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A Walk at the Cemetery, 05-11-19

I got up around 6:00 this morning and futz around a little bit so I could get to the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery around 7:00 am (which is when they open their gates). The cemetery has several gardens, so I was basically looking for pretty flowers and pollinator species. It was 54° when I got there, and almost 70° by the time I left.

The gardens include an extensive rose garden, a make-shift Japanese garden, a perennials garden, and a natives garden. I spent most of my time in the perennials garden because there are so-so many different plants there all crammed into a small place. Everywhere you look, there’s something different growing.

As I probably mentioned before, I suck at identifying cultivated plants, so my ID list may be pretty shallow this time around. The roses are all going to be marked “Rosa sp.”, because I don’t know the different varieties.  Same with the irises and most of the geraniums.  The gardens have placards for some of the plants and flowers, but I wasn’t paying attention.

Inside the cemetery, which abuts another large private cemetery, are smaller cemetery areas: one for firefighters, one for the Masons, and one for athletes. Some are decorated with plants; others are bare.

The place was inundated with Painted Lady butterflies all warming themselves on the stones and drinking from the flowers. They photo-bombed a lot of pictures. I was kind of upset to see some kind of weevils sucking the life out of a wide array of the plants. I think they were Fuller’s Rose Weevils (Pantomorus cervinus).  Everything from daisies to roses to irises were rendered ratty-looking by them. The little buggers were chewing on everything. It seemed like an unusually bad infestation.

I also found some pinkish aphids that looked like they had a blood-spot on the back of their bodies. I haven’t IDed them yet. When I first saw them, I thought they were insect eggs, they were so tiny, so I was surprised when I was able to “explode” the image with my cellphone and see they were actually aphids.

Most of the irises were done blooming, but there were still a few that were showing off here and there.  If I had gone in April, I would have seen a lot more.  Still, I found ones that were all dark purple, a mix of purple and lavender, blue and white, all sky-blue, all white, peachy-pink, a mix of pale tan and lavender, a mix of orange and maroon, etc.  I love taking photos of their fuzzy “tongues”.

I also saw a lot of succulents in an unusual variety of colors. Some were the standard green, but some were so dark brown they looked almost black, and there was one that was pale yellow with green stripes. Really pretty.

I’m not much of a rose fan, but I really like the trailing roses, and there’s a variety that looks like candy canes which I think is really pretty. I was a little disappointed that the hydrangeas, which I think are gorgeous, weren’t really in bloom yet – but they give me an excuse to go back there in the next few weeks…

CLICK HERE for Album #1.

CLICK HERE for Album #2.

When I stopped at the fountain to rest for a minute, a woman came up with her Corgi – and the dog jumped right into the fountain, kicked around for a minute and then laid down in the water. Hah!  The woman says she comes to the cemetery a lot, and the fountain is her dog’s favorite resting spot.

If I were going to be buried in a cemetery, this would be the kind of place in which I’d like to end up. (But I want to be cremated, and my ashes scattered in a forest.) This cemetery is “full”, though, so it won’t take in any new bodies unless the person/family already owns a family plot there, so someone sells you their plot.  They do let people volunteer to take over the care of the plots, however, and you can really tell which volunteers have the greenest thumbs. Some of the more well-tended plots are overflowing with flowers and greenery; just beautiful.

The place has been around since the 1800’s, so the majority of the trees inside of it are HUGE; 30-, 40-, 50-feet tall and just so impressive.  There’s a double line of weeping cypress along one walkway that are magnificent.

My walk was very nice; slow paced and relatively quiet (except for the community-service-hours-gardening crew and their leaf-blowers), with nice weather and sunshine. I also got to see a few birds including crows, Northern Mockingbirds, a pair of Mourning Doves, Anna’s Hummingbirds, and a pair of Western Bluebirds. Sometimes the birds would perch on the headstone or on the top of the spire-like monuments, and the photo opps were really neat. One of the hummingbirds was drinking at the flowers of an aloe plant, and rather than hovering under the flowerheads to drink, it perches on the stems of the plant… so, again, a nice photo opportunity.

Revisiting the stonework and taking photos of the headstones, mausoleums and monuments also adds to the experience.  Some of the headstones face west (to the setting sun) while others face east (depending on the individual’s beliefs); some have flowers carved into the stone (full ones for the adults, buds for the ones who died too young), and then of course there was the ones with lambs on them (for children). It’s all so interesting… I need to start going there more often again.

I walked for about 3 ½ hours and then headed back home.

Species List:

1. 14-Spotted Lady Beetle, Propylea quatuordecimpunctata,
2. Aloe, Aloe maculata,
3. Amaryllis, family Amaryllidaceae,
4. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna,
5. Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis,
6. Assassin Bug, Zelus luridus, (green)
7. Autumn Sage, Salvia greggii, (red)
8. Baby Sage, Salvia microphylla, (red and white)
9. Bearded Iris, Iris × germanica,
10. Black-Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta,
11. Blanket Flower, Gaillardia x grandiflora,
12. Bloody Crane’s-Bill, Geranium sanguineum,
13. Blue Flag Iris, Iris versicolor,
14. Boxelder Bug nymph, Boisea trivittata,
15. Brass Buttons, Cotula coronopifolia,
16. California Bumblebee, Bombus californicus,
17. California Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa californica,
18. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
19. Carpet Bugle, Ajuga reptans,
20. Ceanothus, Ceanothus sp.,
21. Clematis, possibly the Romantika Clematis, Clematis sp.,
22. Cleveland Sage, Salvia clevelandii,
23. Common Indian Blanket, Gaillardia aristate,
24. Common Yarrow, Achillea filipendulina
25. Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens,
26. Crimson Bottlebrush, Melaleuca citrina
27. Damselfly,
28. Daylily, Hemerocallis sp.,
29. Deer Fern, Struthiopteris spicant.
30. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger,
31. Eggleaf Spurge, Euphorbia oblongata,
32. European Honeybee, Apis mellifera,
33. Everlasting, Anaphalis sp.,
34. Firecracker Flower, Dichelostemma ida-maia
35. Fortnight Lily, African Iris, Dietes iridioides,
36. Foxglove, Dalmatian Peach, Digitalis sp.
37. Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, (purple with spotted tongue)
38. Frémont’s Bush-Mallow, Malacothamnus fremontii
39. French Hydrangea, Mophead or Big-Leaf Hydrangea, Hydrangea macrophylla,
40. French Lavender, Lavandula stoechas
41. Garden Geranium, Garden Pelargonium, Pelargonium ×hortorum
42. Geranium, family Geraniaceae,
43. Gerber Daisy, Gerbera jamesonii,
44. Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana
45. Green Lacewing nymph, Chrysoperla carnea,
46. Green Metallic Sweat Bee, Augochloropsis metallica,
47. Hedge Nettle, Stachys sp.,
48. Hens-and-Chicks, Sempervivum tectorum,
49. Hoverfly, Flower Hoverfly, Syrphus torvis,
50. Hummingbird Sage, Salvia spathacea,
51. Italian Cypress, Cupressus sempervirens,
52. Ivy-Leafed Geranium, Pelargonium peltatum
53. Jerusalem Sage, Phlomis fruticosa,
54. Jupiter’s Beard, Red Valerian, Centranthus ruber,
55. Lace-cap Hydrangea, Hydrangea macrophylla normalis,
56. Lamb’s Ears Stachys byzantina,
57. Lindheimer’s Beeblossom, Gaura lindheimeri (white spidery-looking)
58. Long-Jawed Orb Weaver Spider, family Tetragnathidae,
59. Lyre-leaf Greeneyes, Berlandiera lyrate,
60. Macartney’s Rose, Rosa bracteata,
61. Mexican Firebush, Hamelia patens
62. Mexican Snowball, Echeveria elegans,
63. Monkeyflower, Diplacus sp.,
64. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
65. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
66. Pagoda Village Succulent, Crassula capitella ssp. thyrsiflora
67. Painted Lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
68. Panicled Hydrangea, Hydrangea paniculata,
69. Pincushion Flower, Scabiosa atropurpurea,
70. Pink Jelly Bean Sedum, Sedum rubrotinctum
71. Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea,
72. Purple Rose Aeonium, Aeonium arboretum,
73. Purple Sage, Salvia leucophylla,
74. Purple Salsify, Tragopogon porrifolius,
75. Radiation Lantana, Lantana camara,
76. Ranuncula, Ranunculus sp.,
77. Red Bush Monkeyflower, Mimulus aurantiacus var. puniceus
78. Red Dome Blanketflower, Gaillardia pinnatifida
79. Ribwort, English Plantain, Plantago lanceolata,
80. Rock Purslane, Cistanthe grandiflora
81. Rose Campion, Silene coronaria,
82. Rose, Rosa sp. (cultivated)
83. Rosemary Grevillea, Grevillea rosmarinifolia,
84. Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis,
85. Sage Leaf Rockrose, Cistus salviifolius
86. Showy Phlox, Phlox speciosa,
87. Silver Ragwort, Jacobaea maritima
88. Silver Ragwort, Jacobaea maritima,
89. Smoke Tree, Smokebush, Cotinus coggygria
90. Southern Magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora,
91. Spring Starflower, Ipheion uniflorum,
92. Spurge, Albanian Spurge, Euphorbia characias,
93. Spurge, Euphorbia sp.,
94. Stalked Aeonium, Aeonium undulatum,
95. Striped Rose, Henri Matisse Rose, Rosa polyantha or Rosa chinensis x Rosa multiflora
96. Sunburst Aeonium, Aeonium decorum,
97. Tower of Jewels, Echium wildpretii,
98. Trailing African Daisy, Freeway Daisy, Dimorphotheca fruticose,
99. Trailing Bellflower, Campanula poscharskyana,
100. Trailing Lantana, Lantana montevidensis,
101. Tropical Milkweed, Asclepias curassavica,
102. Valley Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa varipuncta,
103. Waveyleaf Sea Lavender Statice, Limonium sinuatum,
104. Weeping Cypress, Cupressus cashmeriana,
105. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
106. White Prickly Poppy, Argemone albiflora,
107. Yellow Queen Columbine, Aquilegia chrysantha

In the Yard, 05-03-19

Look around your yard and see what you can find: eggs, nymphs, caterpillars, spiders, bees, flies, lady beetles…

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

Species List:

1. Asian Lady Beetle, Harlequin Labybug, Harmonia axyridis,
2. Assassin Bug, Zelus renardii,
3. Cheeseweed, Common Mallow, Malva neglecta,
4. Common Lilac, Syringa vulgaris,
5. Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens,
6. European Honeybee, Apis mellifera,
7. Genista Broom Moth caterpillar, Uresiphita reversalis,
8. Grass Spider, Funnel Grass Spider, Agelenopsis spp.,
9. Katydid nymph, Fork-Tailed Bush Katydid, Scudderia furcate,
10. Lavender, Lavandula sp.,
11. Leaf-Curl Fungus, Taphrina deformans,
12. Leaf-Footed Bug eggs, Leptoglossus phyllopus,
13. Looper Moth, Alfalfa Looper, Mint Looper Moth caterpillar, Autographa californica,
14. Mediterranean Broom, Genista linifolia,
15. Mock-Strawberry, Duchesnea indica var. indica,
16. Plum, Prunus sp.,
17. Podocarpus Aphids, Neophyllaphis podocarpi
18. Podocarpus, Buddhist Pine, Maki, Podocarpus macrophyllus var maki,
19. Praying Mantis, California Mantis, Stagmomantis californica,
20. Red Mulberry, Morus rubra,
21. Rust fungus, Hollyhock Rust, Puccinia malvacearum,
22. Scarlet Pimpernel, Lysimachia arvensis,

 

 

CalNat Field Trip #2, Lake Solano Park. 03-03-18

I led a California Naturalists field trip to Lake Solano Park today. The first thing we saw when we entered the park were two peacocks roosting high in a tree over our heads… and a male Phainopepla that was looking for mistletoe berries to eat.

It was originally the idea that half of the group would go in one direction and the other half of the group would go in another – so we could cover the whole park — but all of the students wanted to come with me, so we moved in one big group.

The walk was a productive one, however: we got to show students different kinds of plants including flowering Pipevine, Manroot vines with seed-pods forming on them already, and Northern Giant Horsetail (Equisetum telmateia braunii ), a subspecies of horsetail that grows in western North America. Although commonly referred to as “Horsetail Grass” it’s actually a kind of fern that grown simultaneously in fertile and non-fertile forms. We saw both the non-fertile green stems (that are photosynthetic), and the yellowish fertile spore-bearing stems in the same area. The spore-bearing stems die as soon as their spores are released, so there were a lot of them around looking like they’d “fainted”. Although the normal mature size of these ferns is about 4-5 feet tall, they can get as tall as 7 feet high. (So the ones we saw were just “babies”.) In another month or so, they’ll come up to my chest. (Both the infertile forms and the fertile forms grown from the same rhizomes of the same plant – so one feeds the overall fern while the other tends to reproduction.)

There were also plenty of waterfowl to see including Canada Geese, Double-Crested Cormorants, Common Goldeneyes, Mallards, American Wigeons, Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons (which seemed to be almost everywhere we looked), and a Green Heron.

When one student took a close-up photo of a sprout of mistletoe, she realized there was a bug on it and asked me if I could identify it for her. I’d never seen anything like it before. It looked like a scale bug, but I wasn’t positive, so I took a bunch of close-ups of it and then researched it after I got home. It was Icerya purchasi — (my brain first saw that as “Ikea Purchases”; hah!) — and it’s common name is Cottony Cushion Scale. It’s considered a pest species and usually attacks citrus trees, but it’s known to parasitize mistletoe. So the parasitic mistletoe has a parasite of its own. The one we saw was in the medium stage of its development, before it gets its big white cushiony behind.

We also saw a family of about 5 river otters in Putah Creek, but they were too far away (along the distant shore) for me to get any good photos of video of them. Another hard-to-photograph find was a male Belted Kingfisher that kept flying back and forth on the opposite side of the river. “See that white dot on the tree over there? That’s his breast.” Hah!

The find that all of the students really enjoyed was being able to spot the tiny Western Screech Owl, who was sleeping in the same tree I’d seen him in before. His tree is behind one of the most remote restrooms in the park, so I had the students follow me around the building, then file in behind me at the adjacent picnic tables, before I showed them where the owl was. I used a laser pointer to help them pinpoint his location. It was gratifying to hear all of the ooo’s and ahhhs, and the clicking of camera shutters once they spotted him. If nothing else, I’d been able to give them the treat of seeing something they’d never seen in the wild before. And some of the students didn’t even know the park was there, so it was nice surprise to them, too.

Along the walk (and we only covered half of the park in 4 hours!), I also pointed out stuff like Turkey Tail fungus, Black Jelly Roll fungus, different kinds of lichen, and some Barometer Earthstars. They’d never seen anything like that before, so I demonstrated for them how the spores are released from the puffer-belly in the center of the fungus – and one of the students took a video of that.

It’s hard for me to lead a walk, point out and hold specimens, AND take photos of my own, so I didn’t get as many pictures as the students themselves did. I told them they have to share them with me!!

On the way back to the parking lot, where folks gathered to share to lunches and decompress, my coworker Bill spotted some scat along the shore. So I put on a nitrile glove and picked some of it up. We concluded it was probably otter scat, considering all of the crayfish parts we found in it – including an intact, undigested antenna. I told the students Bill was “great at finding all sorts of crap”, and everyone laughed, including Bill.

While we were having our lunches, too, someone noticed an aggregate of Western Boxelder Bugs so I was able to give them a mini lesson on those. Some of the bugs were having sex, so the mass kind of looked like an orgy, but most of the bugs were just huddled together to keep themselves warm. (By that time of the day it was about 46º and the rain was just starting.) The species we see here in California is Boisea rubrolineata. Their host trees are ash, maple, Goldenrain trees, and soapberry; and they usually eat nothing but the seeds.

We all left the park around 12:30 pm, and headed back home. I took the long way around, going back to Woodland and then on to Sacramento, so the drive took me over an hour… but it was neat to see all of the sofa clouds and the storm squall starting to move in and cover the valley.

Encounter with a Juvenile Turkey Vulture, 09-23-17

I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve and it was 48º when I got there. Fall has fallen. I love it when it’s like this!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos and video snippets.

Saw some deer right off the bat, and a European Starling poking its head out of its tree-cavity nest. I also got to watch an Acorn Woodpecker trying to pull green acorns off of a tree so he could stash them in his troop’s granary tree (the tree where they keep all of their nuts and acorns and winter food).

They drill new holes into their granary trees only during this time of the year, when the sap in the tree is running low, so they don’t kill the tree. Then they find acorns and other food stuff and shove them into the newly drilled holes for the winter. In the spring and summer, you may see them banging on the trees, too, but they’re not drilling new holes then (except maybe for their nesting space); instead, they are moving those nuts and acorns that have shrunk in size from one hole to another to wedge them in more tightly. They’re such ingenious little birds, and funny too. They’re a hoot to watch.

Among the deer I saw a lot of does, some does with fawns (out of their spots and growing bigger), some bucks with their full racks of antlers (no long covered in velvet) and even a young “spike buck” (only one point; so he was around 2 years old).

The highlight along my walk today, though, was coming across a fledgling Turkey Vulture. It was full size but didn’t have all of its adult feathers in yet, and it couldn’t fly very well. It’s face was still grey (not red yet) and its beak was still metallic black (instead of bone white). I spotted it first in the low branches of a tree, and tried to get photos of it through the branches. It worked its way up to a slightly high branch, flew clumsily over my head and landed on a dead skag-tree. It then walked up the naked branches of that, and parked itself on the top of the tree. I got several photos of it and then realized an adult Turkey Vulture was flying in low circles around the skag.

As I watched, the adult flew into the upper branches of a nearby tree, and the youngster flew to it, kind of crashing into a branch just below the adult. The adult then fed the youngster and flew off again. So cool! At one point while I was taking photos of the juvenile, several people came up and looked on. I explained to them that they were seeing a juvenile and what differences to look for between adults and their babies. They all pulled out their cell phones to take photos. A teaching moment. It was fun.

You can see the video here.

On the way out of the preserve, I stopped at the frog pond… and two other “old women” with cameras came up to join me in finding and taking photos of the bullfrogs there. It was obvious that the pond had recently been cleaned out: it was easier to see the bottom of it today than it has been for a long time; most of the cattails were gone; and the pond had been scraped free of a lot of duckweed. All of the full grown, large-as-your-hand bullfrogs were also gone. But the pond was full of minnows, tadpoles and small bullfrogs, so there was still a lot to look at (and all of the remaining frogs seemed to be females).

It eventually became a kind of jovial contest between us old ladies over who could find the best angle on the loveliest frog. Hah! We had more fun there than the kids who passed by did. (This is why I’d rather host nature outings for adults than for kids.)

I walked for almost four hours (phew!) and then headed home.

After Work at the WPA Rock Garden, 09-14-17

After work, it was still relatively nice outside, so I went over to the WPA Rock Garden and duck pond for a short walk.

I came across the caterpillar of a Redhumped Caterpillar Moth on one of the Redbud Trees there.  They’re considered a pest species because they can have three generations in a single year and skeletonize the leaves of a lot of different kinds of trees.  There was only one that I saw, and it was big enough to start working on its chrysalis, so I don’t think it was much of a threat to the tree at this point.  The caterpillars burrow underground to form their chrysalis and overwinter in it.  Lots of little Skippers and some Hairstreak Butterflies around.  Among the common Fiery Skippers were some darker Woodland Skippers to break up the monotony… I also got some photos of a Flame Skimmer dragonfly and a Variegated Meadowhawk . Their regular mating season is almost over now…

CLICK HERE to see the whole album of photos and videos.

While I was taking photos of the insects, there was a professional photographer taking photos of a little boy, a toddler with thick black curly hair.  His mother made loud squeaking noises at him to make him laugh… and every time she did that, a homeless guy who was squatting in the park shouted at the top of his lungs, “Goddamn it! It is so noisy here!  Shut Up!  I’m trying to sleep!  This is the noisiest place I have ever lived in!”

Someone yelled back at him, “You don’t live here, man. This is a public park. If you don’t like the noise, get out!”

Then the homeless guy started screaming like a chimpanzee – “Oooh! Ooh!  Eee!  Eee!” — as he gathered up all of his stuff.  As he was leaving the garden area, he started yell-singing at the top of his lungs, “What do you get when you fall in love?!  You get enough germs to catch pneumonia!  After you do, he’ll never phone ya! I’ll never fall in love again!”  He kind of mixed up the lyrics and apparently these were the only lines he knew he knew, because he repeated them over and over and over again… I could hear him even when he was halfway out to the golf course. *Sigh*

I watched some hummingbirds chase each other around the garden and I think one pair of them were Rufous Hummingbirds, the ones with the rusty coloring on them. The male never sat still long enough for me to get any decent photos of him, but I got quite a lot of the female.  It seems awfully late in the year for them to be so “horny” but maybe the hurricanes and Climate Change have confused them…

There was a Green Heron running back and forth along the edges of the pond, picking off little minnows when they came up to munch on algae. I followed him around for a little while and got quite a few photos of him. I saw him catch several fish, but he always had his back to me when he did it, and I couldn’t get any good “capture” shots.

I finished off the walk taking photos of the ducks before heading back the car. On my way out of the garden I came across a male Praying Mantis, and snapped a few shots of him before I left.

More Photos from the Effie Yeaw Preserve

I was able to see several deer, including a pair that were foraging along the banks of the river.  There were also a lot of Red-Shouldered Hawks flying around: parents teaching their kids how to hunt.  And I also came across a mama California Ground Squirrel who gave out a sharp alarm call when I got too close to her burrow.  I was sure there were babies around there, but I didn’t see any of them…

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

About halfway through my walk I remembered that a Facebook friend of mine, Charlotte G., said she had a Nikon camera like mine and suggested I try the “birdwatching” setting for some great photos.  My  camera is so new I hadn’t gotten around to trying the special settings yet, but I tested out the “birdwatching” setting and was REALLY impressed by it.  (Thanks for the tip, Charlotte!)  It goes beyond the regular telephoto settings of the camera, makes the focal point tight, and lets you “ratchet” in to get closer and closer and closer to your subject.  For example, using the regular telephoto setting I could get the whole body of a Mourning Dove in a tree about 100 feet away into the viewfinder and focus on it.  With the “birdwatching” setting, I could get the camera to tighten up the image even more until only the bird’s head was showing in the viewfinder but still entirely in focus.  So cool!  It’s like getting a telephoto boost.  (And, of course, it works on other critters, too, not just birds.)

On my way out of the preserve I came across a male Wild Turkey that was standing in the sun, chin down on its chest, like it was sleeping.  As I got closer to it I realized the posture may have meant the bird was in a lot of pain.  Its whole face was swollen, and the eye on one side was damaged.  There were signs around some of the trail warning everyone about ground-dwelling Yellow Jackets in the preserve. It looked to me like this turkey may have blundered too close to one of those nests and the wasps attacked its face.  I felt so bad for it; it must have been in soooo much pain. (When I got back home, I emailed photos of the bird to the preserve to see if their rangers could help it.)

There is a disease called mycoplasma which can affect turkeys and cause swelling of the face, but its associated with the sinuses. This looked more “hot” and painful than that…