Tag Archives: darkling beetle

Looking for Willow Galls, 06-09-19

I got up around 5:30 this morning, and after giving the dog his breakfast, I headed over to the American River Bend Park.  I was in search of willow galls and found oh-so-much more.  The weather behaved itself in the morning hours.  There was a breeze by the river, so it didn’t get too warm for me to walk until around 10:30.  So it was a nice morning. 

First I tried walking along the river at the first pullout, but the water was too high there, so I took a trail that brought me out onto the sandy area close to the bridge.  Lots of willows there, and I found the pinecone-like galls of the midge Rabdophaga strobiloide. They start out looking like little round balls of tightly packed leaves. Then they develop a “beak” that makes them look like pinecones. Each gall contains one midge larva. When the larva matures into an adult midge, the midge escapes the gall through the tip of the beak.

While I was walking through that area, I could hear the nattering of quail in the underbrush, but they kept themselves well-hidden, so I never did see them or was able to get a photo of them. I did get shots of a Spotted Towhee and a House Wren, though. I walked along that part of the river for a little while and then headed back to where I’d parked the car at the pullout.  At one point, the trail was blocked by a fallen tree. My trying to navigate over that obstacle was mildly humorous. Sit on one part of the trunk, lift my leg up, throw it over the other part of the trunk, try to get that foot to touch the ground, then shift my weight, and try to drag my other leg up over the trunk… Phew!

Once I got back to the car, I drove further int the park, got out, and continued my walk along the trail that runs along the riverside, but about 10 feet above the level of the water. I found a few Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars and saw some of the butterflies flitting near the top of the trees. When the caterpillars ready to build their chrysalis, they attach their back feet to a tree (or other substrate) with silk, and then build a silk sling-shot-like thing that holds them upright but at a slight angle from the tree. (The silk is pulled from spinnerets on the sides of the body.) Then the caterpillar leans back and just hangs there in a kind of torpor as the chrysalis forms UNDER its skin. Once the chrysalis is formed, the caterpillar sheds its skin — including its face — and waits for metamorphosis to begin.

I also found some of their chrysalises. One was so new; it was still bright green. There stills seems to be a LOT fewer than I’m used to seeing out there, though.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

At one spot, I stopped to watch a pair of House Wrens flying all over the place, the male singing brightly while he flew. They stopped off a few times at a cavity in an oak tree, only to be run off by some Tree Swallows.  Apparently, the Swallows had already claimed the cavity and were trying to keep the Wrens from setting up house there.  I got quite a few good shots of the Swallows.  The Wrens, not so much…

 

A nice surprise was seeing a female Common Merganser swimming near the shore with her three red-headed little ducklings. The mom was swimming up-stream which can be hard on the babies when the current is strong, so they sometimes swim in her wake… or just hop onto her back!  In one photo you can see the mom swimming with her face in the water. This is a typical fishing technique used by these birds; she’s seeing if there’s anything tasty underneath her.  These ducks are sometimes referred to as “saw-bills” for the serrated edges along the rim of their bill. Unlike Mallards, Mergansers are “diving” ducks, not “dabbling” ducks.

I walked for about four hours and then headed back home.  But another surprise happened when I was driving out of the park. I saw something moving near the edge of the road and stopped to get a better look. I realized it was a female Wild Turkey, that was sitting down in the dirt and dried gas.  She was giving herself a dust bath (to rid her feathers of mites). The surprise was when, right behind her, her baby (a little fledgling called a poult) stood up!  Mama turkeys are very protective of their babies, and when the mom realized I’d seen her kid, she got up and hurried him away from the road.

