Tag Archives: CalNat

The Summer 2019 Naturalist Class has Started, 06-07-19

Our first class for the 2019 summer session of the Certified California Naturalist program for Tuleyome took place on June 7th. The whole teaching team was there: me, Nate Lillge, Bill Grabert and Roxanne Moger.

Students raved after class about the species identification module I presented, so I was really pleased with that.

CLICK HERE to see the small album of photos.

CalNat 2019 Winter Class 10, Graduation, 04-12-19

Greg Ira, the UC California Naturalist Program Coordinator, came to the graduation of our winter 2019 #CalNat class on Friday, and brought Mark Bell, the Vice Provost for Statewide Programs, and Sarah Angulo, the Community Education Specialist from the university with him.

We also had some other special guests: a pair of newborn kittens brought in by our student, Fran Bowman. Fran is fostering the kittens which, at this stage, have to be fed every three hours. We let her bring them into the class and feed them during the break – and they got a LOT of attention. Hah!

We had Greg and Mark speak a little bit first on the UC Certified California Naturalist program, and then had the students who hadn’t presented their capstone projects already do their presentations.

Ten students presented their capstones, including a 2-person team.  I was impressed by the work they’d all done.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

Kite-Man and Robin, 04-11-19

After breakfast, I noticed there was a fat Robin, Turdus migratorius, sitting on the fence in the backyard, so I ran to get my camera and got some photos of her. Then I could hear the neighborhood magpies fussing over something, so I looked around and saw a bird sitting in the top of a tree about a block away. It was shaped like a raptor, but I couldn’t identify it because it was backlit.

So, I opened the iris on my camera as much as I could and zoomed in on it. It was a White-Tailed Kite (!), Elanus leucurus, having its breakfast. Whatever it was eating looked pretty dark, so I assumed it was a mole or a vole (rather than a rat or someone’s Chihuahua). Because of the distance, the photos and videos of the Kite are grainy, but you can still see what it is and what’s going on.  Cool!

CLICK HERE for the album of photos and video snippets.

Interesting Turkeys on the Naturalist Walk, 04-09-19

Up at 6:00 this morning, and then headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve to do my trail walking thing – along with three of my naturalist students.  The weather was lovely, so the critters were out and moving around, and the wildflowers were really starting to open up.

We got to see a tiny female American Kestrel chase off a large Cooper’s Hawk, saw the young buck with a broken nose browsing with some of the does, and saw a yard-long gopher snake leave the side of the trail and rush through the grass like water.

We also came across a female Wild Turkey sitting on the ground next to a brush pile occupied by some California Ground Squirrels. Everything I’d read about the turkeys indicated that they nested in low branches of trees or ON brush piles, so even though she looked pretty settled on the ground I assumed she was just taking a dirt bath (which the turkeys often do to control mites).  I walked up to her, slowly, and she eventually stood up and walked away from where she’d been sitting: a bare, shallow patch of dirt.

When I got home, I did some more research on the turkey and found this: “…Wild Turkeys nest on the ground in dead leaves at the bases of trees, under brush piles or thick shrubbery, or occasionally in open hayfields. The female scratches a shallow depression in the soil, about 1 inch deep, 8–11 inches wide, and 9–13 inches long…” So, this gal may have been prepping a nest site, not dirt bathing.  I’ll have to check on the spot again the next time I’m out there.

Seeing the turkeys -– including one of the leucistic females who came out of the forest like a ghost – brought on a flurry of “snood” jokes. Four women on the trail talking about the male turkeys’ accouterments. We couldn’t help ourselves. Hahahahaha!

Oh, and I also learned that although the male hierarchy changes a lot as the males challenge, defeat, and retreat from one another, the female turkeys’ hierarchy remains constant from season to season, with a dominant female overseeing all of the ladies.  How cool is that?

We didn’t see the Mourning Doves on or near their nest, and I’m afraid they may have abandoned it.  When we got to the Red-Shouldered Hawk nest on the Pond Trail, however, mama hawk was in the nest and calling out to hubby. We could hear her, but we couldn’t see her. The nest is pretty deep and it’s right over the trail so it’s hard to see into it. Suddenly, mama hawk burst out away from the nest and flew right at and over one of the students! She was able to catch a photo of the hawk as she flew over her head! Awesome!

Among the flowers we saw were Blue Dicks, Bush Lupine, California Poppies, Fringe Pod, Periwinkle, Miniature Lupine, different kinds of plantains, and a variety of tiny yellow flowers that defied identification. On one of the plants was an example of “fasciation”, wherein the flowering heads weld together.  “…Scientists aren’t sure what causes the deformity, but they believe it is probably caused by a hormonal imbalance. This imbalance may be the result of a random mutation, or it can be caused by insects, diseases or physical injury to the plant. Think of it as a random occurrence. It doesn’t spread to other plants or other parts of the same plant…”

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos.

The ladies were wonderful trail walking companions: they were excited about everything, had great questions, and lots of wonderful feedback about the naturalist course. We walked for almost 5 hours (which was way too long for me) before we all headed back home again. Deborah had come all the way from Napa to walk with me, so she had the longest drive back home (over 2 hours).

I totally overdid it and was exhausted and in pain when I got home, but it was worth it to have spent those hours with the ladies’ positive energy.  Even though I practically went back to bed when I got home, I was happy. This is just how I want to spend what time I have left.

It was a good day.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
2. Asian Ladybeetle, Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis,
3. Bay Laurel, Laurus nobilis,
4. Black Walnut, Juglans nigra,
5. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum,
6. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii,
7. Buck Brush, Ceanothus cuneatus,
8. Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons,
9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
10. California Manroot, Marah fabaceus,
11. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius,
12. Black Bean Aphid, Aphis fabae.
13. Boxedler Tree, Boxelder Maple, Acer negundo.
14. Bush Lupine, Lupinus excubitus.
15. California Plantain, Plantago erecta.
16. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta,
17. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica,
18. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
19. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
20. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
21. Cooper’s Hawk, Accipiter cooperii,
22. Coyote Brush Midge (gall), Rhopalomyia californica,
23. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis,
24. Douglas Iris, Iris douglasiana,
25. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger,
26. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris,
27. Fringe Pod, Thysanocarpus curvipes ssp. elegans,
28. Green Shield Lichen,Flavoparmelia caperata,
29. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
30. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
31. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii,
32. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor,
33. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
34. Nutthall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii,
35. Pacific Gopher Snake, Pituophis catenifer,
36. Painted Lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
37. Periwinkle, Vinca major,
38. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus,
39. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis,
40. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
41. Saw-Whet Owl, Aegolius acadicus,
42. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula,
43. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus,
44. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor,
45. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura,
46. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
47. Wavy-Leaf Soap Root, Soap Plant, Chlorogalum pomeridianum,
48. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis,
49. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
50. Yarrow, Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,

A Very Hairy Butterfly Encounter, 04-06-19

I led some of my Certified California Naturalist students on a walk around the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve.

My coworker Bill Grabert and our volunteer Roxanne Moger joined me. There were about 10 of us altogether. Because the nature center was hosting a donor event today, we stayed out of the parking lot and parked along the road that leads out of the preserve. It was about 52° when we got there, and it made it up to a mostly cloudy and overcast 68° by the afternoon.

A female coyote surprised us by stepping out into the parking lot and trotting down the road – too fast to get any photos of her. But otherwise, we saw mostly the usual suspects during the walk, but there were some deer that were being very cooperative, some of the wildflowers were showing up, and we saw quite a few nests and nesting cavities, including the Mourning Doves’ nest, a Red-Shouldered Hawk nest and several Bushtit nests.

Students also learned how to identify some of the local birds by their calls and saw their first pair of Common Mergansers – which was kind of a big deal to them because the males and females look so totally different from one another. Most of them recognized the female (with her reddish head and topknot), but the male (with his bright white breast, iridescent blue-green head and orange bill) was a big surprise to them.

The leucistic male turkey was also a first for many of the students, so that was fun to see.

The funniest thing that happened on the walk was when a female Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly flew into the hair of one of the students, Sue. Then Roxanne found a cooperative male butterfly and put him into Sue’s hair so everyone could see how to distinguish the males from the females (by the amount of blue on their hind wings). Sue was very patient and stayed still as everyone talked about the butterflies and took photos. Hah!

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

The subspecies of Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor hirsuta, we see around here is endemic to the Central Valley of California and is found nowhere else on Earth.  And the word “hirsuta” refers to the “hairy” body this subspecies… so it was a very Hairy Butterfly Encounter.  Coolness.

We walked for almost 4 hours before heading out and going back to our respective homes. I’ll be doing another walk on Tuesday next week for any students who still need to add a field trip to their course requirements.

Species List:

1. Bedstraw, Cleavers, Galium aparine
2. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
3. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
4. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
5. Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons
6. Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
7. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
8. California Manroot, Marah fabaceus
9. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica
10. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
11. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
12. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
13. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
14. Destroying Angel Mushroom, Amanita verna
15. Dog Vomit Slime Mold, Fuligo septica
16. Douglas Iris, Iris douglasiana
17. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
18. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
19. False Turkey Tail Fungus, Stereum hirsutum
20. Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes ssp. curvipes
21. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
22. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
23. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
24. Hoary Lichen, Rosette Lichen, Physcia aipolia
25. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
26. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
27. Mazegill Fungus, Daedalea quercina
28. Meadow Mushroom, Agaricus campestris
29. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
30. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
31. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
32. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
33. Painted Lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui
34. Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
35. Pleated Ink Cap, Parasol Ink Cap, Parasola plicatilis
36. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
37. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
38. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
39. Rock Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia conspersa
40. Santa Barbara Sedge, Carex barbarae
41. Saw-Whet Owl, Sophia, Aegolius acadicus
42. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
43. Storksbill, Longstalk Crane Bill, Geranium columbinum
44. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans
45. Swainson’s Hawk, Orion, Buteo swainsoni
46. Tan Stink Bug, Euschistus tristigmus
47. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
48. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
49. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
50. Valley Tassels, Narrow-leaved Owl’s Clover, Castilleja attenuate
51. Wavy-Leaf Soap Plant, Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
52. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
53. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis
54. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
55. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
56. Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa

CalNat 2019 Winter Class 9, 04-05-19

This was our 9th (of 10) Certified California Naturalist classes for the winter session.  This week it was our “final exam”, and I put that in quotes because it’s not really a test, per se, so much as it’s a recap of what we touched on throughout the previous weeks with some species identification thrown in. We do it like a game, in teams of 5 (or less) and the members of the team that get the most answers correct win prize bags worth over $400.  Everything in the bags was donated by a variety of manufacturers, publishers, distributors and other folks. For each winner, we had a clear backpack filled with field guides and other stuff, a bluebird box, a plushie elk, a plushie Saw-whet Owl and a Tuleyome camping mug.

We started off the class with some announcements and then explained to the students how the game was to be played. Ready… set… go!

We asked about 2 hours’ worth of questions and then took a 20-minute break so folks could nosh, chat and clear their heads. I had several people tell me how much fun they were having and how much they were learning as they listened to everyone answer the questions.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

When we came back from the break, we had 6 of the students present their capstone projects. And all of them are doing such great things. The capstones are projects of the student’s own choosing, during which they have to volunteer at least 8 hours on something related to nature and/or the natural sciences.

One student created a coloring book and picture cards to teach children the names of different birds and animal in the region based on their color.  Another one updated and created new identification cards for the plants around the demonstration pond at the Yolo Basin Foundation’s main office.  A third student built a bat box of her own design based on research she did of other designs.  It had three compartments with circular “doorways” so the bats could move from one compartment to another if they wanted to.  She’d been noticing a decrease in the number of bats in the night sky around where she lived, so she built the box (and will build several others) to place around her house and neighborhood with the hopes of providing bats with more protected night roosts – in the hopes that their numbers will increase again.

A fourth student used an app to photograph and collect information on the “assets” for different parks in Yolo County. The app connected through the cloud to a detailed map of the area, so now each of the parks can see where each of their assets are in relation to others and can track their condition.  The assets recorded included everything from buildings to trails to parking lots and even water spigots related to their fire-suppression systems. Eventually, he wants to generate a map of Tuleyome’s properties and the assets on them…

Another student (with a background in archaeology) took over a box of Native American artifacts that had been sitting around at the Cache Creek Conservancy, went through them, catalogued them, and is going to work up a display case for them once he figures out the “story” they’re telling.

The last student who presented today did her capstone on researching milkweed plants and the requirements of Monarch Butterflies, so she could turn a 6 x 10 patch of dirt at a local grade school into a butterfly garden.

We still have about 11 students who will present next week during our last class, just before the graduation ceremony. I can’t wait to see what they do. I’m so proud of all of them.

After the presentations, we finished off the questions and awarded the winning team, The Might Mallards. There were only four people on that team, and we had five prize packages, so we did a drawing among the remaining students to award the last package. We broke that one down into increments, so more people could win something. One person got the camping mug and plushie owl; one got the plushie elk; one got the bird box; and the last one got the backpack full of stuff.

Next week, we’re also going to host a potluck, so everyone is supposed to bring their favorite comfort food. #CalNat