Tag Archives: California Quail

Looking for Willow Galls, 06-09-19

I got up around 5:30 this morning, and after giving the dog his breakfast, I headed over to the American River Bend Park.  I was in search of willow galls and found oh-so-much more.  The weather behaved itself in the morning hours.  There was a breeze by the river, so it didn’t get too warm for me to walk until around 10:30.  So it was a nice morning. 

First I tried walking along the river at the first pullout, but the water was too high there, so I took a trail that brought me out onto the sandy area close to the bridge.  Lots of willows there, and I found the pinecone-like galls of the midge Rabdophaga strobiloide. They start out looking like little round balls of tightly packed leaves. Then they develop a “beak” that makes them look like pinecones. Each gall contains one midge larva. When the larva matures into an adult midge, the midge escapes the gall through the tip of the beak.

While I was walking through that area, I could hear the nattering of quail in the underbrush, but they kept themselves well-hidden, so I never did see them or was able to get a photo of them. I did get shots of a Spotted Towhee and a House Wren, though. I walked along that part of the river for a little while and then headed back to where I’d parked the car at the pullout.  At one point, the trail was blocked by a fallen tree. My trying to navigate over that obstacle was mildly humorous. Sit on one part of the trunk, lift my leg up, throw it over the other part of the trunk, try to get that foot to touch the ground, then shift my weight, and try to drag my other leg up over the trunk… Phew!

Once I got back to the car, I drove further int the park, got out, and continued my walk along the trail that runs along the riverside, but about 10 feet above the level of the water. I found a few Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars and saw some of the butterflies flitting near the top of the trees. When the caterpillars ready to build their chrysalis, they attach their back feet to a tree (or other substrate) with silk, and then build a silk sling-shot-like thing that holds them upright but at a slight angle from the tree. (The silk is pulled from spinnerets on the sides of the body.) Then the caterpillar leans back and just hangs there in a kind of torpor as the chrysalis forms UNDER its skin. Once the chrysalis is formed, the caterpillar sheds its skin — including its face — and waits for metamorphosis to begin.

I also found some of their chrysalises. One was so new; it was still bright green. There stills seems to be a LOT fewer than I’m used to seeing out there, though.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

At one spot, I stopped to watch a pair of House Wrens flying all over the place, the male singing brightly while he flew. They stopped off a few times at a cavity in an oak tree, only to be run off by some Tree Swallows.  Apparently, the Swallows had already claimed the cavity and were trying to keep the Wrens from setting up house there.  I got quite a few good shots of the Swallows.  The Wrens, not so much…

 

A nice surprise was seeing a female Common Merganser swimming near the shore with her three red-headed little ducklings. The mom was swimming up-stream which can be hard on the babies when the current is strong, so they sometimes swim in her wake… or just hop onto her back!  In one photo you can see the mom swimming with her face in the water. This is a typical fishing technique used by these birds; she’s seeing if there’s anything tasty underneath her.  These ducks are sometimes referred to as “saw-bills” for the serrated edges along the rim of their bill. Unlike Mallards, Mergansers are “diving” ducks, not “dabbling” ducks.

I walked for about four hours and then headed back home.  But another surprise happened when I was driving out of the park. I saw something moving near the edge of the road and stopped to get a better look. I realized it was a female Wild Turkey, that was sitting down in the dirt and dried gas.  She was giving herself a dust bath (to rid her feathers of mites). The surprise was when, right behind her, her baby (a little fledgling called a poult) stood up!  Mama turkeys are very protective of their babies, and when the mom realized I’d seen her kid, she got up and hurried him away from the road.

 Species List:
Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
Asian Ladybeetle, Harmonia axyridis,
Black Locust, Robinia pseudoacacia,
Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea,
Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis,
Bush Katydid nymph, Scudderia texensis,
California Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor hirsuta,
California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica,
California Quail, Callipepla californica,
California Scrub Oak, Quercus berberidifolia,
California Sycamore, Platanus racemose,
California Wild Grape, Vitis californica,
Common Merganser, Mergus merganser,
Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
Coyote Brush Stem Gall moth, Gnorimoschema baccharisella,
Darkling Beetle, Pinacate Beetle, Eleodes obscurus,
Deerweed, Acmispon glaber,
Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata,
English Plantain, Ribwort, Plantago lanceolata,
European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris,
Fremont Cottonwood, Populus fremontii,
Goldenrod Bunch Gall, Goldenrod Floret Gall Midge, Solidago canadensis,
Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum,
Hoptree, Skunk Bush, Ptelea trifoliata,
House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior,
Long-Jawed Orb Weaver, Tetragnatha sp.,
Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos,
Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor,
Moth Mullein, Verbascum blattaria,
Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
Narrowleaf Willow, Salix exigua,
Northern California Black Walnut, Juglans hindsii,
Old Live Oak Gall Wasp Gall, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis,
Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia,
Oystershell Scale Insect, Ceroplastes sp,
Rattlesnake Grass, Big Quaking Grass, Briza maxima,
Red Mulberry, Morus rubra,
Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
Rusty Tussock Moth caterpillar, Orgyia antiqua,
Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus,
Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare,
Telegraph Weed, Heterotheca grandiflora,
Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
Variable Flatsedge, Cyperus difformis,
Wand Mullein, Verbascum virgatum,
Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana,
Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
Western Goldenrod, Euthamia occidentalis,
Western Leaf-Footed Bug eggs, Leptoglossus zonatus
White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia,
White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare,
Willow Pinecone Gall midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides,
Willow Stem Gall midge, Rabdophaga rigidae,
Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa,
Wooly Mullein, Verbascum thapsusm
Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis,
Yellow Water Iris, Yellow Flag, Iris pseudacorus,

Checking Out the Spider’s Den and Other Stuff, 05-18-19

I got up a little before 6 o’clock this morning and headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk by myself.  I was trying to beat the rain – and was also on the lookout for slime molds.  I did beat the rain (it didn’t show up until around 3:00 pm), but I zeroed out on the slime molds. I think they need one more sunny day between the rainstorms to wake up.

It was nice and quiet on my walk, although I did come across a few other people. I was able to identify some birds to a couple who I think was visiting the place for the first time, and also directed a photographer to some good spots for photo opportunities. Doing my trail-walker thing.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I saw a lot of the usual suspects: deer, turkeys, Starlings, House Wrens. I saw several bucks in their velvet, including the one with wonky antlers (one long and one short) and a torn ear. He should be easy to recognize from here on out.  And I also saw a doe with one ear that seemed really droopy. I don’t know what might have been bothering that ear; It didn’t look damaged or infected, at least as far I could tell.

A nice find was a male California Quail and one of his brides. I hear the quail at the preserve all the time, but they’re very fast and secretive, so I hardly ever get to actually see them.  This pair were pretty far away from me, across a meadow, but I was still able to get some shots. At one point, the male jumped up on a pile of brush so I could see him. They crack me up; their chubby little bodies look like light bulbs.

I also got to see quite a few female Common Mergansers going up into the cottonwood tree the Wood Ducks were in the last time. There were maybe three or four of the Mergansers, each flying around the tree and landing on different parts of it, quacking in low voices all the while. I don’t know if they were scouting out a nesting spot or were attracted to something else. I got some interesting-angle shots of them.

I was greeted by a pair of Western Bluebirds on another part of the trail. First the female flew in and then the male. They’re such bright, cheery-looking little birds. I always like seeing them.

And there was a very chubby California Ground Squirrel who popped up from her burrow to look around. I think she was pregnant based on her body mass. Their gestation lasts about a month, and then its another 6 to8 weeks before the babies emerge from the burrows. So, we won’t see them until sometime in July, most likely.

By the pond at the end of the Pond Trail were was some very fresh otter scat, so I’m guessing the otter was around there earlier this morning.  I’ve seen otters in that pond occasionally, but they usually wait until there are more crawdads around… The leeches in that pond might deter them, though.

I’m always curious when I find folded leaves or sealed leaf tents on plants, but I recognized what one was before I opened it when I found it on a mugwort plant. I handled it gingerly, and put it back where I found it afterwards.  Inside was, as I suspected, a mama American Yellow Sac Spider, Cheiracanthium inclusum, and her egg sac.

I was careful about how I opened it and handled it, because theses spider can pack a very painful bite (and are believed to bite more people than any other spider). The bite is said to burn like a wasp’s sting (and for sensitive people it can make them sick). The mother spider seals herself inside her rolled leaf tent with her egg mass, which can have as many as 100 eggs in it (although less is typical). She stays with the mass until the spiderlings hatch. After her babies hatch, she’ll stay with them until they’ve all gone through one molt (usually around 2 weeks).  As I mentioned, I set her and her tent back where I found them. She’ll spin new web to close her tent up again. ((Investigating leaf-rolls can be very interesting and rewarding for a naturalist, but just be careful.  You never know what might be inside of them.))

The young coyote showed up again today, in between two deer who didn’t seem to be aware that it was there.  It’s a very young coyote – gangly and thin, a teenager – but is hunting on its own, which I think is kind of unusual.  It moves too quickly, so I can’t tell if it’s a male or a female, but I did manage to get a few better photos of it today and a video snippet.

I got so preoccupied with my photo-taking that I lost track of time, and didn’t get back to the car until 11:30 am… So, I’d been on my feet for five hours. My ankles were killing me during the drive back to the house.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
  2. American Yellow Sac Spider, Cheiracanthium inclusum,
  3. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens,
  4. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine,
  5. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii,
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
  7. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum,
  8. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea,
  9. Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  10. Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus,
  11. California Brodiaea, Brodiaea californica,
  12. California Buckeye Tree, Aesculus californica,
  13. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
  14. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana,
  15. California Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillar, Battus philenor hirsuta,
  16. California Quail, Callipepla californica,
  17. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
  18. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis,
  19. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica,
  20. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
  21. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser,
  22. Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens,
  23. Coyote Mint, Monardella villosa,
  24. Coyote, Canis latrans,
  25. Douglas Iris, Iris douglasiana,
  26. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger,
  27. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata,
  28. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris,
  29. Fig, Common Fig, Ficus carica,
  30. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii,
  31. Fruit-tree Leafroller Moth, Archips argyrospila,
  32. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris,
  33. Gouty Stem Gall Wasp, Callirhytis quercussuttoni,
  34. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata,
  35. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus,
  36. Honey Dew Wasp Gall, Disholcaspis eldoradensis,
  37. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
  38. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus,
  39. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous,
  40. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos,
  41. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor,
  42. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
  43. Narrowleaf Vetch, Vicia sativa, (with black seed pods)
  44. Oak Apple Wasp Gall, Andricus quercuscalifornicus,
  45. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus,
  46. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri,
  47. Pink Grass, Windmill Pink, Petrorhagia dubia,
  48. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum,
  49. Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum,
  50. Purple-Top Vervain, Verbena bonariensis,
  51. Red Mulberry, Morus rubra,
  52. Red-Flowered Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Acmispon rubriflorus,
  53. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
  54. Rose Clover, Trifolium hirtum,
  55. Rusty Tussock Moth caterpillar, Orgyia antiqua,
  56. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciose,
  57. Sierra Wooly Sunflower, Eriophyllum lanatum var. croceum.
  58. Spicebush, Northern Spicebush, Lindera benzoin,
  59. Spider egg sac,
  60. Spotted Ladies Thumb, Redshank, Persicaria maculosa,
  61. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans,
  62. Tall Cyperus, Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis,
  63. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor,
  64. Two-Striped Grasshopper nymph, Melanoplus bivittatus
  65. Unspecified brome, Broma sp.,
  66. Valley Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys canescens,
  67. Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Soap Root, Chlorogalum pomeridianum,
  68. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana,
  69. White Lupine, Lupinus albus,
  70. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis,
  71. Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa,
  72. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,
  73. Yerba Santa, Eriodictyon californicum,

Going Back to Bear Valley Road, 04-22-19

I got up around 5:00 am and was out the door with the dog before 6:00 am.  I wanted to check out the wildflowers along Bear Valley Road again to see if I could find the Most Beautiful Jewel Flower that was spotted there during the last Tuleyome driving tour.  Trying to drive the car on a dirt road, with sheer cliff walls on one side and a drop into a deep ravine on the other, while I tried to search for a tiny plant with nearly black flowers on it proved… difficult. Hah!  So, I didn’t find that flower, but I did see some I hadn’t seen the last time I was out there, and I was also compensated with the surprise find of an in-the-wild Burrowing Owl in one of the cattle ranch fields!

I saw what I thought at first was a ground squirrel poking its head up in a field, so I stopped the car to get some photos of it. As I zoomed in with the camera, I realized I wasn’t looking at a squirrel, I was looking at a Burrowing Owl. Cool! I’d met one at the Sacramento Zoo, but I had never seen one in its natural habitat before. I got out of the car to try to get closer to the fence that separated me from the owl, but the car door blew shut with a bang(!). [[It was windy out there.]]  The owl hunkered down near the opening of its burrow, which made it a lot more difficult to photograph, but I was glad I got to see it at all.

On another part of the road, I saw some Red-Winged Blackbirds mobbing a crow in the air. They were dive-bombing at him and grabbing at him.  Then I saw him land on the ground and thought that was weird of him because it made him an easier target for the blackbirds.  But then I saw the crow pick up a small blue egg out of a nest hidden in the long grass. I’m not sure, but I think the crow swallowed it. (I didn’t see him drop it.)  One of the blackbirds landed on the ground behind the crow and then rushed up again, smacking the crow in the back of the head, but the crow didn’t move right away. Instead, he reached down into the nest again. Two of the blackbirds attacked him once more and were finally successful in chasing him off.  I couldn’t see into the nest, so I’m not sure how much damage the crow did, but it seems like any nest on the ground is easy-pickings.

I always thought the blackbirds built their nests near water at the base of tules and other tall vegetation, so I was surprised there was one on the ground in an open field filled with roaming cattle.  According to the Audubon website, though, the birds also nest “in dense grass in fields. Nest (built by female) is bulky open cup, lashed to standing vegetation, made of grass, leaves, rootlets, lined with fine grass.” I love learning new stuff like this!

There were a lot of California Quails all along the sides of the road, several coveys.  But they moved too quickly for me to get any decent photos of them. There were also Killdeer along the road but, again, no photos.

And I saw some Western Kingbirds in what I think was part of their courtship displays.  There were also lot of them along the fence lines on the side of the road. Another nice surprise was being able to see a lovely Lark Sparrow. I hardly ever see those guys, and I think the patterns on their faces are so pretty.

CLICK HERE for the photos from today.

I stopped at the Keegan Ranch, which allows you to come onto the property to experience the wildflowers there, and I got to see a LOT of flowers. The fields were like “oceans” of them, with cattle “swimming” through them.  I also watched while a rancher on horseback rounded up some cows and their calves with the help of a handful of herding dogs. This ranch and the adjoining Epperson Ranch are actually protected by conservation easements (since 2016).  So, they cannot be drastically changed or built upon in perpetuity.

According to an article on them by the California Rangeland Trust: “From the rare serpentine soils, extensive wildflower fields and native grasses to the productive rangeland, this working cattle ranch is a great example of how ranchers can work with conservation groups to voluntarily protect the natural environment and sustain a way of life. These ranches are the first in California to be funded by NRCS’s Grasslands of Special Environmental Significance under its Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. The Keegan and Epperson Ranches are a great example of a multi-agency and private partnership that will protect vital habitats for plants and wildlife, expand and protect wildlife corridors, and will help wildlife adapt to climate change in perpetuity. Conservation of these ranches helps meet several goals aimed at reducing pressures to the Northern California Interior Coast Range Ecoregion outlined in California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s 2015 State Wildlife Action Plan…”

Combined, the ranches comprise 4,049 acres of now-protected landscape.  Makes me love this place even more.

My dog, Sergeant Margie, was great through the whole drive.  We stopped every once in a while so I could take photos, and when I did, I let him out to pee. On the way home, I had to go potty so I drove up Highway 16 a little ways to use the restrooms at Cowboy Camp.  One of the restroom buildings was locked, and the other one had no handle on the door.  I used that one, but had no privacy, obviously. Then I stopped at a Shell station in Williams and got a sandwich and cucumber smoothie for supper.

I got home around 2:30 pm.  Another long day.

Species List:

1. American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos,
2. Big Heron’s Bill, Erodium botrys,
3. Bird’s Eye Gilia, Gilia tricolor,
4. Black Angus Cattle, Bos Taurus,
5. Blister Beetle, Black Blister Beetle, Epicauta pennsylvanica,
6. Blow Wives, Achyrachaena mollis,
7. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum,
8. Blue Witch Nightshade, Solanum umbelliferum,
9. Bulbous Blue Grass, Poa bulbosa,
10. Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia,
11. Bush Lupine, Silver Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons,
12. Butter Lupine, Lupinus luteolus,
13. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
14. California Plantain, Plantago erecta,
15. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
16. California Quail, Callipepla californica,
17. Canyon Live-Forever, Dudleya cymose,
18. Caterpillar Flower, Lacy Phacelia, Phacelia tanacetifolia,
19. Clover, Rabbitfoot Clover, Trifolium arvense,
20. Clover, Strawberry Clover, Trifolium fragiferum
21. Clover, Rose Clover, Trifolium hirtum,
22. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia intermedia,
23. Common Mustard, Brassica rapa,
24. Cream Cups, Platystemon californicus.
25. European Honeybee, Apis mellifera,
26. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris,
27. Frying Pan Poppy, Eschscholzia lobbii,
28. Giant Death Camas, Zigadenus exaltatus,
29. Goldfields, Lasthenia californica,
30. Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana,
31. Hawkweed, Hieracium argutum,
32. Hereford Cattle, Bos taurus,
33. Hog Fennel, Lomatium utriculatum,
34. Holstein Cattle, Bos taurus,
35. Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja affinis,
36. Ithuriel’s Spears, Triteleia laxa,
37. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous,
38. Lark Sparrow, Chondestes grammacus,
39. Larkspur, Delphinium decorum,
40. Lupine, Lupinus sp.,
41. Milk Vetch, unidentified, Astragalus sp.,
42. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor,
43. Mountain Dandelion, Agoseris heterophylla,
44. Mule’s Ears, Smooth Mules Ears, Wyethia glabra,
45. Owl’s Clover, Dense Flower Owl’s clover, Castilleja densiflora,
46. Painted Lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
47. Pepperweed, Common Pepper Grass, Lepidium densiflorum,
48. Q Tips, Slender Cottonweed, Micropus californicus var. californicus,
49. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus,
50. Shepherd’s Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris,
51. Sierra Tidy Tips, Layia pentachaeta ssp. pentachaeta,
52. Silver Puffs, Uropappus lindleyi,
53. Snowbrush, Ceanothus velutinus,
54. Tamarisk, Salt Cedar, Tamarix parviflora,
55. Tidy Tips, Fremont’s Tidy Tips, Layia fremontii,
56. Tidy Tips, Smooth Tidy Tips, Layia chrysanthemoides,
57. True Babystars, Leptosiphon bicolor,
58. Valley Tassels, Castilleja attenuate,
59. Wallflower, Erysimum capitatum,
60. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
61. Western Hawksbeard, Crepis occidentalis,
62. Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis,
63. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta,
64. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis,
65. Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa,
66. Yellow-Faced Bumblebee, Bombus vosnesenskii,