Tag Archives: Certified California Naturalist

CalNat Field Trip #2, Lake solano Park, 07-13-19

On the way to Lake Solano Park for our second Certified California Naturalist field trip of the summer, I stopped to put some gas in my car, and I was treated with the sight of some hot air balloons floating over the city of Winters and its surrounding fields. One of the balloons was either dragging or coming in for landing because it got REALLY low over downtown. I could see the people in the basket.  I was kind of surprised to see the balloons at all considering that it was already about 62° when I got to Winters.  Hot air balloons only work if the air around them is cooler than the air in the balloon (so they fly more successfully in the fall-to-spring time period than they do in the summer.)

I was the first one in our group to get to the park and pulled up into one of the upper parking lots because the lot nearest the park itself was still closed.  Technically, the park doesn’t open until 8:00 am, so I was there before the all-gates-open time. The rangers weren’t too pleased that I was in the upper lot before 7:30 am, but they didn’t say anything – until AFTER 8:00 am and my students had arrived, and we were in the park area itself.  I’ll know better next time not to get there early.

The reason for trying to get my group there earlier in the day, though, was to try to beat the heat. It got up to 79° by 10:30 am. So, we cut the trip a little short to get everyone back in their air-conditioned cars before we all overheated. Along with my co-worker Bill and most of the students in the class, Greg Ira (the Director of the Certified California Naturalist program at the University of California) joined us for our walk.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

One of the first things we pointed out to the group was the difference between the native Black Walnut trees and the English Walnut trees. English Walnut trees don’t generally do good in California, so they’re grafted onto the native Black Walnut root stock. We were able to show the students the graft mark in one of the trees (with the Black Walnut on the bottom and the English Walnut on top) and showed them that even through the tree itself was now primarily English Walnut, they could still see some shoots of Black Walnut stems and leaves growing up out of the root stock.

English Walnut grafted onto Black Walnut rootstock.

We seemed to hear more birds than we put eyes on, and my student Alison K., who like our student Ken E., is a birding expert, helped us with the sound IDs.  Alison also told the group about the sap wells we were seeing in the bark of some of the trees, created by Sapsucker birds who drill the wells not so much to suck the sap, but to attract insects they can eat.  On one tree we found several clear samples of the wells, along with some hefty outpourings of the sweet sap.

Tree sap oozing from wells drilled by Sapsuckers.

We also came across a large juvenile Great Blue Heron that was sitting in a tree adjacent to the trail.  It posed for some photos, pooped into the river and then flew off with a deep-throated croaky squawk. I guess he told us what he thought about us. We also came across a small creche of Peahens with their fledgling poults. A group of three moms were taking the babies to the edge of the river to get a drink.

 I myself was focused more on finding galls than seeing birds on this trip, however, and was able to point out newly budding examples of Pumpkin galls, Roll Gall Midge galls, Erineum Mite galls, Cluster Galls, Spiny Turbans, Two-Horned galls and Flat-Topped Honeydew galls. Most of the galls were just starting to emerge and weren’t their full size yet.  Give them another week or two and they should be spectacular.

 Our group also found quite a few different orb-weaver spiders included Spotted Orb Weavers and Long-Jawed Orb Weavers. And we spotted a variety of butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies including: California Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies, a sleepy Buckeye butterfly, a Painted Lady butterfly, and a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly on the wing; Widow Skimmer dragonflies, Flame Skimmers, Four-Spotted Skimmers, Pond Skimmers and Blue Dasher dragonflies, plus several damselflies that looked like they’d just emerged and weren’t colored-up yet.

Along with imparting some of what I know to the class, I always learn something new on these field trips or add to knowledge I already have, so it’s always fun and exciting to me. I found two galls I hadn’t seen before and found out that even the experts were having trouble properly identifying them. One was a gall made by the Roll Gall Midge (whose species is known but not its genus) and it took the form of rolled edges along the leaves of Live Oak trees.  The other was an odd tubular “prick” on the leaf of a Valley Oak tree. At first, I thought I was just looking at a weird anomaly on the leaf, but then I saw the exact same structure repeated on leaves of different Valley Oaks, so I took some photos and looked it up when I got home.  Experts recognize it as a wasp-induced gall but they don’t know what species it’s associated with yet, and think it might be a second-generation gall for an already identified gall wasp.  Everything I found on it called it a “Leaf Gall Wasp” gall but with the species listed as “Unidentified”. How neat!

Gall of the UNIDENTIFIED Leaf Gall Wasp.

