I got up around 5:30 this morning so I could get over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve and begin my monitoring of my milkweed plot there for evidence of Monarch Butterflies.
I got there around 6:30 am and was pleased to see fellow volunteer and Certified California Naturalist, Roxanne Moger, there, too, ready and anxious to help with this first day at “my” plot. The first thing we saw when we walked in was a lovely doe sitting on the side of the hill right next to the plot. She let us get some photos of her before she got up and moved along. There was a narrow game trail right through the plot that the deer had made.
We divvied the plot up and started by counting all of the plants – over 40 just in our section! – and then we went plant-by plant, looking at every leaf for any evidence of Monarch eggs or larvae. I wasn’t expecting to see any, and we didn’t. The Monarchs didn’t show up last year until the fall, so I didn’t think there would be any in the plot today. But we were still very vigilant about checking every plant and every leaf.
Part of the plot sits at a slight angle and is cluttered with other plants like a large coyote brush bush, a couple of wild rose bushes and some bay, and Roxanne was wonderful about monitoring that part, so I didn’t have to climb under branches or get snagged by thorns. I thought that was so sweet of her! I had a special magnifier to check for eggs, but for most of the time I just used my cell phone as a magnifying glass and took photos if I found anything that looked interesting or unusual. We came across several different kinds of spiders including Yellow Sac Spiders, Trashline Orb Weavers and Jumping Spiders; some Oleander Aphids, Common Green Lacewing eggs, Red Mites, the larvae of Green Stink Bugs and the Twenty-spotted Lady Beetle, some leafhoppers and some spittle bugs.
We were out at the plot for about 2 hours. Later in the day, after I got home, I loaded our findings onto the MLMP website. It took me a little bit to figure out what went where, but I think I get everything in there all right.
I got up around 5:30 this morning so I could get over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve and begin my monitoring of my milkweed plot there for evidence of Monarch Butterflies. I finished that (with the help of my friend and co-naturalist Roxanne Moger) around 8:30.
It was still relatively cool outside, so Roxanne and I
decided to put our tools back into our car and walk for a little while. We came across some cooperative squirrels and
a Desert Cottontail rabbit, and also checked out the tree where I’d seen the
feral beehive earlier. There were about
three times as many bees at the spot, so I’m assuming the queen has decided to
set up shop there.
The surprise sighting was coming across another doe – with twin fawns! She was keeping them well-hidden in the shade and tall grass, but we were able to catch glimpses of them. And we couldn’t help but chuckle when the babies went stotting through the grass with mom chasing after them. They’re so tiny but soooo active! They’re the first fawns I’ve seen this year and that’s always exciting.
As we were leaving the preserve, I could hear a Ground Squirrel’s alarm call and looked around to see if I could spot what the trouble might be. I saw movement overhead and spotted an adult Red-Shouldered Hawk fly overhead. It landed in a nearby tree and then sat there for quite a while, so we were able to get quite a few photos of it. So, even though our walk was only a single loop, we got to see quite a bit… which is always fun.
I got up around 5:30 this morning and immediately headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my weekly volunteer trail walking thing. It was cool, around 55°, when I got there, but as soon as the sun got up a little higher in the sky it started to heat up. It ended up around 75° by the time I left the preserve. There were some latent clouds overhead which meant it was humid, too. Not my favorite.
Along with the usual suspects – deer, Acorn Woodpeckers and Wild Turkeys – I got to see quite a few fledgling birds out today. The fledglings are fully feathered and the same size as the adults, but not quite adept at flying yet, so they spend a lot of time around ground level begging their parents to feed them. They’re so bossy! I watched one little House Wren fledgling sitting on top of a pile of old tree limbs. For a while, he tried posturing like the adults do with his little tail standing straight up behind him, but then he got tired and just sat and dozed… until he saw or heard one of his parents flying by. Then he’d perk up and open his mouth wide expecting food to be dropped into it. Hah! Although I could see the parents flitting around where he was, they also had other fledglings in the nearby shrubbery (which I could hear buzzing away), and because I was standing between the shrubs and the baby on the woodpile, they wouldn’t go near him. After getting quite a few photos of the little guy, I decided I’d better move on or he wouldn’t get fed at all.
I also came across two fledgling California Towhees. Now, the California Towhees usually look kind of obese and drab to me, but the babies… they were soooo scrabbly looking; total bed-heads! They were sitting close to one another with their feathers all fluffed out, so they looked extra fat and messy. Made me chuckle. One was content to sit and wait for their parents to bring breakfast, but the other one was extra hungry, I guess, and kept tugging at the dead grass near them trying to get something out of it. Can’t get milk out of a stick, son. Sorry.
Further on along the trail I could hear a parent and fledgling Red-Shouldered Hawk calling to one another. The fledgling was very loud and persistent, demanding to be fed, and the parent would call back him as if to say, “Shut up! I’m working on it!” I eventually came across the fledgling sitting up in the bare branches of a tree. (He was so loud he was announcing to everyone exactly where he was.) He saw me and tried to scramble away to other branches but was still unsure of how to make his wings work, so he looked pretty clumsy. He stuck to the shadows as much as he could then, but I was still able to get a few photos of him. (And I’m assuming he was a male based on his coloring; females are usually larger and have less vivid colors.)
I also found one of the parents, sitting quietly now in the low branches of another tree right along the side of the trail, just above eye-level, ignoring the fledgling. Totally habituated to people, it didn’t move from its perch, but kept its eye on me as a passed by and stopped to take some photos. I think they’re such handsome birds.
Among the other things I found today were a few Pumpkin Galls on the leaves of a Live Oak tree. It’s kind of early in the season for those, so I was surprised to see them. They’re super-tiny galls, and if you don’t know where or how they develop you’d completely miss them. Right now, they’re pale green, but come fall they’ll turn dark orange and fall off the leaves onto the ground were the little larvae will pupate through the winter.
I found a few Eastern Fox Squirrels and some California Ground Squirrels. I was surprised to see one of the Fox Squirrels climbing through poison oak and eating the berries! Yikes! I mean, I knew that the toxin in poison oak don’t generally harm wildlife, but I’d never actually seen any of the animals eating the stuff before. I also saw a Fox Squirrel eating the husk off of a black walnut and watched a Ground Squirrel eating the tops off of some other plants. (I think that gal was blind on one side, but once she saw me she moved too fact for me to get photos of her blind side.)
The other cool thing I spotted along the trail was that feral honeybees have found the tree along the Pond Trail again and seem to be setting up house there. I saw them last year (I think it was) checking out the big opening in the side of the tree, but they left the site after a few weeks. I guess the queen didn’t like it. Now the opening is more covered with plants, so maybe it will feel more “protected” to them and they’ll stay there this time. I let the gals in the nature center know they were there, so hopefully they can discourage hikers from walking off the trail to see the bees. We’ll see.
I walked for about 4 hours and then headed home.
Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus,
American Goldfinch, Spinus tristis,
American Robin, Turdus migratorius,
Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens,
Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
Black Walnut, Juglans nigra,
Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus,
Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra ssp. cerulea,
Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii,
Bordered Plant Bug, Largus californicus,
Bur Chervil, Anthriscus Sylvestris,
Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus,
California Black Walnut, Juglans californica,
California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana,
California Penstamon, Penstemon californicus,
California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta,