Tag Archives: courtship

A Short Visit to the WPA Rock Garden, 06-19-19

After stopping at the Ibis rookery in Woodland, I drove back to Sacramento, and visited the WPA Rock Garden in William Land Park for a short walk.

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana,
  2. American Wisteria, Wisteria frutescens,
  3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna,
  4. Bear’s Breeches, Acanthus mollis,
  5. Bird of Paradise, tree, Caesalpinia gilliesii,
  6. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus,
  7. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus,
  8. Blue Corn-Lily, Aristea ecklonii,
  9. Bush Katydid nymph, Scudderia pistillata,
  10. Butterfly Bush, Buddleja davidii,
  11. California Buckwheat, Eriogonum fasciculatum,
  12. Caper Bush, Capparis spinosa,
  13. Cardoon, Artichoke Thistle, Cynara cardunculus,
  14. Cleveland Sage, Salvia clevelandii,
  15. Common Toadflax, Linaria vulgaris,
  16. Day Lily, Hemerocallis sp.,
  17. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii,
  18. Desert Willow, Chilopsis linearis, (pink flowers)
  19. Dianella, Dianella ensifolia, (blue seeds)
  20. Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis,
  21. Fig, Common Fig, Ficus carica,
  22. French Lavender, Lavandula stoechas,
  23. Garden Snail, Cornu aspersum,
  24. Gerber Daisy, Gerbera jamesonii,
  25. Giant Fennel, Ferula communis,
  26. Golden Feverfew, Tanacetum Parthenium aureum,
  27. Great Mullein, Verbascum Thapsus,
  28. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus,
  29. Green Bottle Fly, Lucilia sericata,
  30. Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea,
  31. Grevellea, Grevilerulea sp.,
  32. Jacaranda Tree, Jacaranda mimosifolia,
  33. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous,
  34. Lacy Phacelia, Phacelia tanacetifolia,
  35. Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia,
  36. Leafcutter Bee, Megachile sp.,
  37. Love-in-a-Mist, Nigella damascena,
  38. Mojave Prickly Poppy, Argemone corymbose,
  39. Money Plant, Silver Dollar Plant, Moonflower, Lunaria biennis,
  40. Myrtle, Myrtus communis,
  41. Northern Catalpa, Indian Bean Tree, Catalpa speciosa,
  42. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
  43. Pincushion Flower, Scabiosa atropurpurea,
  44. Pinkladies, Oenothera speciosai,
  45. Rattlesnake Master, Eryngium yuccifolium,
  46. Red Mite, Spider Mite, Tetranychinae sp.,
  47. Rose, Rosa sp.,
  48. Smokebush, Smoke Tree, Cotinus obovatus,
  49. Spice Bush, Calycanthus occidentalis,
  50. Statice, Sea lavender, Limonium perezii,
  51. Steely Wings, Salvia canariensis,
  52. Tree Aeonium, Aeonium arboretum,
  53. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
  54. Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis,
  55. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta,
  56. White Lily of the Nile, Agapanthus africanus var. albus,
  57. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi,
  58. Yarrow, Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,

At the Ibis Rookery, 06-19-19

This was a busy day, but in a fun way.  I got up at 5:00 am and headed out to Woodland to go to the ibis rookery at the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency facility off of Road 102 and East Gibson Road. Then I headed out to the WPA Rock Garden, and later in the day, I attended a Monarch monitoring training. Phew!

 Last year when I went to the rookery, the water was a lot lower in the settling ponds. This year, the water is a lot higher, so all of the scrubby trees and tules the ibises were able to nest in before are now under water, and there was no real shore for them to rest on. All of the birds were clambering to get into the high branches of the few trees that weren’t submerged, and I saw some pretty brutal fights over nesting spots. I also watched as several of the birds pulled dried grasses up from the edges of the pond and flew them over to line their nests.

Some of the ibises, though, had already settled in, and a few of them already had eggs laid in their nests. The eggs are a bright neon-turquoise color so they’re easy to spot even at a distance. 

