Tag Archives: Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies

A Partially Blind Deer at the Preserve, 04-12-18

I had to get another nature fix today before finishing off all of the packing and taking stuff to the thrift store for them to recycle, so I went over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, just open to whatever Nature wanted to show me today.

In front of the nature center building, the native plants garden was in full bloom: redbud, bush lupine, seep monkey flowers, California poppies, Buckbrush. Very pretty. And the air was filled with birdsong: sparrows, hawks, woodpeckers, wrens, nuthatches, finches… and the gobble of Wild Turkeys. Such a nice springtime morning! I really needed that.

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

The mule deer were out and about, and the bucks are already sprouting their new set of antlers. Some of them just had little nubbins, but on others you could already see the velvet growing. One of the deer I saw was blind on one side, but that didn’t seem to hamper its ability to get around.

I was alerted by the soft cries of a female American Kestrel to her perch on a high branch of tree, and realized she was calling to her mate. The little male flew up to her, they mated for a while, and then both sat for a bit. The male then kept flying back and forth between the tree where the female was and another tree nearby. I don’t know if it wanted the female to follow it or if he’d found a good nesting for her and wanted her to check it out, but she wasn’t budging. She kept “whining”, like a baby bird asking for food. It’s not unusual for a male to offer food to a female during the courting season. While I was watching and photographing the kestrels, some of the Wild Turkeys decided to take that moment to fly down from their night roosts in the trees to the ground… and several of them whizzed right by me. I don’t get to see the turkeys in flight very often, so that was neat to see – even though I was worried that some of them might crash right into me. They’re big birds!

I was surprised by the number of wildflowers throughout the preserve. I’ve never seen so many there. There was one shallow field that was filled with miniature lupine. I waited for the deer to find it so I could get some photos of them grazing there: all that pretty dark blue around them…

The Red-Shouldered Hawks that usually have a nest right next to the nature center have seemingly opted out of that one for this year. They’d been using that one for several years straight, and it might be overrun with mites and crud right now. I had seen them during the fall working on another nest near the water-post 4B on the Pond Trail, so I checked over there, and sure enough, a mama was occupying that nest.

Unlike the nest near the nature center, however, the one on the Pond Trail is very hard to see. I only saw the very top of the mama’s head poking up above the rim of the nest and could hear her screeching to her mate… When they occupied the nest near the nature center, you could get a good view of it and see a good deal of the mom and babies. Their current nest is going to make that kind of viewing almost impossible. Still, I’m glad they’re there.

I also came across a pair of young Cooper’s Hawks. I don’t know if they were courting or what, but they seemed to stick close to one another.

Further along the trail, I found the nesting cavity of a pair of Oak Titmice and a House Wren. The wren was still adding nesting materials to the inside of the cavity, so I got some photos of it with twigs in its beak.

I saw a lot of Fox Squirrels (Tree Squirrels) running around and stuffing their faces with food, but didn’t see much of the California Ground Squirrels today. There were Western Fence Lizards (Blue Bellies) all over the place doing their push-ups, but it seemed like every time I was able to focus the camera on them to get some footages of their exercises, they stopped moving. Hah!

I DID catch a glimpse of a coyote, though, a skinny female who – by the look of her teaties may have recently given birth. I saw her head moving through the tall grass, and trained my camera on a spot where I thought she might emerge and take to the trail in front of me. She did! And I was able to get a little video snippet of her before she caught sight of me and disappeared again. I had a similar experience with a Black-Tailed Jackrabbit: he came running through the grass, saw me, and then high-tailed it back the way he’d come. Hah-2!

The only disturbance while I was out on the preserve was the sound of screaming children. Apparently, the nature center was holding some events there and there were groups of kids all around it – some of them brandishing Native American weapons as part of a learning exercise. (Yikes!) After encountering one group of the kids, I left the preserve. They were scaring off all the wildlife – and me.

Wildflower Hunting, 04-15-17

On saturday I was up at 6:15 am and out the door by 6:30.  The weather was gorgeous today; sunny and cool (49º when I headed out for my hillside trek and 68º when I got back home.)  I headed out looking for wildflower displays today, taking I5 to the spot where Highways 20 and 16 meet.  There are a lot of ranches around there, as well as some protected areas, and there are usually pretty displays.

