Tag Archives: Gold Wire

A New Gall (for Me) at the Preserve, 07-14-18

Around 5:30 am I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. Even that early in the morning, it was already 67º degrees outside. It got up to 93º but felt a lot hotter because of the humidity in the air. Pleh!

At the preserve, there weren’t as many deer out this time as there were last time, but I still got to see a few of my favorites. The little fawn that I’d seen before that had the bad cough is over its cough now, but it still looks badly underweight. I could see all of its ribs. So, I don’t know if it’s going to make it or not. Its mom is always nearby, but I don’t know if she’s still feeding him; she’s not a very attentive mother…

I also came across the doe I’d seen before that had one newborn fawn. Well, I actually saw the fawn first; mom was dozing in the tall grass. I wasn’t able to get close to them – she’s very protective of him. – but I did get a few photos.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I came across a gall I’d never seen before, and that’s always fun. It was an Alder Tongue Gall caused by a fungus called Taphrina alni. The galls start out green but turn red as they get older and look like tongues poking out from the female catkin (or pseudocone). When the growth is fully mature, it goes to spore. Cool!

I also came across a pair of Northern Flickers, a male and a female, but I got the impression that maybe the male was the female’s son. He wasn’t in his full breeding colors, and he followed her around begging for attention like a fledgling. It was neat to see the two of them so close together.

I walked around for about 3 hours, and by then it was almost too hot to do much of anything, so I headed back home.

Leeches! 06-27-18

I got to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve around 6:30 am and it was 56º; shirt-sleeve weather. I love it. The first thing I saw when I went into the preserve was a pair of Black Phoebes. A mama was feeding bugs to her fully-fledged offspring. What a spoiled kid! Hah!  Then I saw a long, dark slug making its way slowly across the trail. I was kind of surprised by how long it was. I don’t know enough about snails and slugs to properly identify it. (That’ll be my homework for the next day or so.)

The real close-encounter-of-the-slimy-kind came a little later when I was near the restoration pond on the trail. I found a Red-Eared Slider Turtle there. I think she’d come up to lay her eggs. When I got closer to her, I realized she was covered in LEECHES — and some of the leeches had babies. They were on her shell and in around her face and head. I tried pulling them off, but they were tough, so I got out my Yolo County Library key fob thing and used that to successfully scrape them off.

While I was doing that a small family group — mother, grandmother and 2 little girls — came up and asked what I was doing. So, I showed them the leeches and the turtle and explained how the leeches live, what kind of turtle it was, what an invasive species was, how turtles lay their eggs, etc. It was a cool teaching moment. The mom and grandma had their cell phones out and were taking photos and video. While I was talking about the turtle, she stretched her neck out so they could see her red “ears” and her toenails. They were all so excited about that.

None of the ladies had ever seen a live leech before and didn’t realize that leeches are found in a lot of the waterways around here. The adults thought they were cool; the kids thought they were super gross. Hah!  Here are some of the videos I took just before the family showed up:

Leeches video 1: https://youtu.be/i4ptncDfPo4

Leeches video 2: https://youtu.be/_9wsmvDeVsA

And here are the photos from todayhttps://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhnaturalist/albums/72157696783328501

On another part of the trail I could hear a Red-Tailed Hawk making is distinctive screeling sound from the top of a tree.  I located her and realized she had some fledglings in the tree with her. I couldn’t get any photos of the juveniles because they were in a part of the tree that was very leafy, and the leaves obscured them.  I got the distinct impression, though, that their mom did NOT like me being so close to their tree.  She flew in circles over my head several times and landed in the bare branches of other nearby trees, screaming and screaming. I was able to get a lot of photos of her – and in most of them she’s vocalizing, mouth wide open.

I had to abbreviate my walk because I got a call saying the handyman who was scheduled for 2:00 pm today was actually going to show up around 9:30 am.

Lots of Cavity Nesting Birds, 05-19-18

I got up around 6:00 am and was out the door by 6:30 to go over to the American River Bend Park. I was sure the Great Horned Owl owlets were fully fledged by now and off hunting, so I didn’t expect to see them. I wanted to go out there, though, to see if the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars were mature enough yet to start making their chrysalises. It’s apparently still too early for that around here, but I still got to see a lot birds and bugs and other things.

A lot of the usual suspects were out – Wild Turkeys, Starlings, Tree Swallows, Mourning Doves, House Wrens – and I was able to get photos of some of the cavity nesting birds in and around their nests. One pair of wrens was just starting to work on their nest, bringing sticks and soft stuff to line it with; another pair of wrens had babies and were flying food to them every few minutes. Standing nest tot heir tree, I was able to hear the bay birds inside cheeping away. I need to get a camera with a stretchy arm that can reach up and look down into the cavities…

The neat find of the day – even though I didn’t get many good photos because of the lighting and where the birds were – was a Western Bluebird nesting cavity. Both the male and female were feeding their nestlings (which, like the wren babies, I could hear from inside of the tree). Western Bluebirds are shy, though, and move really quickly, especially if they think you’re looking at them. (As brightly colored as the males are, it always surprises me how easily they can disappear into the shadows.) Still, I managed to get some photos of both the mom and the dad and they flew back and forth and brought bugs for their babies. At one point, the papa Bluebird figured I was getting too close to the nesting cavity, and he flew right at me, beak open. I got a few shaky photos of that before I backed off from the tree. I’m there to observe, not interfere…

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I also found a male hummingbird high up in a tree, and tried to get photos of him, but I couldn’t tell if he was an Anna’s or a Black-Chinned.

I saw some Scarab Hunter Wasps hovering close to the ground, looking for grubs to infest, and some other wasp-like insects that I haven’t been able to identify yet. There are sooooooo many insects with superfamilies, families, and tribes to go through before you ever get down to the genus and species level… They’re really difficult for me to identify properly. I really admire entomologists and their bug and insect proficiency.

One of the odd-ball insects I found was a small wasp-like thing with an iridescent blue thorax, red-orange abdomen, and somewhat clear wings. I was thinking maybe it was a kind of “Digger Wasp”, but I couldn’t find one on Bugguide.net with the right color legs. Maybe a “sawfly”?  I also found a golden fly-like thing with red eyes and an iridescent green thing I think is some kind of cuckoo wasp. I’m not sure. I’ll have to continue the search for the IDs.

I also came across quite a few Tussock Moth caterpillar cocoons. Most of them were already spent (with an opening at one end through which the mature moth emerged), but one was completely intact and had a layer of hard white “fluff” over the top of it. I’d never seen one like that, so I took photos and then did some more research when I got home.

I knew that the female moths (which are wingless) laid their eggs on their old cocoons and then covered the eggs with a layer of hair and foamy secretions from their bodies (which hardens to protect the eggs as they overwinter), and that could have been the case with the cocoon I found, but it seemed at first glance that the pupal casing was still inside the cocoon, which meant the moth hadn’t emerged yet.  A puzzle.

My research indicated that sometimes parasitic wasps will lay their eggs on top of the cocoons and as the larvae emerge they build a tight white webbing around them to protect themselves while they feast on the moth pupa inside the cocoon. I wasn’t sure which scenario I was looking at, so, I opened up the cocoon to see if there was anything inside of it.  Although the cocoon itself was intact (no emergence hole in the end of it), the pupal casing inside of it was empty.  I’m still not absolutely positive about what I was seeing, but I’m assuming the white fluff was made by a wasp, not by the female moth, and the pupa was devoured before the moth had a chance to develop. Nature is so fascinating.

The buckeye trees are all in bloom right now; so pretty. And some of the black walnut trees are already sporting new walnuts. I was surprised to see that many of the Hop Trees around had already lost most of their seeds. Lots of hungry birds out there, I guess.  Along the river, I found a lot of Elegant Clarkia in bloom as well as Bush Monkey Flowers. I would have gone further along that part of the trail but by that time I had already been on m feet for over three hours, and I needed to get back to the car.

All in all, I ended up walking for about 4 hours.