A mated pair of ibises near their nest.

Amid the ibises there were also Great-Tailed Grackles, American Coots (and a few babies), Killdeer, Black-Necked Stilts, Western Kingbirds and Western Meadowlarks. I also saw quite a few Black-Tailed Jackrabbits and Desert Cottontails. I saw Coot courtship behavior, which I’d never seen before. (I’d read about it but never saw it “live”.) The male and female chased after one another with their wings arched up and their tiny tail fanned out to show of the white patches on it.  They’re kind of dorky-looking birds to begin with, so seeing them hunched up trying to look sexy was a hoot. Hah!

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos. You can also CLICK HERE to access the feature article I wrote about the rookery in 2018 as published in the Lake County News online newspaper.

I took quite a few photos, but because the sun was coming up behind the birds, a lot of the stuff was in silhouette and I had to force the iris of the camera open to let more light in on the subjects.  I might go in again before class one morning to get different light. The area where you view the ibises is relatively small, so I was able to cover it in about an hour or so.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana,
  2. American Wisteria, Wisteria frutescens,
  3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna,
  4. Bear’s Breeches, Acanthus mollis,
  5. Bird of Paradise, tree, Caesalpinia gilliesii,
  6. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus,
  7. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus,
  8. Blue Corn-Lily, Aristea ecklonii,
  9. Bush Katydid nymph, Scudderia pistillata,
  10. Butterfly Bush, Buddleja davidii,
  11. California Buckwheat, Eriogonum fasciculatum,
  12. Caper Bush, Capparis spinosa,
  13. Cardoon, Artichoke Thistle, Cynara cardunculus,
  14. Cleveland Sage, Salvia clevelandii,
  15. Common Toadflax, Linaria vulgaris,
  16. Day Lily, Hemerocallis sp.,
  17. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii,
  18. Desert Willow, Chilopsis linearis, (pink flowers)
  19. Dianella, Dianella ensifolia, (blue seeds)
  20. Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis,
  21. Fig, Common Fig, Ficus carica,
  22. French Lavender, Lavandula stoechas,
  23. Garden Snail, Cornu aspersum,
  24. Gerber Daisy, Gerbera jamesonii,
  25. Giant Fennel, Ferula communis,
  26. Golden Feverfew, Tanacetum Parthenium aureum,
  27. Great Mullein, Verbascum Thapsus,
  28. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus,
  29. Green Bottle Fly, Lucilia sericata,
  30. Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea,
  31. Grevellea, Grevilerulea sp.,
  32. Jacaranda Tree, Jacaranda mimosifolia,
  33. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous,
  34. Lacy Phacelia, Phacelia tanacetifolia,
  35. Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia,
  36. Leafcutter Bee, Megachile sp.,
  37. Love-in-a-Mist, Nigella damascena,
  38. Mojave Prickly Poppy, Argemone corymbose,
  39. Money Plant, Silver Dollar Plant, Moonflower, Lunaria biennis,
  40. Myrtle, Myrtus communis,
  41. Northern Catalpa, Indian Bean Tree, Catalpa speciosa,
  42. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
  43. Pincushion Flower, Scabiosa atropurpurea,
  44. Pinkladies, Oenothera speciosai,
  45. Rattlesnake Master, Eryngium yuccifolium,
  46. Red Mite, Spider Mite, Tetranychinae sp.,
  47. Rose, Rosa sp.,
  48. Smokebush, Smoke Tree, Cotinus obovatus,
  49. Spice Bush, Calycanthus occidentalis,
  50. Statice, Sea lavender, Limonium perezii,
  51. Steely Wings, Salvia canariensis,
  52. Tree Aeonium, Aeonium arboretum,
  53. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
  54. Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis,
  55. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta,
  56. White Lily of the Nile, Agapanthus africanus var. albus,
  57. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi,
  58. Yarrow, Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,

At the Sacramento and Colusa Wildlife Refuges, 05-06-19

Certified California Naturalist, Roxanne Moger and I went out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge around 6:00 am this morning. The weather was beautiful today, but there wasn’t a lot to see at the preserve. We’re kind of in between seasons, so the large flocks of birds have all left, but the insects (like dragonflies, damselflies, and orb-weaver spiders) haven’t arrived yet. We did see swarms of Painted Lady butterflies and some Cabbage White, but none of the other species normally seen there in the late spring/early summer.