Tuleyome had led a wildflower tour last weekend, but pickings were slim, and they couldn’t get down Bear Valley Road to Wilbur Springs because that road is all dirt – and with the recent rains it was basically a 15-mile mud hole.  I didn’t go down there today, and instead stuck to the highways and the turnouts along them.  As I went along, it occurred to me that I actually think we’re still too early for the full wildflower bloom. I think the rain and cooler temperatures have kept the wildflowers from showing off.  The poppies and most of the lupine aren’t awake yet, the onions aren’t opened up yet, and the Blow Wives are just now starting to “blow”.

CLICK HERE to see the entire album of photos.

CLICK HERE if you’d like directions to a self-guided wildflower tour along Bear Valley Road. Before you head out, though, check to make sure the road isn’t really muddy.

Still, I did get to see quite a few different species – about 3o or so – including Tidy Tips, Pepperweed, different kinds of lupine, tiny Owl’s Clover, that super-interesting looking Sack Clover, Big-Headed Clover, Navarretia, Soft Blow Wives, Silverpuffs, Blue Dicks, Bush Mallow, Death Camas, Ithuriel’s Spears, some tiny Blue-Eyed Mary, California Poppies, Goldfields, Fiddleneck, Buck Brush, Larkspur, Bush Monkey Flowers, Indian Paintbrush, Tule Peas, Chinese Houses, and Old Men’s Bear (a kind of clematis).

Driving along Highway 16 was a little bit scary. There had been huge mud and rock slides there, and the road was opened again just recently. As you drive along, you can see massive bald spots where the faces of the hillsides became too saturated during the heavy rains and just slide off.  There  were three places where I could see that the highway had been recently patched and in other places there were huge piles of boulders and mud that had been bulldozed off the road.  But my drive was unimpeded, and nothing fell on my car in the “falling rocks” areas.

Because it was so sunny, I had to contend with stark shadows and sun-glare when I was taking pictures.  If I was able to, I blocked the flowers with my body and took the pictures, but that wasn’t always an option. It’s easier to take photos when it’s a little overcast…

The Tamarisk trees were in bloom all along the waterways.  They’re gorgeous, but they’re totally invasive. Also called “salt cedars” they dump tons of salt into the rivers and streams and kill off a lot of native plant and animals species that can’t tolerate the high salt content. Red-Winged Blackbirds were using some of them as display stages, sitting in the top branches, singing away.

At one spot along Highway 20 and Bear Valley Road, there’s a bridge that goes over Bear Creek, and under the bride were swarms of Cliff Swallows building and tending to their mud nests.  I was surprised to see birds sitting in the unfinished nests – seemingly saving their spot — as their mates flew back and forth with daubs of mud to complete them.  I got some photos and video snippets of that process.

I also saw quite a few Western Fence Lizards, a male Lesser Goldfinch hunkered down in the flowers eating seeds, some katydid nymphs, Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies, Boxelder Beetles, and… eew… ticks.  There were ticks everywhere.  As I was heading back home, I found three of them crawling around the car, and one tiny one on my neck.  Eew, eew, eew!

Because the weather was so lovely, I actually drove around with the car windows open.  It made for a nice weekend drive. I was back home around 2:00 pm.

Redbuds and House Wrens

I got up around 6:00 am and headed over to the American River Bend Park.  I was hoping the redbud trees would be in bloom there, and they were, but thanks to Daylight Savings Time, it was still dark when I arrived at the park – made darker because of a thick overcast.  So, I had to wait about 30 minutes before it got light enough for my camera to actually be able to see anything.

CLICK HERE to see the complete album of photos and video snippets.

I got some lovely redbud photos, along with some shots of the Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies that were out.  It was still chilly (in the 50’s) outside, and there had been a heavy dew overnight, so the butterflies were all torpid and wet, but some of them managed to rouse themselves so I could take their pictures.  The place was also alive with the songs of House Wrens.  They seemed to be singing from everything jumble of underbrush around.  I was able to get photos and video of them… and of some Spotted Towhees that were also singing in the area.  I think I would’ve seen more action if it had been just a tad warmer…

Still, I walked for almost 4 hours (which is my absolute limit) before heading home.  I’d tweaked my left ankle at the park when I climbed a pile of mulch to get photos of some slime mold, so that kept me chair-bound most of the rest of the day.

