Tag Archives: killdeer

A Short Visit to the WPA Rock Garden, 06-19-19

After stopping at the Ibis rookery in Woodland, I drove back to Sacramento, and visited the WPA Rock Garden in William Land Park for a short walk.

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana,
  2. American Wisteria, Wisteria frutescens,
  3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna,
  4. Bear’s Breeches, Acanthus mollis,
  5. Bird of Paradise, tree, Caesalpinia gilliesii,
  6. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus,
  7. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus,
  8. Blue Corn-Lily, Aristea ecklonii,
  9. Bush Katydid nymph, Scudderia pistillata,
  10. Butterfly Bush, Buddleja davidii,
  11. California Buckwheat, Eriogonum fasciculatum,
  12. Caper Bush, Capparis spinosa,
  13. Cardoon, Artichoke Thistle, Cynara cardunculus,
  14. Cleveland Sage, Salvia clevelandii,
  15. Common Toadflax, Linaria vulgaris,
  16. Day Lily, Hemerocallis sp.,
  17. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii,
  18. Desert Willow, Chilopsis linearis, (pink flowers)
  19. Dianella, Dianella ensifolia, (blue seeds)
  20. Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis,
  21. Fig, Common Fig, Ficus carica,
  22. French Lavender, Lavandula stoechas,
  23. Garden Snail, Cornu aspersum,
  24. Gerber Daisy, Gerbera jamesonii,
  25. Giant Fennel, Ferula communis,
  26. Golden Feverfew, Tanacetum Parthenium aureum,
  27. Great Mullein, Verbascum Thapsus,
  28. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus,
  29. Green Bottle Fly, Lucilia sericata,
  30. Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea,
  31. Grevellea, Grevilerulea sp.,
  32. Jacaranda Tree, Jacaranda mimosifolia,
  33. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous,
  34. Lacy Phacelia, Phacelia tanacetifolia,
  35. Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia,
  36. Leafcutter Bee, Megachile sp.,
  37. Love-in-a-Mist, Nigella damascena,
  38. Mojave Prickly Poppy, Argemone corymbose,
  39. Money Plant, Silver Dollar Plant, Moonflower, Lunaria biennis,
  40. Myrtle, Myrtus communis,
  41. Northern Catalpa, Indian Bean Tree, Catalpa speciosa,
  42. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
  43. Pincushion Flower, Scabiosa atropurpurea,
  44. Pinkladies, Oenothera speciosai,
  45. Rattlesnake Master, Eryngium yuccifolium,
  46. Red Mite, Spider Mite, Tetranychinae sp.,
  47. Rose, Rosa sp.,
  48. Smokebush, Smoke Tree, Cotinus obovatus,
  49. Spice Bush, Calycanthus occidentalis,
  50. Statice, Sea lavender, Limonium perezii,
  51. Steely Wings, Salvia canariensis,
  52. Tree Aeonium, Aeonium arboretum,
  53. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
  54. Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis,
  55. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta,
  56. White Lily of the Nile, Agapanthus africanus var. albus,
  57. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi,
  58. Yarrow, Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,

At the Ibis Rookery, 06-19-19

This was a busy day, but in a fun way.  I got up at 5:00 am and headed out to Woodland to go to the ibis rookery at the Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency facility off of Road 102 and East Gibson Road. Then I headed out to the WPA Rock Garden, and later in the day, I attended a Monarch monitoring training. Phew!

 Last year when I went to the rookery, the water was a lot lower in the settling ponds. This year, the water is a lot higher, so all of the scrubby trees and tules the ibises were able to nest in before are now under water, and there was no real shore for them to rest on. All of the birds were clambering to get into the high branches of the few trees that weren’t submerged, and I saw some pretty brutal fights over nesting spots. I also watched as several of the birds pulled dried grasses up from the edges of the pond and flew them over to line their nests.

Some of the ibises, though, had already settled in, and a few of them already had eggs laid in their nests. The eggs are a bright neon-turquoise color so they’re easy to spot even at a distance. 

A mated pair of ibises near their nest.

Amid the ibises there were also Great-Tailed Grackles, American Coots (and a few babies), Killdeer, Black-Necked Stilts, Western Kingbirds and Western Meadowlarks. I also saw quite a few Black-Tailed Jackrabbits and Desert Cottontails. I saw Coot courtship behavior, which I’d never seen before. (I’d read about it but never saw it “live”.) The male and female chased after one another with their wings arched up and their tiny tail fanned out to show of the white patches on it.  They’re kind of dorky-looking birds to begin with, so seeing them hunched up trying to look sexy was a hoot. Hah!

