Category Archives: Writing

Mostly a “Bee Day”, 06-19-20

I got up around 5:30 this morning and headed out with my friend Roxanne to go check out parts of the Arboretum in Davis.  It was another hot day today (up to 99°), so we only stayed out for a few hours.  At the arboretum, we walked through part of the Peter J. Shields Oak Grove and adjoining gardens.

This grove is only one part of the Davis Arboretum. There are other gardens and collections, including a native plants garden, desert collection, redwood grove and pollinator garden.  The arboretum also abuts the Putah Creek Riparian Reserve.  Each facet is accessible through different streets with varying parking availability.  At the oak grove, there is adequate parking and a restroom facility that is covered in detailed mosaic murals.

One of the murals on the restroom facility walls.

The last time Rox and I were here was in September of last year.  What a difference in what we saw today compared to then: fewer flowers, no galls, few birds, hot temperatures. What we seemed to see the most of today was a lot of different bee species.

Among the bees we saw were a Foothill Carpenter Bees that were sleeping on different stems of the same salvia plant. Because they were dozing, it was easy to get some close up photos of them.  When the male Foothill bee started to wake up, he stretched himself out between two flowers on the plant (like Tarzan going from vine to vine). 

The female bee would have slept in longer if another bee hadn’t jumped her and forced her off the plant.  We weren’t sure if it was an attempt at mating (I think it was) or if it was an aggressive behavior, but the female bee just wasn’t having it.

Roxanne got this photo of them together:

[Photo by Roxanne Moger]

Many of the carpenter bees we saw were “nectar robbing”. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Rather than working their way to the nectar through a natural opening in a flower, some bees (and hummingbirds, too) will drill a hole in the base of the flower and take the nectar from there. It’s called “nectar robbing” because the bees get the benefits of the food, but flowers don’t get any pollination action.

A female Valley Carpenter Bee robbing nectar from a salvia flower.

How do you tell the carpenter bees apart? The following is from the UCD Blog:

California has three species of carpenter bees.

The biggest is the Valley carpenter bee, Xylocopa varipuncta. It’s about an inch long. The female is solid black, while the male, commonly known as “the teddy bear bee,” is a green-eyed blond. Why teddy bear? It’s fuzzy and does not sting… “Boy bees don’t sting.”

The second largest is the California carpenter bee or Western carpenter bee, Xylocopa californica, often found in the mountain foothill areas of northern and southern California. It’s known for its distinctive distinctive bluish metallic reflections on the body… The females have dark smoky brown wings.

The smallest is the foothill or mountain carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex. The females are black with light smoky-colored wings. The male has bright yellow marks on the lower part of its face and some yellow hairs on the top front of its thorax.

Banded Western Bluebird, juvenile. This one must have been banded right out the nest.

We saw a family of Western Bluebirds on one of the lawns, including this youngster. I was surprised to realize that it was banded, so I reported it to the Bird Banding Laboratory. Some birds aren’t banded with numbers, only color codes, like this one. So, even if you don’t see any alpha-numeric marking on the bands, reporting the birds still helps scientists to track them.

Roxanne and I walked through the Ruth Risdon Storer Garden, and went by the Moon Garden and gazebo.  At the Moon Garden, all of the flowers are supposed to be white but there weren’t many blooms at all this time of year.  The gazebo was occupied by a large group of people without face-masks on, so we didn’t go in there.

On the lawn near the Moon Garden, however, we found a small flock of Mallards (mostly hybrids) stretched out in the grass in the shade, all of them in a well-spaced circle. Social distancing duck-style. Hah!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Because of the heat, we walked for about 3 hours before heading out.

When we were done at the oak grove, we stopped briefly at the home of Bob Schneider.  He’d invited us over to pick up copies of his new book, “Exploring the Berryessa Region: a Geology, Nature and History Tour”.  He has advance copies that he’s selling, and all of the profits will be donated to nonprofit conservation organizations. (You can contact him through FB or email him at Verve2006@comcast.net),  The cover art is by Obi Kaufmann.

Here’s a write up on the book from the Daily Democrat newspaper.

Species List:

  1. Acanthus, Acanthus sp. [like bear’s breeches]
  2. Algerian Oak hybrid, Mirbeck’s Oak, Quercus canariensis x Quercus robur
  3. Aloe Vera, Aloe vera
  4. Annual Honesty, Lunaria annua [“Money Plant”, “Silver Dollar”]
  5. Aster, European Michaelmas-Daisy, “Purple Dome”, Aster amellus
  6. Baby Sage, Salvia microphylla [red and white]
  7. Blue Germander Sage, Salvia chamelaeagnea
  8. Buckwheat, Red-Flowered Buckwheat, Eriogonum grande var. rubescens [pink to deep red flowering heads]
  9. Buckwheat, Saint Catherine’s Lace, Eriogonum giganteum
  10. Bur Oak, Quercus macrocarpa
  11. Butterfly Rose, Rosa x odoratus Mutabilis [hybrid]
  12. California Barberry, California Holly-Grape, Berberis pinnata
  13. California Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa californica
  14. California Goldenrod, “Cascade Creek”, Solidago velutina californica
  15. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  16. Calla Lily, Zantedeschia aethiopica var. Green Goddess
  17. Chilean Lily-of-the-Valley Tree, Crinodendron patagua
  18. Chinkapin Oak, Quercus muehlenbergii
  19. Cleveland Sage, Salvia clevelandii [purple, circles]
  20. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  21. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea [eggs]
  22. Common Soapwort, Saponaria officinalis [“balls” of pink flowers, look like phlox]
  23. Common Whitetail Dragonfly, Plathemis Lydia
  24. Coral Tree, Indian Coral Tree, Erythrina variegata
  25. Cornelian Cherry, Cornus mas
  26. Cypress Oak, Quercus robur f. fasigiata
  27. Desert Willow, Chilopsis linearis
  28. Dog-Rose, Rosa canina [similar to wild rose]
  29. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  30. English Oak, Quercus robur
  31. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  32. Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis
  33. Foothill Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis orpifex
  34. Garden Sage, Salvia officinalis [pale purples age]
  35. Garnet Geranium, Pelargonium sidoides
  36. Indian Blanket Flower, Gaillardia pulchella
  37. Jimsonweed, Sacred Thorn-Apple, Datura wrightii
  38. Laurustinus Viburnum, Viburnum tinus [white flowers, purple-blue berries]
  39. Leaf Gall Wasp/ Unidentified per Russo, Tribe: Cynipidi [on Valley Oak]
  40. Ligated Furrow Bee, Halictus ligatus [tiny bee, b/w striped abdomen, yellow legs]
  41. Madeiran Germander, Teucrium betonicum
  42. Magnolia Tree, Magnolia grandiflora
  43. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  44. Metallic Sweat Bees, Subgenus: Dialictus
  45. Mission Prickly-Pear Cactus, Opuntia ficus-indica
  46. Mournful Duskywing Butterfly, Erynnis tristis
  47. Oak Aphid Leaf-Curl Gall, Tuberculatus annulatus [on Coast Live Oak]
  48. Peach Leaf Curl Fungus, Taphrina deformans
  49. Peach Tree, Prunus persica
  50. Persian Oak, Quercus castanelfolia
  51. Peruvian Lily, White Peruvian Lily, Alstroemeria inticancha “Magic White”
  52. Pincushion Flower, Cream Scabious, Scabiosa ochroleuca [white/cream colored]
  53. Pincushion Flower, Small Scabious, Scabiosa columbaria [little, purple]
  54. Pink Sedum, Iceplant Stonecrop, Hylotelephium spectabile
  55. Purple Sage, Silverleaf, Cenzio, Leucophyllum frutescens
  56. Purpletop Vervain, Verbena bonariensis
  57. Red Coral Fountain, “St. Elmo’s Fire”, Russelia equisetiformis
  58. Resin Bee, Heriades sp. [nests in bee-condo block]
  59. Rocky Mountain Sage, Salvia lanceolata
  60. Rosemary, Salvia rosmarinus
  61. Santa Barbara Daisy, Mexican Fleabane, Erigeron karvinskianus [small yellow and white daisy-likeflowers]
  62. Sedge, Family: Cyperaceae
  63. Shrubby Hare’s-Ear, Bupleurum fruticosum [umbrels of yellow flowers]
  64. Silver Texas Mountain Laurel, Sophora secundiflora [dangling hard seedpods, fasciation]
  65. Smooth Blue Aster, Symphyotrichum laeve
  66. Spined Stilt Bug, Jalysus wickhami [look like tiny Craneflies]
  67. Star of Persia, Allium christophii [giant onion]
  68. Three-lined Potato Beetle, Lema daturaphila
  69. Tree-Anemone, Carpenteria californica [post-blooms, “yellow-green stars”]
  70. Valley Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa varipuncta
  71. Variegated Agave, American Century Plant, Agave americana
  72. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  73. Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis
  74. Western Sunflower Longhorn Bee, Svastra obliqua ssp. expurgata
  75. White Crepe Myrtle, Lagerstroemia subcostata var. fauriei
  76. White Oak, Quercus alba
  77. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium
  78. ?? black discoloration/gall on Valley Oak leaves

My Article on Sparrows was Published, 11-03-19

It was great to see my article (and photos) on sparrows show up in the online edition of the Woodland Daily Democrat newspaper today.

CLICK HERE to read it.

After the article was also published in the West Sacramento News-Ledger, I got this very kind email from a gentleman named John H. He wrote:

“I enjoyed reading your article on Wintertime Sparrow Guests in the newspaper. I usually read all of your articles in the paper. Having read the Ledger for some time, I can say your articles are among the best that they publish. Good luck in you further work.”

That was a welcomed boost-me-up in the morning. Thank you, John!