Around 5:30 this morning, I headed out to the American River Bend Park for a walk. It was in the high 60’s when I got there and heated up quickly; around 71° when I left.
I didn’t have an agenda in mind and was just watching for whatever Nature wanted to show me. I ended up finding a few galls on the oak trees, including one I’d never seen before. I’d seen photos of them but had never seen one “live”. It was a Two-Horned Gall of the wasp Dryocosmus dubiosus. Coolness. They’re found on the underside of the leaves of Live Oak trees, usually along the median vein. Also found the big Oak Apple galls, tiny Pumpkin Galls, and some Goldenrod galls.
In the water fountain near the restroom, I found a large beetle lying on its back. It was about an inch long and really kind of “hairy”. It had lost one of its antennae and was dying, but I still took some photos of it. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was, so when I got home, I Googled “beetle with hairy chest” – Hah! – and the correct identification actually came right up. It was, of course, a “June Bug” or more correctly a May Beetle, Phyllophaga sp. Around that same area, I found the shed skin of a snake, including its face.
I could hear Red-Shouldered Hawks yelling at each other across the forest while I was out there, and at one point a fledgling flew down out of a tree onto the ground beside the trail. I couldn’t tell if he actually caught anything or if he was just practicing, but he sat for a moment and looked over his shoulder at me so I could snap a photo before he flew off again.
Just as I was leaving, I came across the nesting cavity of some Tree Swallows. I watched them take turn flying in and out of the cavity a few times and got some photos before heading back to the house.
As we’re sort of “between seasons” right now – the cold weather hasn’t moved in yet – and the bird migrations have just started, there wasn’t a whole lot to see but I managed to get some photos anyway. I was kind of surprised by the late-season Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly chrysalises I found along the trail (still green, they’re so new).; and one of them was particularly tiny, so if it survives the winter, the emerging butterfly is going to be unusually small.
It was in the 50’s when I started my walk, and the temperature difference between the air and the water caused parts of the river to develop their own tiny fog banks in some spots. It other areas, it looked the river was “steaming”.
There were quite a few “fall galls” to see including some Pumpkin Galls, late-season Goldenrod galls, and twig galls on the Coyote Brush. This time of year, too both the male and female Coyote Brush bushes are in bloom so I was able to get photos of their distinctive flowers. Female flowers are longish and fluffy; male flowers are short an stubby. Besides their male and female flowers, another fun fact about Coyote Brush is that it’s a chaparral plant that is part of the sunflower family, even though it doesn’t look anything even remotely like a sunflower. They also have a natural fire retardant in their leaves that helps them fend off wildfires (for a little while). Pretty cool, huh?
This is the time of year for acorns, too, and although I didn’t come across a lot of them, they were visible, especially on the Live Oak trees. I didn’t see too many birds, though… mostly the ubiquitous Canada Geese, but I did get to see a female Common Merganser doing stretches in the water, and a tiny Spotted Sandpiper (that wasn’t in its breeding spots) bobbing along the rocks. There was a Belted Kingfisher, too, but she kept herself to the other side of the river, so although I was able hear her chattering away, I wasn’t able to get any clear photos of her. I’m seeing photos on Facebook of lots of the migrating birds coming to our area, and I’m making note of where they’re seen, so I can do a “tour” of the surrounding areas and get as many photos as I can during my vacation.
I walked for about 2 hours and then headed back to the car.
I got up around 5:45 this morning and headed out to the American River Bend Parkfor a walk. I hadn’t been out there for quite a while, and wanted to see if the water plants were growing along the banks yet, and if the Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars were starting to make their chrysalises. No to the first one – sort of – and yes to the second one. The weirdest sight was when I first drove into the park. A female ranger was out by the kiosk and asked me to stop, so I did… And from across the driveway comes a mama Wild Turkey and her six fuzzy babies – and a male Peacock all walking along right in front of my car. I couldn’t get my camera out of its bag fast enough to get any photos. Dangit! I wondered if this was the same Peacock I’d seen chasing the female turkeys several weeks ago… and if the babies could have been his. The ranger said she didn’t think they could interbreed, but… both birds are Galliformes, aren’t they? I mean, peacocks are more closely related to turkeys than turkeys are to chickens… What would you call the hybrids? Teacocks? Perkeys? Hah! Wish I could keep an eye on that group and see how the babies look when they fledge…
When I pulled the car in further down the road and parked, I was right next to a tree where there were a lot of Acorn Woodpeckers, and I got some photos (and a little video) of one sitting in the nesting cavity. At first glance I thought it was a female sitting on her nest, but it was a young male, so it must’ve been a fledgling not ready to get up yet. Sleepy boy.
Then I came across some very tiny, shiny black beetle-like things on the leaf of a live oak tree. I’d never seen anything like them; they seemed to have suck an odd shape and what looked like white spots in between the body segments. I thought they must have been the larva stage of something, so I posted photos to BugGuide.net to see if someone there could identify them for me…
My next big find was spotting a large beaver eating roots and greens along the bank of the river. It was right up the bank from me, and I was so surprised to see it that I just pointed my camera at it and started shooting. I got some shaky lurching video of it, and a few still shots. That was the closest I’d ever been to a live beaver. It was exciting. I think he would have stayed there for a while longer had I not tripped on one of the stones on the shore and startled him. He took off into the water, slapping his tail down to make a big splash as he left.
Then I saw a female Common Merganser coming down the river with TWENTY little red-headed babies in tow. The stronger ones were able to climb up onto her back when she sped up trying to get past me… Beyond. Cute.
Later on while I was stopping by an old Cottonwood tree to get some photos of lizard, a big male Twelve-Spotted Skimmer dragonfly decided to fly in and rest on a nearby branch, so I got some photos of him, too. Further along, I saw a Bison Snaketail dragonfly land in the dried grass along the side of the trail. I got some photos, but because the dragonfly is almost the same color as the grass, they don’t really show off how cool the dragonfly is…
Then I drove the car a little further into the park and walked along the trail that follows the river but stays well above it. The water was high in the river and running pretty fast, so I didn’t see a lot birds on the shore… just a few Mallards and Canada Geese. What I was really looking for on this part of the trail, though, was the Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars. During this time of the year they’re finishing up gorging themselves and turning their attention to getting up off the ground and forming their chrysalises. I found lots of them. Some still undulating around, some going into their torpor stage, and some already encased in their chrysalises. While I was checking out the caterpillars on one tree, I was startled when a mama Tree Swallow flew past my head and went into her tree-cavity nest right across the trail from me. I got some photos of her checking me out… along with some shots of the butt of a small House Wren who had a nest in the tree across from the Swallow’s nest.
On my walk, I also came across several mule deer, a Killdeer, an Ash-Throated Flycatcher, some Scrub Jays, fly-overs by a few Great Egrets and what looked like an immature Black-Crowned Night Heron, and a few different plants, flowers and galls. So it was a very eventful and productive walk. I was out there for about 3½ hours and then headed out.