Tag Archives: moth

Lots of Caterpillars along the American River, 05-25-19

I got around 6:00 am this morning and headed out to the American River Bend Park for my walk. It was overcast for most of the day, but I was able to do my walk without getting rained on, so that was good.

The first thing I saw when I got there was the leucistic female turkey and another “normal”-colored turkey walking through the tall grass along the side of the road with one small poult following after them. I don’t know which of the gals had the baby, but they both seemed to be taking care of it.  Poults are so hard to photograph most of the time because the moms try to keep them hidden as much as possible. So, I only got a few shots of the baby’s behind.

This is the time of year for caterpillars at the park and you could see Pipevine Swallowtail and Rusty Tussock Moth caterpillars almost everywhere you looked.  When I was videoing some of the Pipevine Swallowtail guys eating pipevine a woman and two of her friends came up. The woman plucked a caterpillar from the ground to show it to their friends, and when she came back to set it back onto a pipevine plant, I asked her if she’d seem the Tussocks.  She said, no, so I showed her where some of them were and gave her and her friends a mini lesson on the species.  Naturalist thing: check.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

The pipevine plants were abundant: on the ground, over logs, up into the trees and shrubbery. Some of them were super-thick.  The wild grape vines were also everywhere. They seem larger than I’ve seen them in years – but that’s because of the rains, I’m sure. We were living with drought with so long that we don’t recognize the landscapes with water anymore…  The Elegant Clarkia was in bloom all over the place; patches of pink – and some white – all along the river trail. So pretty.

Lots of House Wrens around singing today. I saw one male go over to a slit-like cavity in the side of a tree and look in, then he flew up into a nearby tree advertising his find.  But the cavity was already taken by a pair of Oak Titmice. The mom came up with a beak full of bugs and started fussing at the Wren. She flew at him a couple of times to drive him off, but he was pretty persistent. When both of them were away from the cavity, I walked up to the tree to see if I could hear any babies inside. When I tapped on the tree, I could hear a hiss from inside. Sometimes, baby birds hiss to make themselves sound like snakes, so predators won’t bother to come inside the nesting cavity – and it also deters human from trying to get a better look inside. Hah!

I walked for about 4 hours and then headed back home.

Species List:

  1. American Bumblebee, Bombus pennsylvanicus,
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna,
  3. Bedstraw, Cleavers, Galium aparine,
  4. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea,
  5. Bush Monkey Flower, Mimulus aurantiacus,
  6. California Buckeye Chestnut, Aesculus californica,
  7. California Hairstreak Butterfly, Satyrium californica,
  8. California Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor hirsuta,
  9. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica,
  10. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica,
  11. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis,
  12. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea,
  13. Common Hoptree, Ptelea trifoliata,
  14. Cranefly, Tipula spp.,
  15. Creek Clematis, Clematis ligusticifolia,
  16. Destroying Angel Mushroom, Amanita ocreata,
  17. Dog Vomit Slime Mold, Fuligo septica,
  18. Dogtail Grass, Cynosurus echinatus,
  19. Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis,
  20. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata,
  21. European Praying Mantis, Mantis religiosa,
  22. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris,
  23. Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum,
  24. Gouty Stem Gall, Callirhytis quercussuttoni,
  25. Great Egret, Ardea alba,
  26. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata,
  27. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
  28. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
  29. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus,
  30. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii,
  31. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria,
  32. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis,
  33. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 2nd Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis,
  34. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
  35. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii,
  36. Oak Leaf-Roller Moth, Archips semiferanus,
  37. Oak Moss Lichen, Evernia prunastri,
  38. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus,
  39. Oak Treehopper, Platycotis vittata,
  40. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia,
  41. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
  42. Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum,
  43. Rattlesnake Grass, Big Quaking Grass, Briza maxima,
  44. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
  45. Rusty Tussock Moth, Orgyia antiqua,
  46. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus,
  47. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans,
  48. Sweet Broom, Cytisus racemosus,
  49. Toothed Crust Fungus, Basidioradulum radula,
  50. Trashline Spider, Cyclosa turbinata,
  51. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor,
  52. Tule Pea, Lathyrus jepsonii,
  53. Turkey Tail Fugus, Trametes versicolor,
  54. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
  55. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana,
  56. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis,
  57. Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa,
  58. Yellow-Faced Bumblebee, Bombus vosnesenskii

Mostly Bugs and Birds, 05-08-19

I got up around 6:00 and headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my weekly volunteer trail-walker thingy.  It was totally overcast and about 53° when I arrived at the preserve, but it was sunny and about 65° when I left. Such a huge change in just a few hours.

I saw a lot of different things on my walk today, but the standouts were the European Starlings and Black Harvester Ants.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

The Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) had a nesting cavity that was perfectly viewable from the trail.  The cranky babies inside (I saw two but there might have been more) were almost fully fledged but still demanding room service from their folks, who diligently brought them beakfuls of insects. At one point, one of the parents apparently got tired of me watching them and taking photos, and it spat the insects onto the ground before glaring at me from the side of the tree. Hah!

And the Black Harvester Ants (Messor pergandei) always fascinate me. They’re always so busy, hard-working and determined. I saw some heaving large seeds around and carrying dead bees and some kind of grubs to their nest. ((The photos and video snippets I got of the ants were taken with my cell phone.))

I walked for about 4 ½ hours. Phew!

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
2. American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus,
3. Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis,
4. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, 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. Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus,
10. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
11. California Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillar, Battus philenor hirsuta,
12. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica,
13. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
14. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis,
15. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica,
16. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica,
17. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
18. Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,
19. Coyote Brush Bud Midge Gall, Rhopalomyia californica,
20. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis,
21. Cranefly, family Tipulidae,
22. Cricket, Arboreal Camel Cricket, Gammarotettix bilabatus,
23. Dogtail Grass, Cynosurus echinatus,
24. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger,
25. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris,
26. Fruit-tree Leafroller Moth, Archips argyrospila
27. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus,
28. Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea,
29. Green Leafhopper, Nephotettix virescens,
30. Green Plant Bug, Chinavia hilaris,
31. Harvester Ant (black), Messor pergandei,
32. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus,
33. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
34. Housefly, Musca domestica,
35. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus,
36. Katydid, Bush Katydid nymph, Scudderia sp.,
37. Leaf Beetle, Chrysolina sp.,
38. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria,
39. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos,
40. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor,
41. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
42. Mugwort, California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana,
43. Oak Apple Wasp Gall, Biorhiza pallida,
44. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus,
45. Obliquebanded Leafroller, Blackberry Leafroller caterpillar, Choristoneura rosaceana,
46. Pacific Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum,
47. Painted Lady caterpillars, Vanessa cardui,
48. Pineapple Weed, Matricaria discoidea,
49. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum,
50. Pyracantha, Pyracantha coccinea,
51. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus,
52. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
53. Robber Fly, Promachus princeps,
54. Rose Clover, Trifolium hirtum,
55. Rusty Tussock Moth caterpillar, Orgyia antiqua,
56. Seep Monkey Flower, Mimulus guttatus,
57. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciose,
58. Spittle Bug, Meadow Spittlebug, Philaenus spumarius,
59. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus,
60. Sudden Oak Death pathogen, Phytophthora ramorum,
61. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor,
62. Wavy-Leaf Soap Plant, Soap Root, Chlorogalum pomeridianum,
63. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana,
64. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
65. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare,
66. Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa,

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

A Little Bit of Everything, 04-24-19

I got up around 5:30 this morning because the dog needed to get outside. Since I was up, I decided to stay up, and after giving the dog his breakfast, I got dressed and went out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my walk. I was sunny and already about 53° when I left the house. When I got back home around 11:00 am it was 78°.

During my walk I saw but couldn’t get photos of a couple of Bullock’s Orioles, a male Rubyspot damselfly, and several White-Lined Sphinx Moths. The Rubyspot was a bright red male, and I was so bummed that I wasn’t able to get a photo of it. The Orioles and Sphinx moths were whizzing around, so I couldn’t get my camera to focus on them. Gotta be fast when you’re photographing nature!

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I was able to get photos of other critters including an Oak Titmouse with a small caterpillar in its beak, a Turkey Vulture sunning himself on the top of a tree, and several Western Fence Lizards including a male courting a female, and another female who looked really gravid (pregnant, full of eggs).

A one point along the trail I found a nesting cavity in the side of a tree and saw Tree Swallows, an Acorn Woodpecker, and a House Wren all seemingly fighting for it. The Tree Swallows out-numbered the other two species at the tree, so I’m assuming they’re taking that spot.

I also found a couple of squirrel dreys (nests), including one near the Maidu Village near the nature center. The squirrels there had pulled tules out of the tule hut on display and used them in their nest. Hah! And I found a Bushtit nest in a spot where it was surrounded by Pipevine.

The Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies were flittering all over the place. At on spot, I came across a vine where the caterpillars hat just hatched from their eggs and were busy eating the shells. Another cool sighting was a Snakefly. I found a female (obviously by her long dagger-like ovipositor) sitting on a leaf and got a photo and video snippet of her before she rushed away.

So, it was a good walk.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
2. American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus,
3. American Robin, Turdus migratorius,
4. American Rubyspot Damselfly, Hetaerina americana,
5. Ant, Little Black Ant, Monomorium minimum
6. Aphids, superfamily Aphidoidea,
7. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens,
8. Bedstraw, Cleavers, Galium aparine,
9. Black Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus,
10. Black Walnut Erineum Mite galls, Eriophyes erinea,
11. Black Walnut, Juglans nigra,
12. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii,
13. Blue Penstemon, Penstemon azureus,
14. Bullock’s Oriole, Icterus bullockii,
15. Bush Sunflower, Encelia californica,
16. Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus,
17. California Buckeye, Aesculus californica,
18. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
19. Groundsel, Senecio sp.,
20. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus,
21. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta,
22. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica,
23. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
24. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
25. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis,
26. Clover, Strawberry Clover, Trifolium fragiferum,
27. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
28. Common Catchfly, Silene gallica,
29. Common Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes,
30. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii,
31. Dogtail Grass, Cynosurus echinatus,
32. Douglas Iris, Iris douglasiana,
33. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger,
34. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla,
35. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus,
36. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
37. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
38. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus,
39. Leaf Miner, Cameraria sp.,
40. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
41. Live Oak Gall Wasp gall, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
42. Live Oak Gall Wasp gall, 2nd Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
43. Long-Jawed Orb Weaver Spider, Tetragnatha sp.,
44. Lupine, Lupinus sp.,
45. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos,
46. Mayfly, possibly Hexagenia limbate,
47. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor,
48. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
49. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii,
50. Oak Apple Gall Wasp gall, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
51. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus,
52. Pacific Rattlesnake, Crotalus oreganus,
53. Pink Grass, Windmill Pink, Petrorhagia dubia,
54. Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum,
55. Q-Tips, Slender Cottonweed, Micropus californicus var. californicus,
56. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula,
57. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciose,
58. Snakefly, Agulla sp.,
59. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus,
60. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor,
61. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura,
62. Valley Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa varipuncta,
63. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
64. Valley Tassels, Castilleja attenuate,
65. Vetch, Vicia sp.,
66. Wavy-Leaf Soap Plant, Chlorogalum pomeridianum,
67. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
68. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis,
69. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare,
70. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis,
71. White-Lined Sphynx Moth, Hyles lineata,
72. Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa,
73. Yellow-Faced Bumblebee, Bombus vosnesenskii,

My First Trip to the Mather Field Vernal Pools, 03-27-19

Around 8:00 am, my naturalist class graduate Roxanne M. and I went to the vernal pools at the end of Zinfandel Blvd. in Mather Field.  Rain was threatening, and it was about 51° outside, but the rain held off until after we’d left – about 2 hours later.

I’d never been there before, but Roxanne had so she showed me some of the highlights out there – like the white pipes used for hydrology studies, and the somewhat lumpy landscape dotted with “mima mounds” around the pools.

“…One theory on the origin of Mima mounds is that they were created by small burrowing rodents such as pocket gophers (Thomomys talpoides) of the endemic North American family Geomyidae. Researchers in the 1940s found that Mima mounds tend to form in areas with poorly draining soils, so the “Fossorial Rodent Hypothesis” proposed that gophers build mounds as an evolutionary response to low water tables… It could be argued that gophers live in the mounds opportunistically but did not build them.  Consequently, gophers in mima mound fields seem to be aware of randomly distributed topographic highs and orient their burrowing accordingly in early mound creation stages. However, the mounds were already fully formed and the gophers may have just been maintaining them. Nevertheless, the fact that the surface area of a typical Mima mound is similar to the size of an individual gopher’s home range is consistent with the theory they were constructed by the rodents…”

Roxanne and I were hoping the wildflowers would be out, but there were only a few species showing. In another week or so, if we get some sunshine, the place should be covered in flowers.  We could see large swaths of Frying Pan poppies around some of the pools, but they were all closed up because it was overcast outside. Along with the poppies, among the flowers we did see were things like Butter ‘n’ Eggs, Blue Dicks, Showy Fringe Pod, Popcorn Flowers, and Jointed Charlock.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

We also saw some Canada Geese, Western Meadowlarks, and some Western Kingbirds. One of the Kingbirds was eating a large sphinx moth, but it was too far away for me to get a clear photo of it.  Along the road we saw a Mourning Dove, a pair of dark morph Swainson’s Hawks, and some wild turkeys.

Both Roxanne and I had brought little bowls to collect some of the pond water in so we could look for little critters in it.  We lucked out and were able to find a lot of tiny swimmers in the water including the larvae of Predaceous Diving Beetles, called “Water Tigers”, Damselfly larvae, and California Clam Shrimp.  So cool!  I need a portable microscope to take with on trips like this – and I need a book on vernal pool creatures. I don’t know very much about this kind of habitat; it’s all kind of new to me.

We both enjoyed the walk and vowed to go back to the pools in another week or so.

Species List:

1. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
2. Butter ‘n’ Eggs, Triphysaria eriantha
3. California Clam Shrimp, Cyzicus californicus
4. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
5. Copepods, Copepoda
6. Damselfly Larvae, Class: Odonata, Order: Zygoptera
7. Dock, Curly Dock, Rumex crispus
8. Filaree, Stork’s Bill, Big Heron Bill, Erodium botrys
9. Flatworm, Dugesia gonocephala
10. Frying Pan Poppy, Eschscholzia lobbii
11. Jointed Charlock, Raphanus raphanistrum
12. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
13. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui
14. Popcorn Flower, Slender Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys tenellus
15. Predaceous Diving Beetles, Water Tiger, Cybister fimbriolatus
16. Rio Grand Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
17. Showy Fringe Pod, Spokewheel, Thysanocarpus radians
18. Slug, Reticulate Taildropper, Prophysaon andersoni
19. Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni
20. Tadpole, Western Tree Frog, Chorus Frog, Polypedates occidentalis
21. Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis
22. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
23. White-Lined Sphinx Moth, Hyles lineata

Update on the Polyphemus Moths, 03-18-19

Our naturalists class’s first Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus) hatched out of its cocoon on Thursday, March 14th, and was a female. By March 18th it was already winding down in it life processes, but the reproductive instinct is strong. Even though they’re not fertilized, our moth was found laying eggs in her enclosure. #CalNat

Later in the day, our second Polyphemus moth hatched. It’s a boy! Notice those impressive antennae. His wings are wrinkly because he just hatched from his cocoon.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.