it, but sometimes I had to change which hand I held my camera/cellphone in.

On the way up into the foothills, Roxanne took a short detour to show me a spot where there were white globe lilies blooming along the road side. Such pretty things.

Next we stopped at a rest stop along the highway to use the restroom, get Esteban walked and pottied, and check out the colony of Cliff Swallows there. I could watch those little guys all day. They’re so entertaining.

Once we got going, we got confused by some of the road signs, and ended up going down a road we didn’t mean to, but at an intersection there we saw more Cliff Swallows. They were on the ground near a puddle collecting mud for their nests. We noted that the birds were flapping their wings all the while they were on the ground.

I suggested it might be to confuse and ward-off predators, but according to bird-photographer expert Ron Dudley it has a different purpose. He writes: “…It’s thought to be a defensive posture used by both sexes and meant to prevent extra-pair copulations (EPCs). At almost any opportunity males try to copulate with swallows other than their own mates and those sexually aggressive males often mistake other males for females. So swallows on the ground, both males and females, typically raise and flutter their wings in an effort to prevent those unwelcome matings while their gathering behavior makes them more vulnerable. As a result, vicious fights often break out…”

So, the wing-flapping is sort of like the swallows’ version of birth control. Hah!

The drive took us up through the foothills, past huge outcroppings of serpentinite, seeps  and small waterfalls, and one spot where water (from melting snow above) was actually trickling through the rocks and mosses. It seemed that everywhere we stopped along the road, we saw a generous variety of species.

The first spot was one we’d gone to a year or so ago where we saw giant trillium, Bleeding Hearts, and Mountain Misery among other things. And we found some Trumpet Lichen among the moss on the side of a stump.  We also got to see a Brown Creeper bird creeping up the side of a fir tree. It was collecting little bits of bark and needles along the way.

Further along the road we found groupings of Yellow Star Tulips and Rainbow Irises along with Goldback Fern and other plants.

In a more rocky area we found lots of lichen including Emery Rocktripe, Black Eye Lichen, and Yellow Map Lichen.

In between some of the boulders Lace Lip Ferns were peaking out. But the standout find was several flowering Mountain Jewelflower plants. I’ve been trying to find a jewelflower for almost a decade, and this was my first! I was sooooo excited! It was nice to see, too, that there were so many healthy-looking plants growing out from the rocks. Tucked in closer against the rock walls were lots of Canyon Live-Forever Dudleya, most of them in bloom, too.

On the opposite side of the road was a steep drop-off covered in trees. We could hear a loud bird singing from the top of a tree nearby. I caught a glimpse of it, and could see it was a male Black-Headed Grosbeak, but it flew into another tree before I could get a photo of it. Luckily, it didn’t go too far, and we were able to take some photos and a video snippet of it before it flew off.

In other areas we found end-of-the-season larkspur, some Pacific Hounds Tongue (“Dog Lick”), and flowering Broad-leaved Stonecrop.

We also found that several of the Dogwood trees were in bloom. Sooooo lovely. All the “green”, cool temperatures and fresh air was just what I’ve been needing. We were also pleased to see the huge outcroppings of serpentinite along the road: shiny, slick, almost glassy, in varying shades of green.

According to KQED: “…Serpentinite is a metamorphosed version of rocks that make up oceanic crust after they are incorporated into subduction zones (plate boundaries where oceanic plates are thrust under continental plates). The recognition and study of serpentinite in California contributed to the understanding of modern plate tectonic theory… Serpentinite has a unique association with California for many reasons including: its association with gold deposits and the resulting California Gold Rush history, many plants unique to California grow on serpentinite-rich soils, the fact that serpentinite is thought to promote slow (and less hazardous) ‘creep’ along faults, and others…”

In 2009, there was a bill introduced in the state Senate to remove serpentinite as California’s state rock. The bill suggested that serpentinite shouldn’t be the state rock because “serpentine contains the deadly mineral ‘chrysotile asbestos, a known carcinogen, exposure to which increases the risk of cancer mesothelioma.”