Roxanne did all the driving, but we stopped a couple of time to get out of the car and walk parts of the trail or explore the boundaries of the park-and-stretch areas. Some of the vernal pools on the site were in bloom: all golden yellow and purple with Goldfields and Downingia. Just beautiful.

Although the species list at the end of the day wasn’t as long or as varied as I’d like, I did like the fact that I saw a few things I’d never seen before and learned more about some species than I’d known before. That’s what really makes these outings fun.

A large fly landed on the passenger side mirror of the car partway through the auto-tour and at first I thought it was a Robber Fly (those guys are pretty big). We were both intrigued by the fly’s huge goggle-like eyes and his tenaciousness.  He held onto that mirror for quite a long time.

When I got home, I looked up the fly to see if I could find its scientific name and found that it was actually a male Striped (or Lined) Horsefly, Tabanus lineola. I’d never seen one before. And, of course, once I find something new to me, I have to research it more.  Never having encountered a Horsefly before, I was surprised to learn that although the males drink nectar, the females drink blood (usually from large mammals like livestock). She had scissor-like mouth parts that slice into the skin so she can get to the blood. This species is usually found along the east coast and Gulf of Mexico, so it was something of a surprise to find it here… assuming I got the ID correct.

We also got to see a male Red-Winged Blackbird flaring his epaulets at a female, and a pair of Brown-Headed Cowbirds performing what we thought was courtship behavior.  The two birds sat across from one another, then one ruffled its feathers, opened its wings a bit and bowed down at the other, and the other responded in kind.

Roxanne and I inferred the behavior was “courtship” but, from what I read, after I got home, what we were seeing was actually two males trying to outdo one another in a machismo contest.  Apparently, the females don’t respond well to the males’ bows, which they see as aggressive, so the males only bow to one another. (You can read more here.)  The males open their wings to one another, and to females, to show how mature they are. Juveniles have pale markings on the inside of the wings.

You can see the video snippet I took of the birds HERE.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

And we found a couple of Black Phoebe nests, one stuffed full of babies who were almost fully fledged. They were stacked up, one on top of the other, with their tails sticking out over the edge of the nest. And toward the end of the auto tour route we came across a dead tree where there was a Western Meadowlark, a Red-Winged Blackbird and a tiny Song Sparrow all singing their respective songs.

We caught glimpses of American Goldfinches and Bullock’s Orioles, and hear Bitterns, but didn’t see any. One oddity was sighting a Mute Swan in the permanent wetlands area. That was odd because swans hardly ever go into the refuge, and Mute Swans are actually an invasive species. Unlike the Tundra Swans, the Mute Swans are super-aggressive and destroy the habitat they live in by ripping up water-plants from the roots.

When we were done at the Sacramento refuge, we decided to go over to the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge to show Roxanne the day-roost of the Black-Crowned Night Herons at the end of the auto-tour there. We were astonished to discover that the auto-tour there was roped off so no one could get to it… but the rope and signage was only visible AFTER you entered the refuge and started driving down the route. Stupid. They should have put the signs on the front gate or in the parking area.  A “manager” who showed up a little while after did, said that the auto-route was shut down because they were short handed and couldn’t patrol it well enough. Sad.

So, we didn’t do that tour and instead walked around a little bit in the native flower garden they have near the restroom facility.  Along part of a path near the garden, Roxanne found some galls we’d never seen before: the gall of the Elm Balloon-Gall Aphid, Eriosoma lanuginosum.

According to what I’ve read, the galls are initiated by a “fundatrix”, a parthenogenetic female aphid whose presence causes an extreme enlargement of the soft cell tissue on one side of the leaf. The galls are hollow and feel rubbery. They start out green and are covered with fine white hairs (which we saw) and turn brown as they age.