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos. You can also CLICK HERE to access the feature article I wrote about the rookery in 2018 as published in the Lake County News online newspaper.

I took quite a few photos, but because the sun was coming up behind the birds, a lot of the stuff was in silhouette and I had to force the iris of the camera open to let more light in on the subjects.  I might go in again before class one morning to get different light. The area where you view the ibises is relatively small, so I was able to cover it in about an hour or so.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana,
  2. American Wisteria, Wisteria frutescens,
  3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna,
  4. Bear’s Breeches, Acanthus mollis,
  5. Bird of Paradise, tree, Caesalpinia gilliesii,
  6. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus,
  7. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus,
  8. Blue Corn-Lily, Aristea ecklonii,
  9. Bush Katydid nymph, Scudderia pistillata,
  10. Butterfly Bush, Buddleja davidii,
  11. California Buckwheat, Eriogonum fasciculatum,
  12. Caper Bush, Capparis spinosa,
  13. Cardoon, Artichoke Thistle, Cynara cardunculus,
  14. Cleveland Sage, Salvia clevelandii,
  15. Common Toadflax, Linaria vulgaris,
  16. Day Lily, Hemerocallis sp.,
  17. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii,
  18. Desert Willow, Chilopsis linearis, (pink flowers)
  19. Dianella, Dianella ensifolia, (blue seeds)
  20. Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis,
  21. Fig, Common Fig, Ficus carica,
  22. French Lavender, Lavandula stoechas,
  23. Garden Snail, Cornu aspersum,
  24. Gerber Daisy, Gerbera jamesonii,
  25. Giant Fennel, Ferula communis,
  26. Golden Feverfew, Tanacetum Parthenium aureum,
  27. Great Mullein, Verbascum Thapsus,
  28. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus,
  29. Green Bottle Fly, Lucilia sericata,
  30. Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea,
  31. Grevellea, Grevilerulea sp.,
  32. Jacaranda Tree, Jacaranda mimosifolia,
  33. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous,
  34. Lacy Phacelia, Phacelia tanacetifolia,
  35. Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia,
  36. Leafcutter Bee, Megachile sp.,
  37. Love-in-a-Mist, Nigella damascena,
  38. Mojave Prickly Poppy, Argemone corymbose,
  39. Money Plant, Silver Dollar Plant, Moonflower, Lunaria biennis,
  40. Myrtle, Myrtus communis,
  41. Northern Catalpa, Indian Bean Tree, Catalpa speciosa,
  42. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
  43. Pincushion Flower, Scabiosa atropurpurea,
  44. Pinkladies, Oenothera speciosai,
  45. Rattlesnake Master, Eryngium yuccifolium,
  46. Red Mite, Spider Mite, Tetranychinae sp.,
  47. Rose, Rosa sp.,
  48. Smokebush, Smoke Tree, Cotinus obovatus,
  49. Spice Bush, Calycanthus occidentalis,
  50. Statice, Sea lavender, Limonium perezii,
  51. Steely Wings, Salvia canariensis,
  52. Tree Aeonium, Aeonium arboretum,
  53. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
  54. Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis,
  55. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta,
  56. White Lily of the Nile, Agapanthus africanus var. albus,
  57. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi,
  58. Yarrow, Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,

Lots of Snowy Egrets, 05-31-19

I got up about 5:30 this morning, fed the dog his breakfast and then headed out to the Cosumnes River Preserve for a walk.

There was little to no water in the “wetland” areas, so not a lot of birds or dragonflies. I walked along the slough on the side of the road, and then walked through the oak woodland to the nature center, and then back to the car.  Along the slough, I saw Tree Swallows, a pair of Western Kingbirds, and a trio of Brown-Headed Cowbirds doing their bowing thing. They were on the top of a tree, so bowing was difficult, and they kept rolling off their twiggy branches. Eventually, they gave up and flew off.

