Tag Archives: Populus fremontii

The 1st Summer 2019 Naturalist Field Trip, 06-15-19

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, too.

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 species

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.

Buckwheat, St. Catherine’s Lace, Eriogonum giganteum, with pollen blass intact

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.

Cottonwood Petiole Aphid Gall,
Pemphigus populitransversus

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.

Species List:

  1. American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus,
  2. American Robin, Turdus migratorius,
  3. American Wigeon, Anas americana,
  4. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna,
  5. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens,
  6. Bermuda Grass, Cynodon dactylon,
  7. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii,
  8. Billbug Weevil, Sphenophorus sp.,
  9. Birds-foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus,
  10. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
  11. Black Saddlebags Dragonfly, Tramea lacerata,
  12. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicusm,
  13. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum,
  14. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus,
  15. Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides,
  16. Buckwheat, St. Catherine’s Lace, Eriogonum giganteum,
  17. Bulbous Canary Grass, Phalaris aquatica,
  18. Bullock’s Oriole, Icterus bullockii,
  19. California Flannelbush, Fremontodendron californicum,
  20. California Fuchsia, Epilobium canum,
  21. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
  22. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis,
  23. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera,
  24. Cleveland Sage, Salvia clevelandii,
  25. Common Checkered Skipper, Pyrgus communis,
  26. Common Minnow, Phoxinus phoxinus,
  27. Common Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum,
  28. Cottonwood Petiole Aphid Gall, Pemphigus populitransversus,
  29. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis,
  30. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii,
  31. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto,
  32. European Heliotrope, Heliotropium europaeum,
  33. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris,
  34. Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis,
  35. Field Mustard, Sinapis arvensis,
  36. Flax-leaved Horseweed, Erigeron bonariensis,
  37. Floating Water Primrose, Ludwigia peploides ssp. peploides,
  38. Fremont Cottonwood, Populus fremontii,
  39. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris,
  40. Goodding’s Willow, Salix gooddingii,
  41. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias,
  42. Great Egret, Ardea alba,
  43. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons,
  44. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus,
  45. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis,
  46. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus,
  47. Jimson Weed, Datura stramonium,
  48. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos,
  49. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris,
  50. Monarch Butterfly, Danaus plexippus,
  51. Mosquitofish, Gambusia affinis,
  52. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
  53. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor,
  54. Mylitta Crescent Butterfly, Phyciodes mylitta mylitta,
  55. Narrowleaf Cattail, Cattail, Typha angustifolia,
  56. Narrowleaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis,
  57. Northern Bluet Damselfly, Enallagma cyathigerum,
  58. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta,
  59. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata,
  60. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii,
  61. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps,
  62. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum,
  63. Raccoon, Procyon lotor,
  64. Red Gum Lerp Psyllid, Glycaspis brimblecombei,
  65. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus,
  66. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium,
  67. Sharp-leaved Fluellen, Kickxia elatine,
  68. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa,
  69. Spotted Orb-Weaver Spider, Neoscona crucifera,
  70. Striped Horsefly, Tabanus lineola,
  71. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans,
  72. Teasel, Wild Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum,
  73. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus,
  74. Turkey Tangle, Fogfruit, Phyla nodiflora,
  75. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum,
  76. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
  77. Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis,
  78. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta,
  79. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis

Looking for Willow Galls, 06-09-19

I got up around 5:30 this morning, and after giving the dog his breakfast, I headed over to the American 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.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

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,

Checking Out the Spider’s Den and Other Stuff, 05-18-19

I got up a little before 6 o’clock this morning and headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk by myself.  I was trying to beat the rain – and was also on the lookout for slime molds.  I did beat the rain (it didn’t show up until around 3:00 pm), but I zeroed out on the slime molds. I think they need one more sunny day between the rainstorms to wake up.

It was nice and quiet on my walk, although I did come across a few other people. I was able to identify some birds to a couple who I think was visiting the place for the first time, and also directed a photographer to some good spots for photo opportunities. Doing my trail-walker thing.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I saw a lot of the usual suspects: deer, turkeys, Starlings, House Wrens. I saw several bucks in their velvet, including the one with wonky antlers (one long and one short) and a torn ear. He should be easy to recognize from here on out.  And I also saw a doe with one ear that seemed really droopy. I don’t know what might have been bothering that ear; It didn’t look damaged or infected, at least as far I could tell.

A nice find was a male California Quail and one of his brides. I hear the quail at the preserve all the time, but they’re very fast and secretive, so I hardly ever get to actually see them.  This pair were pretty far away from me, across a meadow, but I was still able to get some shots. At one point, the male jumped up on a pile of brush so I could see him. They crack me up; their chubby little bodies look like light bulbs.

I also got to see quite a few female Common Mergansers going up into the cottonwood tree the Wood Ducks were in the last time. There were maybe three or four of the Mergansers, each flying around the tree and landing on different parts of it, quacking in low voices all the while. I don’t know if they were scouting out a nesting spot or were attracted to something else. I got some interesting-angle shots of them.

I was greeted by a pair of Western Bluebirds on another part of the trail. First the female flew in and then the male. They’re such bright, cheery-looking little birds. I always like seeing them.

And there was a very chubby California Ground Squirrel who popped up from her burrow to look around. I think she was pregnant based on her body mass. Their gestation lasts about a month, and then its another 6 to8 weeks before the babies emerge from the burrows. So, we won’t see them until sometime in July, most likely.

By the pond at the end of the Pond Trail were was some very fresh otter scat, so I’m guessing the otter was around there earlier this morning.  I’ve seen otters in that pond occasionally, but they usually wait until there are more crawdads around… The leeches in that pond might deter them, though.

I’m always curious when I find folded leaves or sealed leaf tents on plants, but I recognized what one was before I opened it when I found it on a mugwort plant. I handled it gingerly, and put it back where I found it afterwards.  Inside was, as I suspected, a mama American Yellow Sac Spider, Cheiracanthium inclusum, and her egg sac.

I was careful about how I opened it and handled it, because theses spider can pack a very painful bite (and are believed to bite more people than any other spider). The bite is said to burn like a wasp’s sting (and for sensitive people it can make them sick). The mother spider seals herself inside her rolled leaf tent with her egg mass, which can have as many as 100 eggs in it (although less is typical). She stays with the mass until the spiderlings hatch. After her babies hatch, she’ll stay with them until they’ve all gone through one molt (usually around 2 weeks).  As I mentioned, I set her and her tent back where I found them. She’ll spin new web to close her tent up again. ((Investigating leaf-rolls can be very interesting and rewarding for a naturalist, but just be careful.  You never know what might be inside of them.))

The young coyote showed up again today, in between two deer who didn’t seem to be aware that it was there.  It’s a very young coyote – gangly and thin, a teenager – but is hunting on its own, which I think is kind of unusual.  It moves too quickly, so I can’t tell if it’s a male or a female, but I did manage to get a few better photos of it today and a video snippet.

I got so preoccupied with my photo-taking that I lost track of time, and didn’t get back to the car until 11:30 am… So, I’d been on my feet for five hours. My ankles were killing me during the drive back to the house.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
  2. American Yellow Sac Spider, Cheiracanthium inclusum,
  3. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens,
  4. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine,
  5. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii,
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
  7. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum,
  8. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea,
  9. Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  10. Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus,
  11. California Brodiaea, Brodiaea californica,
  12. California Buckeye Tree, Aesculus californica,
  13. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
  14. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana,
  15. California Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillar, Battus philenor hirsuta,
  16. California Quail, Callipepla californica,
  17. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
  18. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis,
  19. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica,
  20. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
  21. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser,
  22. Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens,
  23. Coyote Mint, Monardella villosa,
  24. Coyote, Canis latrans,
  25. Douglas Iris, Iris douglasiana,
  26. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger,
  27. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata,
  28. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris,
  29. Fig, Common Fig, Ficus carica,
  30. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii,
  31. Fruit-tree Leafroller Moth, Archips argyrospila,
  32. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris,
  33. Gouty Stem Gall Wasp, Callirhytis quercussuttoni,
  34. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata,
  35. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus,
  36. Honey Dew Wasp Gall, Disholcaspis eldoradensis,
  37. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
  38. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus,
  39. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous,
  40. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos,
  41. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor,
  42. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
  43. Narrowleaf Vetch, Vicia sativa, (with black seed pods)
  44. Oak Apple Wasp Gall, Andricus quercuscalifornicus,
  45. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus,
  46. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri,
  47. Pink Grass, Windmill Pink, Petrorhagia dubia,
  48. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum,
  49. Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum,
  50. Purple-Top Vervain, Verbena bonariensis,
  51. Red Mulberry, Morus rubra,
  52. Red-Flowered Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Acmispon rubriflorus,
  53. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
  54. Rose Clover, Trifolium hirtum,
  55. Rusty Tussock Moth caterpillar, Orgyia antiqua,
  56. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciose,
  57. Sierra Wooly Sunflower, Eriophyllum lanatum var. croceum.
  58. Spicebush, Northern Spicebush, Lindera benzoin,
  59. Spider egg sac,
  60. Spotted Ladies Thumb, Redshank, Persicaria maculosa,
  61. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans,
  62. Tall Cyperus, Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis,
  63. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor,
  64. Two-Striped Grasshopper nymph, Melanoplus bivittatus
  65. Unspecified brome, Broma sp.,
  66. Valley Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys canescens,
  67. Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Soap Root, Chlorogalum pomeridianum,
  68. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana,
  69. White Lupine, Lupinus albus,
  70. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis,
  71. Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa,
  72. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,
  73. Yerba Santa, Eriodictyon californicum,

At the Sacramento and Colusa Wildlife Refuges, 05-06-19

Certified California Naturalist, Roxanne Moger and I went out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge around 6:00 am this morning. The weather was beautiful today, but there wasn’t a lot to see at the preserve. We’re kind of in between seasons, so the large flocks of birds have all left, but the insects (like dragonflies, damselflies, and orb-weaver spiders) haven’t arrived yet. We did see swarms of Painted Lady butterflies and some Cabbage White, but none of the other species normally seen there in the late spring/early summer.

Roxanne did all the driving, but we stopped a couple of time to get out of the car and walk parts of the trail or explore the boundaries of the park-and-stretch areas. Some of the vernal pools on the site were in bloom: all golden yellow and purple with Goldfields and Downingia. Just beautiful.

Although the species list at the end of the day wasn’t as long or as varied as I’d like, I did like the fact that I saw a few things I’d never seen before and learned more about some species than I’d known before. That’s what really makes these outings fun.

A large fly landed on the passenger side mirror of the car partway through the auto-tour and at first I thought it was a Robber Fly (those guys are pretty big). We were both intrigued by the fly’s huge goggle-like eyes and his tenaciousness.  He held onto that mirror for quite a long time.

When I got home, I looked up the fly to see if I could find its scientific name and found that it was actually a male Striped (or Lined) Horsefly, Tabanus lineola. I’d never seen one before. And, of course, once I find something new to me, I have to research it more.  Never having encountered a Horsefly before, I was surprised to learn that although the males drink nectar, the females drink blood (usually from large mammals like livestock). She had scissor-like mouth parts that slice into the skin so she can get to the blood. This species is usually found along the east coast and Gulf of Mexico, so it was something of a surprise to find it here… assuming I got the ID correct.

We also got to see a male Red-Winged Blackbird flaring his epaulets at a female, and a pair of Brown-Headed Cowbirds performing what we thought was courtship behavior.  The two birds sat across from one another, then one ruffled its feathers, opened its wings a bit and bowed down at the other, and the other responded in kind.

Roxanne and I inferred the behavior was “courtship” but, from what I read, after I got home, what we were seeing was actually two males trying to outdo one another in a machismo contest.  Apparently, the females don’t respond well to the males’ bows, which they see as aggressive, so the males only bow to one another. (You can read more here.)  The males open their wings to one another, and to females, to show how mature they are. Juveniles have pale markings on the inside of the wings.

You can see the video snippet I took of the birds HERE.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

And we found a couple of Black Phoebe nests, one stuffed full of babies who were almost fully fledged. They were stacked up, one on top of the other, with their tails sticking out over the edge of the nest. And toward the end of the auto tour route we came across a dead tree where there was a Western Meadowlark, a Red-Winged Blackbird and a tiny Song Sparrow all singing their respective songs.

We caught glimpses of American Goldfinches and Bullock’s Orioles, and hear Bitterns, but didn’t see any. One oddity was sighting a Mute Swan in the permanent wetlands area. That was odd because swans hardly ever go into the refuge, and Mute Swans are actually an invasive species. Unlike the Tundra Swans, the Mute Swans are super-aggressive and destroy the habitat they live in by ripping up water-plants from the roots.

When we were done at the Sacramento refuge, we decided to go over to the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge to show Roxanne the day-roost of the Black-Crowned Night Herons at the end of the auto-tour there. We were astonished to discover that the auto-tour there was roped off so no one could get to it… but the rope and signage was only visible AFTER you entered the refuge and started driving down the route. Stupid. They should have put the signs on the front gate or in the parking area.  A “manager” who showed up a little while after did, said that the auto-route was shut down because they were short handed and couldn’t patrol it well enough. Sad.

So, we didn’t do that tour and instead walked around a little bit in the native flower garden they have near the restroom facility.  Along part of a path near the garden, Roxanne found some galls we’d never seen before: the gall of the Elm Balloon-Gall Aphid, Eriosoma lanuginosum.

According to what I’ve read, the galls are initiated by a “fundatrix”, a parthenogenetic female aphid whose presence causes an extreme enlargement of the soft cell tissue on one side of the leaf. The galls are hollow and feel rubbery. They start out green and are covered with fine white hairs (which we saw) and turn brown as they age.

Inside the gall the fundatrix has her babies which are wingless and yellow until they mature. There can also be second generation aphids, called “alates” (usually winged individuals) which are dark green to black and wax powdered. Not all of the adults grow wings, however, and wing-growth seemed to be associated to crowding inside the galls, a short supply of food, and/or changes in the environment. Nature is so cool!

After walking around a bit, we headed back home to Sacramento and got there around 3:00 pm.

Species List:

1. American Avocet, Recurvirostra americana,
2. American Bittern, Botaurus lentiginosus,
3. American Coot, Fulica americana.
4. American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos,
5. American Goldfinch, Spinus tristis,
6. American Robin, Turdus migratorius,
7. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna,
8. Annual Yellow Sweet Clover, Melilotus indicus,
9. Arches Moth, Habrosyne sp.
10. Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus,
11. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
12. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus,
13. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum,
14. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea,
15. Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides,
16. Brown-Headed Cowbird, Molothrus ater,
17. Bullock’s Oriole, Icterus bullockii,
18. Bur Clover, Burr Medic, Medicago polymorpha,
19. California Flannelbush, Fremontodendron californicum,
20. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
21. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
22. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica,
23. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis,
24. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera,
25. Clark’s Grebe, Aechmophorus clarkia,
26. Cleveland Sage, Salvia clevelandii,
27. Common Mustard, Brassica rapa,
28. Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens,
29. Curly Dock, Rumex crispus,
30. Damselfly, Pacific Forktail, Ischnura cervula, (dots on thorax)
31. Damselfly, Sooty Dancer, Argia lugens, (no blue tip; rings around segments)
32. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii,
33. Dogtail Grass, Cynosurus echinatus,
34. Elm Balloon-Gall Aphid, Eriosoma lanuginosum,
35. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto,
36. Field Elm Tree, Smooth-Leaf Elm, Ulmus Minor,
37. Foothills Penstamon, Penstemon heterophyllus,
38. Foxtail Barley, Hordeum murinum ssp. glaucum,
39. Fremont Cottonwood Tree, Populus fremontii,
40. Fuller’s Teasel, Wild Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum,
41. Goldfields, Contra Costa Goldfields, Lasthenia conjugens,
42. Great Egret, Ardea alba,
43. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons,
44. Greenbottle Fly, Lucilia sericata,
45. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus,
46. Hood Canarygrass, Phalaris paradoxa,
47. Hoover’s Downingia, Hoover’s Calicoflower, Downingia bella,
48. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus,
49. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus,
50. Jimson Weed, Datura stramonium,
51. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous,
52. Large Oxtongue Aphid, Uroleucon picridis,
53. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris,
54. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
55. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor,
56. Narrowleaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis,
57. Northern Paper Wasp, Polistes fuscatus,
58. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta,
59. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata,
60. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii,
61. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marmorata,
62. Pacific Tree Frog, Chorus Frog, Pseudacris regilla,
63. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
64. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps,
65. Plantain, Ribwort, Plantago lanceolata,
66. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum,
67. Purple Finch, Haemorhous purpureus,
68. Purple Needle Grass, Stipa pulchra,
69. Rabbit Tail Grass,Hare’s Tail Grass, Lagurus ovatus,
70. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis,
71. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus,
72. Rush, California Bulrush, Schoenoplectus californicus,
73. Sedge, Pennsylvania Sedge, Carex pensylvanica
74. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciose,
75. Silverpuff, Microseris acuminata,
76. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens,
77. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia,
78. Striped Horsefly, Tabanus lineola,
79. Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus,
80. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura,
81. Valley Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys canescens,
82. Varied Carpet Beetle, Anthrenus verbasci,
83. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum,
84. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
85. Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis,
86. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta,
87. Willow, Gooding’s Willow, Salix gooddingii

Wildflowers on Bear Valley Road, 04-13-19

I got up around 6:00 this morning, planning on going out on a wildflower tour with my coworker Nate and volunteer Roxanne.

Nate sent me an email, however, saying that his folks were in town and when they heard what he was doing today, they wanted to go with him – so there went Roxanne’s and my seat in his car.

I texted Roxanne and asked if she’d like to go with me, and she offered to drive. So, around 8:00 am we headed out to Highways 16 and 20 and Bear Valley Road (in Colusa County) – about an hour ahead of Nate and his group.  Because we were following almost the same route as Nate, though, our paths crossed a few times. He caught up with us at two spots where we had stopped to look at and photograph the wildflowers, and we passed him a couple of times.

Unlike the last time I went out looking for the wildflowers, today’s excursion was incredible, and Roxanne and I ended up spending the whole day outdoors.  I saw some insects and plants I’d never seen before, and the fresh air, exercise and views of flower-painted landscapes was exhilarating. It’s so nice to go on an excursion like this with someone who moves at a browsing pace like I do, and who gets excited by bugs and flowers and the sight of ducks in the river. Hah!

There were soooooo many photos, I broke them down into two albums.

CLICK HERE for album #1.

CLICK HERE for album #2.

Roxanne and I didn’t get home until around 6:00 pm. It was a long but fun and nature-filled day. I took over 1200 photos, so it’s going to take me a while to get through all of them.

