Tag Archives: harvester ants

From Ants to Deer to Tadpoles, 06-09-18

I got up around 6:00 am and headed off to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my walk. We kind of in between seasons right now: not quite spring anymore, not quite summer yet. So, there’s not a whole lot of stuff to see until the galls start showing themselves more, and the baby deer are born… Still, I was able to get photos of quite a few things.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

There was a stage and lots of half-put-away tables out in front of the nature center. There had been an art auction the evening before, and things were still in a jumble out there. It looks, too, like work was started re-doing the tule huts in their replica of a Maidu Village. I also noticed some new signs around the nature center warning people of rattlesnakes (which like to hide under the low eaves of the building and in the rock formations around it in its gardens. Better late than never I suppose…

There were bachelor groups of gobblers out on the grounds, and they apparently took issue with my new hat. It has a very wide brown brim – and maybe it looks like a fanned turkey-tail to them. Several of the males cautiously approached me, and when I gobbled at them, they gobbled back. Hah! At least none of them tried to run me off.

There were no Monarch Butterfly caterpillars on any of the Showy Milkweed blooming, but there were lots of yellow Oleander Aphids and Bordered Plant Bugs around. Those are the ones with the babies that look like dark iridescent balls wit a red mark on the back. I wonder why nature chose such a showy baby for such an unassuming adult…?

Not a lot of deer around right now. I think the females are off having babies, and the males are sequestered away in their own bachelor groups somewhere else along the river. I did see a couple of does out browsing by themselves, but no others.

Lots of coyote scat, though, and a multitude of Harvester Ants gathering seeds and hauling them back to their nests.

At one point during my walk, I saw a Red-Shouldered Hawk –- a male, based on its dark coloring — come flying through the trees straight at me. It flew over my head and landed in a tree to my left. I was able to get a few photos of it before it took off again.

I also found another European Starling nesting cavity with fledglings poking their heads out of the hole, making rasping sounds at their parents. I saw one of the adult birds bring the kids some mulberries.

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed back home.

First Flame Skimmer of the Season, 05-12-18

I was out the door and off to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve once more to check on the development of the Monarch Butterfly caterpillars – and get some fresh air and exercise in, of course.

Before I left the house, I noticed there were a few Yellow-Billed Magpies out foraging in the neighbor’s yard, so I took some photos of them before they flew off.   When I got to the nature preserve, the first thing I saw was a small flock of male Wild Turkeys. They were parading and strutting around a single female who was more interested in finding breakfast than dealing with the boys. Hah!

I put on insect repellent, but there are these tiny, black, winged no-see-ums that forge through the repellant anyway and bite HARD. I don’t know what the species is, but I really dislike those things. They get all over you… creep me out worse than the ticks.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

In the small pond by the nature center, the Bullfrog tadpoles are starting to change from water-breathers to air-breathers, and they popped up to the surface periodically to gulp in some air before retreating back down into the water. All you can see through the murky water when they come up is their pale belly and their big mouths. So funny.

The Monarch caterpillars grew a lot over the week, so many of them where about as long as my index finger. There were still a lot of babies, though, so the preserve should have a good crop of new butterflies in a couple of weeks.  This is the time of year when birds are making and feeding babies, but they leave the Monarch and Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars alone – because the caterpillars are packed with noxious poisons from the plants they eat. I found one new Pipevine Swallowtail chrysalis on the side of an oak tree already. No sign of the gold-bejeweled Monarch chrysalises yet.

I also got photos of the first Flame Skimmer dragonfly I’d seen this year. They’re such neat looking things. The dragonfly sat long enough and still enough that I was able to get some close-ups of its wing-structure.

I later watched some Harvester Ants bring in new seeds and stuff, and remove old seeds and whatnot from their in-ground bivouac. It seems like they were transferring the old stuff to a different part of the nest through an extra hole in the ground.  Looking more closely I could see that they also removed the dead bodies of some rival ants… And some members of the colony apparently didn’t read their emails because they were bringing the new seeds in through a hole that was “exit only”. It was a crack-up watching them.

There weren’t too many deer out today, but I did see a lone doe, and a young buck who looked like he’d been attacked by wasps. His chin and bottom lip were swollen which made him look kind of goofy. There are ground-dwelling Yellow-Jackets that have hives all over the preserve; maybe this guy was browsing too close to one of those.

Come to think of it, one of the Red-Shouldered Hawks I came across today had a swollen eye – like can be rough out in Nature. The swelling didn’t seem to interfere with the bird’s eyesight or it’s ability to navigate; and it didn’t look like the bird was blind on that side, so maybe it was a temporary impairment.

As I was on my way out of the preserve, I saw some of the docents doing a presentation for a small group of Scouts with their animal ambassador, “Orion” a young Swainson’s Hawk. According to the Effie Yeaw website: “…Orion was dropped off at the UC Davis Raptor Center with a broken wing in 2017. Although his injuries healed partially, there were some lingering issues that would prevent him from completing the long migration down to Argentina. It was also discovered that Orion was an imprint, or lacking a natural fear of humans, and therefore dependent on people for his survival. However, this resulted in an easier transition for Orion to become one of our amazing animal ambassadors…”

I’d walked for about 3 hours, and then headed home for the day.

From Pokémon Go to Crystalline Galls, 07-31-16

I got up at 5:30 again this morning to get out for my walk before the heat set in once more.  I went over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve and saw a sign by the front gate saying that special “stops” and a “gym” for the Pokémon Go game had been set up inside preserve, and welcoming two teams to play there today.  I don’t do a lot with Pokémon Go but I do have it on my cellphone, so I turned it on while I was there.  I found all of the “Poke Stops” in the place (where you can get extra balls to capture the monsters, star dust, eggs and stuff like that) and ended up getting two eggs out of them.  For the eggs I got, I have to put them in an incubator and then walk about 2 miles to get them to hatch… but there was no GPS signal available inside the preserve, so the game couldn’t accurately track my mileage.  So I don’t know when those eggs are going to hatch (or what will come out of them).

I also came across about a dozen of the little monster critters (some of them were duplicates but you still get points for them).  There was one little tiger-thingy with a pompadour that was really hard to catch. I caught it twice and it kept escaping from the ball.  Eventually, it just took off in a puff of smoke, so I didn’t get any points for that one.

While all of this Poke-stuff is going on, I had my camera on and was taking photos of the real live critters I came across on my walk.  I saw the usual suspects along the trail: mule deer, a Red-Shouldered Hawk, tree squirrels and ground squirrels, Acorn Woodpeckers, European Starlings… and I came across a Blue Oak that had a lot of galls just starting to form on the leaves: Saucer Galls, Crystalline Galls, Red Cone Galls.  I also found galls on Valley Oaks and a Live Oak tree.  It’s just the beginning of the season for them, though, so they weren’t as plentiful yet as I’d hoped they be.  Maybe in another week or two…

The one on the Live Oak was one I’d never seen before: the gall of the Kernel Flower Gall Wasp (Callirhytis serricornis), so I can add that to my “firsts” list…  It was so tiny, I wasn’t entirely sure it was what I thought it was until I got home and blew up the photograph.  I need to bring a magnifying glass with me when I’m out in the wilds…  I also seem to be finding galls around here that I hadn’t found in previous years — the Kernel Flower Gall today and the Round Gall yesterday, for example. I wonder if the early heat wave (or climate change) has something to do with that.

I also found a gall in the stem of a mugwort plant.  I had trouble finding what causes those (as, apparently they’re kind of “rare”) but discovered it was most likely caused by a kind of fruit fly with “picture wings” (clear wings with black decorations on them that make them look like stained glass), Campiglossa misella.  Cool!  That’s another “first’ for me.

CLICK HERE for an album of all the photos from today.

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed back to the house.

One of the Pokémon Go creatures I found on my walk.
One of the Pokémon Go creatures I found on my walk.