Inside the gall the fundatrix has her babies which are wingless and yellow until they mature. There can also be second generation aphids, called “alates” (usually winged individuals) which are dark green to black and wax powdered. Not all of the adults grow wings, however, and wing-growth seemed to be associated to crowding inside the galls, a short supply of food, and/or changes in the environment. Nature is so cool!

After walking around a bit, we headed back home to Sacramento and got there around 3:00 pm.

Species List:

1. American Avocet, Recurvirostra americana,
2. American Bittern, Botaurus lentiginosus,
3. American Coot, Fulica americana.
4. American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos,
5. American Goldfinch, Spinus tristis,
6. American Robin, Turdus migratorius,
7. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna,
8. Annual Yellow Sweet Clover, Melilotus indicus,
9. Arches Moth, Habrosyne sp.
10. Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus,
11. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
12. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus,
13. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum,
14. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea,
15. Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides,
16. Brown-Headed Cowbird, Molothrus ater,
17. Bullock’s Oriole, Icterus bullockii,
18. Bur Clover, Burr Medic, Medicago polymorpha,
19. California Flannelbush, Fremontodendron californicum,
20. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
21. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
22. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica,
23. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis,
24. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera,
25. Clark’s Grebe, Aechmophorus clarkia,
26. Cleveland Sage, Salvia clevelandii,
27. Common Mustard, Brassica rapa,
28. Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens,
29. Curly Dock, Rumex crispus,
30. Damselfly, Pacific Forktail, Ischnura cervula, (dots on thorax)
31. Damselfly, Sooty Dancer, Argia lugens, (no blue tip; rings around segments)
32. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii,
33. Dogtail Grass, Cynosurus echinatus,
34. Elm Balloon-Gall Aphid, Eriosoma lanuginosum,
35. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto,
36. Field Elm Tree, Smooth-Leaf Elm, Ulmus Minor,
37. Foothills Penstamon, Penstemon heterophyllus,
38. Foxtail Barley, Hordeum murinum ssp. glaucum,
39. Fremont Cottonwood Tree, Populus fremontii,
40. Fuller’s Teasel, Wild Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum,
41. Goldfields, Contra Costa Goldfields, Lasthenia conjugens,
42. Great Egret, Ardea alba,
43. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons,
44. Greenbottle Fly, Lucilia sericata,
45. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus,
46. Hood Canarygrass, Phalaris paradoxa,
47. Hoover’s Downingia, Hoover’s Calicoflower, Downingia bella,
48. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus,
49. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus,
50. Jimson Weed, Datura stramonium,
51. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous,
52. Large Oxtongue Aphid, Uroleucon picridis,
53. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris,
54. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
55. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor,
56. Narrowleaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis,
57. Northern Paper Wasp, Polistes fuscatus,
58. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta,
59. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata,
60. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii,
61. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marmorata,
62. Pacific Tree Frog, Chorus Frog, Pseudacris regilla,
63. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
64. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps,
65. Plantain, Ribwort, Plantago lanceolata,
66. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum,
67. Purple Finch, Haemorhous purpureus,
68. Purple Needle Grass, Stipa pulchra,
69. Rabbit Tail Grass,Hare’s Tail Grass, Lagurus ovatus,
70. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis,
71. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus,
72. Rush, California Bulrush, Schoenoplectus californicus,
73. Sedge, Pennsylvania Sedge, Carex pensylvanica
74. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciose,
75. Silverpuff, Microseris acuminata,
76. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens,
77. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia,
78. Striped Horsefly, Tabanus lineola,
79. Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus,
80. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura,
81. Valley Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys canescens,
82. Varied Carpet Beetle, Anthrenus verbasci,
83. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum,
84. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
85. Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis,
86. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta,
87. Willow, Gooding’s Willow, Salix gooddingii

Deer Jousting and Turkeys Mating Today, 03-12-19

I went out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve and got there around 8:00 am. I was joined there by fellow volunteer trail-walker, Mary M. (The-Other-Mary), and we walked for a little over 3 hours. It was a very interesting walk!

