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.
I got up around 5:30 this morning and immediately headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my weekly volunteer trail walking thing. It was cool, around 55°, when I got there, but as soon as the sun got up a little higher in the sky it started to heat up. It ended up around 75° by the time I left the preserve. There were some latent clouds overhead which meant it was humid, too. Not my favorite.
Along with the usual suspects – deer, Acorn Woodpeckers and Wild Turkeys – I got to see quite a few fledgling birds out today. The fledglings are fully feathered and the same size as the adults, but not quite adept at flying yet, so they spend a lot of time around ground level begging their parents to feed them. They’re so bossy! I watched one little House Wren fledgling sitting on top of a pile of old tree limbs. For a while, he tried posturing like the adults do with his little tail standing straight up behind him, but then he got tired and just sat and dozed… until he saw or heard one of his parents flying by. Then he’d perk up and open his mouth wide expecting food to be dropped into it. Hah! Although I could see the parents flitting around where he was, they also had other fledglings in the nearby shrubbery (which I could hear buzzing away), and because I was standing between the shrubs and the baby on the woodpile, they wouldn’t go near him. After getting quite a few photos of the little guy, I decided I’d better move on or he wouldn’t get fed at all.
I also came across two fledgling California Towhees. Now, the California Towhees usually look kind of obese and drab to me, but the babies… they were soooo scrabbly looking; total bed-heads! They were sitting close to one another with their feathers all fluffed out, so they looked extra fat and messy. Made me chuckle. One was content to sit and wait for their parents to bring breakfast, but the other one was extra hungry, I guess, and kept tugging at the dead grass near them trying to get something out of it. Can’t get milk out of a stick, son. Sorry.
Further on along the trail I could hear a parent and fledgling Red-Shouldered Hawk calling to one another. The fledgling was very loud and persistent, demanding to be fed, and the parent would call back him as if to say, “Shut up! I’m working on it!” I eventually came across the fledgling sitting up in the bare branches of a tree. (He was so loud he was announcing to everyone exactly where he was.) He saw me and tried to scramble away to other branches but was still unsure of how to make his wings work, so he looked pretty clumsy. He stuck to the shadows as much as he could then, but I was still able to get a few photos of him. (And I’m assuming he was a male based on his coloring; females are usually larger and have less vivid colors.)
I also found one of the parents, sitting quietly now in the low branches of another tree right along the side of the trail, just above eye-level, ignoring the fledgling. Totally habituated to people, it didn’t move from its perch, but kept its eye on me as a passed by and stopped to take some photos. I think they’re such handsome birds.
Among the other things I found today were a few Pumpkin Galls on the leaves of a Live Oak tree. It’s kind of early in the season for those, so I was surprised to see them. They’re super-tiny galls, and if you don’t know where or how they develop you’d completely miss them. Right now, they’re pale green, but come fall they’ll turn dark orange and fall off the leaves onto the ground were the little larvae will pupate through the winter.
I found a few Eastern Fox Squirrels and some California Ground Squirrels. I was surprised to see one of the Fox Squirrels climbing through poison oak and eating the berries! Yikes! I mean, I knew that the toxin in poison oak don’t generally harm wildlife, but I’d never actually seen any of the animals eating the stuff before. I also saw a Fox Squirrel eating the husk off of a black walnut and watched a Ground Squirrel eating the tops off of some other plants. (I think that gal was blind on one side, but once she saw me she moved too fact for me to get photos of her blind side.)
The other cool thing I spotted along the trail was that feral honeybees have found the tree along the Pond Trail again and seem to be setting up house there. I saw them last year (I think it was) checking out the big opening in the side of the tree, but they left the site after a few weeks. I guess the queen didn’t like it. Now the opening is more covered with plants, so maybe it will feel more “protected” to them and they’ll stay there this time. I let the gals in the nature center know they were there, so hopefully they can discourage hikers from walking off the trail to see the bees. We’ll see.
I walked for about 4 hours and then headed home.
Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus,
American Goldfinch, Spinus tristis,
American Robin, Turdus migratorius,
Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens,
Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
Black Walnut, Juglans nigra,
Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus,
Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra ssp. cerulea,
Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii,
Bordered Plant Bug, Largus californicus,
Bur Chervil, Anthriscus Sylvestris,
Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus,
California Black Walnut, Juglans californica,
California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana,
California Penstamon, Penstemon californicus,
California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta,
I got up around 5:30 this morning, and after giving the dog his breakfast, I headed over to theAmerican 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.
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,
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.
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.
American Bumblebee, Bombus pennsylvanicus,
Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna,
Bedstraw, Cleavers, Galium aparine,
Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea,
Bush Monkey Flower, Mimulus aurantiacus,
California Buckeye Chestnut, Aesculus californica,
California Hairstreak Butterfly, Satyrium californica,
California Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor hirsuta,
California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica,
California Wild Grape, Vitis californica,
Canada Goose, Branta canadensis,
Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea,
Common Hoptree, Ptelea trifoliata,
Cranefly, Tipula spp.,
Creek Clematis, Clematis ligusticifolia,
Destroying Angel Mushroom, Amanita ocreata,
Dog Vomit Slime Mold, Fuligo septica,
Dogtail Grass, Cynosurus echinatus,
Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis,
Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata,
European Praying Mantis, Mantis religiosa,
Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris,
Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum,
Gouty Stem Gall, Callirhytis quercussuttoni,
Great Egret, Ardea alba,
Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata,
House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus,
Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii,
Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria,
Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis,
Live Oak Gall Wasp, 2nd Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis,
Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii,
Oak Leaf-Roller Moth, Archips semiferanus,
Oak Moss Lichen, Evernia prunastri,
Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus,
Oak Treehopper, Platycotis vittata,
Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia,
Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum,
Rattlesnake Grass, Big Quaking Grass, Briza maxima,
Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
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