Tag Archives: egg case

In the Yard, 05-03-19

Look around your yard and see what you can find: eggs, nymphs, caterpillars, spiders, bees, flies, lady beetles…

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

Species List:

1. Asian Lady Beetle, Harlequin Labybug, Harmonia axyridis,
2. Assassin Bug, Zelus renardii,
3. Cheeseweed, Common Mallow, Malva neglecta,
4. Common Lilac, Syringa vulgaris,
5. Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens,
6. European Honeybee, Apis mellifera,
7. Genista Broom Moth caterpillar, Uresiphita reversalis,
8. Grass Spider, Funnel Grass Spider, Agelenopsis spp.,
9. Katydid nymph, Fork-Tailed Bush Katydid, Scudderia furcate,
10. Lavender, Lavandula sp.,
11. Leaf-Curl Fungus, Taphrina deformans,
12. Leaf-Footed Bug eggs, Leptoglossus phyllopus,
13. Looper Moth, Alfalfa Looper, Mint Looper Moth caterpillar, Autographa californica,
14. Mediterranean Broom, Genista linifolia,
15. Mock-Strawberry, Duchesnea indica var. indica,
16. Plum, Prunus sp.,
17. Podocarpus Aphids, Neophyllaphis podocarpi
18. Podocarpus, Buddhist Pine, Maki, Podocarpus macrophyllus var maki,
19. Praying Mantis, California Mantis, Stagmomantis californica,
20. Red Mulberry, Morus rubra,
21. Rust fungus, Hollyhock Rust, Puccinia malvacearum,
22. Scarlet Pimpernel, Lysimachia arvensis,



Pre-Field Trip Field Trip at Lake Solano, 03-13-19

I got up around 6:00 this morning so I could head out to Lake Solano Park in Winters, CA. This was a recon for the trip we’ll be doing with the whole class on Saturday, and I wanted to check out where plants were growing, if the ferns were out yet, what birds were out there, etc. It was very windy and chilly around 44° when I got there and about 53° when I left.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

At the park, I was joined by my coworker Nate L., some of my naturalist class students, Sharyn L. and Mary S., and two of my naturalist class graduates Elaine and Roxanne.  Sharyn had forgotten her cell phone and was double bummed when she realized the battery in her camera was dead, so she had no way of taking photos. Not having the technology in her hands, though, she said helped her to focus more on what she was hearing rather than what she was seeing, so the experience was a lot different than she thought it might be.

I was hoping to see some pipevine, manroot and Giant Horsetail, and thankfully they were all present. Those are always great things to show to the students. We also saw over 30 different plant and animal species, including the resident Western Screech Owl, and found a couple of animal skulls. We think one was a coyote skull, and the other (with a fully disarticulated skeleton) was some kind of domesticate dog, based on their teeth.  It’s always great to go out with a group on excursions like this because everyone sees something different, and as a group we’re alerted to more things.

We walked for about 3 ½ hours, and then each went on our way.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. American Mistletoe, Broadleaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
3. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronate ssp. auduboni
4. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
6. Broadleaf Cattail, Typha latifolia
7. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
8. California Manroot Vine, Bigroot, Wild Cucumber, Marah fabaceus
9. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
10. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
11. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
12. Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
13. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
14. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
15. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auritus
16. Echo Azure Butterfly, Celastrina echo
17. Galium, Velcro Grass, Sticky Willy, California Bedstraw, Galium californicum
18. Giant Horsetail, Great Horsetail, Equisetum telmateia
19. Giraffe’s Head Henbit, Lamium amplexicaule
20. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
21. Great Egret, Ardea alba
22. Hooded Merganser, Lophodytes cucullatus
23. Lodgepole Pine, Pinus contorta
24. Mottled Willowfly, Mottled Stonefly, Strophopteryx fasciata
25. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
26. Oyster Mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus
27. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marmorata
28. Peacock, Indian Peafowl, Pavo cristatus
29. Phainopepla, Phainopepla nitens
30. Praying Mantis, California Mantis, Stagmomantis californica
31. Racoon, North American Racoon, Procyon lotor
32. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
33. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
34. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
35. Western Screech Owl, Megascops kennicottii
36. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
37. Willow, Pacific Willow, Salix lasiandra

CalNat Field Trip #2, Lake Solano Park. 03-03-18

I led a California Naturalists field trip to Lake Solano Park today. The first thing we saw when we entered the park were two peacocks roosting high in a tree over our heads… and a male Phainopepla that was looking for mistletoe berries to eat.

It was originally the idea that half of the group would go in one direction and the other half of the group would go in another – so we could cover the whole park — but all of the students wanted to come with me, so we moved in one big group.

The walk was a productive one, however: we got to show students different kinds of plants including flowering Pipevine, Manroot vines with seed-pods forming on them already, and Northern Giant Horsetail (Equisetum telmateia braunii ), a subspecies of horsetail that grows in western North America. Although commonly referred to as “Horsetail Grass” it’s actually a kind of fern that grown simultaneously in fertile and non-fertile forms. We saw both the non-fertile green stems (that are photosynthetic), and the yellowish fertile spore-bearing stems in the same area. The spore-bearing stems die as soon as their spores are released, so there were a lot of them around looking like they’d “fainted”. Although the normal mature size of these ferns is about 4-5 feet tall, they can get as tall as 7 feet high. (So the ones we saw were just “babies”.) In another month or so, they’ll come up to my chest. (Both the infertile forms and the fertile forms grown from the same rhizomes of the same plant – so one feeds the overall fern while the other tends to reproduction.)

There were also plenty of waterfowl to see including Canada Geese, Double-Crested Cormorants, Common Goldeneyes, Mallards, American Wigeons, Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons (which seemed to be almost everywhere we looked), and a Green Heron.

When one student took a close-up photo of a sprout of mistletoe, she realized there was a bug on it and asked me if I could identify it for her. I’d never seen anything like it before. It looked like a scale bug, but I wasn’t positive, so I took a bunch of close-ups of it and then researched it after I got home. It was Icerya purchasi — (my brain first saw that as “Ikea Purchases”; hah!) — and it’s common name is Cottony Cushion Scale. It’s considered a pest species and usually attacks citrus trees, but it’s known to parasitize mistletoe. So the parasitic mistletoe has a parasite of its own. The one we saw was in the medium stage of its development, before it gets its big white cushiony behind.

We also saw a family of about 5 river otters in Putah Creek, but they were too far away (along the distant shore) for me to get any good photos of video of them. Another hard-to-photograph find was a male Belted Kingfisher that kept flying back and forth on the opposite side of the river. “See that white dot on the tree over there? That’s his breast.” Hah!

The find that all of the students really enjoyed was being able to spot the tiny Western Screech Owl, who was sleeping in the same tree I’d seen him in before. His tree is behind one of the most remote restrooms in the park, so I had the students follow me around the building, then file in behind me at the adjacent picnic tables, before I showed them where the owl was. I used a laser pointer to help them pinpoint his location. It was gratifying to hear all of the ooo’s and ahhhs, and the clicking of camera shutters once they spotted him. If nothing else, I’d been able to give them the treat of seeing something they’d never seen in the wild before. And some of the students didn’t even know the park was there, so it was nice surprise to them, too.

Along the walk (and we only covered half of the park in 4 hours!), I also pointed out stuff like Turkey Tail fungus, Black Jelly Roll fungus, different kinds of lichen, and some Barometer Earthstars. They’d never seen anything like that before, so I demonstrated for them how the spores are released from the puffer-belly in the center of the fungus – and one of the students took a video of that.

It’s hard for me to lead a walk, point out and hold specimens, AND take photos of my own, so I didn’t get as many pictures as the students themselves did. I told them they have to share them with me!!

On the way back to the parking lot, where folks gathered to share to lunches and decompress, my coworker Bill spotted some scat along the shore. So I put on a nitrile glove and picked some of it up. We concluded it was probably otter scat, considering all of the crayfish parts we found in it – including an intact, undigested antenna. I told the students Bill was “great at finding all sorts of crap”, and everyone laughed, including Bill.

While we were having our lunches, too, someone noticed an aggregate of Western Boxelder Bugs so I was able to give them a mini lesson on those. Some of the bugs were having sex, so the mass kind of looked like an orgy, but most of the bugs were just huddled together to keep themselves warm. (By that time of the day it was about 46º and the rain was just starting.) The species we see here in California is Boisea rubrolineata. Their host trees are ash, maple, Goldenrain trees, and soapberry; and they usually eat nothing but the seeds.

We all left the park around 12:30 pm, and headed back home. I took the long way around, going back to Woodland and then on to Sacramento, so the drive took me over an hour… but it was neat to see all of the sofa clouds and the storm squall starting to move in and cover the valley.

Before Work: Deer, a Young Coyote, Squirrels and a Female Quail

I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk. It was 59º when I headed out, and stayed nice all the while I was out there. When I first started out on the trail, I was kind of surprised to see a male Wild Turkey just standing in the middle of the trail looking at me. He actually let me walk up very near to him before he started walking up the trail ahead of me. I eventually passed him, and he didn’t run or fly away – just kept an eye on me. It was kind of cool and kind of creepy at the same time…

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

A few feet further up the trail, I suddenly saw a small head pop up from a small knoll covered with long dried grass and weeds. It was a young coyote! It didn’t see me right away, and I got to see it pounce through the grass after a mouse or vole or something. Then the coyote realized I was there and just stood there for a second trying to decide whether to run or keep hunting. It trotted off down the other side of the knoll, and I saw it circle back to see if I was still around where its would-be meal was. It saw me once more and decided to just split…

There’s one spot on the trail where there are signs warning about a nest of ground-dwelling Yellow Jackets. I always slow down around there to try to listen for the wasps. Today, when I paused there, a mother deer walked out of the woods with her two young fawns and started chewing on the leaves of a black walnut tree right on the trail in front of me. The babies moved in under the tree, in the shade, and tasted some of the leaves, too.

I was actually able to get pretty close to them before mom decided she’d had enough of me encroaching on her breakfast, and walked off quickly with her youngsters behind her. Later on, on a different part of the trail, I was taking some photos of a ground squirrel, and another fawn, out of its spots but still small, came stotting down a hill and toward me on the trail. It was all happy and goofy… and then it saw me, and skidded to a halt. It was only there for a second before it bounded off into the woods. Hah!

The black walnut trees in the woods are heavy with walnuts this time of year… and the Fox Squirrels love them. Everywhere you go in the preserve, you can hear the squirrels stripping the husk off and trying to crack open the nuts. Scritch-scritch-scritch. The noise makes it easy to spot the squirrels to get photos of them…

I also came across a covey of California Quails. I could hear the male, and got a glimpse of him and the other females in his harem, but only one female came out where I could actually get some photos of her. They’re such pretty, funny-looking little birds…

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

Saw My First Virginia Rail… and Her Babies!

Virginia Rail and chick. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Virginia Rail and chick. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

I got up about 6:00 am on Sunday, May 1, and headed over to the Cosumnes River Preserve for my walk. On the way there, I saw a Swainson’s Hawk sitting on a fencepost along the freeway, and then came across a pair of Red-Tailed Hawks that were “doin’ it” on another fencepost further down the road, right there in front of God and everybody.  Hah-ha-ha!  It’s that time year.

The main gate to the preserve was closed, so I went over to the boardwalk area.  There’s hardly any water left in some places, so there are very few birds there right now.  I saw some Avocets, Ibis and Coots, some Canada Geese (some with goslings), and a couple of American Bitterns who were sitting across from one another at the pond by the viewing platform and they were giving their territorial “pumper-lunk” calls to each other.  All talk, no action.

I was really surprised (and pleased) to see my first live Virginia Rail there – and she had babies!  The chicks were pitch black, and looked like big fuzzy caterpillars.  The mama was trying to lead them across the walkway from one area of the pond’s shore to the other, but the babies were totally unruly and just ran wherever they wanted to.  Mama wasn’t too happy to see me approaching, and gave out an alarm call that sent the babies ducking for cover… but they were split up now.  Mama and two babies on one side of the walkway, and the third baby by itself on the other side.  The chick started crying and mama started squawking… I didn’t want to stress them out, so I left the area until it got quiet there again.

When the preserve finally opened its main gate, I drove over there and was hoping to be able to walk their marshland trail… only to find when I got to the trailhead that all of the trails were closed today.  Some kind of safety issue or something.  A sign telling me that back at the parking lot would’ve been nice!  They made me walk from the parking lot to the trailhead before saying anything.  What a waste of my time!  Irritated, I decided then to walk down to the boat ramp and back.  When I got to the boat launch, my foot sipped out from under me and got caught in a shallow ditch alongside the ramp.  I continued to fall, landing on my hip… and was very lucky that I didn’t break my ankle (considering how my foot was wedged in the ditch).  I was actually more concerned about my camera getting damaged than anything else.  I check it before I checked myself. Hah! Because of my arthritis it was hard for me to find a position from which I could get back up onto my feet without being in a lot of pain.  I managed somehow, and headed off back to the car.

I then drove down to Desmond Road to see if there was anything interesting there, but… no… so the whole trip was kind of a bust (except for the Rails).  I probably won’t be going back there until the fall.

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