Tag Archives: NATIVE

Trying to Beat the Heat on 06-05-19

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!

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

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.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
  2. Asian Ladybeetle, Harmonia axyridis,
  3. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
  4. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum,
  5. Bullock’s Oriole, Icterus bullockii,
  6. California Brodiaea, Brodiaea californica,
  7. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
  8. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
  9. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
  10. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis,
  11. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
  12. Common Black Ant, Lasius niger,
  13. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser,
  14. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  15. Coyote Mint, Monardella villosa,
  16. Dogtail Grass, Cynosurus echinatus,
  17. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata,
  18. English Plantain, Ribwort, Plantago lanceolata,
  19. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris,
  20. Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum,
  21. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata,
  22. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
  23. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
  24. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus,
  25. Leaf-Cutter Bee, Megachile,
  26. Long-Jawed Orb-Weaver Spider, Tetragnatha elongate,
  27. Mock Orange, Lewis’s Mockorange, Philadelphus lewisii,
  28. Moss, Bryum Moss, Bryum capillare,
  29. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii,
  30. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus,
  31. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia,
  32. Pacific Bent Grass, Agrostis avenacea,
  33. Praying Mantis, European Mantis, Mantis religiosa,
  34. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
  35. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa,
  36. Spicebush, Calycanthus occidentalis,
  37. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura,
  38. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
  39. Valley x Blue Oak, Quercus lobata x douglasii,
  40. Variable Flatsedge, Cyperus difformis,
  41. Wavy-Leaf Soap Plant, California Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum,
  42. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
  43. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia,
  44. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare,
  45. Winter Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa,
  46. Yellow Water Iris, Yellow Flag, Iris pseudacorus,

Guh! I Broke My Camera!! ( — and a Bit of Myself)

I got to the office around 7:00 am, printed up a grant request letter and got it ready for mailing, and then I headed out for Lake Solano Park. to do a preliminary walk of the trails before our naturalist field trip on March 3rd.  The park is in Winters, about 35-45 minutes from the office in Woodland.  It was chilly, in the low 40’s and a little overcast, but it was still nice “walking weather”. My coworker, Bill got there a little after I did. I was trying to fend off one of the resident peacocks who walked right up to the door of my car looking for handouts when he drove up. Hah!

While I was fending of the peacock, I missed being able to get a photo of a squirrel who went hurrying across the parking lot at the same time with a mouth full of feathers and grass for its nest. Dang it!

Anyway, Bill and I walked down the short driveway from the parking lot to the front gate where the pay-here kiosk was standing.  In the first couple of minutes I managed to get some photos of the peacocks, a tiny White-Breasted Nuthatch, and a Turkey Vulture.  But just as we were about to cross the street from the kiosk to the camping ground to look for the riverside trail, I tripped on the very uneven pavement around the kiosk and fell forward.  I landed HARD on the pavement and dirt, primarily on my knees, and also hit the ground with my right forearm.  I did not hit my head, but I could feel a kind of “whiplash effect” at the back of head and neck (as though my spine shoved forward into the base of my skull).  The impact with the ground was very hard, but I never lost consciousness.

[This is why you should try to have someone with you when you go out into the wild. Accidents happens even in the most benign places.]

When I managed to crawl to a fence and get myself back onto my feet, I noted that I was seeing double and my vision was blurry, so I asked Bill to check my pupils for any sign of concussion. He said my pupils seemed to be of equal size, but he wasn’t able to determine if they reacted normally to changes in light.

I leaned over the fence for a few minutes to let my body process the shock of the fall — maybe 5 minutes — and by the time I stood upright again my vision had gone back to normal, and remained normal for the rest of the day.

I sustained deep bruising, abrasions and some small hematomas on both knees, and it felt like the cartilage or bursa or whatever you call it behind both knee caps was “burning”.  I also sustained abrasions to my right forearm — even through the heavy coat I was wearing — and slight abrasions to the heel of my hands.  I felt pain in the triceps of both of my arms (more so on the right side than the left), like the muscles had been strained in the fall.

Still, I was able to walk (with some but not a lot discomfort; maybe a 6 on a scale of 10), and Bill and I scoped out part of the trail.  While I walked, Bill kept an eye on me to make sure I was okay and didn’t have any other issues with my vision. We were able to come up with a plan of action for the field trip, and also generate some extra questions/fun facts for the naturalist students. So, mission accomplished despite the fall.

My main concern, though, was my camera.  It was smashed in the fall.  The lens was in the elongated telephoto position when I fell, and the entire lens housing was smashed into the body of the camera. I need my camera for the naturalist course, for Tuleyome social media postings and albums, and for my own personal stuff (and being very attached to my camera I feel “blind” without it).  I can take the damaged camera to a shop to see if it can be repaired, but it looks pretty thrashed.  I wasn’t able to take photos with the camera – obviously – for the rest of this trip and had to use my cellphone for photos. It does okay on the close-up stuff, but it sucks for anything else. I couldn’t get descent shots of the other birds we saw along the way.

[[As an aside, Tuleyome agreed to reimburse me for the broken camera, so… yay!]]

I was surprised to see, during our walk, that the Pipevine at the park is already in bloom. That usually doesn’t show its face until March.  We also saw Acorn Woodpeckers, an American Robin, Buckeye trees just starting to get their leaves, lots of Bufflehead ducks in the river, a couple of Bushtits, California Mugwort, Canada Geese, Common Goldeneye ducks, Elderberry bushes, Giraffe’s Head Henbit, some Golden-Crowned Sparrows, several Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets, a Green Heron, Long Stalks Cranesbill, Mallards, Manroot vines in blooms (so you could see the boy flowers and the girl flowers), Miner’s Lettuce, Mistletoe, a Nutthall’s Woodpecker, some Oyster Mushrooms, lots of Poison Oak, a couple of Snowy Egrets, and all sorts of other stuff.  I hope it’s this nice and varied when we take the students there.  I think they’ll really enjoy it.

I was able to drive myself home, but noted that bending my knees to get into and out of the car was very painful.  I opted not to seek immediate medical attention because I didn’t feel “concussed” or that anything was “broken”, and I didn’t want to go to the emergency room if I was just bruised.  When I got home, I took some Aleve, and went directly to bed.

Even though I “hate” the quality of most of the photos I took today, I’m putting them into an album to share with my naturalist students anyway.  You can see the album here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhnaturalist/albums/72157691735739781

Lots of Exuvia Today

Damselfly exuvia on a tule frond. © Copyright 2016, Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
All of the “white stuff” you see on this tule is the exuvia of dozens of damselflies. © Copyright 2016, Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

I had planned on sleeping in a bit today, but woke up around 5:00 am anyway, so I got up about 5:30 and then headed out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  It was about 53° when I left the house and got up to about 77° by the late afternoon.  We had a breeze for most of the day so it was actually quite nice outdoors.

I put some gas in the car and then continued on toward Willows and the refuge. Whereas some days provide me with a lot Kingbird photos, or squirrel or jackrabbit photos, today I got a lot of Western Fence Lizard pictures.  Those guys were out everywhere.  I even came across a mating pair.  Lizard-porn.  Hah!

This rock looked like a rabbit to me.
This rock looked like a rabbit to me.

The other big attractions (for me anyway) was being able to photograph several  large dragonflies and finding LOTS of damselfly exuvia (the skin they shed when they emerge from the water and transform into winged damselflies).  I also found a few damselflies that had just shed their skin and didn’t have their wings entirely pumped up yet.  The exuvia looks so neat to me.  It’s the exact shape of the damselfly naiade, but is hollow and looks like a ghost or a reflection of the insect.  So cool!

Around that same area, I also came across a male Great-Tailed Grackle that actually followed my car for a while as he sang for the females.  He paused among the tules in a few locations and did some displaying and more singing.  He was really entertaining!  I got a few video snippets of him, and at one point he took a break from his songs to eat damselflies… A snack between concerts.

There were plenty of jackrabbits and cottontails, of course, but not so many of them posed for me today.  I also had to deal with a particularly shy Common Gallinule. It was way down in the tules along the bank and I was practically shooting at it “blind”.  Somehow the camera managed to get some photos in focus.  I was so pleased.  I was likewise hindered by the tules when I saw a joined pair of Green Darner Dragonflies land on the water.  I held the camera out the window, over my head, trying to get the camera’s eye over the top of the tules, and shot straight down at the water… and I somehow got the shot I wanted of the female dragonfly laying her eggs in the water.  Miracle.  I even got a shot of another male coming into the frame and the first male chasing it off – while still attached to the female. Woah!.

The Great Horned Owl owlets were out of their nest and sitting on an open branch of their tree.  Mom wasn’t with them the first time I passed them, but she was there when I went by again later.  The owlets are the same size as their mom now, just… “fluffier”.  You can tell by looking at the owlets which one is a little bit older than the other.  Great-Horned Owls usually lay their eggs several days apart… so there’s always a least one in the nest that’s older than the others. The mother hawk and her fledgling were in their own nest this morning, too.

I saw several mule deer, including a young male who was coming into his “velvet” (getting his new antlers; they were stubby but very visible on his head). I also came across a young Turkey Vulture who was sitting on the edge of an open gate holding his wings out to the sun to warm himself up.  He actually stayed there long enough for me to get a few close-up shots of him.

At other points along the auto tour, I’d stop and just listen to the sounds around me: Red-Winged Blackbirds and Meadowlarks singing, egrets croaking, grebes woo-woo-wooing, Night Herons doing their brisk “wok!” call… It’s a jungle out there, man.  I loved it.

CLICK HERE for a video of the Great-Tailed Grackle singing.

CLICK HERE for a video of a Marsh Wren singing.

On my way out of the refuge, I drove past one of the sloughs and could see something big and dark moving under the surface of the water, but I couldn’t tell what it was.  I parked the car and craned over the passenger side seat and out the window to see if I could get a better look at it.  Definitely some kind of large fish… but the shape wasn’t right to be a catfish…  I think it might have been a young Northern Pike!  If it was a pike, then anything else living in the water is in trouble; those guys are aggressive hunters.  It never came all the way to the surface, though, so I couldn’t really tell for certain.

There was also one spot, just before the exit, where I stopped to look into the drainage ditch – because you never know what you might find in there – and I spotted a Black-Crowned Night heron lurking in the shade.  Someone came up behind me in her car and flashed her lights for me to get out of her way.  Uh – I’m photographing here!  Grumbling, I drove up the road a little distance and pulled over for her to pass, and then backed up to the ditch again so I could get a few more shots of the heron.  They weren’t great, but at least I got them.

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Around 2:00 pm I headed back to Sacramento and got home around 3:30 pm.