The fact that there is no such thing as the mineral chrysotile asbestos was ignored in the bill.  According to KQED: “…There is a mineral ‘chrysotile’ that crystallizes into a fibrous material referred to as asbestos but not all varieties of serpentinite contain it…” The only real danger from the stone was if someone threw a chunk of serpentinite at you and it struck you in the head. So, the bill failed – as it should have.

We drove past the plot of ground, a shallow meadow, that is regularly used as a makeshift shooting range by locals. It’s so sad to see all of this destruction in the middle of such a lovely environment. The ground is literally covered in shot gun shells, shot up boxes and other trash. There are circles cut into the ground by morons doing “donuts” with their vehicles, and rocks painted with lurid green smiley faces and graffiti. It’s all just sickening to look at.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

We were hoping to get to see the powerplant at the end of the road but access was blocked by a gate that, although it was open, was covered in “no trespassing” and other warning signs. The powerhouse, a hydroelectric plant run by PG&E, is over 100 years old. It’s adjacent to the New Drum Afterbay dam which is over a mile long. There is so little information available about the dam and the powerhouse that it makes me a bit suspicious about it. Like, what’s really going on beyond that closed gate? Hah!

For me, it was extra fun to also be able to find several galls on the canyon live oak trees including Clustered Blister Galls, Fluted Gall, Gouty Stem Galls, and Hair Capsule Gall.

We were out from 6:30 AM to 3:30 PM. Phew! A long day, but we saw over 100 different species. A great start to the challenge.

Species List:

  1. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  2. American Yellowrocket, Barbarea orthoceras
  3. Aphid, Macrosiphum sp. [pink or green]
  4. Balsamroot, Carey’s Balsamroot, Balsamorhiza careyana
  5. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  6. Bigleaf Maple, Acer macrophyllum
  7. Black Chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa
  8. Black-Eye Lichen, Tephromela atra
  9. Black-Headed Grosbeak, Pheucticus melanocephalus
  10. Broom, Scotch Broom, Cytisus scoparius
  11. Brown Creeper, Certhia americana
  12. Brown Fritillary, Fritillaria micrantha
  13. Bumpy Rim-Lichen, Lecanora hybocarpa
  14. Buttercup, Western Buttercup, Ranunculus occidentalis
  15. California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  16. California Incense-Cedar, Calocedrus decurrens
  17. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  18. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  19. California Saxifrage, Micranthes californica
  20. California Tortoiseshell Butterfly, Nymphalis californica
  21. Ceanothus, Deerbrush Ceanothus, Ceanothus integerrimus
  22. Ceanothus, Mahala Mat, Ceanothus prostrates
  23. Clover, Rose Clover, Trifolium hirtum
  24. Clustered Blister Gall Wasp, Family: Cynipidae [Russo, Plate 230, Page 158. On canyon live oak]
  25. Cobwebby Thistle, Cirsium occidentale
  26. Common Button Lichen, Buellia erubescens [black eye on white]
  27. Common Drone Fly, Eristalis tenax
  28. Common Duckweed, Lemna minor
  29. Conical Brittlestem Mushroom, Parasola conopilea
  30. Crevice Alumroot, Heuchera micrantha
  31. Dandelion, Common Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale
  32. Douglas Fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii
  33. Dudleya, Canyon Live-Forever, Dudleya cymosa
  34. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata [red line on leaves]
  35. Emery Rocktripe Lichen, Umbilicaria phaea
  36. Eucalyptus, River Redgum, Eucalyptus camaldulensis
  37. Fern, Common Bracken, Pteridium aquilinum
  38. Fern, Goldback Fern, Pentagramma triangularis
  39. Fern, Lace Lip Fern, Myriopteris gracillima
  40. Fern, Narrowleaf Sword Fern, Polystichum imbricans
  41. Fig, Common Fig, Ficus carica
  42. Fluffy Dust Lichen, Lepraria finkii
  43. Fluted Gall Wasp, Family: Cynipidae [Russo, plate 231,page 158. On canyon live oak]
  44. Fringepod, Mountain Fringepod, Thysanocarpus laciniatus
  45. Globe Lily, White Globe Lily, Calochortus albus
  46. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  47. Goldenrod, Coast Goldenrod, Solidago spathulata
  48. Gouty Stem Gall Wasp, Callirhytis quercussuttoni
  49. Grasses, Bulbous Bluegrass, Poa bulbosa
  50. Grasses, Italian Ryegrass, Lolium multiflorum
  51. Grasses, Ripgut Brome, Bromus diandrus
  52. Grasses, Wild Oat, Avena fatua
  53. Hair Capsule Gall Wasp, Heteroecus sp. [Russo, plate 214,page 150. On canyon live oak]
  54. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  55. Iris, Rainbow Iris, Iris hartwegii
  56. Jewelflower, Mountain Jewelflower, Streptanthus tortuosus
  57. Larkspur, Zigzag Larkspur, Delphinium patens [dark purple-blue]
  58. Lomatium, Foothill Desert-Parsley, Lomatium utriculatum
  59. Lupine, Arroyo Lupine, Lupinus succulentus
  60. Miner’s Lettuce, Streambank Springbeauty, Claytonia parviflora
  61. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
  62. Moss, Bristly Haircap Moss, Polytrichum piliferum [like little porcupines]
  63. Moss, Clustered Feather-Moss, Rhynchostegium confertum
  64. Moss, Fountain Apple-Moss, Philonotis fontana
  65. Moss, Nuttall’s Homalothecium Moss, Homalothecium nuttallii [looks like thread]
  66. Moss, Rough-Stalked Feather-Moss, Brachythecium rutabulum
  67. Moss, Silvery Bryum, Bryum argenteum
  68. Moss, Turf-Forming Moss, Trichostomum sp.
  69. Mountain Misery, Chamaebatia foliolosa [fern-like leaves]
  70. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri [like strap but with soredia]
  71. Orange Hangingfly, Bittacus chlorostigma
  72. Pacific Bleeding Heart, Dicentra formosa
  73. Pacific Dogwood, Cornus nuttallii
  74. Pacific False Bindweed, Calystegia purpurata
  75. Pacific Hound’s Tongue, “Dog Lick”, Adelinia grande
  76. Paintbrush, Harsh Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja hispida
  77. Peppered Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia conspersa
  78. Periwinkle, Greater Periwinkle, Vinca major
  79. Phacelia, Virgate Scorpionweed, Phacelia heterophylla
  80. Pine Violet, Viola lobata
  81. Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa
  82. Poppy, California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  83. Powdered Ruffle Lichen, Parmotrema hypotropum
  84. Prettyface, Foothill Triteleia, Triteleia ixioides scabra
  85. Propertius Duskywing Butterfly, Erynnis propertius
  86. Rose, Hoary Rock-Rose, Cistus criticus
  87. Sawfly, Pristiphora sp. [caterpillar]
  88. Sheep’s Sorrel, Rumex acetosella
  89. Solitary Oak Leafminer Moth, Cameraria hamadryadella [form whole-leaf blisters on oak]
  90. Sow Thistle, Common Sow-Thistle, Sonchus oleraceus
  91. Spurge, Eggleaf Spurge, Euphorbia oblongata
  92. Stonecrop, Broad-Leaved Stonecrop, Sedum spathulifolium
  93. Stork’s Bill, Musk Stork’s-Bill, Erodium moschatum
  94. Sunflower, Common Woolly Sunflower, Eriophyllum lanatum
  95. Swallow, Cliff Swallow. Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
  96. Thrip, Subfamily: Thripinae
  97. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  98. Trillium, Giant White Wakerobin, Trillium albidum
  99. Trumpet Lichen, Cladonia fimbriata
  100. Tube Lichen, Imshaug’s Tube Lichen, Hypogymnia imshaugii
  101. Twining Snakelily, Dichelostemma volubile
  102. Variable Wrinkle-Lichen, Tuckermanopsis orbata [green or brown]
  103. Velvet Ash, Fraxinus velutina
  104. Vetch, Common Vetch, Vicia sativa [pink flowers]
  105. Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa
  106. Wart Lichen, Verrucaria sp.
  107. Water-Cress, Nasturtium sp.
  108. Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  109. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  110. Western Solomon’s Plume, Maianthemum racemosum amplexicaule
  111. Western Stoneseed, Lithospermum ruderale
  112. Western Wallflower, Erysimum capitatum
  113. Western Waterleaf, Hydrophyllum occidentale [looks like phacelia]
  114. White Fir, Abies concolor
  115. White Meadowfoam, Limnanthes alba
  116. White Nemophila, Nemophila heterophylla
  117. Whiteleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida
  118. Whitewash Lichen, Phlyctis argena
  119. Woodland Strawberry, Fragaria vesca
  120. Yellow Map Lichen, Rhizocarpon geographicum
  121. Yellow Star-Tulip, Calochortus monophyllus [fuzzy throat]
  122. ?? Ant

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Walking at the Mathers, 04-08-22

I got up around 6:30 with the dogs. They’ve been very good while Melissa has been in the hospital: no growling or teeth-showing to one another. Everyone is behaving themselves. That’s helpful.

I needed to get out for a walk –for my own sanity – with my friend Roxanne, but my nephew Brian (who is visiting while his mom’s in the hospital) didn’t want me leaving Esteban home because he barks when I’m gone. So we had to settle on a place that allowed dogs – (Lots of nature preserves don’t allow them.) — where I could either take Esteban with me on a leash or leave him in the car for short periods of time.

We settled on the Mather Vernal Pools Area and Mather Lake Regional Park. They’re relatively close to home, and the park accepts dogs. The vernal pools don’t allow dogs on the property because it’s fragile habitat, so we left Esteban in the car while we checked out the pools (most of which are dry now). Didn’t see much of anything new, but there were a lot of little moths and butterflies flittering through the grass. And I got to see some Golden Dung Flies having sex. *Eye roll*

I also got a video snippet of a Greater Yellowlegs complaining along the edge of the large pool. She didn’t like my being there.

It got a lot hotter a lot more quickly outside than we had anticipated.  I was quickly drenched in sweat, so I cut my walk short and headed back to the car to make sure Esteban was okay. If I had been thinking properly, I would have asked Roxanne for her keys BEFORE we started walking the landscape (knowing that I usually tire out before she does), but I didn’t. So, I had to call her on her cellphone, and ask her to bring the keys to me… cutting her walk short, too. I felt really bad about that, but it was just getting too warm for Esteban inside the car.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

We all got cooled off by the car’s A/C and then headed over to Mather Lake, sticking to the more manicured side of the lake where there’s a lot of shade and picnic tables to sit at if we needed too. Because it’s not very “natural” or “wild” on that side of the lake, there’s less to discover or examine.  We did see swans, some cormorants, and some geese (with goslings) in the water.

Along the edge of the lake, I spotted a Tree Swallow poking its head out of a nesting hole in the side of a foreshortened snag, and pointed it out to Roxanne. We couldn’t believe the bird had chosen a spot to close to the ground in which to nest. But the hole was shaded from direct sunlight and camouflaged by the wispy twigs and leave of a willow, so, it was relatively “safe” there, I guess.

There was a fisherman on the bank just a few yards from the snag, and when we were taking pictures of the bird and nesting hole, he though we were taking picture of him. He said, “I’m not a celebrity. Why are you taking my picture?” and we told him about the bird, and all had a chuckle about the circumstances.

I think I had gotten a little bit of sun stroke at the vernal pools — [There’s no shade there anywhere.] — and I couldn’t stand or venture out into the sunny spots along the bank for very long, so I walked back to the car with Esteban – after getting the car keys from Rox. On the way there, I spotted a Barn Swallow on the powerlines near the main picnic area, and a Black Phoebe on a pick-up-after-your-dog sign by the parking lot.

Rox was just a few minutes behind me. We got back home in time to give my sister’s dog, Gibson, his medication. This was hike #18 of my #52HikeChallenge this year.

Species List:

  1. Acmon Blue Butterfly, Icaricia acmon
  2. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  3. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  4. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  5. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  6. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  7. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  8. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  9. Cat’s Ear, Smooth Cat’s Ear, Hypochaeris glabra
  10. Common Daisy, Lawn Daisy, Bellis perennis
  11. Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii
  12. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  13. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  14. Dandelion, Common Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale
  15. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  16. Dragonfly, Suborder: Anisoptera
  17. Fringepod, Ribbed Fringepod, Thysanocarpus radians
  18. Frying Pan Poppy, Eschscholzia lobbii
  19. Golden Dung Fly, Scathophaga stercoraria
  20. Goldfields, Lasthenia sp.
  21. Grasses, California Melic, Melica californica
  22. Grasses, Little Quaking Grass, Briza minor
  23. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  24. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
  25. Hairy Hawkbit, Leontodon saxatilis
  26. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  27. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  28. Jointed Charlock, Raphanus raphanistrum
  29. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  30. Ladybeetle, Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens
  31. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria [drive by]
  32. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Summer Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [spiky ball]
  33. Lupine, Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  34. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  35. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  36. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  37. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  38. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  39. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  40. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  41. Pineapple-Weed, Matricaria discoidea
  42. Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys sp.
  43. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  44. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  45. Small Heliothodes Moth, Heliothodes diminutive [pinkish tan with white mottling]
  46. Stork’s Bill, Mediterranean Stork’s-Bill, Erodium botrys
  47. Swallow, Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica
  48. Swallow, Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  49. Valley Tassels, Castilleja attenuata
  50. Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa
  51. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  52. Western Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly, Papilio rutulus
  53. White Wall-Rocket, Diplotaxis erucoides
  54. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  55. Wild Mustard, Sinapis arvensis
  56. Willows, Salix sp.
  57. Yellow Owl’s Clover, Triphysaria versicolor

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Up Ice House Road, 04-01-22

I got up a little before 6:00 AM this morning and got myself ready to head out to Ice House Road with 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.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

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.

Large gall created by Western Gall Rust (also called Pine-Pine Gall Rust) on Ponderosa Pine

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.

Species List:

  1. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  2. Barberries, Berberis sp.
  3. Bark Beetle, Subfamily: Scolytinae
  4. Bee, European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  5. Bigleaf Maple Tree, Acer macrophyllum
  6. Bird’s Foot Cliffbrake, Pellaea mucronata
  7. Bittercress, Hairy Bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta
  8. Boreal Button Lichen, Buellia disciformis [pale gray to bluish with black apothecia on wood]
  9. Broad-Leaved Stonecrop, Sedum spathulifolium
  10. Brown-Eyed Wolf Lichen, Letharia columbiana
  11. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
  12. Bumpy Rim-Lichen, Lecanora hybocarpa [tan to brown apothecia]
  13. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica [dark green with brown apothecia, on trees]
  14. Canyon Live Oak, Quercus chrysolepis [dark on top, light underneath]
  15. Chickweed, Common Chickweed, Stellaria media
  16. Chiseled Sunken Disk Lichen, Circinaria contorta
  17. Coast Redwood, Sequoia sempervirens
  18. Cobwebby Thistle, Cirsium occidentale
  19. Cranefly, European Crane Fly, Tipula paludosa
  20. Crater Lichen, Diploschistes scruposus [pale gray with black craters]
  21. Cumberland Rock Shield, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia
  22. Cutworm Wasp, Podalonia sp. [black, ground hunting, iridescent wings]
  23. Dark-Eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis
  24. Echo Azure Butterfly, Celastrina echo
  25. Emery Rocktripe Lichen, Umbilicaria phaea
  26. False Turkey-Tail, Stereum hirsutum [thin, flattish, brown underside]
  27. Fluffy Dust Lichen, Lepraria finkii
  28. Giraffe’s Head, Henbit Deadnettle, Lamium amplexicaule
  29. Grass, Bulbous Bluegrass, Poa bulbosa
  30. Greater Bee Fly, Bombylius major
  31. Hoary Rosette Lichen, Physcia aipolia
  32. Hoverfly, Large-Tailed Aphideater, Eupeodes volucris
  33. Incense Cedar, California Incense Cedar, Calocedrus decurrens
  34. Ladybeetle, Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens
  35. Litocala Moth, Litocala sexsignata [black and gray with eye spots on the hind wings]
  36. Live Oak Erineum Mite, Aceria mackiei
  37. Lupine, Grape Soda Lupine, Lupinus excubitus
  38. Lupine, Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  39. Lustrous Camouflage Lichen, Melanohalea exasperatula [bright green camouflage]
  40. Manzanita Leafgall Aphid, Tamalia coweni
  41. Manzanita Lerp Psyllid, Neophyllura arctostaphyli
  42. Manzanita, Greenleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos patula
  43. Manzanita, Whiteleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida
  44. Millipede, Tylobolus sp.
  45. Monkeyflower, Kellogg’s Monkeyflower, Diplacus kelloggii [bright pink]
  46. Monkeyflower, Seep Monkeyflower, Erythranthe guttata [yellow]
  47. Moss, Spoon-Leaved Moss, Bryoandersonia illecebra
  48. Mountain Misery, Chamaebatia foliolosa [fern-like leaves]
  49. Pebbled Pixie Cup, Cladonia pyxidata
  50. Pelt Lichen, Scaly Pelt Lichen, Peltigera praetextata
  51. Phacelia, Mountain Phacelia, Phacelia imbricata [white]
  52. Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa [three needles]
  53. Powdered Ruffle Lichen, Parmotrema hypotropum
  54. Raven, Common Raven, Corvus corax
  55. Red Fir Tree, Abies magnifica
  56. Red-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta canadensis
  57. Rock Disk Lichen, Lecidella stigmatea [black spots]
  58. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens [on live oaks]
  59. Sanicle, Pacific Sanicle, Sanicula crassicaulis [yellow flowers, stinky]
  60. Sanicle, Tuberous Sanicle, Sanicula tuberosa [yellow]
  61. Shield Lichen, Parmelia sulcate [pale gray-green, veined]
  62. Slime Mold, Cribraria sp. [dark, metallic sheen, head on stalk]
  63. Slime Mold, Dog Vomit Slime Mold, Mucilago crustacea [cream colored]
  64. Steller’s Jay, Cyanocitta stelleri
  65. Sticky Mouse-Ear Chickweed, Cerastium glomeratum
  66. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha [without soredia]
  67. Sugar Pine Tree, Pinus lambertiana
  68. Sunken Disk Lichen, Aspicilia sp.
  69. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  70. Trembling Aspen, Populus tremuloides [white bark]
  71. Tube Lichen, Imshaug’s Tube Lichen, Hypogymnia imshaugii
  72. Variable Wrinkle-Lichen, Tuckermanopsis orbata
  73. Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  74. Western Dwarf Mistletoe, Arceuthobium campylopodum
  75. Western Gall Rust, Cronartium harknessii
  76. White Nemophila, Nemophila heterophylla
  77. White-Headed Woodpecker, Dryobates albolarvatus
  78. Willow Rose Gall Midge, Rabdophaga rosaria
  79. Willow, Scouler’s Willow, Salix scouleriana [silvery, feathery catkins]
  80. Wolf Lichen, Letharia vulpine [bright yellow-green]
  81. Yellow-Shouldered Drone Fly, Eristalis stipator [looks like a dark honeybee with fly eyes]

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A Drive Around the Cosumnes Preserve, 03-31-22

I got up a little after 7:00 AM, and had breakfast then rested for a little bit before heading out for a drive around the Cosumnes River Preserve and adjacent roads. I don’t usually go out so “late” but because I can’t close the passenger side window, I wanted it to warm up a little bit before driving out to the preserve. So, I didn’t arrive at my destination until about 9:30 AM.

Most of the farmland and wetland areas along Bruceville and Desmond Roads have been drained (or are in the process of being drained), so what few water birds there are, are either gone or concentrated in small area quite distant from the road. I got photos of the usual suspects – American Coots, Greater White-Fronted Geese, Red-Winged Blackbirds, and House Finches – but my favorite sighting along the road was that of a bright yellow male American Goldfinch.  I see the Lesser Goldfinches a lot, but the American Goldfinches are less common around here, so it’s always a treat to see one.

I didn’t see many raptors around, but I did see one Red-Tailed Hawk with a grossly deformed beak. The top part was long and twisted, like a “witch’s nose”. The bird looked healthy for the most part. It’s feathers looked well-groomed and it seemed to be able to fly all right, so I assume it was eating well… which surprised me given the deformity it had to live with.

According to the USGS: “…Beak deformities can be caused by a variety of factors, including contaminants, nutritional deficiencies, disease, parasites, blunt trauma, or genetic abnormalities. We recently identified a novel picornavirus (Poecivirus) in Black-capped Chickadees with avian keratin disorder (AKD). Our results suggest that Poecivirus is the most likely factor responsible for beak deformities in Alaskan birds. Current research is focused on confirming the role of this virus in the development of AKD and learning more about how it may be transmitted among wild birds. Read about our Current Research and Previous Investigations to learn more…”

At the parking lot near the boardwalk area at the preserve, there was a beautiful pair of Western Bluebirds (a male and female) overseeing their nest box at the gate, and protecting it from some pushy Tree Swallows who wanted to move in. 

While I was walking around the parking lot area (where I could keep an eye on my car), a gentleman walked past me and said, “You need to come earlier, just after dawn, or in the evening.” I  answered him with, “That depends on what you’re looking for.”  He didn’t get it. As a naturalist, I’m not limited to birding; I also checked out the plants, and looked for insects and galls along the way.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Among the bouquets of charlock flowers along the sides of the road, were California Poppies, Common Fiddleneck, tiny Popcorn Flowers and Ithuriel’s Spears.  There were also some Curly Dock plants with tiny flowers on them. I was most pleased to see that there was still enough water in the ground to nourish a purple-blue crop of downingia: Flatface Calicoflower. There also seemed to be lots of Seven-Spotted ladybeetles and their larvae all over the place.

The Valley Oaks all along the roads were just starting to leaf out, all of their leaves bright, shiny and succulent. I checked out a couple of them, and found some of the pinched-leaf galls from wasps thus far “Unidentified” by Russo along with the more common Oak Apple galls.

I drove and walked around for about 3 hours before heading back home. 

Species List:

  1. American Avocet, Recurvirostra americana
  2. American Coot, Fulica americana
  3. American Goldfinch, Spinus tristis
  4. American Wigeon, Anas americana
  5. Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [pink flower]
  6. Ash, Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  7. Bee, European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  8. Bindweed, Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis
  9. Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus
  10. Buttercup, Rough-Fruited Buttercup, Ranunculus muricatus
  11. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  12. California Oak Moth (oakworm), Phryganidia californica
  13. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  14. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  15. Curly Dock, Rumex crispus
  16. Downingia, Flatface Calicoflower, Downingia pulchella
  17. Fiddleneck, Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
  18. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  19. Gadwall Duck, Mareca strepera
  20. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  21. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  22. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  23. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  24. Ithuriel’s Spear, Triteleia laxa
  25. Jointed Charlock, Raphanus raphanistrum
  26. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  27. Ladybeetle, Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens
  28. Ladybeetle, Seven-Spotted Lady Beetle, Coccinella septempunctata
  29. Leaf Gall Wasp/ Unidentified per Russo, Tribe: Cynipidi [on Valley Oak]
  30. Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla
  31. Lupine, Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  32. Non-Biting Midges, Family: Chironomidae
  33. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  34. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  35. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  36. Pepperweed, Lepidium sp.
  37. Pepperweed, Tall Whitetop, Lepidium draba
  38. Pineappleweed, Chamomilla suaveolens
  39. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
  40. Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys sp.
  41. Poppy, California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  42. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus
  43. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  44. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  45. Stork’s Bill, Redstem Stork’s-Bill, Erodium cicutarium
  46. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  47. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  48. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  49. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  50. Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis
  51. Wild Mustard, Sinapis arvensis
  52. Willow, Goodding’s Willow, Salix gooddingii
  53. Willow, Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior

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