I got up around 5:30 this morning so I could get over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve and begin my monitoring of my milkweed plot there for evidence of Monarch Butterflies.
I got there around 6:30 am and was pleased to see fellow volunteer and Certified California Naturalist, Roxanne Moger, there, too, ready and anxious to help with this first day at “my” plot. The first thing we saw when we walked in was a lovely doe sitting on the side of the hill right next to the plot. She let us get some photos of her before she got up and moved along. There was a narrow game trail right through the plot that the deer had made.
We divvied the plot up and started by counting all of the plants – over 40 just in our section! – and then we went plant-by plant, looking at every leaf for any evidence of Monarch eggs or larvae. I wasn’t expecting to see any, and we didn’t. The Monarchs didn’t show up last year until the fall, so I didn’t think there would be any in the plot today. But we were still very vigilant about checking every plant and every leaf.
Part of the plot sits at a slight angle and is cluttered with other plants like a large coyote brush bush, a couple of wild rose bushes and some bay, and Roxanne was wonderful about monitoring that part, so I didn’t have to climb under branches or get snagged by thorns. I thought that was so sweet of her! I had a special magnifier to check for eggs, but for most of the time I just used my cell phone as a magnifying glass and took photos if I found anything that looked interesting or unusual. We came across several different kinds of spiders including Yellow Sac Spiders, Trashline Orb Weavers and Jumping Spiders; some Oleander Aphids, Common Green Lacewing eggs, Red Mites, the larvae of Green Stink Bugs and the Twenty-spotted Lady Beetle, some leafhoppers and some spittle bugs.
We were out at the plot for about 2 hours. Later in the day, after I got home, I loaded our findings onto the MLMP website. It took me a little bit to figure out what went where, but I think I get everything in there all right.
I got up around 5:30 this morning so I could get over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve and begin my monitoring of my milkweed plot there for evidence of Monarch Butterflies. I finished that (with the help of my friend and co-naturalist Roxanne Moger) around 8:30.
It was still relatively cool outside, so Roxanne and I
decided to put our tools back into our car and walk for a little while. We came across some cooperative squirrels and
a Desert Cottontail rabbit, and also checked out the tree where I’d seen the
feral beehive earlier. There were about
three times as many bees at the spot, so I’m assuming the queen has decided to
set up shop there.
The surprise sighting was coming across another doe – with twin fawns! She was keeping them well-hidden in the shade and tall grass, but we were able to catch glimpses of them. And we couldn’t help but chuckle when the babies went stotting through the grass with mom chasing after them. They’re so tiny but soooo active! They’re the first fawns I’ve seen this year and that’s always exciting.
As we were leaving the preserve, I could hear a Ground Squirrel’s alarm call and looked around to see if I could spot what the trouble might be. I saw movement overhead and spotted an adult Red-Shouldered Hawk fly overhead. It landed in a nearby tree and then sat there for quite a while, so we were able to get quite a few photos of it. So, even though our walk was only a single loop, we got to see quite a bit… which is always fun.
Up at 5:00 am again. I let the dog out to go potty and fed him his breakfast then headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my weekly volunteer Trail-Walking gig. It was a gorgeous 58° when I got to the preserve and was overcast, so it never got over about 68° while I was there. Perfect walking weather.
One of the first things I saw was a Red-Shouldered Hawk carrying nesting materials. First she flew over my head, then she landed on a tree to get a better grip on the grasses she was holding before taking off again. These hawks only have one brood a year, but often work on the nest throughout the year to keep it clean. It’s no uncommon for them to use the same nest over several season if the first nest is successful. Later in my walk, I went by where I knew one of the hawks’ nest was and found a juvenile (fledgling) sitting out beside it squawking for its parents to come feed it. It was capable of feeding itself, but some of these young’uns milk the I’m-just-a-baby thing for quite a while. While it was near the nest, it was hard to get photos of it because it was backlit, but later it flew out and I was able to get a few better photos of it when it landed in a nearby tree.
There were a lot of deer out today, but I didn’t see any fawns. I DID see a couple of bucks, though, both of them still in their velvet, a 2-pointer and one with wonky antlers (one super-long one and one stumpy one). The 2-pointer was walking with a doe, and when I stood on the trail to take photos of them, he decided he didn’t like that. He stepped right out toward me with a very determined look on his face. (Bucks can get real possessive of “their” does.) I knew he wouldn’t rush me and try to gore me because he was still in his velvet. In that state, the antlers are super-sensitive to touch, and if he rammed me, he’d actually hurt himself. But, he could still outrun me mash me with his hooves if he had a mind to, so I put my head down and back away. That seemed to be enough of a submissive posture to him, and he returned to his doe. As beautiful as the deer are, I have to remind myself that they’re still wild animals and will do whatever their instincts tell them to do – even in a nature park.
I heard and caught glimpses of several Nuttall’s Woodpeckers on my walk, but never got enough of a look at one to take its picture. Those birds enjoy teasing people, I swear. They’re really loud about announcing themselves in flight, but then hide from you once they land.
The wild plum and elderberry bushes are all getting their ripened fruit now. I saw birds eating some of the berries and came across an Eastern Fox Squirrel breakfasting on the plums.
Along the river, there was a small flock of Canada Geese feeding (bottoms-up in the shallow water) with a female Common Merganser fishing among them. They eat different things, so the geese were stirring up the water plants and the Merganser would grab any small fish that appeared. Unintentional mutualism. While I was watching them, I saw something else in the water, swimming against the current and realized it was a beaver!
I went down as close to the shore as I could – (It’s hard for me to clamber over the rocks.) – and tried to get some photos of it. Photo-taking was difficult because the beaver stayed close to shore and was obscured by the tules and other riverside plants and scrubby trees. When it got into less cluttered spots, in was in the shade, and my camera had trouble focusing between the dark and the reflections on the water. So, I walked ahead of where I thought the beaver was heading to a sunnier spot and waited for it… and waited for it… and then I heard a splash and realized it had swum under the water right past me and came up in the river behind me. Hah! Sneaky Pete!
I walked for about 4 hours and then headed back home.
American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus,
Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii,
Black Harvester Ant, Messor pergandei,
Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii,
Bush Katydid nymph, Scudderia pistillata,
California Black Walnut, Juglans californica,
California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana,
California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
California Towhee, Melozone crissalis,
California Wild Grape, Vitis californica,
California Wild Plum, Prunus subcordata,
Canada Goose, Branta canadensis,
Chinese Privet, Ligustrum sinense,
Coffeeberry, California Buckthorn, Frangula californica,
I got up around 5:30 this morning, and after giving the dog his breakfast, I headed over to theAmerican River Bend Park. I was in search of willow galls and found oh-so-much more. The weather behaved itself in the morning hours. There was a breeze by the river, so it didn’t get too warm for me to walk until around 10:30. So it was a nice morning.
First I tried walking along the river at the first pullout, but the water was too high there, so I took a trail that brought me out onto the sandy area close to the bridge. Lots of willows there, and I found the pinecone-like galls of the midge Rabdophaga strobiloide. They start out looking like little round balls of tightly packed leaves. Then they develop a “beak” that makes them look like pinecones. Each gall contains one midge larva. When the larva matures into an adult midge, the midge escapes the gall through the tip of the beak.
While I was walking through that area, I could hear the nattering of quail in the underbrush, but they kept themselves well-hidden, so I never did see them or was able to get a photo of them. I did get shots of a Spotted Towhee and a House Wren, though. I walked along that part of the river for a little while and then headed back to where I’d parked the car at the pullout. At one point, the trail was blocked by a fallen tree. My trying to navigate over that obstacle was mildly humorous. Sit on one part of the trunk, lift my leg up, throw it over the other part of the trunk, try to get that foot to touch the ground, then shift my weight, and try to drag my other leg up over the trunk… Phew!
Once I got back to the car, I drove further int the park, got out, and continued my walk along the trail that runs along the riverside, but about 10 feet above the level of the water. I found a few Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars and saw some of the butterflies flitting near the top of the trees. When the caterpillars ready to build their chrysalis, they attach their back feet to a tree (or other substrate) with silk, and then build a silk sling-shot-like thing that holds them upright but at a slight angle from the tree. (The silk is pulled from spinnerets on the sides of the body.) Then the caterpillar leans back and just hangs there in a kind of torpor as the chrysalis forms UNDER its skin. Once the chrysalis is formed, the caterpillar sheds its skin — including its face — and waits for metamorphosis to begin.
I also found some of their chrysalises. One was so new; it was still bright green. There stills seems to be a LOT fewer than I’m used to seeing out there, though.
At one spot, I stopped to watch a pair of House Wrens flying all over the place, the male singing brightly while he flew. They stopped off a few times at a cavity in an oak tree, only to be run off by some Tree Swallows. Apparently, the Swallows had already claimed the cavity and were trying to keep the Wrens from setting up house there. I got quite a few good shots of the Swallows. The Wrens, not so much…
A nice surprise was seeing a female Common Merganser swimming near the shore with her three red-headed little ducklings. The mom was swimming up-stream which can be hard on the babies when the current is strong, so they sometimes swim in her wake… or just hop onto her back! In one photo you can see the mom swimming with her face in the water. This is a typical fishing technique used by these birds; she’s seeing if there’s anything tasty underneath her. These ducks are sometimes referred to as “saw-bills” for the serrated edges along the rim of their bill. Unlike Mallards, Mergansers are “diving” ducks, not “dabbling” ducks.
I walked for about four hours and then headed back home. But another surprise happened when I was driving out of the park. I saw something moving near the edge of the road and stopped to get a better look. I realized it was a female Wild Turkey, that was sitting down in the dirt and dried gas. She was giving herself a dust bath (to rid her feathers of mites). The surprise was when, right behind her, her baby (a little fledgling called a poult) stood up! Mama turkeys are very protective of their babies, and when the mom realized I’d seen her kid, she got up and hurried him away from the road.
Species List: Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus, Asian Ladybeetle, Harmonia axyridis, Black Locust, Robinia pseudoacacia, Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea, Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis, Bush Katydid nymph, Scudderia texensis, California Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor hirsuta, California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica, California Quail, Callipepla californica, California Scrub Oak, Quercus berberidifolia, California Sycamore, Platanus racemose, California Wild Grape, Vitis californica, Common Merganser, Mergus merganser, Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica Coyote Brush Stem Gall moth, Gnorimoschema baccharisella, Darkling Beetle, Pinacate Beetle, Eleodes obscurus, Deerweed, Acmispon glaber, Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata, English Plantain, Ribwort, Plantago lanceolata, European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris, Fremont Cottonwood, Populus fremontii, Goldenrod Bunch Gall, Goldenrod Floret Gall Midge, Solidago canadensis, Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum, Hoptree, Skunk Bush, Ptelea trifoliata, House Wren, Troglodytes aedon, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni, Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior, Long-Jawed Orb Weaver, Tetragnatha sp., Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos, Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor, Moth Mullein, Verbascum blattaria, Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura, Narrowleaf Willow, Salix exigua, Northern California Black Walnut, Juglans hindsii, Old Live Oak Gall Wasp Gall, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis, Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia, Oystershell Scale Insect, Ceroplastes sp, Rattlesnake Grass, Big Quaking Grass, Briza maxima, Red Mulberry, Morus rubra, Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia, Rusty Tussock Moth caterpillar, Orgyia antiqua, Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare, Telegraph Weed, Heterotheca grandiflora, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata Variable Flatsedge, Cyperus difformis, Wand Mullein, Verbascum virgatum, Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana, Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis, Western Goldenrod, Euthamia occidentalis, Western Leaf-Footed Bug eggs, Leptoglossus zonatus White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia, White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare, Willow Pinecone Gall midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides, Willow Stem Gall midge, Rabdophaga rigidae, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa, Wooly Mullein, Verbascum thapsusm Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis, Yellow Water Iris, Yellow Flag, Iris pseudacorus,