Tag Archives: swarm

Many, Many, Many Deer… and a Swarm of Bees, 03-26-19

I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.  It was about 51° and drizzly when I left the house around 7:30. Although I carried my umbrella throughout my walk, I didn’t need it. As soon as I got to the preserve, the rain stopped. And by the time I left there, around 11:30 am, the sun had come out and it was about 63° outside. A very nice morning for a walk.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

Lots and lots and lots of deer were out today, including some boys who have antler-bumps, and some exceeding pregnant females.  I also came across one doe with a yearling, and the yearling had a bad cough.  I always worry about these little guys. I could see this one’s rib cage starting to show; he might not make it.

I got glimpses of some otters in the river. They were rolling over one another as they went upstream, barking and chirping at one another.  Uhhh… I think they were mating.  “Mating may take place on land but is more likely to occur in the water.” I was worried they were going to drown one another! Hah!

And speaking of drowning: on the Pond Trail, I came across a male Mallard trying to kick the snot out of another male who go to close to “his” female. Mallards aren’t particularly monogamous, but occasionally I’ll see a male who’s very protective of his mate and won’t let anyone else near her. The fight today took place almost a few years to the date of the last time I saw this behavior at the same pond. I wonder if it was the same pair pf ducks.  Rival-guy hightailed it out of the pond after macho-guy tried to drown him and bit him repeatedly on the back and butt. Wow!

The coolest thing I saw on my walk, though, was something I didn’t recognize at first. I saw it from a distance on the Meadow Trail and thought it might have been a nest (like a magpie’s nest), but it was on a weird part of the branches and too odd a shape for it to be a bird’s nest. I zoomed my camera in on it, and realized the whole thing was “moving”, sort of undulating all over its surface. Zooming in further, I realized I was looking at a swarm of bees! It didn’t look like they were building anything’ more like the swarm was gathered around their queen to protect her and keep her warm until she was ready to move on again.

I walked for about 3 ½ hours.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata
3. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
4. Brown Jelly Fungus, Jelly Leaf, Tremella foliacea
5. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
6. Bullfrog, American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus
7. Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons
8. Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
10. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
11. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, battus philenor hirsuta
12. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
13. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
14. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
15. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
16. Chanterelle, Cantharellus californicus
17. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Mule deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
18. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
19. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii
20. Dog Vomit Slime Mold, Fuligo septica
21. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
22. European Honey Bee, Apis mellifera
23. False Turkey Tail Fungus, Stereum hirsutum
24. Giraffe’s Head Henbit, Henbit Deathnettle, Lamium amplexicaule
25. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
26. Hermit Thrush, Catharus guttatus
27. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
28. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
29. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
30. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
31. North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
32. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
33. Nutthall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
34. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui
35. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
36. Rio Grande Turkey, Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
37. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
38. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
39. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
40. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

Lots to See at the Effie Yeaw Preserve

Nature heals.  I went over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve, and it was fortuitous that I did the walk there today.  Tomorrow the place is going to be closed up for an equestrian event of some sort. It was a fortuitous walk, too, in that I was able to see a whole lot of different things…

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos and video snippets.

The big news was the number of Monarch Butterfly caterpillars there were in the milkweed garden outside the nature center.  So of the plants were covered with the buggers, the plants chewed down to just sticks… and I found one of the Monarch chrysalises!  They’re such pretty little things, all pale jade green and studded with bright gold dots. I even found of the caterpillars mid-poop.  Their frass (butterfly poop) is tans and rolled up like miniature bales of hay.  Hah!  It’s unusual for the caterpillars to be out en masse so late in the season, but the summer heat must’ve confused them, too… I also saw a late season Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly. They’re supposed to be finished and out of here by May… so that guy was REALLY late.

Saw quite a few birds including the ubiquitous Acorn Woodpeckers, Mourning Doves, California Towhees, House Finches, a Wood Duck, and a Flicker.  I’d stopped at one point so get some photos of a young California Scrub Jay, and while I was doing that, a male California Quail popped up and climbed onto the same fallen branch the jay was sitting on… I also saw some European Starlings and Cedar Waxwings. Near the river bank, I saw quite a few Killdeer scurrying over the rocks.  And in one of the old dead trees on the property, the Turkey Vultures were preening and sunning themselves in the early morning light.

One intense irritation for me was when I came across a whole covey of female Quails on the trail.  I stopped to take some photos of them, and while I was focusing the camera to get a closer shot, these two women walked up behind me, pushed me to one side with a muttered “excuse me” and walked past me right front of my camera. I couldn’t believe it. These women were older than I am; way too old to be playing “mean girls”.

“You totally messed up my shot. Thanks,” I said. And one of the woman turned around and gave me a dirty look, while the other one grinned a stupid grin and said, “Well, it’s the only trail around.” Not true… and even if it WAS true, that didn’t excuse their behavior.

The tree squirrels and California Ground Squirrels were munching on black walnuts all over the preserve.  I was able to get a few photos and a video snippet of one of them.

And, of course, I was able to see quite a few mule deer – including an older fawn who seemed fascinated by my camera. I could tell he REALLY wanted to walk over to see what it was, but he was smart and kept his distance.

At one other point along the trail I was astonished to see what I first thought were wasps flying in and around a hole in the side of a tree.  I didn’t want to approach the tree to get a closer look, for fear of getting stung, so I used the super-zoom function on my camera and realized the swarm wasn’t wasps, it was Honey Bees.  It couldn’t tell if the swarm was just starting to set up house in the tree, or if they were moving out their queen and relocating… but it was a mass of bees! A hundred or more that I could see… Considering the time of year and the activity at the tree, I’m guessing this swarm was gathered around a new emergent queen and were in the process of establishing a new hive, but I didn’t see the queen.  It seemed obvious, especially in the video snippets I took, that the workers were chewing at the tree back and transforming the resins in it. You can see a distinct color difference between the unworked bark, and the bark on which the bees were focused.

You can see the ring of propolis on the bark that is being worked up by the bees.

I looked up some information on this and learned that “…the tree resin is not used in the hive in its original form when collected by the bees. The bees process the tree resin in their mouths and then, almost magically the tree resin is concentrated into an array of least 180 different compounds which have been identified so far…”

One of those compounds is propolis.

“… Propolis or bee glue is a resinous mixture that honey bees produce by mixing saliva and beeswax with exudate gathered from tree buds, sap flows, or other botanical sources. It is used as a sealant for unwanted open spaces in the hive. Propolis is used for small gaps…”  The propolis makes the hive more structurally sound, protects the hive from the weather, and affords the hive protection from invading insects, molds and bacteria.

Should be interesting to see how this hive does… if the rangers allow it to continue where it is.

On my way out of the preserve, I stopped by their little pond, and got to see quite a few little Bullfrogs in the water, including one that still had some of its tadpole tail.

Lots to see…