Tag Archives: cottonwood

Wildflowers on Bear Valley Road, 04-13-19

I got up around 6:00 this morning, planning on going out on a wildflower tour with my coworker Nate and volunteer Roxanne.

Nate sent me an email, however, saying that his folks were in town and when they heard what he was doing today, they wanted to go with him – so there went Roxanne’s and my seat in his car.

I texted Roxanne and asked if she’d like to go with me, and she offered to drive. So, around 8:00 am we headed out to Highways 16 and 20 and Bear Valley Road (in Colusa County) – about an hour ahead of Nate and his group.  Because we were following almost the same route as Nate, though, our paths crossed a few times. He caught up with us at two spots where we had stopped to look at and photograph the wildflowers, and we passed him a couple of times.

Unlike the last time I went out looking for the wildflowers, today’s excursion was incredible, and Roxanne and I ended up spending the whole day outdoors.  I saw some insects and plants I’d never seen before, and the fresh air, exercise and views of flower-painted landscapes was exhilarating. It’s so nice to go on an excursion like this with someone who moves at a browsing pace like I do, and who gets excited by bugs and flowers and the sight of ducks in the river. Hah!

There were soooooo many photos, I broke them down into two albums.

CLICK HERE for album #1.

CLICK HERE for album #2.

Roxanne and I didn’t get home until around 6:00 pm. It was a long but fun and nature-filled day. I took over 1200 photos, so it’s going to take me a while to get through all of them.

Species Identification List:

1. “Apples” on Manzanita, Arctostaphylos sp,
2. Annual Yellow Sweetclover, Castilleja exserta ssp. exserta,
3. Big Heron’s Bill, Erodium botrys,
4. Bird’s Eye Gilia, Gilia tricolor,
5. Black Angus Cattle, Bos Taurus,
6. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum,
7. Blue Blossom Ceanothus, Ceanothus thyrsiflorus ssp.,
8. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum,
9. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus,
10. Broad-Leaf Lupine, Lupinus latifolius,
11. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus,
12. Bulbous Blue Grass, Poa bulbosa
13. Bush Lupine, Silver Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons,
14. Bush Monkeyflower, Sticky Monkeyflower, Diplacus aurantiacus,
15. Butter ‘n’ Eggs, Johnny Tuck, Triphysaria eriantha,
16. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
17. California Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum jordanii,
18. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus,
19. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta,
20. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica,
21. California Plantain, Plantago erecta
22. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
23. Canyon Live-Forever, Dudleya cymose,
24. Caterpillar Flower, Lacy Phacelia, Phacelia tanacetifolia,
25. Chia Sage, Salvia columbariae,
26. Chinese Houses, Collinsia heterophylla,
27. Coast Range Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis bocourtii,
28. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia intermedia,
29. Common Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes,
30. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser,
31. Common Mustard, Brassica rapa,
32. Common Woodland Star, Lithophragma affine,
33. Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,
34. Cottonwood, Fremont Cottonwood, Populus fremontii,
35. Cream Cups, Platystemon californicus.
36. Cucumber Beetle, Spotted Cucumber Beetle, Diabrotica undecimpunctata,
37. Digger Bee, Diadasia sp.,
38. Dwarf Sack Clover, Castilleja exserta ssp. exserta,
39. European Honeybee, Apis mellifera,
40. Fairy Longhorn Moth, Adela eldorada,
41. Field Poppy, Eschscholzia sp.,
42. Fireless Firefly, Pyropyga nigricans,
43. Giant Death Camas, Zigadenus exaltatus,
44. Giraffe’s Head Henbit, Henbit Deathnettle, Lamium amplexicaule
45. Goldback Fern, Pentagramma triangularis,
46. Golden Fairy Lantern, Diogenes’ Lantern, Calochortus amabilis,
47. Goldfields, Lasthenia californica,
48. Gray Pine, California Foothill Pine, Pinus sabiniana,
49. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons,
50. Hawkweed, Hieracium argutum
51. Hereford Cattle, Bos taurus,
52. Hog Fennel, Lomatium utriculatum,
53. Holstein Cattle, Bos taurus,
54. Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja affinis,
55. Ithuriel’s Spears, Triteleia laxa,
56. Larkspur, Delphinium decorum,
57. Lichen, Porpidia contraponenda
58. Lupine, Lupinus sp.,
59. Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum jordanii
60. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos,
61. Milk Vetch, unidentified
62. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor,
63. Mouse Ear Chickweed, Cerastium fontanum,
64. Mule’s Ears, Smooth Mules Ears, Wyethia glabra,
65. Owl’s Clover, Dense Flower Owl’s clover, Castilleja densiflora,
66. Pacific Peavine, Canyon Sweet Pea, Lathyrus vestitus,
67. Painted Lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
68. Pepperweed, Common Pepper Grass, Lepidium densiflorum,
69. Pineapple Weed, Matricaria discoidea,
70. Pink Grass, Windmill Pink, Petrorhagia dubia,
71. Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys chorisianus
72. Purple Sanicle, Sanicula bipinnatifida,
73. Q Tips, Slender Cottonweed, Micropus californicus var. californicus,
74. Red Maids, Calandrinia ciliate,
75. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus,
76. Rock Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia tinctina,
77. Shepherd’s Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
78. Sidewalk Fire Dot Lichen, Caloplaca feracissima,
79. Silver Lupine, Lupinus albifrons,
80. Slender Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys tenellus
81. Smoky Eye Boulder Lichen, Porpidia crustulata,
82. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans,
83. Swift Crab Spider, Mecaphesa celer, (super-long front legs)
84. Tamarisk, Salt Cedar, Tamarix parviflora,
85. Texas Longhorn, Bos taurus,
86. Tidy Tips, Fremont’s Tidy Tips, Layia fremontii,
87. Tidy Tips, Smooth Tidy Tips, Layia chrysanthemoides,
88. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia,
89. True Babystars, Leptosiphon bicolor,
90. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
91. Valley Tassels, Castilleja attenuate,
92. Variable-leaf Nemophila, Canyon Nemophila, Nemophila heterophylla,
93. Virgin’s Bower, Old Man’s Beard, Clematis pauciflora,
94. Wallflower, Erysimum capitatum,
95. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
96. Western Hawksbeard, Crepis occidentalis,
97. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta,
98. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis,
99. Whiskerbrush, Leptosiphon ciliates,
100. Wild Carrot, Bird’s Nest, Daucus carota,
101. Wild Onion, unidentified
102. Wildoats, Oat, Avena fatua,
103. Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. varia,
104. Yellow-Faced Bumblebee, Bombus vosnesenskii

Cooper’s Hawk Catches a Woodpecker, 09-21-18

I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my walk. It was mostly the usual suspects out: deer, birds, lizards, squirrels… But I got to see a Cooper’s Hawk knock a young Acorn Woodpecker out of a tree, tackle it on the ground on the trail in front of me, and then fly off with it! I was able to find it a few seconds later in a tree overhead and got some photos. Those things move so fast when they’re on the wing, I hardly had time to get my camera up before the hawk grabbed its breakfast and flew off with it again. Amazing.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I also saw a Gray Hairstreak Butterfly. They’re tiny things, but so cute… and this seemed like such an odd time of year for one to be out that I had to try to get a photo of it.

I walked for about 3 ½ hours and then headed back home.

Mostly Galls and Plants, 09-01-18

Up at 6:00 am to go over to the William Pond Park on the American River. I went looking for wasp galls and found them, but it seems to me there isn’t the variety there that there normally is. Not a lot of other stuff to see, although I did hear a pack of coyotes, and I saw a covey of quail – but I couldn’t get photos of them. I walked for about 2 ½ hours and then went home.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

Mostly Wrens and Squirrels, 05-16-18

I was up around 6:00 am and took the dog with me over to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. I encountered clouds along the way, but none of them amounted to anything where I was traveling. Back in Sacramento, however, they apparently got really organized and the city had rain, thunder and over 100 lightning strikes in the morning (just after I left). Wow!

At the refuge: because the big pond in the permanent wetland area is drained, there isn’t really a lot of anything to see there right now. Usually, there are frogs and snakes and all manner of birds around the pond, dragonflies and damselflies, a multitude of spiders, otters and muskrats…

Right now, the pond is like a PRAIRIE. Dried up with short vegetation sprouting throughout it and little mud holes here and there. It’s hard to get wetland wildlife photos when there’s no water! The geese were actually GRAZING where the pond should have been. *Sigh*

Still, I managed to get photos of some cottontails and California Ground Squirrels, and Marsh Wrens at their nests. I sat parked along the auto tour at one point for about 30 minutes, just watching a pair of the wrens. The male was out singing away, while the female flew beak-fulls of dried grass to the nest she’d chosen and arranged it inside. Once, while I watched, the male went up to the next and stuck his head, checking out the female’s work. When she came back with a mouth full of twiglets, he flew off singing again. The opening to the nest was turned away from the car, so I couldn’t see in to see what she was doing. Danged smart little birds.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The California Ground Squirrels seemed to be everywhere. They should have lots of babies to feed this time of year. As an aside, did you know that in 1918 California launched a campaign to eradicate these native squirrels and even had posters and pamphlets printed encouraging children to join the “army against the squirrels”? “Children, we must kill the squirrels to save food,” a woman on the pamphlet says as she’s smiling. “But use poisons carefully.” The pamphlet included a recipe for strychnine-laced grain as well as suggestions for other extermination methods, such as shooting, drowning, and poison gas. Horrifying (and stupid). The campaign, sanctioned by the state government, actually came from the beef industry which claimed the squirrels were eating all of the grain on which the cattle fed.

I also came across a large creche of Canada Geese (parents, fuzzy goslings and fledglings); about 30 babies altogether(!). This is typical for Canada Geese. One set of adults watches over the group while the other parents feed, and the babies are kept in a group with the youngest in the center and the older ones on the outside. The behavior provides safety in numbers, and also teaches the young ones the concepts of following the leaders and working together – which they’ll need during migration.

In different spots along the route, I was able get good photos of a Red-Eared Slider Turtle and a large Pacific Pond Turtle, so that was nice. For all of my “bitching” about the lack of the big ponds, I did manage to see and count about 43 different species (plants and animals), so the trip wasn’t a waste… And it got me outside, into the fresh air, and focused on something other than my grief over the death of my brother Michael and his wife Sharyi…

On my way out of the refuge, I found a pair of Mourning Doves sitting in a tree, a male and female cooing at each other. They immediately brought Mike and Sharyi to mind, and even as lovely as they were, they brought a tear to my eye…

When I got back to the house it was around 2:00 pm. After a late lunch, I walked around the yard with the dogs and took photos of stuff like the Yellow-Billed Magpies in distant trees, a very fat American Robin (it made me chuckle, it was soooo chubby), and the Genista Broom Moth caterpillars that are currently multitudinous on the broom plant in the corner of the yard. They’re generally yellow-orange caterpillars with clusters of black and white spots on them and long sparse white hairs poking out all over. When the light hits them just right, they look like tubes of orange glass…

When mama moth lays her eggs on the plant, she lays them in clusters, one row overlapping the other, like fish scales. The caterpillars only eat broom, so they’re not a danger to the other plants in the yard. They’re also able to “jump” from one branch to another to escape predators.

Wrens, Tree Swallows and… Pronghorns, 04-29-18

Things didn’t go quite as planned today, but it was okay.  Up around 6:00 am and off to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. I had intended to go out Highway 20 to search for wildflowers, but the season is almost passed around here, so I drove on to the refuge instead.  It was 49º when I headed out and about 66º on my way back. The sky was full of big sofa clouds and there was a slight breeze all day. Very pretty.

