Category Archives: wildflowers

Lots to See at Mather Lake, 05-15-23

Around 7:00 this morning I headed over to the Mather Lake Regional Park for a walk. It was already 56ºF when I got to the park and was over 77ºF by the time I left just a few hours later.

I was looking for whatever galls might be out there, but was also open to looking for just about whatever caught my eye. As I was walking in, I met another photographer who wanted to get photos of the Mute Swan cygnets that had been reported there. The fluffy white cygnets are always fun to see; I asked him to let me know if/when he found them. A few minutes later he returned and said, “They’re on the other side of the lake. I may have to drive over there and see if I can view them from the road.” I was able to get a couple of VERY distant photos of them, but I hope he had better luck.

The swans are non-natives and can displace the native geese for food and nesting sites. The flock at Mather Park expands and contracts with the birth, development, and flights of the cygnets there.

According to Cornell: “…Females and males similar in size at hatching, but females slightly lighter; after about 2 wk, males larger than females. Tarsus and neck length follow similar growth patterns as mass; thus cygnets must learn to swim and feed before they can fly…”

Along with the swans, I also saw both Downy and Nuttall’s Woodpeckers. At one spot, there were two male Nuttall’s chasing each other around a tree, but they moved so quickly it was hard to get any photos of them.

There were also Canada Geese (some with goslings], Red-Wing and Brewer’s Blackbirds, and Great-Tailed Grackles. I saw a Kingbird gathering nesting materials, and saw several Tree Swallows claiming and using nests. The swallows and the Western Bluebirds often compete for nesting spots — they both use cavities to nest in — and I saw a female Western Bluebird sitting on the sidelines, seemingly waiting for the swallows to settle down somewhere.

I also saw some male House Wrens singing around their nesting spots, a male Anna’s Hummingbird displaying from the top of a tree and a Scrub Jay looking for food on the ground. I startled a Great Blue Heron from the edge of the lake where I was walking, and he flew off over to the opposite side of the lake. Surprisingly, I didn’t see any ducks or coots.

I saw a nest near the top of a telephone pole, but I couldn’t see the bird who took off suddenly from it to identify it. I didn’t check the restroom facility to see if the Cliff Swallows were building nests in there like they did last year.

There were a lot of different and new-to-me flies buzzing all around, and a few beetles snuggled up in the hawkbit flowers and thistles. At a spot on the trail where there was some still-wet goose excretion, a troupe of flies and a larger metallic green Hairy Maggot Blow Fly were puddling. [The video isn’t very long because my battery went out while I was filming them.]

I did eventually get to see some galls including the galls made by Coyote Brush Rust, the Willow Apple Gall Sawfly, and the Willow Bead Gall Mite. When my friend Roxanne and I were last out together, we looked for new pinecone galls on the willows, but only found old ones from last year. Today, I found ones that were just emerging: some in clusters that looked like small heads of cauliflower, and others that looked like rosettes. I’d never seen them this “young” before.

Among the plants and trees were the usual: Goodding’s and Narrowleaf willows, Fremont’s Cottonwoods, Coast Live Oaks. And I also photographed the Cork Oaks, some of the grasses and rushes, Tree of Heaven, Turkey Tangle Frogfruit flowers, thistles and more. And the Woolly Marbles were looking very woolly along the sides of the trail.

Going back to the car after my walk, I think I was suffering the effects of heat exhaustion and could barely make it from the lake to the parking lot, and my “cancer leg” was killing me. It doesn’t take much heat to affect me because, since chemo, my body has trouble thermoregulating. Even in the 77ºF weather, I was suffering from exhaustion, slight dizziness, and and inability to walk very far. I’d tell myself to “just get to that next spot of shade” or “just get that telephone pole” or “now, just get to that fence and you can rest for a moment.” And little buy little, I moved myself forward.

It took me about 30 minutes to get to the car, where I was able to collapse in the front seat, and drink some water with the air conditioner blasting at me. Plah! I thought I was being careful about how much I walked, but the heat snuck up on me. These days, I really should get out by 6:00 for my walks to beat the quickening heat of the early afternoons.

As I drove out of the parking lot, a Western Fence Lizard greeted me from the heights of its rock mountain.