 Species List:
Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
Asian Ladybeetle, Harmonia axyridis,
Black Locust, Robinia pseudoacacia,
Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea,
Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis,
Bush Katydid nymph, Scudderia texensis,
California Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor hirsuta,
California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica,
California Quail, Callipepla californica,
California Scrub Oak, Quercus berberidifolia,
California Sycamore, Platanus racemose,
California Wild Grape, Vitis californica,
Common Merganser, Mergus merganser,
Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
Coyote Brush Stem Gall moth, Gnorimoschema baccharisella,
Darkling Beetle, Pinacate Beetle, Eleodes obscurus,
Deerweed, Acmispon glaber,
Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata,
English Plantain, Ribwort, Plantago lanceolata,
European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris,
Fremont Cottonwood, Populus fremontii,
Goldenrod Bunch Gall, Goldenrod Floret Gall Midge, Solidago canadensis,
Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum,
Hoptree, Skunk Bush, Ptelea trifoliata,
House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior,
Long-Jawed Orb Weaver, Tetragnatha sp.,
Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos,
Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor,
Moth Mullein, Verbascum blattaria,
Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
Narrowleaf Willow, Salix exigua,
Northern California Black Walnut, Juglans hindsii,
Old Live Oak Gall Wasp Gall, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis,
Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia,
Oystershell Scale Insect, Ceroplastes sp,
Rattlesnake Grass, Big Quaking Grass, Briza maxima,
Red Mulberry, Morus rubra,
Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
Rusty Tussock Moth caterpillar, Orgyia antiqua,
Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus,
Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare,
Telegraph Weed, Heterotheca grandiflora,
Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
Variable Flatsedge, Cyperus difformis,
Wand Mullein, Verbascum virgatum,
Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana,
Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
Western Goldenrod, Euthamia occidentalis,
Western Leaf-Footed Bug eggs, Leptoglossus zonatus
White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia,
White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare,
Willow Pinecone Gall midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides,
Willow Stem Gall midge, Rabdophaga rigidae,
Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa,
Wooly Mullein, Verbascum thapsusm
Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis,
Yellow Water Iris, Yellow Flag, Iris pseudacorus,

Bugs and Birds Mostly, 05-29-19

I got up at 5:30 this morning. I would have slept in a tiny bit more, but Sergeant Margie needed to get outside to pee. Since I was up, I decided to stay up and head over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk. It was about 55° when I got there, and almost 70° when I left.

I saw a lot of the usual suspects at the preserve. Still very few deer around; the boys are off getting their antlers and the girls are off getting ready to give birth to their fawns.

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos.

I did get to see another pair of Mourning Doves working on their nest. I saw the male first, along the trail picking up twigs and bits of dried grass and flying them over to the female. She was sitting in the back of a half-fallen branch of a tree, tucked in a broken bit of bark. Smart girl!

Later on, along the trail, while I was watching a young Fox Squirrel, a California Ground Squirrel showed up, and then a Scrub Jay landed nearby with a green plum in its beak. Wow, lots of photos just within a few feet of one another. I love moments like that.

I walked for about four hours and then headed home.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
  2. American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus,
  3. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides,
  4. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii,
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
  6. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum,
  7. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea,
  8. Bush Katydid, Scudderia furcate,
  9. California Brodiaea, Brodiaea californica,
  10. California Dandelion, Taraxacum californicum,
  11. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
  12. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta,
  13. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
  14. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
  15. Darkling Beetle, Eleodes dentipes,
  16. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger,
  17. Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis,
  18. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata,
  19. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris,
  20. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus,
  21. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
  22. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
  23. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus,
  24. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii,
  25. Little Black Ant, Monomorium minimum,
  26. Live Oak Erineum Mite gall, Aceria mackiei,
  27. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 2nd generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis,
  28. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos,
  29. Mock Orange, Philadephus lewisii californicus,
  30. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
  31. Mugwort Weevil, Scaphomorphus longinasus,
  32. Mule Fat, Baccharis salicifolia
  33. Northern Saw-Whet Owl, Sophia, Aegolius acadicus,
  34. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii,
  35. Platygaster, Platygaster california,
  36. Plum, Prunus subg. Prunus,
  37. Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum,
  38. Red Mulberry, Morus rubra,
  39. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus,
  40. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
  41. Rose Clover, Trifolium hirtum,
  42. Rusty Tussock Moth, Orgyia antiqua,
  43. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa,
  44. Southern Alligator Lizard, Elgaria multicarinata,
  45. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor,
  46. Wand Mullein, Verbascum virgatum,
  47. Western Carpenter Ant, Camponotus modoc,
  48. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
  49. Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa

A Lot of Little Moments, 05-14-19

I got up at 5:00 this morning and took my time getting ready to head out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my trail-walking thing there. It was cool for most of the day – a rainstorm is supposed to move in tomorrow – so it was perfect walking weather. I was joined by fellow volunteer Mary Messenger – the Other Mary.

We saw the usual suspects like deer, House Wrens, and suchlike. One humorous encounter was with a European Staring who had its adult feathers in but was acting like a brat. It was sitting in a tree just opposite where I had seen the fledglings poking their heads out of the nesting cavity last week. It was making a lot of very loud squawks and peeps, and flapping its wings trying to get attention. Might have also been a female looking for a mate to come feed her. Whichever.  She was so loud and so animated; you couldn’t miss her.

Another funny moment was walking in on a pair of Fox Squirrels who I think were making out.  Hah! Get a room, you guys!

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I saw another Starling in another part of the preserve that was taking twigs OUT of her nesting cavity, which I thought was weird.  And we saw a male Mourning Dove picking up bits of grass and carrying them to his mate in a tree off the trail.  A House Wren was carrying food to his babies… Everyone was moving stuff around.

I also saw a pair of Wood Ducks. They flew into a tree overhead, and then the female flew to an adjacent tree and “disappeared”. She flew out to the first tree next to the male, then flew back to the other tree and disappeared again. I tried to see where she was hiding out and assumed she might have had a nest in a cavity in the tree, but I just couldn’t see her. Then she flew out one more time, and this time she had something orange and fuzzy in her bill. She flew off with it, and the male followed her. I couldn’t tell what it was, really, and wasn’t able to get any photos of it, but I think she was retrieving a duckling that was refusing to come down from the nest! I’d never seen or heard of anything like that; it was kind of amazing.

And we caught a glimpse of a young coyote. He came out onto the trail in front of us with a short growl and then ran off into the high grass where we lost sight of him. He was pretty small, probably a teenager. After we saw him, we kept an eye out for mom and dad; they usually travel in a pack when the pups are young.

We walked for about 4 hours, which is pretty much the limit for both of us, and I headed back home.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
  2. American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus,
  3. American Robin, Turdus migratorius,
  4. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens,
  5. Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis,
  6. Black Grosbeak, Pheucticus melanocephalus,
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
  8. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum,
  9. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea,
  10. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica,
  11. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta,
  12. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica,
  13. Coffeeberry, Frangula californica,
  14. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
  15. Coyote Brush Bud Gall Midge, Rhopalomyia californica,
  16. Coyote, Canis latrans,
  17. Darkling Beetle, Eleodes dentipes,
  18. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii,
  19. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger,
  20. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata,
  21. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris,
  22. Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum,
  23. Great Egret, Ardea alba,
  24. Greater Periwinkle, Vinca major,
  25. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
  26. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus,
  27. Katydid nymph, Microcentrum rhombifolium,
  28. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor,
  29. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
  30. Oak Apple Wasp Galls, Andricus quercuscalifornicus,
  31. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus,
  32. Olive Tree, Olea europaea,
  33. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marmorata,
  34. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
  35. Pinacate Beetle, Eleodes pimelioides,
  36. Red Harvester Ant, Pogonomyrmex barbatus,
  37. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus,
  38. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis,
  39. Rusty Tussock Moth caterpillar, Orgyia antiqua,
  40. Spittle Bug, Meadow Spittlebug, Philaenus spumarius,
  41. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus,
  42. Swainson’s Hawk, Orion, Buteo swainsoni,
  43. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor,
  44. Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum,
  45. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus,
  46. Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa,
  47. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa,

Well, that Baby Rattlesnake was a Surprise, 05-10-17

I got up early this morning, and headed out to the American River Bend Park around 6:30 am for a walk. It was gorgeous outside today; 53º when I headed out, and high of 69º all day with a slight breeze…

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos and videos.

At the River Bend Park, I was looking for Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, and they were in abundance. I think they’ll start going into their chrysalises in another week or so; they’re getting so big and fat.