At the refuge, the large pond has been drained down to almost nothing, so there’s nothing to see, really, along that extra loop right now. It’s a disappointment. Without the water there are no dragonflies, no grebes nesting on their floating mats, no rafts of pelicans fishing… Just a big dirt hole with deer tracks running across it.  Still, the trip wasn’t a complete waste. When I started the auto-tour route, I was greeted with the sight of a male American Goldfinch in the tall grass, eating seeds. They’re much brighter than the Lesser Goldfinches I usually see around there. Very striking.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I also got to see several of the male Marsh Wrens successfully luring females to their construction sites. The males build several different nests close to one another, and then let the female decide which one she likes best. Two of the males I saw had females working to line the nests with soft grass and feathers.  I also watched as another male worked frantically to build a nest, not out of cattail skins (like most of the other nests), but of green weeds and bits of wet stick.  He was really struggling. The green weeds were thin and leafy and wouldn’t bend or sit the way he wanted them to. When he brought the stick in, he tried it in several different spots and just couldn’t seem to get it into the right spot. I got some photos and video snippets of all of this.  I also came across one male Marsh Wren without a tail.  Usually the males “flag” with their tail and hold it upright when they sing. This guy had nothing to work with. I don’t know if the tail feathers had molted out and not regrown yet, or were pulled out by some other critter that tried to make the small bird its meal… I wonder if being tailless will impact on the little guy’s ability to find a mate.

Seriously. I wished I could stay there longer, and study it all more. Where’s my millions, Universe? I want to be able to retire and do naturalist stuff full time!

At another spot along the route, by the big viewing platform, I found a pair of nesting Tree Swallows. Mom and dad took turns patrolling the nest and going out to look for food. I couldn’t hear any babies, though, and the parents didn’t seem to be bringing whatever food they found back to the nest. Maybe mom is still building up enough protein to lay eggs; or maybe the chicks aren’t hatched yet – but far enough along so that mom doesn’t need to be sitting on the nest all of the time. More questions left unanswered because I can’t get out there long enough to do a definitive study. I need to look for research grant funding…

There were lots of ground squirrels out, and a couple of them posed for me.  And I came across several “wakes” of Turkey Vultures.  On group was perches on a gate with huge tufts of poison hemlock growing up all around them. That made for an unusually creepy yet lovely photograph.  Who knew vultures could look so pretty?

Here is the album of pix from today:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhnaturalist/albums/72157695871401034

The big surprise of the day, though, was at the end of the day as I was heading home. Just off Road 68, where the I5 onramp is there was a herd of … wait for it… Pronghorns! I knew there were pronghorn in California, but I’d never seen one. This was a small herd and they were walking through a recently plowed agricultural field. It was such a surprise that it actually took my brain several seconds to understand what I was looking at. An amazing sight.

Lots of Critters Around on Sunday, 12-17-17

Sergeant Margie wanted to get up at 4:30, but I made him stay in bed until 6:00.  It’s SUNDAY, little dude… I got my laundry done, rebooted the dishwasher, and took out the trash before heading out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.

It was 33º at the river when I got there, and about 54º when I left. When I rounded the corner to go into the drive of the preserve, there were about 20 female Wild Turkeys and their immature (teenager) poults hanging out in the middle of the road.  Most of them scurried to get out of my way, but a couple of the older ones m-o-v-e-d  r-e-a-l-l-y  s-l-o-o-o-o-o-w-l-y. I didn’t want to hit any of them, so I just inched the car forward until I was sure everyone was out of the way and not near the tires.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos and videos.

Once inside the preserve, I saw some European Starlings standing on rocks along the side of the little pond, so I got some photos of them.  Then I heard a snort, and looked around to find the big 4-pointer mule deer buck sitting nearby in the grass with some does around him.  I could see his hot breath streaming out of his nostrils.  I was able to get pretty close to him, but he sat where he was and didn’t startle…

I saw other groups of deer, and some more bucks (some of the banging their heads together). At one point, I spotted one group of does coming toward me through the forest, so I just stayed where I was and videod their arrival.  They were moving pretty fast and “stotting”, so I assumed they were fleeing from something – most likely a pack of coyotes. When the deer got near to me, they all came to a stop, and then tip-toed past me. Hah!

Speaking of coyotes. When I came across a bachelor group of Wild Turkeys on the trail, they and I both stopped moving and perked up our ears when we could hear two packs of coyotes yip-yowling at one another. One pack sounded pretty close to me, to my left; the other one sounded like it was closer to the river. They talked back and forth for a few minutes, and then everything was silent again. It was kind of eerie.

I walked for about 3 ½ hours and then headed back home.