I got up around 5:30 this morning so I could get over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve and begin my monitoring of my milkweed plot there for evidence of Monarch Butterflies.
I got there around 6:30 am and was pleased to see fellow volunteer and Certified California Naturalist, Roxanne Moger, there, too, ready and anxious to help with this first day at “my” plot. The first thing we saw when we walked in was a lovely doe sitting on the side of the hill right next to the plot. She let us get some photos of her before she got up and moved along. There was a narrow game trail right through the plot that the deer had made.
We divvied the plot up and started by counting all of the plants – over 40 just in our section! – and then we went plant-by plant, looking at every leaf for any evidence of Monarch eggs or larvae. I wasn’t expecting to see any, and we didn’t. The Monarchs didn’t show up last year until the fall, so I didn’t think there would be any in the plot today. But we were still very vigilant about checking every plant and every leaf.
Part of the plot sits at a slight angle and is cluttered with other plants like a large coyote brush bush, a couple of wild rose bushes and some bay, and Roxanne was wonderful about monitoring that part, so I didn’t have to climb under branches or get snagged by thorns. I thought that was so sweet of her! I had a special magnifier to check for eggs, but for most of the time I just used my cell phone as a magnifying glass and took photos if I found anything that looked interesting or unusual. We came across several different kinds of spiders including Yellow Sac Spiders, Trashline Orb Weavers and Jumping Spiders; some Oleander Aphids, Common Green Lacewing eggs, Red Mites, the larvae of Green Stink Bugs and the Twenty-spotted Lady Beetle, some leafhoppers and some spittle bugs.
We were out at the plot for about 2 hours. Later in the day, after I got home, I loaded our findings onto the MLMP website. It took me a little bit to figure out what went where, but I think I get everything in there all right.
I got up around 5:30 this morning so I could get over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve and begin my monitoring of my milkweed plot there for evidence of Monarch Butterflies. I finished that (with the help of my friend and co-naturalist Roxanne Moger) around 8:30.
It was still relatively cool outside, so Roxanne and I
decided to put our tools back into our car and walk for a little while. We came across some cooperative squirrels and
a Desert Cottontail rabbit, and also checked out the tree where I’d seen the
feral beehive earlier. There were about
three times as many bees at the spot, so I’m assuming the queen has decided to
set up shop there.
The surprise sighting was coming across another doe – with twin fawns! She was keeping them well-hidden in the shade and tall grass, but we were able to catch glimpses of them. And we couldn’t help but chuckle when the babies went stotting through the grass with mom chasing after them. They’re so tiny but soooo active! They’re the first fawns I’ve seen this year and that’s always exciting.
As we were leaving the preserve, I could hear a Ground Squirrel’s alarm call and looked around to see if I could spot what the trouble might be. I saw movement overhead and spotted an adult Red-Shouldered Hawk fly overhead. It landed in a nearby tree and then sat there for quite a while, so we were able to get quite a few photos of it. So, even though our walk was only a single loop, we got to see quite a bit… which is always fun.
I got up around 5:30 this morning, and after giving the dog his breakfast, I headed over to theAmerican 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.
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,
I got up around 5:00 am this morning so I could get out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve before it got too hot outside. The predicted high for today was 100°. When I got to the preserve, it was already about 67° outside.
Just seconds after I arrived, my CalNat graduate/friend, Roxanne M., showed up to join me and so did “The Other Mary”, Mary M., another volunteer trail walker at Effie Yeaw. She brought a small bag for me filled with blackberries from her yard. I thought that was so nice of her.
The three of us walked for about 3 hours, but we cut out walk short because it was humid and hot at the river. When we left, it was already about 80°– and it was only a little after 9 o’clock. Pleh!
We weren’t expecting to see a lot, because nature is kind of in a transition period right now. We’re waiting for mammal babies to be born and insects to start showing themselves. And, we didn’t see a whole lot, but Roxanne and I can always find something to look at and focus on.
Roxanne is doing a seed-collecting thing right now for the naturalist class, and so she stops at different plants to see what kind of seeds they have on them and how the seeds might be disbursed. She took on this project on all by herself and is volunteering all the time it’s taking her to collect specimens and ID the plants. I’m so proud of her!
On our walk we saw a group of about four deer including a young buck in his velvet and a very pregnant doe. And later on, we also saw a bunch of baby rusty-headed Common Mergansers zooming down the riverside with their mom. It was so cute to see some of the babies swimming with their face down in the water, like the adults do, looking for things to eat. Roxanne, The Other Mary and I all tried to get photos of them, but they moved so-so fast, it was really hard!
I also stopped to get some video of a hive of Common Black Ants (yeah, they’re really called that) carrying their larvae from one nest to another — most likely because the old nest was compromised in some way (infested with fungus, collapsing, etc.).
Moving the eggs and babies around can be really risky because they make for tasty treats for other insects and some birds, so the workers who carry them (very gently in their jaws) have to move really fast and know right where they’re going.
Queen ants are pretty awesome. They control the sex of all of their offspring (only creating males when it’s time for nuptial flights; ost ants you see are females); they can live for up to 15 (some say 30) years, and only mate during their nuptial flights… which means they can mate with several males during that short-term flight period, and then hang onto the sperm for the rest of their entire lives.
On our way out of the preserve we noticed leaves with circular cutouts on them. They’re made by Leafcutting Bees (Megachile sp.), a kind of native bee that lives in cavities. They use the bits they cut out of the leaves to line their tube-like nests and build a neat row of individual compartments, in each of which they’ll form a small doughy mound of pollen and nectar. On top of each of these mounds, the bee will lay a single egg.
Mother leafcutters can control the gender of their offspring, and often lay the eggs of their female offspring in the back of the tube-nest and the males in the front. This way, if the nest is invaded by a bird or other insects, it’s the males that will die first, leaving the females protected.
Although they’re solitary bees and don’t produce a lot of offspring, leafcutters are great pollinators. You can encourage them to pollinate your garden by building nesting boxes, called “bee condos”, for them in your yard. Here is a guide from the Xerces Society on how to do that: http://ow.ly/MhVf50uygX1.
Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
Asian Ladybeetle, Harmonia axyridis,
Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum,
Bullock’s Oriole, Icterus bullockii,
California Brodiaea, Brodiaea californica,
California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,