Around 5:30 this morning, I headed out to the American River Bend Park for a walk. It was in the high 60’s when I got there and heated up quickly; around 71° when I left.
I didn’t have an agenda in mind and was just watching for whatever Nature wanted to show me. I ended up finding a few galls on the oak trees, including one I’d never seen before. I’d seen photos of them but had never seen one “live”. It was a Two-Horned Gall of the wasp Dryocosmus dubiosus. Coolness. They’re found on the underside of the leaves of Live Oak trees, usually along the median vein. Also found the big Oak Apple galls, tiny Pumpkin Galls, and some Goldenrod galls.
In the water fountain near the restroom, I found a large beetle lying on its back. It was about an inch long and really kind of “hairy”. It had lost one of its antennae and was dying, but I still took some photos of it. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was, so when I got home, I Googled “beetle with hairy chest” – Hah! – and the correct identification actually came right up. It was, of course, a “June Bug” or more correctly a May Beetle, Phyllophaga sp. Around that same area, I found the shed skin of a snake, including its face.
I could hear Red-Shouldered Hawks yelling at each other across the forest while I was out there, and at one point a fledgling flew down out of a tree onto the ground beside the trail. I couldn’t tell if he actually caught anything or if he was just practicing, but he sat for a moment and looked over his shoulder at me so I could snap a photo before he flew off again.
Just as I was leaving, I came across the nesting cavity of some Tree Swallows. I watched them take turn flying in and out of the cavity a few times and got some photos before heading back to the house.
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,