Tag Archives: rattlesnake grass

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,

Lots of Caterpillars along the American River, 05-25-19

I got around 6:00 am this morning and headed out to the American River Bend Park for my walk. It was overcast for most of the day, but I was able to do my walk without getting rained on, so that was good.

The first thing I saw when I got there was the leucistic female turkey and another “normal”-colored turkey walking through the tall grass along the side of the road with one small poult following after them. I don’t know which of the gals had the baby, but they both seemed to be taking care of it.  Poults are so hard to photograph most of the time because the moms try to keep them hidden as much as possible. So, I only got a few shots of the baby’s behind.

This is the time of year for caterpillars at the park and you could see Pipevine Swallowtail and Rusty Tussock Moth caterpillars almost everywhere you looked.  When I was videoing some of the Pipevine Swallowtail guys eating pipevine a woman and two of her friends came up. The woman plucked a caterpillar from the ground to show it to their friends, and when she came back to set it back onto a pipevine plant, I asked her if she’d seem the Tussocks.  She said, no, so I showed her where some of them were and gave her and her friends a mini lesson on the species.  Naturalist thing: check.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

The pipevine plants were abundant: on the ground, over logs, up into the trees and shrubbery. Some of them were super-thick.  The wild grape vines were also everywhere. They seem larger than I’ve seen them in years – but that’s because of the rains, I’m sure. We were living with drought with so long that we don’t recognize the landscapes with water anymore…  The Elegant Clarkia was in bloom all over the place; patches of pink – and some white – all along the river trail. So pretty.

Lots of House Wrens around singing today. I saw one male go over to a slit-like cavity in the side of a tree and look in, then he flew up into a nearby tree advertising his find.  But the cavity was already taken by a pair of Oak Titmice. The mom came up with a beak full of bugs and started fussing at the Wren. She flew at him a couple of times to drive him off, but he was pretty persistent. When both of them were away from the cavity, I walked up to the tree to see if I could hear any babies inside. When I tapped on the tree, I could hear a hiss from inside. Sometimes, baby birds hiss to make themselves sound like snakes, so predators won’t bother to come inside the nesting cavity – and it also deters human from trying to get a better look inside. Hah!

I walked for about 4 hours and then headed back home.

Species List:

  1. American Bumblebee, Bombus pennsylvanicus,
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna,
  3. Bedstraw, Cleavers, Galium aparine,
  4. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea,
  5. Bush Monkey Flower, Mimulus aurantiacus,
  6. California Buckeye Chestnut, Aesculus californica,
  7. California Hairstreak Butterfly, Satyrium californica,
  8. California Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor hirsuta,
  9. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica,
  10. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica,
  11. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis,
  12. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea,
  13. Common Hoptree, Ptelea trifoliata,
  14. Cranefly, Tipula spp.,
  15. Creek Clematis, Clematis ligusticifolia,
  16. Destroying Angel Mushroom, Amanita ocreata,
  17. Dog Vomit Slime Mold, Fuligo septica,
  18. Dogtail Grass, Cynosurus echinatus,
  19. Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis,
  20. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata,
  21. European Praying Mantis, Mantis religiosa,
  22. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris,
  23. Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum,
  24. Gouty Stem Gall, Callirhytis quercussuttoni,
  25. Great Egret, Ardea alba,
  26. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata,
  27. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
  28. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
  29. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus,
  30. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii,
  31. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria,
  32. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis,
  33. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 2nd Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis,
  34. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
  35. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii,
  36. Oak Leaf-Roller Moth, Archips semiferanus,
  37. Oak Moss Lichen, Evernia prunastri,
  38. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus,
  39. Oak Treehopper, Platycotis vittata,
  40. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia,
  41. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
  42. Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum,
  43. Rattlesnake Grass, Big Quaking Grass, Briza maxima,
  44. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
  45. Rusty Tussock Moth, Orgyia antiqua,
  46. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus,
  47. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans,
  48. Sweet Broom, Cytisus racemosus,
  49. Toothed Crust Fungus, Basidioradulum radula,
  50. Trashline Spider, Cyclosa turbinata,
  51. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor,
  52. Tule Pea, Lathyrus jepsonii,
  53. Turkey Tail Fugus, Trametes versicolor,
  54. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
  55. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana,
  56. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis,
  57. Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa,
  58. Yellow-Faced Bumblebee, Bombus vosnesenskii

Many Babies at the River Bend Park, 05-28-18

Memorial Day. I knew it was going to be hot today – a high of 97º — but I was surprised by how fast the morning heated up. I barely got in 2 ½ hours of walking before I had to call it quits. The shorter walk meant fewer photos, too; only about 300+ instead of my usual 1000+. Most of those are “burst” photos, of course, when the camera takes a burst of 5 shots at time, but still…

I went to the American River Bend Park, and the first thing I encountered there was a mama Wild Turkey and her brood of about 6 poults. She kept the babies in the tall grass (which is golden now) so they were pretty obscured, but it was still neat to be able to see them. You don’t get to see turkey babies very often.

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos.

Then I saw the trio of Great Horned Owl owlets. They’re almost fully fledged now, and only have a little bit of their baby fluff poking out here and there. Their mom wasn’t with them, although I’m sure she was nearby hunting. She might continue feeding the owlets until September or October when they’ll be old enough to go out on their own. The owlets were up in a tree alongside an offshoot trail, but you could see them from the road that takes you into the camping part of the park. They let me get pretty close to take photos of them before flying off on strong, totally silent wings. They’re so cool.

Other babies I saw today were Canada Geese goslings, floating in the river between their parents and guardians and hopping up on the shore to peck at the greenery there. I also saw a pair of Mallards and their ducklings.

I was watching them on the river, and when they came close to shore, something large charged at them from under the low-hanging bows of a tree growing on the river bank. Mama Mallard charged back, flapping her wings and quacking ferociously, and it wasn’t until the attacker retreated that I was able to see clearly what it was: a young coyote. Pretty smart of her to stay hidden in the greenery. But she wasn’t fast enough or adept enough to get past mama Mallard and snatch one of her kids. The coyote needs to work on that technique.

The Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars are just starting to get fat enough and big enough to form their chrysalises. I saw a couple of them attached to trees but not out of their skin yet. And in another location, I found two chrysalises near to one another. They looked like they’d recently formed and were still a little “gooey”. One of them still had the sloughed off skin of the caterpillar attached to the bottom of it. You could see the caterpillar’s shed face among the leavings..