Very early into the walk, we came across a Red-Shouldered Hawk who then joined another one… flew into a nearby tree and did their mating thing right in front of us. Around that same area, I could see a European Starling flitting and hopping through the branches of another tree with a large feather in its beak. It was a gift intended for a female Starling, but the male fumbled with the feather, it fell out of his beak and floated to the ground. D’oh! I kind of felt sorry for the little guy. He was trying so hard to make a big impression and failed epically.

The Wild Turkeys gave us a lot of photos ops today, too. We saw two leucistic turkeys, one a male and the other a female. I’d seen a couple of the females around before, but I had never seen the male until today.  Leucistic animals have a depletion of melanin that washes out most of their coloring, but they’re not pure white like albinos.  On the female turkey, her leucism made her look black and white; but on the male it made him look blond, light brown and white. I thought they were both soooo interesting looking. I took a lot of photos of them.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

While The-Other-Mary and I were watching one small flock of turkeys, we saw another group running across the lawns straight toward them… and then we saw the coyote running right on their heals! He jumped at a few of them but couldn’t catch any of them. and while this is all going on The-Other-Mary and I are trying to get our cameras to focus on the coyote and follow the action. It was my turn for an epic fail; I didn’t get a single image of the coyote. Dang it!

In another area, we’d stopped to watch some of the male turkeys strutting for a handful of females… and then one of the females approached a male, did a circle dance with him, and eventually let him mount her. The-Other-Mary and I are snapping photos as some other people walked up to see what was going on.  So, I got the chance to do my naturalist thing… I identified the males and females for them, told them about how the males strut, about their snoods, and about what attracts a female to the male. When the female turkey bowed down to the ground, I told them about her posture, how the male will “tread” on her, and how, if she’s aroused, she’ll raise her tail for the male… And while I’m talking, the birds are performing as though on queue.  We actually got to see two matings while we were there. During the second one, an Asian lady came up (who didn’t speak much English) and asked if we could take her photo with the birds in the background.  The-Other-Mary obliged her, but it was right when the male mounted the female, so this poor lady now has a photo of herself with turkeys doing the nasty behind her… It will probably turn into internet gold. Hah!

Further along the trail, we came across a pair of Canada Geese in the tree tops.  I’m not certain, but I think with was the same mama and offspring I’d seen a couple of weeks ago. It looks like the younger one can’t fly very well; only in short bursts.  So, they travel from tree-to-tree, then go down to the river, then go back tree-to-tree into the preserve or onto the lawns.

The other cool thing we got to see was a herd of about 15 or 20 Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, including some bucks that still have their antlers. The big 5-pointer was out there, and he started jousting with another older buck. At one point, when they “locked horns” the younger one pushed hard enough to force the older down to the ground. The older one recovered quickly, but he really had to push back HARD to get himself onto all four feet again.

When we were done with the walk, we went into the nature center to record our hours (we get volunteer hour credit for each hour we’re on the trail), and I got to meet Tova, the gal who oversees The Acorn publication. She thanked me for the article I’d written and sent to her on Red-Shouldered Hawks and appreciated that I was able to include photos I’d taken right there at Effie Yeaw. It’s always nice to put a face to a name…

As The-Other-Mary and I left the building, I had to stop to watch one of their snakes (on display) devouring a mouse. The-Other-Mary didn’t want to see that; and I thought that was funny because she’s ex-military and an avid hunter. Hah! So, we left before the snake finished its meal.

The-Other-Mary was very excited about the walk and said it was “one for the books”. We’re hoping to be able to meet up again soon.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
3. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronate ssp. auduboni
4. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
5. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
6. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
7. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
8. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
9. Golden-Crowned Sparrow,Zonotrichia atricapilla
10. Gopher Snake, Pacific Gopher snake, Pituophis catenifer catenifer
11. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
12. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
13. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
14. Red Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
15. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
16. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
17. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
18. Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni
19. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis