Category Archives: Writing

Looking for Burrowing Owls, 02-03-21

I got up around 6:30 this morning, and was out the door by 7:00 am with my friend Roxanne to go look for Burrowing Owls in Davis. It was breezy and cold, in the high 30’s, in the morning, got more densely overcast by the midafternoon, and then turned sunny by the late afternoon.

We went over to the Wildhorse Ag Buffer because there had been multiple reports that Burrowing Owls had been spotted along the trail there. I had never been to the place before, so I was just going by an eBird sighting to try to find the location where the owls had been seen.  We parked in the parking lot and took what we thought was a sidewalk along the back of the houses in the neighborhood, not realizing that the paved path was actually a golf cart route for the golf course there. 

One of the course markers on the golf course

So, we were getting a lot of dirty looks as we walked along, and finally a guy drove up in a cart and asked if we wanted to get hit by golf balls.  Rox quipped that a hit in the head might be helpful. Hah! The guy laughed. Then he said that we were walking right near where golfers who tee off often hit their balls, and pedestrians weren’t supposed to be walking there. We told him we were looking for the ag buffer, and he pointed ahead of us and said it was over there. He let us continue on our way, but said we’d need to walk back through the neighborhood to get back to the car.

We did eventually get to the ag buffer path which sits between the golf course and an area of protected special habitat that runs alongside some agricultural property. 

When we got to where the owls had previously been sighted, we were angry to find an incredibly stupid and selfish man letting his dog run through the area unleashed. The dog was posturing, threatening us and barking, and the owner didn’t even look at it; he kept walking along looking straight ahead, pretending he didn’t know what was going on. The weather may have been a factor in keeping the owls aground, but I’m certain the dog running back and forth over the spots where their burrows were, barking and growling, pretty much made certain that we would not see the owls this morning. 

So, that part of the trip was pretty much a bust.  However, Rox and I are of the mindset that we are willing to note whatever Nature wants to show us at any given place on any given day, so we were still grateful for the walk.  Along the way, we saw several species of songbirds, and also saw a Kite, a Kestrel and a young Cooper’s Hawk. I think, under better weather conditions we would have seen a lot more. We also know, now, where the buffer is and can get to it more easily without trespassing on the golf course again.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii, juvenile

As we were walking back to the car, we checked out the expensive properties there (over a million $ or more), and took photos of some of the plants in their front yards along the sidewalk. One of the oddest things, to me, was seeing a Buddha’s Hand citron tree heavy with fruit. The fruit looks like a big yellow octopus with fat legs. Rox knew what they were, but I had never seen them before. So weird!

Buddha’s Hand, Citrus medica sarcodactylis

The walk there was over a mile, so I was able to count it as hike #12 on my #52HikeChallenge. Yay!

When we got back to the car, we decided to head over to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area. It was darkly overcast and a bit windy there, so, once again we were kind of thwarted as to how many birds we could see, but we still managed to see quite a few hawks, herons and egrets, and a smattering of different species of ducks.

Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
Great Egret, Ardea alba

We came across a flock of Coots, and found some of them doing that same side-face dirt digging behavior we’d seen before (at a different location). Where they turn their heads sideways to the ground and scoop up dirt with the side of their bill. Trying to get gravel for their crops, I think.

American Coots, Fulica americana,do the side-face digging thing…

We drove the auto-tour route and then headed back home and were back at the house by about 1:00 pm.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. American Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
  4. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  5. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  6. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Bladderpod, Peritoma arborea [kind of looks like Jerusalem sage but gets bladder-like seed pods]
  9. Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
  10. Buddha’s Hand, Citrus medica sarcodactylis
  11. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  12. Bull Thistle, Cirsium vulgare
  13. Candleflame Lichen, Candelaria concolor [bright yellow-orange]
  14. Carrot, American Wild Carrot, Daucus pusillus
  15. Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
  16. Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii
  17. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  18. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  19. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  20. Downy Woodpecker, Picoides pubescens
  21. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  22. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  23. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  24. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  25. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  26. Narrowleaf Cattail, Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  27. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  28. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  29. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  30. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  31. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  32. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  33. Oyster Mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus
  34. Pointleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos pungens [small leaves and flowers]
  35. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  36. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  37. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  38. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  39. Say’s Phoebe, Sayornis saya
  40. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  41. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  42. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  43. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  44. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  45. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  46. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  47. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys

Quite a Few Surprises, 12-26-20

Woke up around 4:00 am in pain, and took some meds, but couldn’t get comfortable, so I couldn’t get back to sleep before 6:00 when I had to get up to get ready to go out birding with my friend Roxanne.

We were initially going to go to the Yolo Bypass, then changed our minds but got on the wrong freeway – D’oh! – and ended up instead going over to the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area.  The length of the drive was about the same, just in a different direction. As happens sometimes, we saw more wildlife along the highway and in the ag land areas than we did in the wildlife area itself… including over 30 hawks  along the way (mostly Red-Tailed Hawks, a couple of Red-Shouldered Hawks, and a Cooper’s Hawk).

I thought it was going to be drizzly and foggy, but it was actually a lovely day, weatherwise, with intermittent sunshine and lots of poufy clouds.

Along the more rural parts of the highway, we were surprised to find a dirt-filled lot that had Western Meadowlarks and Yellow-Billed Magpies in it, a field that had Tundra Swans in it, and another field that had Sandhill Cranes in it.  The big surprise was seeing a Bald Eagle sitting on the ground in yet another field with Turkey Vultures sitting to one side of it and a small flock of Crows sitting on the other side. All of them must have been there to scavenge something, but I couldn’t see any evidence of what it was that had brought them all there. 

Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus; Turkey Vultures, Cathartes aura; and Common Crows, American Crows, Corvus brachyrhynchos

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Elsewhere, hawks decorated the trees and telephone poles, and more were inside the wildlife area. Most of them seemed to be the ruddy-red “rufous” morph Red-Tails.

There were more vultures throughout the wildlife area, including one that was displaying oddly to another vulture. At first, we saw it bowing in front of the other vulture (which was sitting on a post), with its wings arched downward and its tail lifted up with the tail feathers splayed wide.

Both birds flew off a short distance to other posts where the display continued. After a while, the posturing bird hopped off its post and walked off a few steps where it then sat on its feet.

From the head and beak, I think the posturing bird was younger than the other bird. Its head was still a bit dark and the tip of its beak wasn’t pure bone white yet. I don’t know if the posturing bird was a youngster begging for food or if was trying to initiate courtship or what. I’d never seen anything quite like it.

A young Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura,sitting on his feet after “dancing”

I know that vultures sometimes sit on their feet to conserve heat, but I tried looking up the crooked-wing display in Cornell’s. The only thing I could find was references to courtship and, “…Wing-spreading and hopping also occur during gregarious dance performed by Turkey Vultures in early spring, but function unknown…”

Some of the folks in the Facebook birding groups suggested it was courtship behavior, but I can’t imagine a younger bird trying to court an older one. So I’m still stumped.

Anyway, another surprise of the day was seeing a Red-Breasted Sapsucker in a tree along the auto tour route. And a female Northern Pintail with a band around her leg. I could only see a portion of it, but I reported it anyway.

Northern Pintails, Anas acuta, a banded female and a male.

After we left the wildlife area, we took Highways 45 and 20 back to the interstate. Along the way we stopped at one spot where there was an animal carcass in the road – a newly killed raccoon.

There were vultures on the side of the road, eyeing it, and a Red-Tailed hawk on the telephone pole on the side opposite the vultures. Then we saw a second hawk on the ground in the weeds, eating his fill of a part of the carcass he’d managed to pull over there. I took some photos, then quick ran out to pull the rest of the carcass out of he middle of the road to the side of the road, so the birds could eat it later without getting run over by cars.

At another spot, we saw a Red-Shouldered Hawk off a little ways from the road, and stopped to get some photos of it. Rox turned her hazard lights on to make the car more visible. We were only stopped there for maybe a minute, and these guys in a massive truck with an American flag mounted in the bed came up and yelled, “Are you in trouble?”

Rox told them politely, “No.”

“You’re in the middle of the road!” they shouted. You’re on a rise! No one will see you!” [Untrue. They could see us just fine.] “Get out of there!”  [If we had been MEN in the car, they would never have used that tone with us.] I don’t think I would have minded their “bullying concern” if they hadn’t been what I consider right-wing psychos – which are prevalent these days. I’m pretty much burned out on these pseudo-patriots in their gas-guzzling pick-ups waving their flags in my face. I was glad to see them gone.

As we cut through Colusa, heading to the interstate, we stopped at the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge. There were more geese there than at Gray Lodge: Snow Geese, Ross’s Geese and Greater White-Fronted Geese. Lots of Coots, too, and it seemed to us that the Coots we were seeing all seemed “young” and rather thin. Nothing much else to see there, today, so we headed on home.

A view of the Sutter Buttes from the Colusa preserve

We were out from about 6:30 am to 4:00 pm,9½ hours. A long day, but we saw a lot of different and unexpected things, and that was fun.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
  4. American Wigeon, Anas Americana
  5. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  6. Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Black-Crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax
  9. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  10. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  11. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  12. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimu
  13. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  14. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  15. Common Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  16. Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
  17. Common Raven, Corvus corax
  18. Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii
  19. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  20. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  21. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  22. Gadwall duck, Mareca Strepera
  23. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  24. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  25. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  26. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  27. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  28. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  29. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  30. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  31. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  32. Loggerhead Shrike, Lanius ludovicianus
  33. Long-Billed Curlew, Numenius americanus
  34. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  35. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
  36. Mistletoe, American Mistletoe, Big Leaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
  37. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  38. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  39. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  40. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  41. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  42. Pampas Grass, Cortaderia selloana
  43. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  44. Raccoon, Procyon lotor
  45. Red-Breasted Sap Sucker, Sphyrapicus ruber
  46. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  47. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  48. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  49. Ring-Necked Duck, Aythya collaris
  50. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
  51. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  52. Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
  53. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  54. Smartweed, Persicaria lapathifolia [white]
  55. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
  56. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  57. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  58. Sora, Porzana carolina
  59. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  60. Tundra Swan, Cygnus columbianus
  61. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  62. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  63. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus [kiting over a field]
  64. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  65. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi
  66. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  67. Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli

Lookin’ for Lichen, 11-14-20

I got up around 6:00 this morning and headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Center/Preserve for a walk. It was chilly and very foggy outside after having rained a bit yesterday.

I was hoping the rain would have started to wake up the lichen on the rocks and trees in the preserve, and I did get to see quite a few nice specimens of common lichens. There was lots of Green Shield Lichen, Hoary Lichen, Gold Dust, Bark Rim Lichen, California Camouflage Lichen, Candleflame Lichen, Farinose Cartilage Lichen, Oakmoss, Shrubby Sunburst Lichen and others.  Most often, there were several different ones on the same tree or stem.  I’m looking forward to seeing some new and different ones as the season goes forward.

There were a lot of deer out and about, including several bucks, everything from a young spike buck to an older 4-pointer. There was also one with thick malformed antlers, and I got the impression that they had been broken off during the velvet stage when they were trying to grow. The buck looked pretty solid and the girth of the base of his antlers made me think he was probably a very mature guy. I wondered what happened to his rack.

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus

CLICK HERE for an article I wrote on antlers.
CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I saw several of the bucks do the Flehman sniff thing, but couldn’t get photos of them doing that.

I could hear all kinds of songbirds, but most of them were very good at avoiding the camera. I did get photos of Spotted Towhees and a Bewick’s Wren. 

At one spot along the River Trail, I could hear a Kestrel calling. It took me a while to find her; she was sitting on the top of a tree. A little – but loud – female. I also saw a couple of Red-Shouldered Hawks in the trees along the trails.

American Kestrel, Falco sparverius, female
Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus

I was kind of surprised of the amount of coyote scat on the trails… but I didn’t see any of the coyotes.

Coyote, Canis latrans [scat]

At the bee tree, I saw only a single bee sitting at the opening of the hive. The sentry. I guessed the other bees were all inside the tree trying to keep the queen warm from the chilly morning weather.

I walked for about 3 hours and headed back home.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. Bark Rim Lichen, Lecanora chlarotera [looks like Whitewash Lichen but has apothecia]
  4. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  5. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  6. Brown Jelly Fungus, Jelly Leaf, Tremella foliacea
  7. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica [dark green with brown apothecia, on trees]
  8. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  9. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  10. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  11. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  12. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  13. Candleflame Lichen, Candelaria concolor [bright yellow, crumbly-looking]
  14. Ceramic Parchment Lichen, Xylobolus frustulatus [hoary or pale brown, flat like parchment]
  15. Chinese Pistache, Pistacia chinensis
  16. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  17. Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus
  18. Coyote, Canis latrans [scat]
  19. Creeping Moss, Conardia compacta
  20. Cushion Moss, Leucobryum sp.
  21. False Turkey Tail fungus, Crowded Parchment Fungus, Stereum complicatum
  22. Farinose Cartilage Lichen,  Ramalina farinacea [like Oakmoss but very thin branches]
  23. Feral European Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  24. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  25. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  26. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  27. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  28. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus bifrons
  29. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  30. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  31. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  32. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii
  33. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri [with soredia]
  34. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  35. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  36. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  37. Soap Plant, Wavy Leafed Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  38. Split Porecrust, Schizopora paradoxa
  39. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  40. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha [without soredia]
  41. Sulphur Shelf Fungus, Western Hardwood Sulphur Shelf, Laetiporus gilbertsonii
  42. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  43. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  44. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

My Article on Microhabitats has been published, 11-11-20

I wrote an article called “Exploring the Mysteries of Microhabitats with Your Cellphone” for the Effie Yeaw Nature Center’s publication The Acorn. The article includes photos that I took of a pseudoscorpion and globular springtail among other things.

CLICK HERE to read the article.

Deer, Oh, Deer, 10-02-20

I got up around 6:30 this morning, and was out the door a little after 7:00 to head out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.  It’s supposed to get up to 92° by this afternoon, and once again the smoke in the air is really bad. 173 AQI (Unhealthy)  

I saw lots and lots of deer throughout the preserve today, including does, a couple of fawns, yearlings, spike bucks, 2-pointer bucks and a 4-pointer.  One of the does had a partially swollen head. I couldn’t get any closeup photos, so I don’t know if she had wound or not, but the distortion of her head was very obvious.

A female Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus, with a deformation on her head.

The 4-pointer buck walked down the hill from the residential area and tried to duck through a break in the fence. Just as I got my camera focused on him, the battery died. Arrrgh!  By the time I got a new battery into my camera, the buck had moved down to another part of the fence, jumped it and rushed down the trail. So, I just got a few somewhat blurry shots of him.

A large Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus, buck.

The other deer were more cooperative.  They were browsing together – including eating a lot of acorns — and grooming one another.  When I saw one of the fawns, it was being groomed by an adult deer… but it kept mewling, that little “kitten” sound the fawns make when they’re feeling vulnerable. I thought at first that he was  worried about my being there, but then I realized his mom was actually behind me on the other side of a chain link fence. The fawn walked tentatively to me, still mewling, and his mom stepped closer to the fence.  The fawn had to cross in front of me on the trail to get to her, and I think that was really difficult for him.  I told him, “Go ahead, baby,” and he walked carefully out to the edge of the trail then RAN to mom. Awww!

Further along the trail, I was going to sit on a bench near the pond area, but as I walked toward it, I discovered a buck hidden in the tules, drinking water, and was shocked to realize he was there. For such a large animal, I couldn’t believe he could hide so well in the tules.  At one point, he stepped out onto the trail in front of me, so I couldn’t get to the bench I wanted to sit on, and I had to back up and go to the bench nearer to the front of the pond. The buck went back into the pond to drink and dig around the base of the tules, getting his antlers tangled in them. 

Another photographer came up while I was watching the buck, and took several picture, too.  She also stayed there after I left that area.  I saw her again when I was closer to the nature center. She asked if I was photographing another deer, and I told her, no, “Fungus!”  She gave me a disappointed, “oh,” and kept on walking.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

There were several very large specimens of Sulphur Shelf fungus throughout the preserve. They’re so bright and strikingly pretty this time of year, it’s hard to miss them.

There were bees in the “bee tree”, but on another part of the trail, I got attacked by wasps.  I don’t know where their nest was -– because I was trying to get away from them as fast as I could – but I’m assuming it was in the ground near the trail and my walking by created vibrations they didn’t like. I got stung twice: one on the side of my face near my jaw, and once on my shoulder.  I’m not allergic, so I don’t worry too much about getting stung, but wasp stings are painful (to me); they burn, like someone holding a match to your skin. The two stings hurt for the rest of the day.

While I was standing in the area where the bee tree I saw a pair of Red-Shouldered Hawks flying in over the trail.  One of them lighted on the edge of the nest in the top of the tree near the 4B post, and made some soft calls. Then they both flew off again.

Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus

The nest has been there for a couple of years now, but I don’t think the hawks have used it yet. The way it’s situated in the tree, it’s nearly impossible to see inside of it, but if the hawks raised young there, there are a lot of large leafless snags around it on which the fledglings and juveniles could rest as they grew.  That could provide lots of photo ops… but so far the hawks have avoided using that particular nest. I don’t know why.

I also saw quite a few squirrels at the preserve, including fox squirrels, gray squirrels and California Ground Squirrels. They’ll all stashing and picking up acorns and walnuts to feed on through the winter. I came across one ground squirrel that was stuffing its face with acorns it found in the parking lot. It’s cheeks were so full, they nearly dragged on the ground.  Hah!

California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi, with its cheeks full of acorns

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed home.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  4. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  5. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  6. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  7. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  8. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  9. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  10. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  11. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  12. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysopa coloradensis
  13. Common Pillbug, Woodlouse, Armadillidium vulgare
  14. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  15. Coyote, Canis latrans [scat]
  16. Deer Grass, Muhlenbergia rigens
  17. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  18. Devil’s Beggarticks, Bidens frondosa
  19. Dun Skipper, Euphyes vestris [dark, dusky brown]
  20. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  21. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  22. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  23. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  24. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [spiky ball]
  25. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  26. Mule Fat, Baccharis salicifolia
  27. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  28. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  29. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  30. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  31. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii
  32. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  33. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  34. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa
  35. Spice Bush, California Sweetshrub, Calycanthus occidentalis
  36. Spotless Lady Beetle, Cycloneda sanguinea
  37. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus [heard]
  38. Sulphur Shelf Fungus, Western Hardwood Sulphur Shelf, Laetiporus gilbertsonii
  39. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  40. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  41. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium
  42. Yellowjacket, Western Yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica
  43. ?? beetle galleries

Two Spots in Woodland, 07-26-20

Up at 5:30 am and out the door with my friend Roxanne to head out to the city of Woodland by 6:00 am. It was about 61° already that early in the day, and it got up to 100° by the late afternoon.

We wanted to visit the East Regional Pond and Ibis Rookery in Woodland.  Both of them are just off Road 102, and pretty close to one another.  We’d let Greg Ira (the statewide director for the University of California’s Certified California Naturalist program) know we were coming, so he met us at the East Regional Pond after we stopped at Dutch Brothers for some much-needed coffee.  I’d never been to the pond before, so it was a fun first for me. 

The pond is a large water retention pond right across the street from the turn out to Farmer’s Central Road in the city of Woodland, CA. It’s surrounded on three sides by private property and protected nature areas. Because these areas are screened off by fences, you cannot walk all the way around the pond. There is a wide gravel trail, however, and three viewing platforms from which you can view and photograph wildlife. 

This time of year, there isn’t a lot of water in the pond, but I could definitely see the potential for future outings in the winter and spring when the rains come and the weather cools off. I really enjoyed being able to see the place.

We got to see Showy Egrets, Great Egrets, American Avocets, Black-Necked Stilts, Greater Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpipers, White-Faced Ibises, pelicans and other birds.  Many of them were in the far side of the pond, but as we walked from one viewing platform to another a handful of them sort of followed us around. 

There were little cottontail rabbits bounding all over the place.  Sometimes we’d see two or three together, running this way and that, chasing each other, stopping to munch a little bit on the vegetation. They were constant conversation interrupters.

Desert Cottontail Rabbits, Sylvilagus audubonii

We also saw about four or five Pacific Pond Turtles in the shallows of one part of the pond. They were all poking their heads up above the surface.  And when they moved around, they left a trail of mud floating behind them in the water.

Although there were gnats and midges in the air, we didn’t encounter many insects, and saw only one or two dragonflies. But we did find a large Paper Wasp nest. These wasps are usually pretty mellow, so I was able to tilt the nest up to get some better photos of it.

Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula

The queen builds all the first cells and rears all the first offspring by herself. After that, her daughters do all the work, and she just lays the eggs. In this nest, we could see that the larvae were developing in their cells at different stages, and that some of the cells had already been sealed off. Inside the sealed cells, the larvae pupate, and then emerge as adult wasps. Here is an article I wrote about them in 2017.

After about an hour or so, we headed over to the ibis rookery.  I was assuming there would be a lot of juveniles out there by now, and I was right. There were a handful of the ibises still sitting on eggs, but most of the nests had trilling, begging, head-bobbing youngsters in them.  With their striped bills, they’re very striking.            

We also saw some Coots paddling through the water with their own youngsters behind and around them.  I hope they won’t hate me for saying it, but I think their babies are the goofiest, funniest, ugliest little things I’ve ever seen.  “Ugly Baby Judges You.”  They’re partially bald with red faces and yellow pokey-out feathers are called “ornaments”. The more ornaments a baby has, the more attention and food she’ll get from the parents.  Bling matters, apparently. Here’s an article I wrote about them in 2018.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

We were out for about 4 ½ hours round-trip.

Species List:

  1. Alkali Heliotrope, Chinese Parsley,  Heliotropium curassavicum
  2. American Avocet, Recurvirostra americana
  3. American Coot, Fulica americana
  4. American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  5. Barn Swallow,  Hirundo rustica
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Black Saddlebags Dragonfly, Tramea lacerate
  8. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  9. Broad-leaved Pepperweed, Lepidium latifolium
  10. California Buckwheat, Eriogonum fasciculatum
  11. California Fescue, Festuca californica
  12. California Fuchsia, Epilobium canum
  13. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  14. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  15. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  16. Carrot, American Wild Carrot, Daucus pusillus
  17. Common Bluet Damselfly, Enallagma cyathigerum
  18. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  19. Common Spikeweed, Centromadia pungens
  20. Common Sunflower, Helianthus annuus
  21. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  22. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  23. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  24. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  25. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  26. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  27. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
  28. Green Heron, Butorides virescens
  29. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  30. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  31. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  32. Mediterranean Praying Mantis, Iris Mantis, Iris oratoria [very narrow ootheca]
  33. Naked Buckwheat, Eriogonum nudum
  34. Non-Biting Midge, Chironomus sp.
  35. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  36. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  37. Orbweavers, Family: Araneidae
  38. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marorata
  39. Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula [black & yellow]
  40. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  41. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans
  42. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus [nest]
  43. Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
  44. Saltbush, Big Saltbush, Atriplex lentiformis
  45. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  46. Spotted Sandpiper, Actitis macularius
  47. Steel-blue Cricket-hunter Wasp, Chlorion aerarium
  48. Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni
  49. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  50. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  51. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
  52. Western Kingbird, Tyrant Flycatcher, Tyrannus verticalis
  53. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi