Tag Archives: Flowering Tobacco

Two-Horned Galls and a Beetle with a Hairy Chest, 07-11-19

Around 5:30 this morning, I headed out to the American River Bend Park for a walk. It was in the high 60’s when I got there and heated up quickly; around 71° when I left.

 I didn’t have an agenda in mind and was just watching for whatever Nature wanted to show me. I ended up finding a few galls on the oak trees, including one I’d never seen before. I’d seen photos of them but had never seen one “live”. It was a Two-Horned Gall of the wasp Dryocosmus dubiosus. Coolness. They’re found on the underside of the leaves of Live Oak trees, usually along the median vein. Also found the big Oak Apple galls, tiny Pumpkin Galls, and some Goldenrod galls.

In the water fountain near the restroom, I found a large beetle lying on its back.  It was about an inch long and really kind of “hairy”. It had lost one of its antennae and was dying, but I still took some photos of it.  I wasn’t exactly sure what it was, so when I got home, I Googled “beetle with hairy chest” – Hah! – and the correct identification actually came right up.  It was, of course, a “June Bug” or more correctly a May Beetle, Phyllophaga sp.  Around that same area, I found the shed skin of a snake, including its face.

June Bug, May Beetle, Phyllophaga sp.,

I could hear Red-Shouldered Hawks yelling at each other across the forest while I was out there, and at one point a fledgling flew down out of a tree onto the ground beside the trail.  I couldn’t tell if he actually caught anything or if he was just practicing, but he sat for a moment and looked over his shoulder at me so I could snap a photo before he flew off again.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Just as I was leaving, I came across the nesting cavity of some Tree Swallows. I watched them take turn flying in and out of the cavity a few times and got some photos before heading back to the house.

Poults and a Snake, 07-04-19

Happy 4th of July.  Up at 5:30 am, and out the door before 6:00 to go to the American River Bend Park for a walk.  It was about 59°when I got there with a slight breeze blowing, so it was nice.  I was expecting the place to be crawling with people for the holiday, but nope. I had the trails almost to myself all the while I was out there. 

The very first thing I saw when I drove in was a doe crossing the road in front of me.  She stopped and looked behind her, and then I saw her fawn come out after her and scurry across the road, too.  I tried to get photos, but I had to shoot through the windshield so… nuthin’.  Dang it!  But the park was otherwise pretty kind, giving me two other surprises with better photo ops.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

The first of those two was getting the chance to see some Rio Grande Wild Turkey poults (Meleagris gallopavo intermedia). I hardly ever get to see them because the moms are so good at keeping them hidden. This was a group of three adults and five poults. The poults were all fledged in their first feathers but still too small to fly.  Among the adults was the leucistic (black and white) female I see often in the park. She was following after the other two, so I inferred that she was “learning” from them. She mimicked a lot of what they did, and also seemed to be helping out with protecting the babies.

At one point, one of the adults jumped up into an elderberry bush and started pulling berries off and dropping them to the ground so the babies could get them. A few seconds later, one of the poults got up into the bush, as well, but couldn’t reach the berries and jumped down again. So cute.  I think that little guy was blind on one side. It kept on eye shut all the time, and the lid looked “flat” in the socket (instead of rounded out by an eyeball).

I walked with the small flock for a while, but the adults were really good about keeping the kids out of the sunlight, for the most part, and keeping themselves between the babies and me. Who says turkeys are stupid?

The second surprise came when I walked down near the shore of the American River because there was a Buttonbush down there in full bloom and I think the flowers are so cool-looking. Anyway, while I was taking pictures of the flowers, I caught a glimpse of something moving past my foot and going behind me, so I turned around and saw a spotted snaky form slipping through the rocks.  At first I thought it was a gopher snake because they’re really common in the park, but then I caught a glimpse of the head. Not a gopher snake.

It was a young RATTLESNAKE. It was about as long as my forearm, so not too-too big, but still large enough to pack a good supply of venom. What was weird was: when I first saw it, it was in diffused light so all of the light parts on it looked pale blue and all of the spots on it looked kind of orangey. Very odd.

Pacific Rattlesnake among the rocks on the shore of the American River.

I followed after it a little bit to try to get more photos — which is hard for me on the shore because it’s all rocks there and my feet don’t work well on unstable cobbly ground.  I stopped when the snake got pissed off at me and wound itself into a striking position. Uh, yikes! I took just a few more photos and then let it be.

I also came across a small family of crows: a parent and two fledglings, I think. I saw the parent hand off a rock to the kids – which they weren’t interested in — and then pick up some seeds from along the shore.  The fledglings were very loud and fussy, demanding that mom feed them (even though they were large enough to fly and forage by themselves.) Huge mouths!  They cracked me up.            

Walking through the rocks on the shore, and then having to climb back up an incline to get to the trail pretty much did me in, though. The bones in my feet are “welding together” like Mom’s did from arthritis, so my feet don’t bend and flex like they should, which is why walking on uneven ground is hard for me these days.  Still, I was able to walk for about three hours total before heading back to the house.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
  2. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens,
  3. Black Nightshade, Solanum nigrum,
  4. Black Walnut, Juglans nigra,
  5. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea,
  6. Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis,
  7. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta,
  8. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica,
  9. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
  10. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica,
  11. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
  12. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos,
  13. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea,
  14. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser,
  15. Doveweed, Turkey Mullein, Croton setigerus,
  16. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare,
  17. Flowering Tobacco, Nicotiana alata,
  18. Giant Mullein, Verbascum thapsus,
  19. Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina,
  20. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias,
  21. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata,
  22. Horsetail, Rough Horsetail, Equisetum hyemale,
  23. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
  24. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus,
  25. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 2nd Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis,
  26. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos,
  27. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
  28. Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, Crotalus oreganus oreganus,
  29. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii,
  30. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus,
  31. Red Swamp Crayfish, Crawfish, Crawdad, Procambarus clarkia,
  32. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus,
  33. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
  34. Rusty Tussock Moth, Orgyia antiqua,
  35. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus,
  36. Tarweed, Common Madia, Madia elegans,
  37. Tree Tobacco, Nicotiana glauca,
  38. Treehopper, Oak Treehopper, Platycotis vittata,
  39. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana,
  40. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis,

Sooooo Many Lotus Plants, 08-12-18

Up at 6:00 o’clock and off to William Land Park by about 6:20 am. The park was hosting the Banana Festival there today so parts of it were closed off and parking was a bit more difficult, but I stayed away from all of the festival stuff and just walked around the ponds and the WPA Rock Garden.

The garden has been pretty burnt by the summer heat, but there were still a few things to photograph.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The middle pond at William Land Park is grossly overwhelmed by Sacred Lotus ((Nelumbo nucifera) plants. So many that only a fraction of the water was clear enough for the ducks to swim in. The rest of the pond was inundated with plants which are all very lovely at this stage, when they’re blooming, but, although they’re native to the US (specifically Florida), they are considered “invasive” here in California. When they proliferate, they can completely take over a waterscape; and because their huge leaves cover the surface of the water.

At the large pond, which was clear except for a little alga, I got to see a few more birds, including a couple of mama Mallards with their ducklings.

I walked for about three hours and then headed back home.

Found a Robin’s Nest at William Land Park, 06-23-18

I headed out with the dog to the William Land Park for a short walk. And I mean short. We were only out there for about 90-minutes. It was 73º already when we left the house at 5:30 am! and 80º when we got back home.

On our way to the park, I came across a mother Wild Turkey and her NINE poults. They were by an open field right near a bus stop. Mom was on one side of a rickety chain link fence, and the babies, who were on the sidewalk, couldn’t figure out how to get through the fence to meet up with her.  So, they were running back and forth, peeping loudly. Mom finally walked up to where there was a gap in the fence and stayed there until the kids could join her.

In the WPA Rock Garden, there were different species of Mullein in bloom all over garden, yellow and white. Just some fun facts about mullein: it’s a biennial plant; the word mullein, comes from the German language, meaning “king’s candle” because of its scepter-like, candle-straight growth in its second year; the leaves and flowers are edible and make a nice tea. Most of the mullein we see are non-natives and the Woolly species is considered an invasive in California even though it’s not really that aggressive.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos and video snippets.

I also saw signs that the Leaf-Cutter Bees had been busy at work in the garden. They cut out perfect little half-circles in the soft leaves of the Redbud trees to line their nests. I also saw a lot of the ubiquitous European Honey Bees, some Yellow-Faced Bumblebees, some Long-Horned Bees just waking up from their overnight torpor, and a small group of bright red Assassin Bug nymphs on the stems of some Red Poppies of Flanders.

I also found what I thought was a collection of tiny, black shiny insect eggs. I took photos of them and when I blew the images up I realized that the little black things were actually bug nymphs (Pittosporum shield bug, Monteithiella humeralis, I think) just hatching out of their white eggs. Cool!

At the pond, there was a Mallard mama out with her seven ducklings, and also a mama Swedish Blue/Mallard hybrid with her three ducklings. One of her ducklings looked like a Mallard baby, but the other two were black and yellow with light colored bibs like the Swedish Blues. One of those babies also had black feet with yellow toes. So cute!

There was also a lone Wood Duck (a little female who didn’t take any guff from the larger Mallards), a Crested Duck, a pair of Peking Ducks, and some Indian Runner Ducks. No geese, though, which I thought was kind of odd.

High in a tree on one side of the pond, I could see a nest and something moving around in it. The nest was made of twigs and grass, and also had some white ribbon hanging from the bottom of it (which made it easy to spot). For I while I couldn’t tell what kind of bird was moving around it, so I tried looking at it from different angles and different distances from the tree. I then I realized it was Robin’s nest. Mama Robin came by to check on the kids – there were actually three of them in there. I think she’d brought them something to eat, but I couldn’t tell what it was. Papa Robin showed up a few seconds later, and then both parents flew off again to find more breakfast.

Oh, one thing I noticed that I’d never seen before: a mosquito drinking nectar from a flower. I knew the females drank blood, but for some reason it never occurred to me that they (and the males) drink nectar, too.

As I said, we only walked for about 90 minutes and then headed back home because it was already getting too warm outside. It got up to 102 today.

At the William Land Park, 08-05-17

I went over to William Land Park to look for bugs and galls. It was still overcast, but a little bit cooler than yesterday when I headed out, around 66º…

When I got to the park, it was actually still “too dark” to take many photos, so I watched the ducks in the pond for a while as the sun rose a little bit higher.  There was also a murder of crows in the tall trees across the street from the park, and watched them gather and squawk at one another.  I heard what I thought was a Barn Owl in another nearby tree, but I couldn’t see it.  There were also hummingbirds chasing each other around, and I got a few photos of one of them drinking sprinkler water off the petals of a rose.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Then I walked through the WPA Rock Garden and did get to see about three different praying mantises (one large green one, one smaller green and tan one, and then a very small tan one). I believe they were all the same species, just in different stages of growth. They were ll hanging around the sunflowers.  As for galls, there was one Valley Oak on the property that was loaded with Red Cone galls and Spiny Turban galls – and I mean LOADED. Some of the leaves were thoroughly covered in galls.  I was hoping to see some jumping galls, but it’s still a little early in the season for them… maybe in another few weeks, if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to see those.

I walked for about 2 ½ hours and then headed back home.

Fawns!

I got up at 5:00 again this morning,  It was about 10º cooler outside this morning than it was yesterday at the same time, so maybe we’ll get a little relief today…  I headed out about 5:30 am to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve.  I knew that this time of year a lot of the female deer are having their babies, the male deer are starting to go into their “velvet”, and the Monarch Butterflies are laying eggs… and I was hoping to see at least ONE of those things.

You can see an album of today’s photos at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhnaturalist/albums/72157683338248433

As soon as I drove into the parking lot at the preserve I saw a buck in his velvet walking along the fence line between the preserve and the houses next door to it. So, I quick parked the car and hurried out to see if I could get some photos of him.
By the time I reached another spot where I could see him, he was up an embankment, but my new Nikon didn’t disappoint me.  I was able to grab quite a few shots of him.  What was even more awesome was that he led me right to a female deer with her new fawn, a little baby still in its spots.

At first they were in a weird spot at the top of the embankment and backlit by the sky, so at first I was just getting a lot of really badly lit shots – even ones of the baby nursing for a little bit, dang it!  Then the mama caught sight of me and she bounded off with the baby scrambling behind her.

I followed them around the nature center buildings, and saw mom jump the fence at the low deer-crossing point, but the baby couldn’t make the jump, so it ran off along one side of the fence crying for mom who was on the side.  The mom came to a standstill under the branches of an elderberry bush, and I was able to get some really good close-ups of her.  But the baby was still on the other side.

I saw him run to another slightly older fawn that was with its mom – which meant even more mama-and-baby photos opportunities.  The second mama sniffed at the baby fawn but offered its no solace, and when the baby realized she wasn’t HIS mom, he kept crying and crying.  It wasn’t a bleating sound like a goat might make, it was more like a high pitched meow-like sound (but only one syllable, if that make any senses to you). Like, MEW-MEW-MEW…

Its noise attracted the attention of several other female deer in the vicinity who came out of the woods onto the trail to see what the fuss was about. It took him about 15 minutes, but the baby finally figured out where his own mother was and waited for her to jump back over the deer-crossing to reunite with him.  So I got to witness a kind of Sunday morning mini-drama… And all of it happening within the first few minutes of my getting to the preserve.

There were also Red-Tailed Hawks all over the preserve this morning. I think all of the springtime babies are now learning how to fly and hunt.  It seemed like there was hawk-screeching from every part of the trail I was walking.

I also got to see a Wild Turkey sitting up in a tree over my head. He was upset about something and I assumed the coyotes were out and about beneath him somewhere.  I caught a fast glimpse of a coyote, but only got photos of its back and rear end as it moved quickly through the tall grass. Right after the coyote ran off, a jackrabbit came racing out from under a blackberry thicket that was just inches from where the coyote had been.  Lucky “bunny”! I walked for about 2 ½ hours and then headed back home.  I didn’t see any Monarchs or their caterpillars, but I still enjoyed what I DID see during my walk.

One sad sight on the road: just as I came out of the backside of the preserve, I saw a dead buck (in its velvet) lying next to someone’s driveway. It was hard to tell how long it had been there.  The carcass stank to high heaven, and the part of the belly that was lying closest to the pavement was thick with flies and maggots… But the eyes were still there (and those are one of the things the carrion eaters go for first.)  You’d think the people who lived there would call Animal Control and have the body taken away… Maybe they’re on vacation, though, and don’t know it’s there…

One happy sight on the road: As I was driving down Howe Avenue near the American River, I saw a female Wild Turkey walking along the greenbelt with six poults!  I hardly ever get to see the poults, so that was a fun sighting. I wish I could’ve stopped the car to get some photos, but there was too much traffic.

I’m still learning the basic functions of the new camera, and have realized I need to (1) stop forcing the focus and pull back from the subject to make sure the camera can do its thing, and (2) I need a faster memory card.  The one I have is about a 4 or 6, and I need a 10 – and 64 MB instead of 32.  There are a whole slew of special settings, including one that’s specifically for birding, I’ll need a WEEK just to sample them all!