The wild grasses throughout the park are waist high in most places, and there were lots and lots of Dog-Tail Grass and Rattlesnake (Big Quaking) Grass everywhere; more than I had ever seen there before. (And that, I’m assuming is because of all of the rain we had earlier in the year.) I was surprised to see Miniature Lupine, Tule Peas, Elegant Clarkia and Bush Monkey Flowers still in bloom in some places, along with all of the common vetch and the Woodland Stars…

I found a pair of House Wrens tending to their babies and bringing them all sorts of bugs.  Once I figured out where the nest was (in a tree cavity) I stood next to the tree for a little while – and I could actually hear the babies making their raspy “feed me” noises inside the tree.  Hah!

Some interesting/weird/neat things along the walk included being able to see green bunny poop for the first time.  Rabbits and hares usually poop twice. The first time they do it, the pellets are green… and then the rabbit or hare eats the pellets and puts them through their digestive system a second time to make sure they get all of the nutrients out of them. When the animal poops a second time, the pellets are brown. (I must’ve scared the rabbit off before it had a chance to re-eat it droppings) … I’d never seen the green version before, so I thought that was neat. I know, I know… it takes a “naturalist” to get excited about bunny poop.  Hah-2!

The second odd thing was a female Mallard sitting in a tree. Mallards usually nest on the ground and sometimes on floating mats near the water, but this one was checking out a spot in a tree near the riverside. Flood waters early in the year, had brought grassy debris into the branches about halfway up the tree, and when the waters retreated, the grassy mass was left behind.  The mama Mallard was checking it out… poking around in the mass, pushing on spots, settling down and then standing again, like she was testing to see if it would work for her.  Papa Mallard was in the water below the branches, fussing and splashing around, like he did want her in the tree.  Eventually, she left the site and went down to meet the male in the water.  They swam off together, and then I saw mama flying off across the river. They must’ve had a fight about it.  Hah-3!

The third thing was a real surprise. I was looking over a tree that had been felled by a beaver, when I saw a “thin black thing” flicking out from under the dislocated shaggy bark on the side of the tree.  At first I thought it was an earwig’s butt… but it was moving too fast. So I looked closer and realized it was forked tongue! Then I could see the snake’s face but not its body, so at first I didn’t know what kind of snake it was. Good thing I didn’t reach for it! I knew the rattlers were emerging and having babies this time of year, so I got a stick and lifted the bark over the tree… and there was a baby rattlesnake!  He was so young he only had one button on his tail… and he wasn’t rattling at me… Baby rattlers are usually born in groups, so I figured where there was one, there might be more, so I backed away from the tree and headed back to the car.  I actually walked for about 3 ½ hours up to that point, so I’d gotten a lot of good exercise in already.

Redbuds and House Wrens

I got up around 6:00 am and headed over to the American River Bend Park.  I was hoping the redbud trees would be in bloom there, and they were, but thanks to Daylight Savings Time, it was still dark when I arrived at the park – made darker because of a thick overcast.  So, I had to wait about 30 minutes before it got light enough for my camera to actually be able to see anything.

CLICK HERE to see the complete album of photos and video snippets.

I got some lovely redbud photos, along with some shots of the Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies that were out.  It was still chilly (in the 50’s) outside, and there had been a heavy dew overnight, so the butterflies were all torpid and wet, but some of them managed to rouse themselves so I could take their pictures.  The place was also alive with the songs of House Wrens.  They seemed to be singing from everything jumble of underbrush around.  I was able to get photos and video of them… and of some Spotted Towhees that were also singing in the area.  I think I would’ve seen more action if it had been just a tad warmer…

Still, I walked for almost 4 hours (which is my absolute limit) before heading home.  I’d tweaked my left ankle at the park when I climbed a pile of mulch to get photos of some slime mold, so that kept me chair-bound most of the rest of the day.

Hawk Babies and More This Morning

Mother and child. Red-Shouldered Hawks. ©2016 Copyright Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.
Mother and child. Red-Shouldered Hawks. ©2016 Copyright Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.

I have today off from work, but got up around 5:45 am anyway, then headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve in Carmichael.  It’s so weird to see the streets totally empty on a Monday morning.  Everyone else must’ve been sleeping in.

As I was driving through the residential area that wraps around on side of the nature preserve, a mama Mule deer and her baby – just out of its spots – walked across the street.  By the time I got my camera out of its bag, they were gone.  I’m just going to have to drive with the camera out all of the time, I guess.  Hah!