Further along, I came across a small flock of Snowy Egrets who were feeling for things in the water with their feet.  As I was watching them and taking pictures, a Great Egret flew in and joined them. Seeing the great Egret and the Snowy Egrets side-by-side really exemplifies their size difference. It looked like a mama bird with lots of babies around her.  Some of the Snowy Egrets were flashing their top knots at one another. I got the sense that it was a more an aggressive, territorial thing than a romance thing. None of the birds had their long, trailing feathers in; and none of them were sporting the pink blush in the face the Snowies get when their breeding.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

Beyond the regular Oak Apple galls, there weren’t a lot of other ones out yet. I saw some Red Cones just starting to grow – looking like tiny red pimples on the leaves of some of the Valley Oaks.  I did see the curling leaf galls and “flower” galls on the ash trees, but not as much as I’m used to seeing.

As I was walking through the oak woodland, I was surprised to see a large flock of American White Pelicans fly overhead. By the time I got my camera up and focused, though, they were gone. It’s always so neat to see those big birds flying.  They don’t look like they should be able to stay aloft, but they’re so graceful in the sky.

I also got a glimpse of a Green Heron when he flew out from the rushes around the bridge area, and up into a willow tree.  There were so many twiggy branches around him, though, it was hard to get any decent shots of him.

Near the nature center, I saw some House Finches, Anna’s Hummingbirds, and a baby cottontail rabbit. The baby was a surprise; my brain couldn’t get itself around how small it was at first, and I just stared at it. I did come to enough to get a few shots of the bunny before it scrambled away, though.

Even going down to the boat launch area, I was surprised by the lack of insects. I was hoping to see dragonflies, damselflies and spiders there, but… nothing.

I walked for about three hours and then started to head home.  My insides were starting to complain, and I hurried to the restroom near the boardwalk area where my car was parked – only to find that the thing was locked shut. Seriously?! Guh! I hate it when that happens.

Species List:

  1. American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos,
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna,
  3. Ash Flower Gall Mite, Eriophyes fraxinivorus,
  4. Ash Leaf Curl Aphid, Prociphilus fraxinifolii,
  5. Asian Ladybeetle, Harmonia axyridis,
  6. Bermuda Grass, Cynodon dactylon,
  7. Bindweed, Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis,
  8. Birds-Foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus,
  9. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
  10. Blue-Eyed Grass, Sisyrinchium angustifolium,
  11. Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia,
  12. Broadleaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron macrophyllum,
  13. Brown-Headed Cowbird, Molothrus ater,
  14. Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis,
  15. California Brodiaea, Brodiaea californica,
  16. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
  17. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica,
  18. Cleveland Sage, Salvia clevelandii,
  19. Common Knotweed, Persicaria lapathifolia,
  20. Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,
  21. Convergent Ladybeetle, Hippodamia convergens,
  22. Coyote Brush Bud Gall Midge, Rhopalomyia californica,
  23. Curly Leaved Dock, Rumex crispus,
  24. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii,
  25. Doveweed, Turkey Mullein, Croton setigerus,
  26. English Field Daisy, Bellis perennis,
  27. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare,
  28. Floating Water Primrose, Ludwigia peploides,
  29. Goodding’s Willow, Salix gooddingii,
  30. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias,
  31. Great Egret, Ardea alba,
  32. Green Heron, Butorides virescens,
  33. Green Pea Aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum,
  34. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus,
  35. Hoverfly, Syrphidae,
  36. Hummingbird Sage, Salvia spathacea,
  37. Jointed Charlock, Raphanus raphanistrum,
  38. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferus
  39. Lippia, Turkey Tangle, Fogfruit, Phyla nodiflora,
  40. Long-Jawed Orb Weaver, Tetragnatha extensa,
  41. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus,
  42. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia,
  43. Pearly Everlasting, Anaphalis margaritacea,
  44. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum,
  45. Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum,
  46. Purple Finch, Haemorhous purpureus,
  47. Purpletop Vervain, Verbena bonariensis,
  48. Rabbitsfoot Grass, Polypogon monspeliensis,
  49. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus,
  50. Seven-Spotted Ladybeetle, Coccinella septempunctata,
  51. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula,
  52. Swift Crab Spider, Mecaphesa celer
  53. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor,
  54. Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus,
  55. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
  56. Variable Flatsedge, Cyperus difformis,
  57. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
  58. Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis,
  59. Wild Onion (white), Allium sp.,
  60. Willow Apple Gall Wasp, Pontania californica,
  61. Willow Bead Gall Mite, Aculops tentanothrix,
  62. Willow Bud Gall Mite, Aculops aenigma,
  63. Willow Stem Gall Wasp, Euura exiguae,

Checking Out the Spider’s Den and Other Stuff, 05-18-19

I got up a little before 6 o’clock this morning and headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk by myself.  I was trying to beat the rain – and was also on the lookout for slime molds.  I did beat the rain (it didn’t show up until around 3:00 pm), but I zeroed out on the slime molds. I think they need one more sunny day between the rainstorms to wake up.

It was nice and quiet on my walk, although I did come across a few other people. I was able to identify some birds to a couple who I think was visiting the place for the first time, and also directed a photographer to some good spots for photo opportunities. Doing my trail-walker thing.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I saw a lot of the usual suspects: deer, turkeys, Starlings, House Wrens. I saw several bucks in their velvet, including the one with wonky antlers (one long and one short) and a torn ear. He should be easy to recognize from here on out.  And I also saw a doe with one ear that seemed really droopy. I don’t know what might have been bothering that ear; It didn’t look damaged or infected, at least as far I could tell.

A nice find was a male California Quail and one of his brides. I hear the quail at the preserve all the time, but they’re very fast and secretive, so I hardly ever get to actually see them.  This pair were pretty far away from me, across a meadow, but I was still able to get some shots. At one point, the male jumped up on a pile of brush so I could see him. They crack me up; their chubby little bodies look like light bulbs.

I also got to see quite a few female Common Mergansers going up into the cottonwood tree the Wood Ducks were in the last time. There were maybe three or four of the Mergansers, each flying around the tree and landing on different parts of it, quacking in low voices all the while. I don’t know if they were scouting out a nesting spot or were attracted to something else. I got some interesting-angle shots of them.

I was greeted by a pair of Western Bluebirds on another part of the trail. First the female flew in and then the male. They’re such bright, cheery-looking little birds. I always like seeing them.

And there was a very chubby California Ground Squirrel who popped up from her burrow to look around. I think she was pregnant based on her body mass. Their gestation lasts about a month, and then its another 6 to8 weeks before the babies emerge from the burrows. So, we won’t see them until sometime in July, most likely.

By the pond at the end of the Pond Trail were was some very fresh otter scat, so I’m guessing the otter was around there earlier this morning.  I’ve seen otters in that pond occasionally, but they usually wait until there are more crawdads around… The leeches in that pond might deter them, though.

I’m always curious when I find folded leaves or sealed leaf tents on plants, but I recognized what one was before I opened it when I found it on a mugwort plant. I handled it gingerly, and put it back where I found it afterwards.  Inside was, as I suspected, a mama American Yellow Sac Spider, Cheiracanthium inclusum, and her egg sac.

I was careful about how I opened it and handled it, because theses spider can pack a very painful bite (and are believed to bite more people than any other spider). The bite is said to burn like a wasp’s sting (and for sensitive people it can make them sick). The mother spider seals herself inside her rolled leaf tent with her egg mass, which can have as many as 100 eggs in it (although less is typical). She stays with the mass until the spiderlings hatch. After her babies hatch, she’ll stay with them until they’ve all gone through one molt (usually around 2 weeks).  As I mentioned, I set her and her tent back where I found them. She’ll spin new web to close her tent up again. ((Investigating leaf-rolls can be very interesting and rewarding for a naturalist, but just be careful.  You never know what might be inside of them.))

The young coyote showed up again today, in between two deer who didn’t seem to be aware that it was there.  It’s a very young coyote – gangly and thin, a teenager – but is hunting on its own, which I think is kind of unusual.  It moves too quickly, so I can’t tell if it’s a male or a female, but I did manage to get a few better photos of it today and a video snippet.

I got so preoccupied with my photo-taking that I lost track of time, and didn’t get back to the car until 11:30 am… So, I’d been on my feet for five hours. My ankles were killing me during the drive back to the house.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
  2. American Yellow Sac Spider, Cheiracanthium inclusum,
  3. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens,
  4. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine,
  5. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii,
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
  7. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum,
  8. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea,
  9. Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  10. Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus,
  11. California Brodiaea, Brodiaea californica,
  12. California Buckeye Tree, Aesculus californica,
  13. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
  14. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana,
  15. California Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillar, Battus philenor hirsuta,
  16. California Quail, Callipepla californica,
  17. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
  18. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis,
  19. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica,
  20. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
  21. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser,
  22. Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens,
  23. Coyote Mint, Monardella villosa,
  24. Coyote, Canis latrans,
  25. Douglas Iris, Iris douglasiana,
  26. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger,
  27. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata,
  28. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris,
  29. Fig, Common Fig, Ficus carica,
  30. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii,
  31. Fruit-tree Leafroller Moth, Archips argyrospila,
  32. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris,
  33. Gouty Stem Gall Wasp, Callirhytis quercussuttoni,
  34. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata,
  35. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus,
  36. Honey Dew Wasp Gall, Disholcaspis eldoradensis,
  37. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
  38. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus,
  39. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous,
  40. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos,
  41. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor,
  42. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
  43. Narrowleaf Vetch, Vicia sativa, (with black seed pods)
  44. Oak Apple Wasp Gall, Andricus quercuscalifornicus,
  45. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus,
  46. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri,
  47. Pink Grass, Windmill Pink, Petrorhagia dubia,
  48. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum,
  49. Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum,
  50. Purple-Top Vervain, Verbena bonariensis,
  51. Red Mulberry, Morus rubra,
  52. Red-Flowered Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Acmispon rubriflorus,
  53. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
  54. Rose Clover, Trifolium hirtum,
  55. Rusty Tussock Moth caterpillar, Orgyia antiqua,
  56. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciose,
  57. Sierra Wooly Sunflower, Eriophyllum lanatum var. croceum.
  58. Spicebush, Northern Spicebush, Lindera benzoin,
  59. Spider egg sac,
  60. Spotted Ladies Thumb, Redshank, Persicaria maculosa,
  61. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans,
  62. Tall Cyperus, Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis,
  63. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor,
  64. Two-Striped Grasshopper nymph, Melanoplus bivittatus
  65. Unspecified brome, Broma sp.,
  66. Valley Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys canescens,
  67. Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Soap Root, Chlorogalum pomeridianum,
  68. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana,
  69. White Lupine, Lupinus albus,
  70. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis,
  71. Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa,
  72. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,
  73. Yerba Santa, Eriodictyon californicum,

At the Sacramento and Colusa Wildlife Refuges, 05-06-19

Certified California Naturalist, Roxanne Moger and I went out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge around 6:00 am this morning. The weather was beautiful today, but there wasn’t a lot to see at the preserve. We’re kind of in between seasons, so the large flocks of birds have all left, but the insects (like dragonflies, damselflies, and orb-weaver spiders) haven’t arrived yet. We did see swarms of Painted Lady butterflies and some Cabbage White, but none of the other species normally seen there in the late spring/early summer.

Roxanne did all the driving, but we stopped a couple of time to get out of the car and walk parts of the trail or explore the boundaries of the park-and-stretch areas. Some of the vernal pools on the site were in bloom: all golden yellow and purple with Goldfields and Downingia. Just beautiful.

Although the species list at the end of the day wasn’t as long or as varied as I’d like, I did like the fact that I saw a few things I’d never seen before and learned more about some species than I’d known before. That’s what really makes these outings fun.

A large fly landed on the passenger side mirror of the car partway through the auto-tour and at first I thought it was a Robber Fly (those guys are pretty big). We were both intrigued by the fly’s huge goggle-like eyes and his tenaciousness.  He held onto that mirror for quite a long time.

When I got home, I looked up the fly to see if I could find its scientific name and found that it was actually a male Striped (or Lined) Horsefly, Tabanus lineola. I’d never seen one before. And, of course, once I find something new to me, I have to research it more.  Never having encountered a Horsefly before, I was surprised to learn that although the males drink nectar, the females drink blood (usually from large mammals like livestock). She had scissor-like mouth parts that slice into the skin so she can get to the blood. This species is usually found along the east coast and Gulf of Mexico, so it was something of a surprise to find it here… assuming I got the ID correct.

We also got to see a male Red-Winged Blackbird flaring his epaulets at a female, and a pair of Brown-Headed Cowbirds performing what we thought was courtship behavior.  The two birds sat across from one another, then one ruffled its feathers, opened its wings a bit and bowed down at the other, and the other responded in kind.

Roxanne and I inferred the behavior was “courtship” but, from what I read, after I got home, what we were seeing was actually two males trying to outdo one another in a machismo contest.  Apparently, the females don’t respond well to the males’ bows, which they see as aggressive, so the males only bow to one another. (You can read more here.)  The males open their wings to one another, and to females, to show how mature they are. Juveniles have pale markings on the inside of the wings.

You can see the video snippet I took of the birds HERE.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

And we found a couple of Black Phoebe nests, one stuffed full of babies who were almost fully fledged. They were stacked up, one on top of the other, with their tails sticking out over the edge of the nest. And toward the end of the auto tour route we came across a dead tree where there was a Western Meadowlark, a Red-Winged Blackbird and a tiny Song Sparrow all singing their respective songs.

We caught glimpses of American Goldfinches and Bullock’s Orioles, and hear Bitterns, but didn’t see any. One oddity was sighting a Mute Swan in the permanent wetlands area. That was odd because swans hardly ever go into the refuge, and Mute Swans are actually an invasive species. Unlike the Tundra Swans, the Mute Swans are super-aggressive and destroy the habitat they live in by ripping up water-plants from the roots.

When we were done at the Sacramento refuge, we decided to go over to the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge to show Roxanne the day-roost of the Black-Crowned Night Herons at the end of the auto-tour there. We were astonished to discover that the auto-tour there was roped off so no one could get to it… but the rope and signage was only visible AFTER you entered the refuge and started driving down the route. Stupid. They should have put the signs on the front gate or in the parking area.  A “manager” who showed up a little while after did, said that the auto-route was shut down because they were short handed and couldn’t patrol it well enough. Sad.

So, we didn’t do that tour and instead walked around a little bit in the native flower garden they have near the restroom facility.  Along part of a path near the garden, Roxanne found some galls we’d never seen before: the gall of the Elm Balloon-Gall Aphid, Eriosoma lanuginosum.

According to what I’ve read, the galls are initiated by a “fundatrix”, a parthenogenetic female aphid whose presence causes an extreme enlargement of the soft cell tissue on one side of the leaf. The galls are hollow and feel rubbery. They start out green and are covered with fine white hairs (which we saw) and turn brown as they age.

Inside the gall the fundatrix has her babies which are wingless and yellow until they mature. There can also be second generation aphids, called “alates” (usually winged individuals) which are dark green to black and wax powdered. Not all of the adults grow wings, however, and wing-growth seemed to be associated to crowding inside the galls, a short supply of food, and/or changes in the environment. Nature is so cool!

After walking around a bit, we headed back home to Sacramento and got there around 3:00 pm.

Species List:

1. American Avocet, Recurvirostra americana,
2. American Bittern, Botaurus lentiginosus,
3. American Coot, Fulica americana.
4. American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos,
5. American Goldfinch, Spinus tristis,
6. American Robin, Turdus migratorius,
7. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna,
8. Annual Yellow Sweet Clover, Melilotus indicus,
9. Arches Moth, Habrosyne sp.
10. Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus,
11. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
12. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus,
13. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum,
14. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea,
15. Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides,
16. Brown-Headed Cowbird, Molothrus ater,
17. Bullock’s Oriole, Icterus bullockii,
18. Bur Clover, Burr Medic, Medicago polymorpha,
19. California Flannelbush, Fremontodendron californicum,
20. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
21. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
22. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica,
23. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis,
24. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera,
25. Clark’s Grebe, Aechmophorus clarkia,
26. Cleveland Sage, Salvia clevelandii,
27. Common Mustard, Brassica rapa,
28. Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens,
29. Curly Dock, Rumex crispus,
30. Damselfly, Pacific Forktail, Ischnura cervula, (dots on thorax)
31. Damselfly, Sooty Dancer, Argia lugens, (no blue tip; rings around segments)
32. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii,
33. Dogtail Grass, Cynosurus echinatus,
34. Elm Balloon-Gall Aphid, Eriosoma lanuginosum,
35. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto,
36. Field Elm Tree, Smooth-Leaf Elm, Ulmus Minor,
37. Foothills Penstamon, Penstemon heterophyllus,
38. Foxtail Barley, Hordeum murinum ssp. glaucum,
39. Fremont Cottonwood Tree, Populus fremontii,
40. Fuller’s Teasel, Wild Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum,
41. Goldfields, Contra Costa Goldfields, Lasthenia conjugens,
42. Great Egret, Ardea alba,
43. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons,
44. Greenbottle Fly, Lucilia sericata,
45. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus,
46. Hood Canarygrass, Phalaris paradoxa,
47. Hoover’s Downingia, Hoover’s Calicoflower, Downingia bella,
48. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus,
49. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus,
50. Jimson Weed, Datura stramonium,
51. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous,
52. Large Oxtongue Aphid, Uroleucon picridis,
53. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris,
54. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
55. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor,
56. Narrowleaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis,
57. Northern Paper Wasp, Polistes fuscatus,
58. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta,
59. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata,
60. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii,
61. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marmorata,
62. Pacific Tree Frog, Chorus Frog, Pseudacris regilla,
63. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
64. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps,
65. Plantain, Ribwort, Plantago lanceolata,
66. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum,
67. Purple Finch, Haemorhous purpureus,
68. Purple Needle Grass, Stipa pulchra,
69. Rabbit Tail Grass,Hare’s Tail Grass, Lagurus ovatus,
70. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis,
71. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus,
72. Rush, California Bulrush, Schoenoplectus californicus,
73. Sedge, Pennsylvania Sedge, Carex pensylvanica
74. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciose,
75. Silverpuff, Microseris acuminata,
76. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens,
77. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia,
78. Striped Horsefly, Tabanus lineola,
79. Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus,
80. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura,
81. Valley Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys canescens,
82. Varied Carpet Beetle, Anthrenus verbasci,
83. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum,
84. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
85. Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis,
86. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta,
87. Willow, Gooding’s Willow, Salix gooddingii

Going Back to Bear Valley Road, 04-22-19

I got up around 5:00 am and was out the door with the dog before 6:00 am.  I wanted to check out the wildflowers along Bear Valley Road again to see if I could find the Most Beautiful Jewel Flower that was spotted there during the last Tuleyome driving tour.  Trying to drive the car on a dirt road, with sheer cliff walls on one side and a drop into a deep ravine on the other, while I tried to search for a tiny plant with nearly black flowers on it proved… difficult. Hah!  So, I didn’t find that flower, but I did see some I hadn’t seen the last time I was out there, and I was also compensated with the surprise find of an in-the-wild Burrowing Owl in one of the cattle ranch fields!

I saw what I thought at first was a ground squirrel poking its head up in a field, so I stopped the car to get some photos of it. As I zoomed in with the camera, I realized I wasn’t looking at a squirrel, I was looking at a Burrowing Owl. Cool! I’d met one at the Sacramento Zoo, but I had never seen one in its natural habitat before. I got out of the car to try to get closer to the fence that separated me from the owl, but the car door blew shut with a bang(!). [[It was windy out there.]]  The owl hunkered down near the opening of its burrow, which made it a lot more difficult to photograph, but I was glad I got to see it at all.

On another part of the road, I saw some Red-Winged Blackbirds mobbing a crow in the air. They were dive-bombing at him and grabbing at him.  Then I saw him land on the ground and thought that was weird of him because it made him an easier target for the blackbirds.  But then I saw the crow pick up a small blue egg out of a nest hidden in the long grass. I’m not sure, but I think the crow swallowed it. (I didn’t see him drop it.)  One of the blackbirds landed on the ground behind the crow and then rushed up again, smacking the crow in the back of the head, but the crow didn’t move right away. Instead, he reached down into the nest again. Two of the blackbirds attacked him once more and were finally successful in chasing him off.  I couldn’t see into the nest, so I’m not sure how much damage the crow did, but it seems like any nest on the ground is easy-pickings.

I always thought the blackbirds built their nests near water at the base of tules and other tall vegetation, so I was surprised there was one on the ground in an open field filled with roaming cattle.  According to the Audubon website, though, the birds also nest “in dense grass in fields. Nest (built by female) is bulky open cup, lashed to standing vegetation, made of grass, leaves, rootlets, lined with fine grass.” I love learning new stuff like this!

There were a lot of California Quails all along the sides of the road, several coveys.  But they moved too quickly for me to get any decent photos of them. There were also Killdeer along the road but, again, no photos.

And I saw some Western Kingbirds in what I think was part of their courtship displays.  There were also lot of them along the fence lines on the side of the road. Another nice surprise was being able to see a lovely Lark Sparrow. I hardly ever see those guys, and I think the patterns on their faces are so pretty.

CLICK HERE for the photos from today.

I stopped at the Keegan Ranch, which allows you to come onto the property to experience the wildflowers there, and I got to see a LOT of flowers. The fields were like “oceans” of them, with cattle “swimming” through them.  I also watched while a rancher on horseback rounded up some cows and their calves with the help of a handful of herding dogs. This ranch and the adjoining Epperson Ranch are actually protected by conservation easements (since 2016).  So, they cannot be drastically changed or built upon in perpetuity.

According to an article on them by the California Rangeland Trust: “From the rare serpentine soils, extensive wildflower fields and native grasses to the productive rangeland, this working cattle ranch is a great example of how ranchers can work with conservation groups to voluntarily protect the natural environment and sustain a way of life. These ranches are the first in California to be funded by NRCS’s Grasslands of Special Environmental Significance under its Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. The Keegan and Epperson Ranches are a great example of a multi-agency and private partnership that will protect vital habitats for plants and wildlife, expand and protect wildlife corridors, and will help wildlife adapt to climate change in perpetuity. Conservation of these ranches helps meet several goals aimed at reducing pressures to the Northern California Interior Coast Range Ecoregion outlined in California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s 2015 State Wildlife Action Plan…”

Combined, the ranches comprise 4,049 acres of now-protected landscape.  Makes me love this place even more.

My dog, Sergeant Margie, was great through the whole drive.  We stopped every once in a while so I could take photos, and when I did, I let him out to pee. On the way home, I had to go potty so I drove up Highway 16 a little ways to use the restrooms at Cowboy Camp.  One of the restroom buildings was locked, and the other one had no handle on the door.  I used that one, but had no privacy, obviously. Then I stopped at a Shell station in Williams and got a sandwich and cucumber smoothie for supper.

I got home around 2:30 pm.  Another long day.

Species List:

1. American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos,
2. Big Heron’s Bill, Erodium botrys,
3. Bird’s Eye Gilia, Gilia tricolor,
4. Black Angus Cattle, Bos Taurus,
5. Blister Beetle, Black Blister Beetle, Epicauta pennsylvanica,
6. Blow Wives, Achyrachaena mollis,
7. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum,
8. Blue Witch Nightshade, Solanum umbelliferum,
9. Bulbous Blue Grass, Poa bulbosa,
10. Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia,
11. Bush Lupine, Silver Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons,
12. Butter Lupine, Lupinus luteolus,
13. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
14. California Plantain, Plantago erecta,
15. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
16. California Quail, Callipepla californica,
17. Canyon Live-Forever, Dudleya cymose,
18. Caterpillar Flower, Lacy Phacelia, Phacelia tanacetifolia,
19. Clover, Rabbitfoot Clover, Trifolium arvense,
20. Clover, Strawberry Clover, Trifolium fragiferum
21. Clover, Rose Clover, Trifolium hirtum,
22. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia intermedia,
23. Common Mustard, Brassica rapa,
24. Cream Cups, Platystemon californicus.
25. European Honeybee, Apis mellifera,
26. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris,
27. Frying Pan Poppy, Eschscholzia lobbii,
28. Giant Death Camas, Zigadenus exaltatus,
29. Goldfields, Lasthenia californica,
30. Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana,
31. Hawkweed, Hieracium argutum,
32. Hereford Cattle, Bos taurus,
33. Hog Fennel, Lomatium utriculatum,
34. Holstein Cattle, Bos taurus,
35. Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja affinis,
36. Ithuriel’s Spears, Triteleia laxa,
37. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous,
38. Lark Sparrow, Chondestes grammacus,
39. Larkspur, Delphinium decorum,
40. Lupine, Lupinus sp.,
41. Milk Vetch, unidentified, Astragalus sp.,
42. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor,
43. Mountain Dandelion, Agoseris heterophylla,
44. Mule’s Ears, Smooth Mules Ears, Wyethia glabra,
45. Owl’s Clover, Dense Flower Owl’s clover, Castilleja densiflora,
46. Painted Lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
47. Pepperweed, Common Pepper Grass, Lepidium densiflorum,
48. Q Tips, Slender Cottonweed, Micropus californicus var. californicus,
49. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus,
50. Shepherd’s Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris,
51. Sierra Tidy Tips, Layia pentachaeta ssp. pentachaeta,
52. Silver Puffs, Uropappus lindleyi,
53. Snowbrush, Ceanothus velutinus,
54. Tamarisk, Salt Cedar, Tamarix parviflora,
55. Tidy Tips, Fremont’s Tidy Tips, Layia fremontii,
56. Tidy Tips, Smooth Tidy Tips, Layia chrysanthemoides,
57. True Babystars, Leptosiphon bicolor,
58. Valley Tassels, Castilleja attenuate,
59. Wallflower, Erysimum capitatum,
60. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
61. Western Hawksbeard, Crepis occidentalis,
62. Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis,
63. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta,
64. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis,
65. Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa,
66. Yellow-Faced Bumblebee, Bombus vosnesenskii,