I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. It was about 56° when I got there, but it was up to around 75° when I left. When I got there, I was happy to see my friend and fellow-naturalist Roxanne there, too. She’s helping me out with the Monarch monitoring facet of my volunteer work at the preserve. I really appreciate her help, too, because it makes the somewhat tedious process of looking over each milkweed plant go more quickly.
Still no sign of Monarch eggs or caterpillars, and what was odd was we didn’t see much in the way of other insects either. We did find some spiders (including a White Crab Spider and a little Jumping Spider), some aphids, a single praying mantis, and a couple of beetles but that was it. The lack of critters was rather surprising and made me wonder if the area had been sprayed or something. We worked on the plants for about 90 minutes and then went for a short walk through the preserve.
Although we heard a lot of different birds, we didn’t see any Wild Turkeys today, which was very unusual. They’re normally all over the place. We came across two bucks but no does and no fawns. Both bucks were in their velvet. One was a nervous youngster who was just getting his first antlers (a “spike buck”), and the other was a laid-back 3-pointer who was just lying in the grass on the side of the trail. He kept an eye on us but didn’t move from his spot. I guess he figured we were no match for him, so we weren’t much of a threat. He was gorgeous. And because he was so still, we were able to get quite a few good photos of him.
The most exciting thing to me that we came across on our walk was sighting a few different species on a Blue Oak tree (Quercus douglasii) along the River Trail. It had both Saucer Galls (Andricus gigas) and newly budding Crystalline Galls (Andricus crystallinus). The saucers start out flat and then form cups (some with smooth edges and some with serrated edges). The Crystalline Galls start out like tiny dark-pink urns and then swell up and get their sparkly spines. We hadn’t seen any galls at all on the “Frankenstein” hybrid tree further up the trail, so finding the galls on the Blue Oak by the river was rewarding.
It was nice to see that this particular
Blue Oak was also getting acorns on it. These oaks don’t produce acorns in drought
years, and when they do produce acorns, they’ll produce a lot one year (a “mast”
year) and then produce far fewer for the next two or three years. So, as I said, it was nice to see this one
with acorns all over it. (The acorns
usually take a year to develop.) Blue Oaks are also endemic to California,
which means they’re found here and nowhere else on the planet. It’s also one of the oak trees that is immune
to the fungus that causes Sudden Oak Death.
Very cool trees.
Oh, and we found a Treehopper – but it jumped away before I could get a photo of it. Those things are sooooooo weird-looking with their hunched backs. The one we saw was a Buffalo Treehopper (Stictocephala bisonia): mostly green with some burnished gold edges on it.
We walked the trails for about 2 hours.
Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii,
Brass Buttons, Cotula coronopifolia,
Buffalo Treehopper, Stictocephala bisonia,
California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana,
California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta,
California Praying Mantis, Stagmomantis californica,
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.
I got up at 4:00 this morning, got the dog fed and outside
to pee, and then headed out to Woodland for our first field trip for the summer
naturalist class. I got to the Woodland
Library around 5:45 am and waited for my coworker Bill and the students arrive.
The weather was VERY cooperative today. I was worried that the summer heat
would make our field trips unbearable in the summer, but today it was
nice. It was in the low 60’s when we
headed out, and only about 78° when we came back, so that was great. There was also a slight breeze which helped,
When everyone got to the library and had signed in, we all headed out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. I left my car in the parking lot and went with Bill in his van along with our student, Jeanette, who is a middle school teacher.
Locate and identify at least fifteen (15) animal
species (birds, amphibians, reptiles)
Locate and identify at least ten (10) plant species
Locate and identify at least ten (10) insect
While we were walking around the
nature center, I think they all got the majority of those requirements! The insects were probably the most difficult
for everyone, but we’ll see on Friday (at class) how well everyone did.
Near the nature center, we came across a large fat weevil sitting on the top of the flowering head of a tule. Bill rapped on the weevil a couple of times and figured it was dead, but when I stroked it, its feet moved, so we all inferred that the weevil was in a state of torpor, waiting for the sun to get a little higher in the sky so it could warm up more and start moving around.
Everyone took photos of it and tried to identify it using the iNaturalist app we’d told them about in class on Friday. It came up as a Billbug Weevil from the genus Sphenophorus. If you look at the map in iNaturalist, though, you’ll see that Billbug Weevils have been sighted all over the globe. So, calling this a Billbug Weevil is somewhat accurate, but for a more precise ID, I wanted the students to try get down to the species level on the weevil when they got home. Insects can be especially hard to ID because there are literally millions of them, and you have to deal with taxon levels that include superfamilies, tribes and subtribes before you can get close to the species. It will be interesting to see how far the students are able to get.
We also found a buckwheat plant that I didn’t recognize as buckwheat at all because its shape wasn’t like any buckwheat plant I’d seen before. The signage by the plant said it was California Buckwheat, Eriogonum fasciculatum, as did iNaturalist, but that didn’t quite look right to me. The leaves were the wrong shape. So, I did a little more research, and I believe it was actually St. Catherine’s Lace, Eriogonum giganteum, a kind of wild buckwheat that usually only grows in Southern California. When we were studying the plant, two of the students (Jeanette and Edna) also observed that some of the flowers still had their pink pollen balls and others did not… and we inferred that those that didn’t have their pollen balls anymore had already been pollinated.
When it came time to drive the auto-tour route, I drove Bill’s van so he could do more observations, and Jeanette and another student, Mica, a retired farmer, came along with us. Bill was able to open up both sides of his van, so the gals could get an unobstructed view of what was out on the preserve. Although everyone was able to go at their own pace along the route, we stopped at two of the park-and-stretch areas so we could compare notes and get a closer look at things. At the first stop, the students Ken and Alison, who are already expert birders, were helping the students spot and identify bird species and also explained what they meant when they talked about the birds’ GISS.
GISS stands for “General Impression, Shape, and Size”(originally a military term). Birders often use the bird’s GISS as a way to do a preliminary or in-field identification of a bird when it’s backlit (only seen in silhouette) or is too far away to see any details of its coloring. So, Alison and Kent were able to distinguish a pair of Northern Harriers flying over our heads from the Red-Tailed Hawk that was flying near them by nothing but their GISS. Very cool. I’m nowhere near being that kind of an expert.
At the second park-and-stretch spot, students relaxed with their lunches for a little while, and I was able to find a couple of examples of a specific kind of gall to tell them about, a Cottonwood Petiole Gall and is created by the aphid, Pemphigus populitransversus. The wingless female aphid called a “stem mother” chews at the leaf petiole (the stalk that joins a leaf to a stem) until it swells and then she climbs inside the swelling and has her babies inside of it. The baby aphids are born live and can be in either a winged form (called an “alate”) or without wings.
While the students were resting and
checking up on their notes, one of them, Alison, let us see what she’d put into
her field journal for the morning. She’s an artist, and she uses fountain pens
and watercolors to write and decorate her entries. It was beautiful. I can
hardly wait for Friday when all the students share their journals, so I can
take photos and let you see what they’re doing…
I also overheard a couple of students talking about how much they enjoyed the class, how much they’ve learned already (in just two sessions) and how many resources we’ve introduced them to that they didn’t even know existed before now. That is so gratifying!
One more learning moment: On the eucalyptus trees along the end auto-tour route on Saturday, I also stopped to pull a leaf off of an obliging eucalyptus tree, so I could show the students in our vehicle the white teepee-like formation on it that some folks mistake for galls. The formations are actually called “lerps” and they’re created by a tiny insect called the Red Gum Lerp Psyllid, Glycaspis brimblecombei. These insects spin little white houses for themselves made of sugars and wax pulled from the leaves. They’re often very sticky with the honeydew produced by the insects.
When we were done with the tour, everyone went their separate ways.
American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus,
American Robin, Turdus migratorius,
American Wigeon, Anas americana,
Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna,
Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens,
Bermuda Grass, Cynodon dactylon,
Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii,
Billbug Weevil, Sphenophorus sp.,
Birds-foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus,
Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
Black Saddlebags Dragonfly, Tramea lacerata,
Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicusm,
Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum,
Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus,
Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides,
Buckwheat, St. Catherine’s Lace, Eriogonum giganteum,
Bulbous Canary Grass, Phalaris aquatica,
Bullock’s Oriole, Icterus bullockii,
California Flannelbush, Fremontodendron californicum,
California Fuchsia, Epilobium canum,
California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,