In the parking area, some of the male wild turkeys were showing off to the females; and in the native plant garden area, the Yarrow was in full bloom along with lots of Showy Milkweed.  I didn’t see any signs of Monarchs yet around the milkweed, though; maybe in another week or two… I’d recently read about making a tincture of Yarrow to use as a natural insect repellant.  You get fresh yarrow (the whole plant: stems, leaves, buds) and chop it all up, then put it in a bottle or jar and cover it with vodka.  Leave it in a closet for about 3 weeks, and then strain out all of the plant material before transferring the liquid to a spray bottle.  It doesn’t work as long as stuff with DEET in it (only about 30-45 minutes), so you have to keep spraying it on, but at least it won’t poison you…

The blue elderberry was in blossom everywhere and some of the plants already has berries on them.  The wild plum trees were also starting to bear fruit, and the Black Walnut trees were covered in new walnuts…

Usually, the preserve is a good bet for a lot of deer photos, but the deer were keeping to themselves this morning, and I only saw one or two.  The big show, though, was the Red-Shouldered Hawks that had built a nest near the nature center.  While papa screeched from a nearby tree, mama flew in to the nest with a big rat or vole she’d caught.  Then she started walking around the lip of the next and screeching, too… and in flew two of her children.  Almost fully fledged now, they were testing out their wings.  I got some still shots and video of them – all except papa who kept himself hidden among the leaves of his tree.  While I was taking video, another photographer came up and started filming, too… so in the video you can hear me respond to him…  It was hard for us to leave the site and continue on our prospective walks.  I saw more Red-Shouldered Hawks all around the preserve: everyone’s out hunting this morning…

CLICK HERE to see some video of the mother hawk and her kids.

I came across other birds in and around their nests, including a very uncooperative European Starling.  I saw it fly into its tree cavity, and waited and waited for it to poke its head out again so I could get a picture of it…  But the little dickens came out with a large feather in front of its face – doing housekeeping duties, I assume – so all I got was a picture of a feather sticking out of the tree with the Starling’s eye looking over the top of it.  Hah!  I also got a few photos of a mama House Wren trying to move a twig around in her nesting cavity.  It was really too long for the cavity and part of it stuck out through the hole; she kept trying to drag it all the way in and shove it around.  So much exertion for such a tiny bird…

I also saw a Darkling Beetle, lots of Acorn Woodpeckers, Western Fence Lizards, Scrub Jays, a snakefly,  a pair of Mallards sleeping in the long grass, a female Nutthall’s Woodpecker, and three California Towhees bobbing along the path in front of me. A little further along, I also saw a Spotted Towhee.

As I was heading out of the preserve, I came across a group of three people who were looking at a fallen log and pointing to something under it.  As I got closer, I could hear them talking, and one was saying, “That’s telemetered Male Number 37.”  I knew instantly they were talking about a rattlesnake!  I subscribe to blog by Mike Cardwell on the rattlesnake at the preserve (http://www.eyncrattlesnakes.com/), and knew that Number 37 was one they’d just recaptured and put a new transmitter on.  When I got closer, I asked the group if they were part of the rattlesnake study on the preserve, and – yep.  The main guy in the group was none other than Mike Cardwell himself!  I was SUCH a groupie; Oooo, I just LOVE your blog, Mike! He asked me if I wanted to see one of the snakes, and I said sure, so he let me come off the path to where he was and pointed out Number 37 to me.  The snake was looking right at us, but wasn’t making any noise.  Number 36 is a huge male with about 11 rattles on his tail already.  I tried getting some photos of him, but he was a good 15 feet away, under a log and behind the grass, so my photos aren’t the best…  But at least I got to meet Mike AND the nefarious Number 37.  Cool!

And to end my walk with a little more coolness: as I was heading to my car, I could hear bullfrogs burping in the small pond near the little Maidu Indian Village reconstruction, so I stopped there to see if I could see any frogs.  Got photos of three of them.  Coolness.

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I walked for about 2 ½ hours. After that I headed home, stopping first to put gas in the car and run the Sebring through the carwash, and then stopping at BelAir to pick up a bunch of groceries.  When I got home, I unpacked everything and rested for a bit.