 As we were looking at some California Wild Grape vines, Greg asked for the term for the process by which tendrils wrap around things. None of us could remember it at the time. Of course, when I got home, it came to me: “THIGMOTROPSIM”! Cool word, huh?  You can read more about it here: http://biology.kenyon.edu/edwards/project/steffan/b45sv.htm

Another word that wouldn’t come to mind yesterday when we were out on the field trip… We saw a lot of damselflies that had apparently just emerged and weren’t “colored up” yet, and I couldn’t remember the term for that state.  It’s “TENERAL“: the state of an insect immediately after molting. At this time the insect’s exoskeleton has not hardened and it may be pale in color.

A “teneral” damselfly

A little further along our walk, some of the students noticed frothy ooze coming out of the base of a Valley Oak tree. It looked something like Sudden Oak Death (SOD) to me, but it was a lot more frothy, and I’d never seen SOD near the bottom of a tree before. So, I looked it up when I got home.

 The foam is from a bacterial infection in the tree called “Alcoholic Flux” or Foamy Canker. It usually affects trees in the summer that have been stressed in some way. Bacteria infects the tree and ferments some of the sap. The fermentation is expelled by the tree in a frothy slime that kind of smells like sour beer. Unlike SOD, alcoholic flux isn’t usually a permanent or fatal kind of infection. It’s usually gone by the end of the summer.

“Alcoholic Flux” or Foamy Canker on the base of a Valley Oak tree.

We’d also seen a lot of small gnats around the ooze, and I’m not sure, but I’m going to infer that they were getting buzzed on the fermented juice. Hah!

By 10:30 it was already too hot to keep people out in the sun, so the group broke up and we all headed back to our cars by different routes.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
  2. Alcoholic Flux bacteria, Foamy Canker, Slime Flux,
  3. American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus,
  4. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon,
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
  6. Black Walnut, Juglans nigra,
  7. Blue Dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis,
  8. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea,
  9. Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo,
  10. Bull Thistle, Cirsium vulgare,
  11. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta,
  12. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica,
  13. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
  14. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica,
  15. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis,
  16. Common Buckeye Butterfly, Junonia coenia,
  17. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser,
  18. Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus,
  19. Eight-Spotted Skimmer, Libellula forensic,
  20. English Plantain, Ribwort, Plantago lanceolata,
  21. English Walnut, Juglans regia,
  22. Flame Skimmer, Libellula saturate,
  23. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Dishopcaspis eldoradrnsis,
  24. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias,
  25. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata,
  26. Hoary Rosette Lichen, Physcia aipolia,
  27. Indian Peafowl, Pavo cristatus,
  28. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
  29. Leaf Gall Wasp, Unidentified
  30. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
  31. Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum,
  32. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus,
  33. Roll Gall Midge, Contarinia sp.,
  34. Spiny Turban Gall Wasp, Antron douglasii,
  35. Spotted Orb Weaver Spider, Neoscona crucifera,
  36. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans,
  37. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus dubiosus ,
  38. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
  39. Walnut Erineum Mite Gall, Aceria erinea,
  40. Western Pondhawk, Erythemis collocata,
  41. Western Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly, Papilio rutulus,
  42. Widow Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula luctuosa,
  43. Woolly Aphid, Prociphilus sp.,

Summer 2019 CalNat Class #5, 07-05-19

Because it was a holiday weekend, only about half of the students in our Certified California Naturalist program showed up for this class, and we didn’t have a guest speaker.  So, it was a more “intimate” group, and we got to do a lot of species identification stuff and showed the students how to use the various facets of Calflora.org and CalScape.org for plant species identification.

This particular class focused on plants, so our volunteer/fellow naturalist Roxanne Moger, brought in her display of a variety of different seeds.  The students took time to go through them and tried to figure out the mechanism the plant might use to disperse its seeds.  

 Nate also helped to augment the class with a “spot the critters” exercise. He was showing the class images from the field cameras we have set up at the Silver Spur Ranch, and how he has to go through the photos carefully in order to see what’s actually being recorded. ((This is the project being funded in part by the grants I got from the Sacramento Zoo.))

Nate leading the class on “critter spotting”

CLICK HERE for more photos from the class.

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 7, 03-22-19

The focus of today’s Certified California Naturalist class was “Animals”, and our guest speaker was Diane Nichols, the founder and Executive Director of Kindred Spirits Fawn Rescue in Loomis, CA.

Gere is a short video clip of a part of the presentation: https://youtu.be/-CoWsQQdAPY

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Student Johannes Troost brought along a resource book on trees to share with the class. And student Mary Scheidt brought in her cyanotype print showing the different life-stages of the California Poppy.

Today’s class activities included our “Coyote CSI”; challenge. Students were presented with the skeleton of a young coyote and asked to determine how the coyote had died.

Fungus Walk with a CalNat Student, 02-24-19

Date: Sunday, February 24, 2019
Time: 8:00 am to 12:00 pm PST
Location: American River Bend Park, 2300 Rod Beaudry Dr, Sacramento, CA 95827
Habitat: Oak Woodland, Riparian, along the American River
Weather: 43° to 53°, overcast but not raining

Narrative: I’d scheduled a fungus walk at the American River Bend Park for my naturalist students with the understanding that even if no one wanted to come along, I’d still go on it myself. Students are allowed to use these extemporaneous walks I do (if they come along) as a substitute for a missed class or a missed field trip. The weather was chilly, but there was no rain.  I was joined by one of my male students, David D., who had never been to the park before – so it was all a new experience to him.

There weren’t as many different fungi out today as I was hoping there might be, but we did get to see some interesting specimens. We also saw some deer, several different species of birds, and got to see the early pipevine and manroot plants just starting to show themselves and bud out. David had fun climbing trees to get the photos he wanted, and was able to get quite a few really good close-ups with his cell phone.

We walked for about 4 hours before heading home.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
3. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
4. Black Jelly Roll fungus, Exidia glandulosa
5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
6. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
7. Brown Jelly Fungus, Tremella foliacea
8. California Black Walnut, Juglans californica
9. California Buckeye, Aesculus californica
10. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
11. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
12. Canada Geese, Branta canadensis
13. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
14. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
15. Crust Fungus, Phlebia sp.
16. Crust Fungus, Stereum complicatum
17. Deer Shield Mushroom, Pluteus cervinus
18. Destroying Angel, Amanita ocreata
19. Dryad’s Saddle polypore fungus, Polyporus squamosus
20. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
21. Elfin Saddle, False Morel, Helvella lacunosa
22. English Walnut, Juglans regia
23. False Turkey-Tail Fungus, Stereum hirsutum
24. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
25. Great Egret, Ardea alba
26. Green Shield Lichen, common, Greenshield, Flavoparmelia caperata
27. Hoary Shield Lichen, Hoary Rosette Lichen, Physcia biziana
28. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
29. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
30. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii, California State Lichen
31. Lemmon’s Rockcress, Boechera lemmonii
32. Manroot Vine, Bigroot, Wild Cucumber, Marah fabaceus
33. Miner’s lettuce, Narrow leaved miner’s lettuce, Claytonia parviflora
34. Mower’s Mushroom, Haymaker Mushroom, Panaeolina foenisecii
35. Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris
36. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus, red-shafted
37. Nutthall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
38. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
39. Oyster Mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus
40. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
41. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
42. Red-Tipped Photinia, Photinia × fraseri
43. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria parietina
44. Tiny unspecified Marasmius sp. Mushroom
45. Turkey-Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
46. Unidentified Russula sp. mushroom
47. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
48. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
49. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
50. Western Tussock Moth, Orgyia vetusta, cocoons, pupal case
51. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
52. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
53. Witch’s Butter, Golden Jelly Fungus, Tremella mesenterica
54. Yellow Fieldcap, Egg-Yolk Mushroom, Bolbitius vitellinus

CalNat Class, Week 2, 02-15-18

The Winter 2019 Certified California Naturalist class I’m co-teaching for Tuleyome in Woodland, CA with Bill Grabert, Nate Lillge and wonderful volunteer (and former class graduate) Roxanne Moger,  is now in its second week, and we’ve got a great group of students.

This week students got to hear from Nancy Ullrey, Executive Director of the Cache Creek Conservancy nature preserve who talked about the preserve and what volunteer opportunities there are available to the students.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.  I’ll keep adding to it was the weeks go by.

Today, the class Painted Lady butterfly caterpillars were getting ready to form their chrysalises, and one of the Polyphemus Moth cocoons was vibrating so much we thought for sure it was going to hatch. This class is full, but we have another class coming up in the summer (June through August). For more information see Tuleyome’s website. Space is limited to 25 adult students.

Some of the sponsors and donors who have already provided funding or in-kind donations for the 2019 naturalist program include: the Sacramento Zoo Conservation Fund, Adventure Publications, Backcountry Press, Blademate, Cachuma Press, Christina Mann, Douglas Toys, Eric Newman, Folkmanis Inc., Forest Origins, Grayl, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Kendall Hunt Publishing Company, Lifestraw by Vestergaard, MIT Press, Nalgene, Naturegraph Publishers, Nature’s Way, Oberon Design, R.W. Morse Company, Sakura of America, Sneed Collard III and Bucking Horse Books, The Experiment Publishing, The Fit Life, The Strong Foundation, Waterford Press, Wetsox, Woodlink and Wild Republic. #CalNat