Tag Archives: Naturalist

My Article on Deer Antlers was Published, 07-03-19

So cool to see my article on deer antlers show up online through the Davis Enterprise newspaper! CLICK HERE to read it.

This article prompted a comment from a reader:

“Again, loved reading another of your articles in the Daily Democrat titled “What’s the deal with those wonky antlers?” You educate us on so many topics with answers to questions we have wondered about all of our lives. I cut the articles out of the newspaper and put them in the respective field guide or book to reread again and use for reference and mail copies to my daughter. I am so sorry to hear about your diagnosis. I just want you to know how much you have contributed to the natural world through your love of sharing it. — Kind regards, Kris Turner”

That is so unbelievably gratifying!


Summer 2019 CalNat Class #4, 06-28-19

After an early morning meeting, I was totally exhausted by the time the naturalist class started. But I didn’t want to miss Hillary Kasemen from West Coast Falconry and her talk on falcons. 

She brought with her “Cubby”, a male Anatum Falcon (Falco peregrinus anatum) a subspecies of Peregrine Falcon also called an American Peregrine, “Aerial”, a female American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) and “Islay”, a female Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus).

We learned, among other things, that because they fly so fast (up to 200 mph in a dive) falcons have an exaggerated tubule in the nose to help channel air so they can breathe better. Jet engines are made with the same kind of “baffle” (nose cone) in the center. “This example of biomimicry is very retrospective in that engines weren’t first designed this way.” Nature never ceases to amaze.

And we also learned that the hoods often used in falconry help to calm the birds. Falcons take a lot of information in through their eyes, and can get visually over-stimulated at times. Put a hood or other covering over the eyes helps to cancel out some of that stimuli.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos and some video snippets. #CalNat

Some students asked why we have presentations like this during the naturalist classes, and the reason is two-fold: (1) we want to introduce students to live specimens of species they might not otherwise encounter, and (2) we want to provide students who capstone ideas and volunteer opportunities.

Our 2nd Naturalist Class for the Summer, 06-14-19

Today’s class focused on collaboration and interpretation, data gathering, field journaling, how to record volunteer hours, and how to use online websites and cellphone apps to correctly identify species. Students were provided with practical learning opportunities by the class instructor, Bill Grabert, and our volunteer, Roxanne Moger.

Roxanne had brought in her collection of plant samples and seeds (which were gorgeously presented in clear boxes, some with magnifying boxes inside to show off the seeds). While the students signed into iNaturalist, Roxanne showed them how to identify the samples through the app.

Our guest speaker today was Our speaker, Nancy Ullrey, the Executive Director of the Cache Creek Conservancy.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

The Summer 2019 Naturalist Class has Started, 06-07-19

Our first class for the 2019 summer session of the Certified California Naturalist program for Tuleyome took place on June 7th. The whole teaching team was there: me, Nate Lillge, Bill Grabert and Roxanne Moger.

Students raved after class about the species identification module I presented, so I was really pleased with that.

CLICK HERE to see the small album of photos.

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,

CalNat 2019 Winter Class 9, 04-05-19

This was our 9th (of 10) Certified California Naturalist classes for the winter session.  This week it was our “final exam”, and I put that in quotes because it’s not really a test, per se, so much as it’s a recap of what we touched on throughout the previous weeks with some species identification thrown in. We do it like a game, in teams of 5 (or less) and the members of the team that get the most answers correct win prize bags worth over $400.  Everything in the bags was donated by a variety of manufacturers, publishers, distributors and other folks. For each winner, we had a clear backpack filled with field guides and other stuff, a bluebird box, a plushie elk, a plushie Saw-whet Owl and a Tuleyome camping mug.

We started off the class with some announcements and then explained to the students how the game was to be played. Ready… set… go!

We asked about 2 hours’ worth of questions and then took a 20-minute break so folks could nosh, chat and clear their heads. I had several people tell me how much fun they were having and how much they were learning as they listened to everyone answer the questions.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

When we came back from the break, we had 6 of the students present their capstone projects. And all of them are doing such great things. The capstones are projects of the student’s own choosing, during which they have to volunteer at least 8 hours on something related to nature and/or the natural sciences.

One student created a coloring book and picture cards to teach children the names of different birds and animal in the region based on their color.  Another one updated and created new identification cards for the plants around the demonstration pond at the Yolo Basin Foundation’s main office.  A third student built a bat box of her own design based on research she did of other designs.  It had three compartments with circular “doorways” so the bats could move from one compartment to another if they wanted to.  She’d been noticing a decrease in the number of bats in the night sky around where she lived, so she built the box (and will build several others) to place around her house and neighborhood with the hopes of providing bats with more protected night roosts – in the hopes that their numbers will increase again.

A fourth student used an app to photograph and collect information on the “assets” for different parks in Yolo County. The app connected through the cloud to a detailed map of the area, so now each of the parks can see where each of their assets are in relation to others and can track their condition.  The assets recorded included everything from buildings to trails to parking lots and even water spigots related to their fire-suppression systems. Eventually, he wants to generate a map of Tuleyome’s properties and the assets on them…

Another student (with a background in archaeology) took over a box of Native American artifacts that had been sitting around at the Cache Creek Conservancy, went through them, catalogued them, and is going to work up a display case for them once he figures out the “story” they’re telling.

The last student who presented today did her capstone on researching milkweed plants and the requirements of Monarch Butterflies, so she could turn a 6 x 10 patch of dirt at a local grade school into a butterfly garden.

We still have about 11 students who will present next week during our last class, just before the graduation ceremony. I can’t wait to see what they do. I’m so proud of all of them.

After the presentations, we finished off the questions and awarded the winning team, The Might Mallards. There were only four people on that team, and we had five prize packages, so we did a drawing among the remaining students to award the last package. We broke that one down into increments, so more people could win something. One person got the camping mug and plushie owl; one got the plushie elk; one got the bird box; and the last one got the backpack full of stuff.

Next week, we’re also going to host a potluck, so everyone is supposed to bring their favorite comfort food. #CalNat