Vacation Day 4: American River Bend Park

Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

Vacation Day Four.  I got up around 6:30 this morning and headed over to the American River Bend Park for a walk..  It was in the 60’s (around 63° by the afternoon) and partly cloudy all day.

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular at the park; just wanted a long nature walk.  But I still ended up taking several hundred photographs.  I found a couple of birds’ nesting cavities including that of a White-Breasted Nuthatch and a House Wren who were both nesting in the same tree, but in different holes in the tree. That was kind of neat.  Along the river I also saw some Common Mergansers, Great Egrets, Canada Geese, Acorn Woodpeckers, and a Great Blue Heron.

I also came across a group of six jackrabbits.  They were cavorting around the picnic tables in the park… so cute.  One of them, though, had a deformity on its cheeks that looked like some big canker busted and then turned all black and leathery.  Eeew.  I did a little research to see if I could find some information about the condition, but I couldn’t find anything… The search will continue.

On the insect front: The Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars are hatching out all over the park, and some of them are fattening up quickly.  I came across one of the caterpillars with something that really surprised me.  I knew that when they’re large enough to pupate, the caterpillars spin a line of silk, attach it to a substrate (like a branch) and wrap it around their shoulders… but this one had spun a mat of silk underneath it. I’d never seen that before, and couldn’t find anything written about it.  It was so odd, I tried getting photos of it, but the caterpillar REALLY didn’t like my putting it on its back to get the photos… At first I thought maybe it was dragging someone else’s silk after it, but when I rolled the caterpillar onto its back, I could see the silk attached to its belly.  The belly area, though, is not where their spinners are so… I’m still very confused about it.  Maybe it blundered onto a super-sticky spider’s web that stuck firmly to it or something.  I don’t know. I’ll have to keep researching.  Speaking of these caterpillars, I found a really neat video of the on YouTube so you can see how they grow and how they spin the silk shoulder-wrap before they form their chrysalis.  I’ve seen them in the torpid state, just after they’ve spun the silk but before the chrysalis is formed.  I would LOVE to watch and film the whole process in the wild sometime.

Anyway, here’s the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2cE86AA1q0.

There were also lots of Ladybug (ladybeetles) and their larvae showing up now, Snakeflies, Crane Flies, all sorts of beetles, and other critters.  I also came across some Scarab-Hunter Wasps.  They’re rather large wasps that are kind of “hairy” all over.  The adults eat pollen and nectar, but they lay their eggs in the beetle larvae and the kids grow up eating the larvae… You find them hovering low over the ground where they “listen” for the sound of the grubs under the surface.  Then they uproot the grubs to lay their eggs in them… So they’re carnivores that grow into vegans as they mature.  Hah! Nature is so weird sometimes. I also found a few spider egg sacs.  I’m not adept enough, though, to tell what species of spider left what sac…

The wildflowers are also blooming along the river, mostly Miniature Lupine, Monkey Flowers, Poppies, Vetch, Pink Grass, and Stork’s Bill.  So, there was something interesting or pretty to see no matter you looked.

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I walked for about 3½ hours and then headed back to the house. I picked up a few groceries at the store on the way, unpacked stuff when I got home, and put in load of laundry before crashing with the dogs.

Mostly Redbuds and Butterflies

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Around 7:00 I headed over to the American River Bend Park.  Rain is predicted here in the afternoon, so I figured I could get a few hours of walking in before the storm arrived.

As I drove into the park the first thing I saw was a male mule deer (who had apparently recently lost his antlers) at the large Redbud Tree, snacking on the pink blossoms.  So pretty.  I got photos and a video snippet of him.  Further along the trail, I came across a pair of Mallard (a male and a female) waddling through the tall grass.  They came right toward me and when they stepped out onto the path, the female walked up to me and checked me out.  I think she was intrigued by my umbrella.  When I started walking, she followed after me for several feet…

When I got closer to the part of the trail that runs on a shallow cliff above the river I was surprised to see how full the river was and how fast it was flowing.  I knew that Folsom Dam had opened its gates, I’d still never seen the American River up this high before. Much of the shoreline below the nature trail was under water, as ne one of the smaller islands in the middle of the river.

As I continued my walk, I came across lots and lots of Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies.  Because it was still chilly outside (about 47°) they were all torpid, and clinging to plants and trees, waiting for the sun to come out and warm them up.  As I was getting some photos of some of the butterflies in a Redbud tree, a Red-Shouldered Hawk flew up into a tree over my head.  I got some photos of it… and photos of a House Wren, some Western Bluebirds, Wild Turkeys, a Nutthall’s Woodpecker, and a Robin (that was taking a bath in a puddle).  Spring is pushing its way through the cold: the wildflowers are starting to rise up from the ground, the birds are starting to pair up, and the trees are sprouting new leaves… Another week or two – even with the rain – there should be really great photo ops every few minutes.  Today was pretty good, but I’m really looking forward to some super pictures in the next several weeks…

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I walked for about 3 hours, then headed home, stopping at Togo’s to pick up some sammiches and soup for lunch.

Flowers, Bees and a Ladder-Back Woodpecker, 03-20-15

After work on Friday, I took the dog over to the WPA Rock Garden and duck pond for a walk.  More and more flowers are starting to bloom; in another week or so the garden should really be showing off.  I saw several different kinds of butterflies today including a Painted Lady, Tiger Swallowtail, and Pipevine Swallowtails.  I watched one Pipevine Swallowtail hunting for a place to lay her eggs – I can now recognize pre-egg-laying butterfly behavior; that’s kind of kewl! – and watched as she laid a couple of them (and I got a little bit of it).  That’s always neat to see.  I also got some photos of another Pipevine Swallowtail sipping nectar from some flowers.

Here is a snippet of video of the egg-laying:  http://youtu.be/F05u1Cg495I

Along with the ubiquitous European Honeybees and Carpenter Bees, I also came across a large solitary California Bumblebee (bombus californicus) with bright orange pollen in the “baskets” on its legs.  I wonder if it was a queen.  Like honeybees, bumblebees form colonies under a single queen, although their colonies far less extensive than those of honeybees.  According to the Xerces Society, “…Most bumble bees nest in the ground in cavities such as abandoned rodent burrows, holes in building foundations, or stacks of firewood. Once the queen finds a suitable site, she will begin preparing the nest space by building a small wax cup, called a honey pot, and collects pollen which she will use to feed her developing brood. When the nest is sufficiently provisioned, she will lay eggs on the pollen lump and begin incubating the eggs by laying her abdomen over the brood to keep the eggs or larvae warm. At this point the queen remains in the nest unless she needs to collect more food. Nearly four weeks after laying the first eggs her first workers will emerge as adults and begin the jobs of foraging, nest cleaning, and brood care. The colony will grow throughout the summer and the workers will help the queen produce a clutch of male offspring, followed soon by new queen bees. These reproductive bees will leave the nest and find mates…”

The bombus californicus are said to be in decline, but there is also some speculation that they’re merely a subspecies of another kind of bumblebee so entomologists don’t know what to do about them.  I can remember that at the Stagecoach Drive house, Dad disturbed a large colony of bumblebees living under one of the stands of pampas grass on the backyard hill.

At the park, the middle pond is being drained out a lot right now, so it isn’t very pretty – and a lot of the waterbirds are discouraged by how shallow the thing is.  I think the city is doing this so they can get in and clean out several years of crud that has accumulated on the bottom of the pond.  They need SOME of that to keep the pond “alive” and to encourage waterborne insects and fish to live there.  But because it’s landlocked debris just keeps filling up inside of it until it gets to the point that the mess is choking all of their equipment, and no light can get to the bottom of the pond.  So they dredge it out, save as many living larvae and fish as they can, and then refill it.

Along with the waterfowl today, I also saw a lot of crows, Goldfinches, Robins and a few Ladder-Backed Woodpeckers (Picoides scalaris).  I also got a photo of a pair of tiny Linyphiidae spiders on the back of a flowering tobacco plant leaf.  There are so many spider in that group that I can’t clearly identify individual species, but they’re sometimes call “Sheet Weavers” or “Dwarf Spiders” because of their diminutive size and the kind of webs they build…  It was a nice walk.

What was funny was that while we were in the garden two different people recognized Sergeant Margie.  Hah!  My dog is famous.

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