A “Mast Year” for Acorns?

One of Tuleyome’s Board members had posted on FaceBook that this was a “mast year” for acorns.  I didn’t know what that meant and was referred to an on-line article that explained it“…You may have heard the term ‘a mast year’ for acorns. ‘Mast’ is defined in botanical terms ‘as the nuts or fruits of trees and shrubs, such as beechnuts, acorns, and berries that accumulate on the forest floor, providing forage for wildlife and people.’ The phrase ‘a good mast year’ refers to a year in which there is a heavy crop of ‘wild nuts…’”  Y’know, I HAVE been noticing on my walks that the oak trees around here seemed really prolific this year.  I’ll have to get more photos next time I’m out!

Burr Oak Acorns.  Photo by Mary K. Hanson.  ©2013.  All Rights Reserved.
Burr Oak Acorns. Photo by Mary K. Hanson. ©2013. All Rights Reserved.

Walking at the WPA RG on Sunday Morning

This was one of those mornings when I could have stayed in bed all day… but I got my carcass up around 7 o’clock and took Sergeant Margie over to the WPA Rock Garden.  The visit started out real nice — very quiet, kewl clouds decorating the sky, cool temperatures.  But then, after about an hour the place was swarming with photographers and loud, obnoxious families with their screeching kids.  **Sigh**  So, I walked Sergeant Margie over to the big duck pond and we hung out there for a while, and then did a final walk through the garden once all the people were gone.  Around the pond, I got a lot of photos of the clouds reflected on the water, and some of a mama duck and her nine late-season ducklings.  In the garden we saw one of the blossoms on the new giant morning glory vine they have growing in the front plot.  The leaves are bigger than my hand, and the blossom was bigger than my head.  I’d never seen one that large before!  The flower was half-hidden by other overgrowth, though, so I didn’t get a very good picture of it.  Along with the other summer flowers, we also got to see a couple of different kinds of orb weaver spiders, a mama Pill Bug and her babies, a mama Harlequin Bug and her babies, a couple of Monarch Butterfly caterpillars, an inchworm (the larva of some kind of Geometrid moth), what I think was a Med Fly, and a female Pacific Forktail Damselfly (Ischnura cervula).  I’d never seen one of those before, although they’re supposed to be common in California.  What made me notice this damselfly was that she had a white spot on the end of each wing; most other damselflies with spots have black spots.  And when she was flying the spots looked like they winked on and off.  Very kewl.  We walked for about 2 hours and headed back to the house.

Walking Along the American River on Saturday

We went over to the American River Bend Park and walked the horse trails that took us over the bridge to the west side of the river.   I was expecting to see a lot more dragonflies than we did, but I DID get there early in the morning.  It takes a few hours for them to warm up… I did get some photos of a handsome Black Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea lacerate) and saw a couple of large Green Darners, but no others.  I also got some photos of late summer Lady Bugs, their eggs and offspring; saw some “exuvia” (skin) of some other kind of flying bug; came across trees covered in red wasp galls; and also found a small bird’s nest…  We walked for about 2 hours and then headed back to the car… just as a foot-race was ending; everyone passed us on the trail heading for the finish line.

Lots of Neat Summer Bugs!

Wow, it just seems like this week is flashing by… The weather was actually kind of nice today; around 89° and breezy by the late afternoon.  We had pretty much a full house at the office, and we were all little busy-bees all day.  It was so nice outside that I stopped at the WPA Rock Garden with Sergeant Margie and we walked around for almost an hour.  Got to see several Monarch Butterfly caterpillars (Danaus plexippus), a pair of Skippers doing the nasty, and a bright red Flame Skimmer dragonfly hover-guarding a small pond inside the garden…Nice!

Click Here for a super-short video of the caterpillar!

Wednesday, My 1-Year Anniversary

At lunch time on Wednesday, my Tuleyome coworkers Charlotte and Angel treated me to lunch to celebrate my one-year anniversary.  We walked over to Ludy’s Main Street BBQ because we could take our dogs with us (and eat outside in the covered patio in the back).   I had a tri-tip salad which was so big I couldn’t eat all of it and pink lemonade.  For dessert, Angel ordered a peach cobbler — which was big enough for the three of us to eat — and they brought it out with ice cream, whipped cream and a candle on top. The cobbler had just been made and was still hot inside… SO YUMMY!

On the Sacramento River Train

Around 10 o’clock my brother Marty and I headed out to Woodland to board the Sacramento River Train for a Sunday brunch excursion.  I see the train sitting on the tracks almost every day when I got to work, but I’d never been on it before.  There were only about 20 cars in the parking lot by the time we boarded, and everyone fit in the same dining car onboard the train.  It was actually a very comfortable car with velvet padded seats and air conditioning; and every table with a window seat.  Our brunch included unlimited mimosas and coffee, Danish, a fruit cup, a breakfast platter with scrambled eggs covered in cheese, sausages and bacon, and potatoes fried up with onions and green peppers.  Then they also gave us t slice of their Golden Spike Cheesecake: a light fluffy cheesecake with caramel and chocolate drizzled over it, topped off with dollop of whipped cream and crushed walnuts.  Very yummy.  Between the mimosas and the rocking of train, both Marty and I could have gone to sleep… but we stayed awake to see some of the views from the train.  This trip took us mostly through farmland on a route that was used in the 1800’s to bring farm goods from Yolo County into Sacramento. We saw acres of tomatoes and walnuts for the most part, but there were a few views of the river, too.

All of the women on the train got a rose in the return trip… and while we were sitting in the closed-in observation car — (There is also an open-air one that we visited for a little bit but it got too hot out there.) — one of the hostesses found this thing fluttering against a window.  I thought at first it was a bird, but she said it was a “ginormous dragonfly”, and asked if I could help her get it back outside.  So, I caught it — and it bit me a few times with its hard little pincer-mouth — and we took some photos before I set it on my thumb and held my hand out the window.  It sat there for a while and then flitted off.  The hostess said, “That HAS to be good luck for you.”  That would be nice.

Chris (Christopher G. Hart, President) the guy who runs the whole thing, acted as porter and server on the train, and also gave us little bits of information along the way.  He had a photo on his phone of one of the trips during the early spring when the Yolo Basin was still full of water, and he said the views are better then. So, we might try to go again then…  and there’s supposed to be a “Zombie Train” and a Thanksgiving Dinner Train coming up this Fall…  It was a super-relaxing way to spend the day. I enjoyed it.

“…The Sacramento River Train runs east from Woodland (20 miles east of Sacramento) to West Sacramento along the Sacramento River and through rich agricultural land and the Yolo Wildlife Refuge. A highlight of the 28-mile excursion is crossing the Fremont Bridge, an 8,000-foot wooden trestle, considered by some to be the longest in the West. Pulled by a diesel locomotive, the Sacramento River Train features two dining cars, club car, concession car, and two open-air cars that offer passengers a relaxing and a unique vantage point to enjoy the scenery… The Burrard Car, an open-platform car built in 1954, was operated by Canadian National Railways especially for tour groups until retired from service in 1990. The luxury coach was once used by Queen Elizabeth during her visit to Canada, and later by Princess Margaret in her train tour of Canada. The Burrard is now available for charter through the Sacramento River Train, either along their local railroad route or as part of an Amtrak train bound for almost any destination they serve. The private car can accommodate up to 15 passengers and features a rear observation platform, observation areas, comfortable sleeping accommodations, dining room, a full galley, and bathroom with shower…”  Hmmmmm….

The whole trip took a little over 3 hours.

A short video of Marty on the train.

Travels of a Certified California Naturalist