Tag Archives: blackberries

Trying to Beat the Heat on 06-05-19

I got up around 5:00 am this morning so I could get out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve before it got too hot outside. The predicted high for today was 100°. When I got to the preserve, it was already about 67° outside.

Just seconds after I arrived, my CalNat graduate/friend, Roxanne M., showed up to join me and so did “The Other Mary”, Mary M., another volunteer trail walker at Effie Yeaw.  She brought a small bag for me filled with blackberries from her yard. I thought that was so nice of her.

The three of us walked for about 3 hours, but we cut out walk short because it was humid and hot at the river. When we left, it was already about 80°– and it was only a little after 9 o’clock. Pleh!

We weren’t expecting to see a lot, because nature is kind of in a transition period right now. We’re waiting for mammal babies to be born and insects to start showing themselves.  And, we didn’t see a whole lot, but Roxanne and I can always find something to look at and focus on.

Roxanne is doing a seed-collecting thing right now for the naturalist class, and so she stops at different plants to see what kind of seeds they have on them and how the seeds might be disbursed.  She took on this project on all by herself and is volunteering all the time it’s taking her to collect specimens and ID the plants.  I’m so proud of her!

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

On our walk we saw a group of about four deer including a young buck in his velvet and a very pregnant doe. And later on, we also saw a bunch of baby rusty-headed Common Mergansers zooming down the riverside with their mom. It was so cute to see some of the babies swimming with their face down in the water, like the adults do, looking for things to eat.  Roxanne, The Other Mary and I all tried to get photos of them, but they moved so-so fast, it was really hard!

I also stopped to get some video of a hive of Common Black Ants (yeah, they’re really called that) carrying their larvae from one nest to another — most likely because the old nest was compromised in some way (infested with fungus, collapsing, etc.).

Moving the eggs and babies around can be really risky because they make for tasty treats for other insects and some birds, so the workers who carry them (very gently in their jaws) have to move really fast and know right where they’re going.

Queen ants are pretty awesome. They control the sex of all of their offspring (only creating males when it’s time for nuptial flights; ost ants you see are females); they can live for up to 15 (some say 30) years, and only mate during their nuptial flights… which means they can mate with several males during that short-term flight period, and then hang onto the sperm for the rest of their entire lives.

On our way out of the preserve we noticed leaves with circular cutouts on them. They’re made by Leafcutting Bees (Megachile sp.), a kind of native bee that lives in cavities. They use the bits they cut out of the leaves to line their tube-like nests and build a neat row of individual compartments, in each of which they’ll form a small doughy mound of pollen and nectar. On top of each of these mounds, the bee will lay a single egg.

Mother leafcutters can control the gender of their offspring, and often lay the eggs of their female offspring in the back of the tube-nest and the males in the front. This way, if the nest is invaded by a bird or other insects, it’s the males that will die first, leaving the females protected.

Although they’re solitary bees and don’t produce a lot of offspring, leafcutters are great pollinators. You can encourage them to pollinate your garden by building nesting boxes, called “bee condos”, for them in your yard. Here is a guide from the Xerces Society on how to do that: http://ow.ly/MhVf50uygX1.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
  2. Asian Ladybeetle, Harmonia axyridis,
  3. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
  4. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum,
  5. Bullock’s Oriole, Icterus bullockii,
  6. California Brodiaea, Brodiaea californica,
  7. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
  8. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
  9. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
  10. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis,
  11. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
  12. Common Black Ant, Lasius niger,
  13. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser,
  14. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  15. Coyote Mint, Monardella villosa,
  16. Dogtail Grass, Cynosurus echinatus,
  17. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata,
  18. English Plantain, Ribwort, Plantago lanceolata,
  19. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris,
  20. Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum,
  21. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata,
  22. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
  23. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
  24. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus,
  25. Leaf-Cutter Bee, Megachile,
  26. Long-Jawed Orb-Weaver Spider, Tetragnatha elongate,
  27. Mock Orange, Lewis’s Mockorange, Philadelphus lewisii,
  28. Moss, Bryum Moss, Bryum capillare,
  29. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii,
  30. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus,
  31. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia,
  32. Pacific Bent Grass, Agrostis avenacea,
  33. Praying Mantis, European Mantis, Mantis religiosa,
  34. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
  35. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa,
  36. Spicebush, Calycanthus occidentalis,
  37. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura,
  38. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
  39. Valley x Blue Oak, Quercus lobata x douglasii,
  40. Variable Flatsedge, Cyperus difformis,
  41. Wavy-Leaf Soap Plant, California Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum,
  42. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
  43. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia,
  44. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare,
  45. Winter Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa,
  46. Yellow Water Iris, Yellow Flag, Iris pseudacorus,

A Beaver, Babies and a Bison Snaketail

Beaver. ©2016 Copyright Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.
Beaver. ©2016 Copyright Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.

I got up around 5:45 this morning and headed out to the American River Bend Park for a walk.  I hadn’t been out there for quite a while, and wanted to see if the water plants were growing along the banks yet, and if the Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars were starting to make their chrysalises.  No to the first one – sort of – and yes to the second one.  The weirdest sight was when I first drove into the park.  A female ranger was out by the kiosk and asked me to stop, so I did… And from across the driveway comes a mama Wild Turkey and her six fuzzy babies – and a male Peacock all walking along right in front of my car.  I couldn’t get my camera out of its bag fast enough to get any photos.  Dangit!  I wondered if this was the same Peacock I’d seen chasing the female turkeys several weeks ago… and if the babies could have been his.  The ranger said she didn’t think they could interbreed, but…  both birds are Galliformes, aren’t they?  I mean, peacocks are more closely related to turkeys than turkeys are to chickens…  What would you call the hybrids?  Teacocks? Perkeys?  Hah!  Wish I could keep an eye on that group and see how the babies look when they fledge…

When I pulled the car in further down the road and parked, I was right next to a tree where there were a lot of Acorn Woodpeckers, and I got some photos (and a little video) of one sitting in the nesting cavity.  At first glance I thought it was a female sitting on her nest, but it was a young male, so it must’ve been a fledgling not ready to get up yet.  Sleepy boy.

Then I came across some very tiny, shiny black beetle-like things on the leaf of a live oak tree.  I’d never seen anything like them; they seemed to have suck an odd shape and what looked like white spots in between the body segments.  I thought they must have been the larva stage of something, so I posted photos to BugGuide.net to see if someone there could identify them for me…

My next big find was spotting a large beaver eating roots and greens along the bank of the river.  It was right up the bank from me, and I was so surprised to see it that I just pointed my camera at it and started shooting.  I got some shaky lurching video of it, and a few still shots.  That was the closest I’d ever been to a live beaver.  It was exciting.  I think he would have stayed there for a while longer had I not tripped on one of the stones on the shore and startled him.  He took off into the water, slapping his tail down to make a big splash as he left.

Female Common Merganser and babies. ©2016 Copyright Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.
Female Common Merganser and babies. ©2016 Copyright Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.

Then I saw a female Common Merganser coming down the river with TWENTY little red-headed babies in tow.  The stronger ones were able to climb up onto her back when she sped up trying to get past me… Beyond. Cute.

Later on while I was stopping by an old Cottonwood tree to get some photos of lizard, a big male Twelve-Spotted Skimmer dragonfly decided to fly in and rest on a nearby branch, so I got some photos of him, too.  Further along, I saw a Bison Snaketail dragonfly land in the dried grass along the side of the trail.  I got some photos, but because the dragonfly is almost the same color as the grass, they don’t really show off how cool the dragonfly is…

Then I drove the car a little further into the park and walked along the trail that follows the river but stays well above it.  The water was high in the river and running pretty fast, so I didn’t see a lot birds on the shore… just a few Mallards and Canada Geese.  What I was really looking for on this part of the trail, though, was the Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars.  During this time of the year they’re finishing up gorging themselves and turning their attention to getting up off the ground and forming their chrysalises.  I found lots of them.  Some still undulating around, some going into their torpor stage, and some already encased in their chrysalises.  While I was checking out the caterpillars on one tree, I was startled when a mama Tree Swallow flew past my head and went into her tree-cavity nest right across the trail from me.  I got some photos of her checking me out… along with some shots of the butt of a small House Wren who had a nest in the tree across from the Swallow’s nest.

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On my walk, I also came across several mule deer, a Killdeer, an Ash-Throated Flycatcher, some Scrub Jays, fly-overs by a few Great Egrets and what looked like an immature Black-Crowned Night Heron, and a few different plants, flowers and galls. So it was a very eventful and productive walk.  I was out there for about 3½ hours and then headed out.

Critters at the Park and a Figeater at the House

I slept really well last night and got up around 6:00 am.  I headed out to the American River Bend Park.  I’m still feeling a little bit of the vertigo, but only if I move too quickly – and I felt I needed to get outside and moving. It was in the 60’s when I got there and was up to about 71° by the time I left.  In the summer it’s sometimes slim pickings as far as photo material goes, but today I did get to see hawks, woodpeckers,  small flock of Common Mergansers (all females), a young coyote, a large dragonfly, lots of fresh raccoon scat, blackberries (that seemed to be everywhere), some California Wild Roses in bloom, Bushtits…  So I got some good shots.

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I walked through the park for about 3 hours and then went home to have some breakfast of my own.

For lunch, I grilled some cheap steaks outside, and while I was doing that this huge iridescent green beetle with black wings came flying around me.  It made such a loud buzzing sound I thought at first it was a Carpenter Bee, but nope… it was a beetle.  It crashed into the side of the house a couple of times before landing on the patio.  It was shiny green – like metal – on the underside, and dull green on top with a tan rim along the margins, tan hairs under its “chin” and black wings.  I got a hold of it and carried it into the house so I could get my camera.  Then I took it back outside, took several photos of it (none of which did its color justice) and let it go.  It flew up into the mulberry tree and disappeared into the leaves.  I learned later it was a Figeater Beetle (Cotinis mutabilis); really big, but very harmless.

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My Tuleyome Tales article on photographing nature was published online today by the Davis Enterprise newspaper:  http://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/news-columns/tuleyome-tales-photographing-nature-doesnt-have-to-be-expensive/