I took Zinfandel Drive to Jackson/Highway 16 East, using the dirt road that runs by the vernal pools, and was very surprised to see several stands of White Brodiaea and a long stand of Narrowleaf Mule’s Ears which I had never seen there before. Amazing. The deep rains earlier in the year must have awakened their seeds and bulbs.

I walked for about 3 hours before heading back home. This was hike #28 of my #52hikechallenge for the year. When I got back home, my leg was in so much pain I had to take the last of my heavy duty pain pills — and then was in medication-induced stupor for the rest of the day. Man that stuff is brutal! But it DID relieve my pain.

Species List:

  1. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Beaver, American, Beaver, Castor canadensis [den]
  4. Bee Fly, Greater Bee Fly, Bombylius major
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  7. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  8. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  9. Common St. John’s Wort, Hypericum perforatum
  10. Coyote Brush Rust, Puccinia evadens
  11. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  12. Damselfly, Common Bluet, Enallagma cyathigerum
  13. Damselfly, Pacific Forktail, Ischnura cervula
  14. Downy Woodpecker, Dryobates pubescens
  15. Drone Fly, Subfamily: Eristalinae
  16. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  17. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  18. Flies, Hairy Maggot Blow Fly, Chrysomya rufifacies [metallic green]
  19. Flies, Large-Tailed Aphideater, Eupeodes volucris [hoverfly]
  20. Flies, Long-Legged Fly, Dolichopus sp.
  21. Flies, Narrow-Headed Marsh Fly, Helophilus fasciatus
  22. Flies, Seaweed Flies, Fucellia sp.
  23. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  24. Geranium, Cut-Leaved Crane’s-Bill, Geranium dissectum
  25. Grasses, Rabbitfoot Grass, Polypogon monspeliensis
  26. Grasses, Wild Oat, Avena fatua
  27. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  28. Grebe, Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  29. Gregg’s Pine, Pinus greggii [tree at Mather]
  30. Hairy Hawkbit, Leontodon saxatilis [yellow]
  31. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  32. Long-Jawed Orbweaver Spider, Tetragnatha versicolor
  33. Mediterranean Katydid, Phaneroptera nana [nymph]
  34. Metallic Woodboring Beetle, Anthaxia sp.
  35. Mirid Bug, Potato Mirid, Closterotomus norwegicus [green]
  36. Mule’s Ears, Narrowleaf Mule-Ears, Wyethia angustifolia [orange]
  37. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  38. Narrowleaf Cottonrose, Logfia gallica
  39. Nodding Thistle Receptacle Weevil, Rhinocyllus conicus
  40. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  41. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  42. Oak, Cork Oak, Quercus suber
  43. Pond Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta
  44. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  45. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  46. Rose, Multiflora Rose, Rosa multiflora [white flowers]
  47. Shining Pepperweed, Lepidium nitidum
  48. Small Melilot, Melilotus indicus [yellow]
  49. Sowthistle, Prickly Sowthistle, Sonchus asper
  50. Squarestem Spikerush, Eleocharis quadrangulata
  51. Swallow, Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  52. Thistle, Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  53. Thistle, Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus
  54. Tree of Heaven, Ailanthus altissima
  55. Turkey Tangle Frogfruit, Phyla nodiflora
  56. Valley Tassels, Castilleja attenuata
  57. Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa
  58. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  59. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  60. Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis
  61. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  62. White Brodiaea, Triteleia hyacinthina
  63. Willow Apple Gall Sawfly, Euura californica
  64. Willow Bead Gall Mite, Aculus tetanothrix
  65. Willow Pinecone Gall Midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides
  66. Willow, Goodding’s Willow, Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  67. Willow, Narrowleaf Willow, Sandbar Willow, Salix exigua
  68. Woolly Marbles, Low Woolly Marbles, Psilocarphus brevissimus
  69. Wren, House Wren, Troglodytes aedon

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Roundabout to the Cosumnes Preserve, 05-08-23

I kind of eased into my morning. After getting my dog Esteban fed and pottied, I did a little journaling before getting myself ready to go out to the Cosumnes River Preserve for a walk with my friend Roxanne, First, we stopped to get some coffee and then we were on our way.

Since the Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge was on the way, down I-5, we stopped there to look for galls. Now, normally the refuge isn’t the greatest place to look for galls, but they do have a raft of California Wild Rose bushes, which sometimes get interesting galls on them. I was looking for the Leafy Bract Galls, but only found older ones from last year that had already turned silvery-black. I was surprised, though, to see lots of the galls of the Spiny Leaf Gall Wasp. I think the bract galls may come in another month or so.

We also found some galls on the coyote brush, ash trees, and some of the Valley Oaks. So, it was a better result than I thought we might get.

As we were heading out of Stone Lakes, we saw a young Desert Cottontail rabbit. Apparently, the rabbits’ warren was connected to two large drainage pipes in the ground, so the bunny was able to dash in and out of sight again within seconds.

We then headed over to the Cosumnes Preserve, but stopped along the edge of the freeway onramp to get photos of hundreds, literally hundreds, of Blow Wives that had gone to seed. We usually see Blow Wives in a onesie-twosie configuration interspersed with lots of other plants and trees. I’ve never see “acres” of them before. That was amazing to me.

We got back onto the freeway but couldn’t get to the preserve using Franklin Blvd. because a chunk of the road was closed while work is being done on a bridge there. Construction is supposed to end sometime in June, I think. The bridge across the Lost Slough has been there since the 1930’s and is suffering from pavement damage and structural issues.

It’s located in an environmentally sensitive area and provides the ideal roosting space for a large colony of migratory bats. There are about 60,00 bats that utilize the bridge — one of the largest colonies in all of Northern California. I couldn’t find anything on how or if the bats had been relocated during the construction phase.

Because we couldn’t get to the preserve via Twin Cities and Franklin Blvd., we drove around Bruceville and Desmond Roads. Most of the agricultural fields were completely devoid of water and some of them had already been plowed up (or were in the process of being plowed.)

Some surprises along the way including seeing lots of White Brodiaea. I’d never seen that along that road before. There was also patches of Flatface downingia, Bull Clover, and different species of Woolly Marbles. There were also a few dark purple-blue Ithuriel’s Spears.

Looking over some of the Valley Oak trees along Desmond Road, we found galls similar to those we’d found at Stone Lakes, but we also found a “Round Gall”, a small felty gall found on the stems of the Valley Oaks.

While we were searching for the galls, I was distracted by a bird that came into my peripheral vision. It was a Bullock’s Oriole! In the tree, above our heads, we also found a couple of nests. I couldn’t help but wonder if the bird was keeping an eye on its nest from a distance.

According to Cornnell: “…Nest sites are selected by the female …Nests are commonly placed in isolated trees, at edges of woodlands, along wooded watercourses (sometimes hanging over water), in shelterbelts, and in urban parks… Several active nests may be placed in close proximity… Generally only female weaves nest, but male may assist, with one working on inside and other on outside, bringing nesting material. Nest may take up to 15 days to build…Nests are neatly woven, often containing hair (especially horsehair), grasses, and wool, shreds of leaves, or bark, and lined with cottonwood or willow cotton, wool, or feathers; often contain man-made materials such as twine, string, even fishing line… In California and Oregon, uses variety of trees, commonly cottonwood, oak, or eucalyptus…”

We noticed the man-made materials in the nests we saw, and Roxanne also noticed that on the outside of the nests there were what appeared to be spider egg sacs.

We were able to find and identify (to some degree) a variety of insects, some of them common, some of them new to me, like the Soldier Fly and the Cordilura dung fly. Among the beetles was a fat Hoplia Monkey Beetle that was lying on his back on some elderberry flowers. We thought he was dead, but when Rox touched him he started moving his legs and attempted to roll over.

Among the pathogens we found were two types of plant rust: Multiflora Rose Rust, caused by Phragmidium fungus, and Blackberry Orange Rust, caused by the fungus Gymnoconia peckiana.

Of course there were all of the usual suspects including various species of oak, Boxelder trees, Sycamore trees, willows and Blue Elderberry. We also found a variety of water plants still standing around where water had gathered and stayed deep underground: rushes, tules, water plantain. And there were all kinds of grasses. I only went after an ID of the most obviously different grasses like the super soft Rabbitfoot Grass and the Creeping Foxtail grass which turns “grayish” as it goes to seed.

