Tag Archives: Stork’s Bill

Lots of Birds Nesting, 03-31-19

Around 7:00 am I headed over to the American River Bend Park for walk. It was about 44° at the river when I got there and was heading toward 70° by the time I left.

It was nice to see that the dirt road to the camping area and nature trails was cleaned up and smoothed out. No more car-swallowing potholes!  I saw some deer and a jackrabbit right when I was heading in, so I felt that was a good portend.

The Black Walnut trees are starting to leaf out and drop their catkins, and the California Buckeye trees are just beginning to squeeze out their panicles of flowers. Redbud trees are flowering, and the Santa Barbara Sedge is starting to show off. I checked out various stands of Pipevine but still don’t see any evidence of butterfly eggs yet… I was happy to see small stands of stinging nettle in the picnic area. Let’s see how long it’s allowed to remain there.  It’s a host plant for Red Admiral butterflies, and when the park eradicates the nettles, they eradicate the butterflies as well.  You’d think they’d figure that out.  It would be a lot easier and cheaper to post a sign about the nettles and have people avoid them, than to kill all of the plants.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I spent almost 20 minutes watching a female Western Bluebird deciding whether she wanted to commit to a nesting cavity or not. She flew up to the opening several times, poked her head in and looked around, but then would back off again. I didn’t understand what her hesitation was and wondered if maybe the hole was already occupied by something. Then it occurred to me that she might not be committing to the spot because I was there watching her, so I walked off a bit, then a bit more. I still didn’t see her go all the way in, but her hubby was sitting in the tree nearby patiently waiting for her to make a decision.

I also came across a House Wren taking twigs to her nesting cavity, and a European Starling poking her head out of her nest.  She’d chased off a Tree Swallow that wanted the same spot.  Lots of cool photo ops today!

I got to see a very large Red-Tailed Hawk in a tree (but she had her face turned away from me, so I didn’t get any good shots of that).  She was so big, I thought at first that she might have been an owl.  As soon as she left, I saw a Red-Shouldered Hawk near the same tree.  As I was leaving the park, I also saw a Cooper’s Hawk chattering in a tree alongside the road.

I walked for a little over 3 ½ hours before heading back home.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga auduboni auduboni
3. Black Walnut Tree, Juglans nigra
4. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
5. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
6. Burr Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
7. California Buckeye, Aesculus californica
8. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
9. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
10. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
11. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
12. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
13. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
14. Common Ink Cap Mushroom, Coprinopsis atramentaria
15. Cooper’s Hawk, Accipiter cooperii
16. Cranefly, Mosquito Hawk, Tipula dietziana
17. Destroying Angel Mushroom, Amanita ocreata
18. Dog Vomit Slime Mold, Fuligo septica
19. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
20. Giraffe’s Head Henbit, Henbit Deathnettle,
21. Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina
22. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
23. Haymaker Mushroom, Panaeolus foenisecii
24. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
25. Hop Tree, Ptelea trifoliata
26. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
27. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
28. Longstalk Cranesbill, Geranium columbinum
29. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
30. Nutthall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
31. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
32. Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys sp.
33. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
34. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
35. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
36. Santa Barbara Sedge, Valley Sedge, Carex barbarae
37. Shepherd’s Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
38. Speedwell, Bird’s Eye Speedwell, Veronica persica
39. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
40. Stinging Nettle, Annual Stinging Nettle, Urtica urens
41. Stork’s Bill, Big Heron Bill, Erodium botrys
42. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria sp.
43. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
44. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
45. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
46. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
47. Winter Vetch, Smooth Vetch, Vicia villosa

Many Wrens and “Blue Bellies”, 03-30-19

I got up at 6:30 this morning and had some breakfast before heading out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve again.

It was a gorgeous day weatherwise – sunny, cool in the morning and warm in the afternoon — so much so that we were actually able to keep the house open for most of the day.  It was about 43° when I got to the preserve and about 65° when I left.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

At the preserve, I didn’t walk the route that would have taken me by the spot where I spotted the hive last week; I checked out different trails.  There were no special stand outs during this walk, but there were House Wrens everywhere, singing their little hearts out.  I saw two males fighting over the same perches on which to sing; they must have had territories that overlapped or something. For such tiny guys, I’m surprised by how ferocious they can be.  I also saw Acorn Woodpeckers and European Starlings fighting over nest cavities. The Starlings are invasive, and the woodpeckers and other cavity-nesting birds lose breeding spots because of them.

I saw a few female Starlings doing their “baby bird begging” thing to try to get males to feed them. They sit out in open on conspicuous branches and flap their wings against their sides, gaping and calling out. So funny to watch.

Lots and lots of Audubon’s Warblers… I don’t remember ever seeing this many around here before. (They’re a kind of Yellow-rumped Warbler, differentiated from the others by their field markings.  They’re also affectionately referred to as “Butter Butts” for the bright yellow splotch on their rump where the tail attaches to the body.)

On a different part of the trail, I heard a California Ground Squirrel giving out a repeated alarm call, so I tracked it down, and found it in the field right across form the nature center. I was astonished by the fact that it had a gash in its nose and blood on the fur around its mouth and face!  The mamas can be incredibly brave and aggressive when it comes to protecting their burrows and babies, I know, but I’d never seen one in this condition before. There was also a bite mark on the ruff around its neck.  It was roughed up!

The squirrels are supposed to have different calls for land-based predators and air-based predators (like chickens do), but I don’t know their calls well enough to distinguish one from the other. I imagine it had fought a domestic cat (they hunt in the preserve) or something like that, and had to give it props for its tenacity, to keep on kicking and having the wherewithal to alert its fellow ground squirrels of danger nearby.

I saw lots of Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies throughout the preserve. This is their time of year.  I was hoping to see some eggs but didn’t find any on this trip.  Maybe next time.

There’s lots of tall-tall grasses and sedges out right now, and all of the trees are budding their new leaves so the whole place is green-green-green.  I love this time of year!

I’ve been sort of dissatisfied with the macro photos I’ve been getting out of my camera, though, so I pulled out my cell phone to take some of the super close-up shots I wanted of plants and stuff.  The phone takes excellent close-ups, but it’s sometimes hard to manage holding that and my camera at the same time.  What we do for photos!

On my way out the preserve, I came across a male Mourning Dove doing his coo-ing thing from a tree branch. I love the way their whole chest and neck swell up with their song.  That cooing is most often sung by the male birds (not the females) and is used to “woo” the females.  Cooo-oooo-woo-woo-woo.

Because it was warming up outside, the Western Fence Lizards were out in force in some places.  (They’re also called Blue Bellies” for the bright blue underbellies of the males.)  Saw a lot of the boy doing “push-ups” and challenging rivals on different logs.

I walked for about 3 ½ hours and then headed back home

Species List: 

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
3. Audubon’s Warbler, Setophaga auduboni auduboni
4. Bedstraw, Velcro-Grass, Sticky Willy, Galium aparine
5. Black-Headed Grosbeak, Pheucticus melanocephalus
6. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
7. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
8. Bullfrog, American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus
9. Burr Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
10. Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
11. California Geranium, Geranium californicum
12. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
13. California King Snake, Lampropeltis getula californiae
14. California Manroot, Marah fabaceus
15. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
16. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica
17. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
18. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
19. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
20. Common Pepper Grass, Pepperweed, Lepidium densiflorum
21. Dog Vomit Slime Mold, Fuligo septica
22. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
23. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
24. Foxtail Barley, Hordeum murinum
25. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
26. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
27. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
28. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
29. Little Plantain, Plantago pusilla
30. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
31. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
32. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
33. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
34. Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, Crotalus oreganus
35. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
36. Pacific Gopher Snake, Pituophis catenifer catenifer
37. Peregrine Falcon, Wek-Wek, Falco peregrinus
38. Pleated Ink Cap, Parasola plicatilis
39. Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
40. Puffball Fungus, Bovista dermoxantha
41. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
42. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
43. Rock Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia lavicola
44. Saw-Whet Owl, Sophia, Aegolius acadicus
45. Shepherd’s Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
46. Soap Plant, Wavy Leafed Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
47. Spotted Sandpiper, Actitis macularius
48. Stork’s Bill, Big Heron Bill, Erodium botrys
49. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
50. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
51. Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
52. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
53. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
54. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
55. Western Tanager, Piranga ludoviciana
56. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

My First Trip to the Mather Field Vernal Pools, 03-27-19

Around 8:00 am, my naturalist class graduate Roxanne M. and I went to the vernal pools at the end of Zinfandel Blvd. in Mather Field.  Rain was threatening, and it was about 51° outside, but the rain held off until after we’d left – about 2 hours later.

I’d never been there before, but Roxanne had so she showed me some of the highlights out there – like the white pipes used for hydrology studies, and the somewhat lumpy landscape dotted with “mima mounds” around the pools.

“…One theory on the origin of Mima mounds is that they were created by small burrowing rodents such as pocket gophers (Thomomys talpoides) of the endemic North American family Geomyidae. Researchers in the 1940s found that Mima mounds tend to form in areas with poorly draining soils, so the “Fossorial Rodent Hypothesis” proposed that gophers build mounds as an evolutionary response to low water tables… It could be argued that gophers live in the mounds opportunistically but did not build them.  Consequently, gophers in mima mound fields seem to be aware of randomly distributed topographic highs and orient their burrowing accordingly in early mound creation stages. However, the mounds were already fully formed and the gophers may have just been maintaining them. Nevertheless, the fact that the surface area of a typical Mima mound is similar to the size of an individual gopher’s home range is consistent with the theory they were constructed by the rodents…”

Roxanne and I were hoping the wildflowers would be out, but there were only a few species showing. In another week or so, if we get some sunshine, the place should be covered in flowers.  We could see large swaths of Frying Pan poppies around some of the pools, but they were all closed up because it was overcast outside. Along with the poppies, among the flowers we did see were things like Butter ‘n’ Eggs, Blue Dicks, Showy Fringe Pod, Popcorn Flowers, and Jointed Charlock.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

We also saw some Canada Geese, Western Meadowlarks, and some Western Kingbirds. One of the Kingbirds was eating a large sphinx moth, but it was too far away for me to get a clear photo of it.  Along the road we saw a Mourning Dove, a pair of dark morph Swainson’s Hawks, and some wild turkeys.

Both Roxanne and I had brought little bowls to collect some of the pond water in so we could look for little critters in it.  We lucked out and were able to find a lot of tiny swimmers in the water including the larvae of Predaceous Diving Beetles, called “Water Tigers”, Damselfly larvae, and California Clam Shrimp.  So cool!  I need a portable microscope to take with on trips like this – and I need a book on vernal pool creatures. I don’t know very much about this kind of habitat; it’s all kind of new to me.

We both enjoyed the walk and vowed to go back to the pools in another week or so.

Species List:

1. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
2. Butter ‘n’ Eggs, Triphysaria eriantha
3. California Clam Shrimp, Cyzicus californicus
4. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
5. Copepods, Copepoda
6. Damselfly Larvae, Class: Odonata, Order: Zygoptera
7. Dock, Curly Dock, Rumex crispus
8. Filaree, Stork’s Bill, Big Heron Bill, Erodium botrys
9. Flatworm, Dugesia gonocephala
10. Frying Pan Poppy, Eschscholzia lobbii
11. Jointed Charlock, Raphanus raphanistrum
12. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
13. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui
14. Popcorn Flower, Slender Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys tenellus
15. Predaceous Diving Beetles, Water Tiger, Cybister fimbriolatus
16. Rio Grand Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
17. Showy Fringe Pod, Spokewheel, Thysanocarpus radians
18. Slug, Reticulate Taildropper, Prophysaon andersoni
19. Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni
20. Tadpole, Western Tree Frog, Chorus Frog, Polypedates occidentalis
21. Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis
22. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
23. White-Lined Sphinx Moth, Hyles lineata

A Western Tanager and Others, 04-30-17

I got up around 6:15 and was out the door by 6:30 to head over to the American River Bend Park for a walk.  It got up to 82º today.

At the River bend Park, the elderberry bushes are getting their flowers on them, and the buds on the Buckeye trees are just starting to open. Pipevines, grape vines and manroot vines abound, many of them vying for the same spots in the sun; and the black walnut trees are heavy with catkins. I was hoping to get some photos of Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly eggs, and was a little surprised to find that the caterpillars had already hatched out of most of them!  There were little first and second instar caterpillars everywhere…

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE ENTIRE ALBUM. More videos will be added shortly.

I also got to see a few Tussock Moth caterpillars, which are always cool. I even got one to crawl on my hand for a little while… (They’re the moths in which the female is wingless.  She sit in the tree she was born in and waits for the males to come to her.)

And I also came across an area where a bunch of Elder Moth caterpillars (a kind of cutworm) were coiled up on young elderberry bushes; some had curled themselves into the leaves, and one leaf curl had a shiny new pupa case in it… Neato.  [The Elder Moths are white and super-fuzzy and have green “staining” on their wings.]

A couple of other cool things happened on this walk, as well.  The most exciting was when I was trying to get photos of a pair of Bewick’s Wrens that were bringing food to their hatchlings.  The wrens were nesting in a tree cavity BUT, the tree was lying on its side on the ground, so they had to go through grass to get to the opening.  I was trying to figure out how to shoot through the grass and eliminate the heavy shadows around the opening to the nest, when I heard screeching in a tree behind me. I turned around to find a handsome Cooper’s Hawk up in the tree… and as soon as I looked at it, it started buzz-bombing me.  It dove straight at my head, so I lifted my camera up to deflect it.  Then it landed up in another tree, and I was taking photos of it there, it dove at me again… and again… and again… first from one direction, then from another. I don’t know if I was too close to its nest, or if it had a fledgling on the ground, or if I was too close to its breakfast, but it was NOT happy.

I got as many photos of it as I dared, and then walked off before it had the chance to gouge out my eyes.  (I tried getting video of it. I got a few frames of it screaming and diving at my head, and then the rest of the video is just a bunch rapid shaking and me shouting in exclamation.  I might add that to the album just because it’s funny.

I never did get a photo of that wren’s nesting site; maybe next time. But I did get some video of wrens singing and “beeping”, so that was something of a consolation.

Another cool thing: I saw some European Starlings picking stuff off the side of a tree, so I went over to see what so interesting to them.  A huge portion of the tree was literally covered in ants; a whole bivouac of them including some winged ones. I don’t know if they were moving in or moving out, but there were hundreds of them.  While I was getting some video of that, I noticed something “yellow” in the periphery of my vision, so I looked up and… Wow, it was a gorgeous Western Tanager! I’d never seen one at the park before.  It grabbed some of the winged ants and flew off, and then came back and sat on the low branch of a nearby tree for quite a while. In order to get pictures of it, I had to shoot through the leaves of the tree closest to me, a little hole about the size of my fist, and then get the camera to focus on the bird and not the leafy edges of the hole.  I got quite a few good photos, including a cute one of the bird cocking its head to one side. I was super-pleased.

Aaaannnd… I also got to see an Ash-Throated Flycatcher. He was sitting on the top of a small, broken, dead  tree trunk, but his back was to me so, all I could see with this powderpuff of feathers on the top of his head.  Then the bird flew off into another branch, and I could see its whole body… Yep, Flycatcher.  They’re not uncommon birds, but I think I’ve only seen maybe three or four altogether at the River Bend Park.

On the way out of the park, I walked by a spot where a couple of Tree Swallows were making all sorts of noise. That always alerts me to the notion that there’s a nest nearby, and sure enough, I was able to spot it as one of the birds exited the cavity.  I had to climb over a (very low) fence and then find a position where I could view the tree without interfering with the birds and watched it for about 10 or 15 minutes. I got quite a few photos of the birds in and near the nest hole… and even watched as one of them chased off an interloper when it got too close. That was a nice way to end the walk.  (I actually walked for a little more than 3½ hours before heading home.)

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.