Species Identification List:

1. “Apples” on Manzanita, Arctostaphylos sp,
2. Annual Yellow Sweetclover, Castilleja exserta ssp. exserta,
3. Big Heron’s Bill, Erodium botrys,
4. Bird’s Eye Gilia, Gilia tricolor,
5. Black Angus Cattle, Bos Taurus,
6. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum,
7. Blue Blossom Ceanothus, Ceanothus thyrsiflorus ssp.,
8. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum,
9. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus,
10. Broad-Leaf Lupine, Lupinus latifolius,
11. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus,
12. Bulbous Blue Grass, Poa bulbosa
13. Bush Lupine, Silver Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons,
14. Bush Monkeyflower, Sticky Monkeyflower, Diplacus aurantiacus,
15. Butter ‘n’ Eggs, Johnny Tuck, Triphysaria eriantha,
16. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
17. California Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum jordanii,
18. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus,
19. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta,
20. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica,
21. California Plantain, Plantago erecta
22. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
23. Canyon Live-Forever, Dudleya cymose,
24. Caterpillar Flower, Lacy Phacelia, Phacelia tanacetifolia,
25. Chia Sage, Salvia columbariae,
26. Chinese Houses, Collinsia heterophylla,
27. Coast Range Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis bocourtii,
28. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia intermedia,
29. Common Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes,
30. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser,
31. Common Mustard, Brassica rapa,
32. Common Woodland Star, Lithophragma affine,
33. Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,
34. Cottonwood, Fremont Cottonwood, Populus fremontii,
35. Cream Cups, Platystemon californicus.
36. Cucumber Beetle, Spotted Cucumber Beetle, Diabrotica undecimpunctata,
37. Digger Bee, Diadasia sp.,
38. Dwarf Sack Clover, Castilleja exserta ssp. exserta,
39. European Honeybee, Apis mellifera,
40. Fairy Longhorn Moth, Adela eldorada,
41. Field Poppy, Eschscholzia sp.,
42. Fireless Firefly, Pyropyga nigricans,
43. Giant Death Camas, Zigadenus exaltatus,
44. Giraffe’s Head Henbit, Henbit Deathnettle, Lamium amplexicaule
45. Goldback Fern, Pentagramma triangularis,
46. Golden Fairy Lantern, Diogenes’ Lantern, Calochortus amabilis,
47. Goldfields, Lasthenia californica,
48. Gray Pine, California Foothill Pine, Pinus sabiniana,
49. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons,
50. Hawkweed, Hieracium argutum
51. Hereford Cattle, Bos taurus,
52. Hog Fennel, Lomatium utriculatum,
53. Holstein Cattle, Bos taurus,
54. Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja affinis,
55. Ithuriel’s Spears, Triteleia laxa,
56. Larkspur, Delphinium decorum,
57. Lichen, Porpidia contraponenda
58. Lupine, Lupinus sp.,
59. Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum jordanii
60. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos,
61. Milk Vetch, unidentified
62. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor,
63. Mouse Ear Chickweed, Cerastium fontanum,
64. Mule’s Ears, Smooth Mules Ears, Wyethia glabra,
65. Owl’s Clover, Dense Flower Owl’s clover, Castilleja densiflora,
66. Pacific Peavine, Canyon Sweet Pea, Lathyrus vestitus,
67. Painted Lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
68. Pepperweed, Common Pepper Grass, Lepidium densiflorum,
69. Pineapple Weed, Matricaria discoidea,
70. Pink Grass, Windmill Pink, Petrorhagia dubia,
71. Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys chorisianus
72. Purple Sanicle, Sanicula bipinnatifida,
73. Q Tips, Slender Cottonweed, Micropus californicus var. californicus,
74. Red Maids, Calandrinia ciliate,
75. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus,
76. Rock Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia tinctina,
77. Shepherd’s Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
78. Sidewalk Fire Dot Lichen, Caloplaca feracissima,
79. Silver Lupine, Lupinus albifrons,
80. Slender Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys tenellus
81. Smoky Eye Boulder Lichen, Porpidia crustulata,
82. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans,
83. Swift Crab Spider, Mecaphesa celer, (super-long front legs)
84. Tamarisk, Salt Cedar, Tamarix parviflora,
85. Texas Longhorn, Bos taurus,
86. Tidy Tips, Fremont’s Tidy Tips, Layia fremontii,
87. Tidy Tips, Smooth Tidy Tips, Layia chrysanthemoides,
88. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia,
89. True Babystars, Leptosiphon bicolor,
90. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
91. Valley Tassels, Castilleja attenuate,
92. Variable-leaf Nemophila, Canyon Nemophila, Nemophila heterophylla,
93. Virgin’s Bower, Old Man’s Beard, Clematis pauciflora,
94. Wallflower, Erysimum capitatum,
95. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
96. Western Hawksbeard, Crepis occidentalis,
97. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta,
98. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis,
99. Whiskerbrush, Leptosiphon ciliates,
100. Wild Carrot, Bird’s Nest, Daucus carota,
101. Wild Onion, unidentified
102. Wildoats, Oat, Avena fatua,
103. Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. varia,
104. Yellow-Faced Bumblebee, Bombus vosnesenskii