We were out for about 7 hours and then headed back to Sacramento, but we stopped in Elk Grove and went over to the Olive Garden for lunch. I had two bowls of soup and two servings of salad, and drank 3 glasses of tea. I was a lot more hungry and thirsty than I realized!

This was hike #26 toward my #52hikechallenge. Halfway through! So much to look at. Tick Count: 8

Species List:

  1. Alkali Heliotrope, Heliotropium curassavicum
  2. American Coot, Fulica americana
  3. Aphid, Potato Aphid, Macrosiphum euphorbiae
  4. Aphid, Rose Aphid, Macrosiphum rosae
  5. Aphids, Family: Aphididae
  6. Ash Leafcurl Aphid, Prociphilus fraxinifolii
  7. Ash Tree, Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  8. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  9. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  10. Baccharis Leaf Blister Mite, Aceria baccharipha
  11. Bee, European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  12. Bindweed, Hillside False Bindweed, Calystegia subacaulis
  13. Bird’s-Foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus
  14. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  15. Blackberry Orange Rust, Gymnoconia peckiana
  16. Blackberry, Trailing Blackberry, Rubus ursinus [white stems; CA native]
  17. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  18. Blow Wives, Achyrachaena mollis
  19. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  20. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  21. Brass Buttons, Cotula coronopifolia
  22. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  23. Broadleaved Pepperweed, Lepidium latifolium
  24. Bullock’s Oriole, Icterus bullockii
  25. Buttercup, California Buttercup, Ranunculus californicus
  26. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  27. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  28. Cattle, Black Angus, Bos taurus var. Black Angus [domesticated]
  29. Cheeseweed Mallow, Malva parviflora
  30. Clover, Bull Clover, Trifolium fucatum [looks like large cowbag]
  31. Common Groundsel, Senecio vulgaris
  32. Common Mallow, Malva sylvestris
  33. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  34. Coyote Brush Leaf Gall Midge, Rhopalomyia sp.
  35. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  36. Coyote Thistle, Eryngium vaseyi var. vallicola
  37. Curvepod Yellowcress, Rorippa curvisiliqua
  38. Damselfly, Pacific Forktail, Ischnura cervula
  39. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  40. Dock, Curly Dock, Rumex crispus
  41. Dock, Fiddle Dock, Rumex pulcher
  42. Downingia, Flatface Calicoflower, Downingia pulchella
  43. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  44. Flies, Black Horse Fly, Tabanus atratus [large black fly with black wings]
  45. Flies, Chrysotus Fly, Chrysotus sp.
  46. Flies, Dung Fly, Cordilura sp. [long neck]
  47. Flies, Soldier Fly, Odontomyia cincta
  48. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  49. Geranium, Cut-Leaved Crane’s-Bill, Geranium dissectum
  50. Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica
  51. Gopher Snake, Pituophis catenifer [road kill]
  52. Grasses, Bulbous Bluegrass, Poa bulbosa
  53. Grasses, Creeping Foxtail, Alopecurus arundinaceus
  54. Grasses, Greater Quaking Grass, Rattlesnake Grass, Briza maxima
  55. Grasses, Rabbitfoot Grass, Polypogon monspeliensis
  56. Grasses, Wild Oat, Avena fatua
  57. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  58. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  59. Gumweed, Great Valley Gumweed, Grindelia camporum
  60. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus [heard]
  61. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus
  62. Ithuriel’s Spears, Triteleia laxa
  63. Jointed Charlock, Raphanus raphanistrum
  64. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous [flyover]
  65. Lady Beetle, Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens
  66. Ladybeetle, Broad-Striped Lady Beetle, Paranaemia vittigera
  67. Lance-Leaved Water-Plantain, Alisma lanceolatum
  68. Leaf Gall Wasp/ Unidentified per Russo, Tribe: Cynipidea [on Valley Oak]
  69. Leafy Bract Gall Wasp, Diplolepis californica 
  70. Lupine, Lupinus sp. [seed pods]
  71. Lupine, Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  72. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  73. Monkey Beetle, Hoplia sp.
  74. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  75. Rose Rust, Phragmidium fungus
  76. Mustard, Field Mustard, Brassica rapa
  77. Non-Biting Midges, Cricotopus sp.
  78. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  79. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  80. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  81. Oak Gall Wasps, Tribe: Cynipini [swollen stem gall on Valley oak]
  82. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  83. Pillbug, Common Pill Woodlouse, Armadillidium vulgare
  84. Pineappleweed, Chamomilla suaveolens
  85. Plantain, Ribwort, Plantago lanceolata
  86. Popcorn Flower, Scouler’s Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys scouleri
  87. Poppy, California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  88. Potato Mirid, Closterotomus norwegicus [green]
  89. Prickly Sowthistle, Sonchus asper
  90. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus
  91. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  92. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  93. Rose, California Wild Rose, Rosa californica [pink]
  94. Rose, Multiflora Rose, Rosa multiflora [white flowers]
  95. Round Gall Wasp, Burnettweldia washingtonensis [fuzzy, on the stem, valley oak]
  96. Rushes, Baltic Rush, Juncus balticus [small]
  97. Rushes, Pale Spikerush, Eleocharis macrostachya [small, thin, short]
  98. Santa Barbara Sedge, Carex barbarae
  99. Scarlet Pimpernel, Lysimachia arvensis
  100. Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  101. Spiny Leaf Gall Wasp, Diplolepis polita [on rose bushes]
  102. Stonecrop, Aquatic Pygmyweed, Crassula aquatica
  103. Stork’s Bill, Mediterranean Stork’s-Bill, Erodium botrys
  104. Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni
  105. Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
  106. Swallow, Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  107. Sycamore, Western Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  108. Tick, American Dog Tick, Dermacentor variabilis
  109. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  110. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  111. Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa
  112. Western Boxelder Bug, Boisea rubrolineata
  113. Western Marsh Cudweed, Gnaphalium palustre [soft, lamb]
  114. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  115. White Brodiaea, Triteleia hyacinthina [like white Ithuriel’s Spears, green stripe on back of each floret]
  116. Willow Bead Gall Mite, Aculus tetanothrix
  117. Willow Pinecone Gall Midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides
  118. Willow, Goodding’s Willow, Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  119. Willow, Narrowleaf Willow, Sandbar Willow, Salix exigua
  120. Woolly Marbles, Low Woolly Marbles, Psilocarphus brevissimus
  121. Woolly Marbles, Slender Woolly-Marbles, Psilocarphus tenellus
  122. Wren, Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
  123. ?? Coyote Brush petiole gall
  124. ?? Dead squirrel, roadkill, Sciurus sp.
  125. ?? Leaf fold gall on Valley Oak
  126. ?? Roadkill frog, presumably an American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus

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CNC Icehouse Road, 05-01-23

I started this month with the final day of the City Nature Challenge. My friend Roxanne and I went up into El Dorado County and drove up Ice House Road looking for more species to add to our lists. We were VERY surprised to find that the majority of the wildflowers we were hoping to see were still under several feet of snow!

The snowmelt, however made the south fork of the American River look like it was roaring by, and the little Bridal Veil waterfall on Highway 50 looked much more robust than we’ve ever seen it.

At the falls, we found that there had been rockslides and landslides there which changed the shape and texture of the cliffs surrounding the falls. We did get to see the Dog Pelt lichen, stonecrop, and Powerhorn/Pixie Cup lichen on the rocks that we often see there. And we also saw some Chaparral Currant just starting to flower. All in all, though, the area looked oddly much “drier” than we’d seen it in the past. [For the identification information, click on an image.]

At the very beginning of our trip, we saw quite a few wildflowers, including the lovely North Californian Indian Pink and the new-to-me Shy Monkeyflower. We thought those bode well for the rest of our day. Unfortunately, no. The snow covered everything along the roadsides at the higher elevations. [For the identification information, click on an image.]

To find more flowers, we had to go back down to the lower elevations at the end of our trip. Once again we were able to see quite a few, including some Baby Blue Eyes at the exit from the Sly Park parking lot on Jenkinson Lake. [For the identification information, click on an image.]

Most, if not all, of the mountains we saw in the distance are part of the Sierra Nevada range.

“…The Sierra Nevada is a mountain range in the Western United States, between the Central Valley of California and the Great Basin. The vast majority of the range lies in the state of California, although the Carson Range spur lies primarily in Nevada…” Wikipedia