Fungus Walk with a CalNat Student, 02-24-19

Date: Sunday, February 24, 2019
Time: 8:00 am to 12:00 pm PST
Location: American River Bend Park, 2300 Rod Beaudry Dr, Sacramento, CA 95827
Habitat: Oak Woodland, Riparian, along the American River
Weather: 43° to 53°, overcast but not raining

Narrative: I’d scheduled a fungus walk at the American River Bend Park for my naturalist students with the understanding that even if no one wanted to come along, I’d still go on it myself. Students are allowed to use these extemporaneous walks I do (if they come along) as a substitute for a missed class or a missed field trip. The weather was chilly, but there was no rain.  I was joined by one of my male students, David D., who had never been to the park before – so it was all a new experience to him.

There weren’t as many different fungi out today as I was hoping there might be, but we did get to see some interesting specimens. We also saw some deer, several different species of birds, and got to see the early pipevine and manroot plants just starting to show themselves and bud out. David had fun climbing trees to get the photos he wanted, and was able to get quite a few really good close-ups with his cell phone.

We walked for about 4 hours before heading home.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
3. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
4. Black Jelly Roll fungus, Exidia glandulosa
5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
6. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
7. Brown Jelly Fungus, Tremella foliacea
8. California Black Walnut, Juglans californica
9. California Buckeye, Aesculus californica
10. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
11. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
12. Canada Geese, Branta canadensis
13. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
14. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
15. Crust Fungus, Phlebia sp.
16. Crust Fungus, Stereum complicatum
17. Deer Shield Mushroom, Pluteus cervinus
18. Destroying Angel, Amanita ocreata
19. Dryad’s Saddle polypore fungus, Polyporus squamosus
20. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
21. Elfin Saddle, False Morel, Helvella lacunosa
22. English Walnut, Juglans regia
23. False Turkey-Tail Fungus, Stereum hirsutum
24. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
25. Great Egret, Ardea alba
26. Green Shield Lichen, common, Greenshield, Flavoparmelia caperata
27. Hoary Shield Lichen, Hoary Rosette Lichen, Physcia biziana
28. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
29. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
30. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii, California State Lichen
31. Lemmon’s Rockcress, Boechera lemmonii
32. Manroot Vine, Bigroot, Wild Cucumber, Marah fabaceus
33. Miner’s lettuce, Narrow leaved miner’s lettuce, Claytonia parviflora
34. Mower’s Mushroom, Haymaker Mushroom, Panaeolina foenisecii
35. Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris
36. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus, red-shafted
37. Nutthall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
38. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
39. Oyster Mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus
40. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
41. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
42. Red-Tipped Photinia, Photinia × fraseri
43. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria parietina
44. Tiny unspecified Marasmius sp. Mushroom
45. Turkey-Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
46. Unidentified Russula sp. mushroom
47. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
48. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
49. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
50. Western Tussock Moth, Orgyia vetusta, cocoons, pupal case
51. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
52. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
53. Witch’s Butter, Golden Jelly Fungus, Tremella mesenterica
54. Yellow Fieldcap, Egg-Yolk Mushroom, Bolbitius vitellinus