Tag Archives: tiger swallowtail butterflies

Vacation Day One: American River Bend Park

Day One of my vacation.  I got up around 7:15 this morning and headed out to the American River Bend Park for a walk.  The weather was perfect while I was out there, starting out around 50° with a bit of a breeze, and then getting up to about 70° by the time I headed home.

Spring was fully “sprung” at the park and I got to see the Wild Turkey in strut, Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly eggs, hatchlings and some nearly adult caterpillars (as well as the adult butterflies everywhere), Tiger Swallowtail butterflies, Buckeyes and Painted Ladies.  And I think I saw a Monarch, but it was too far away to be sure.  I also got some photos of the Mule Deer (mostly does and their yearlings), several hawks (including a gorgeous red-eyed Cooper’s Hawk who posed for me near her nest), Acorn Woodpeckers, Spotted Towhees, Tree Swallows and other birds.  The Tree Swallows are pretty noisy little dudes, and I was able to locate two of their nests because of that.  One of the nests was too high for me to get any good shots of it, but the second one was closer to the ground, and I was able to photograph the mama looking out through the nest-hole.  I also saw a bunch of Lady Bugs, Craneflies, Snakeflies, Damselflies, wasps, mosquitoes, moths, crickets, Boxelder Beetles, and what I think was a Common Soldier Beetle (Cantharis pellucida).  When the trail took me closer to the river, I saw two cormorants sunning themselves on the rocks.

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There was so much to see that I got carried away and lost track of time.  I ended up walking for almost 4½ hours!  That’s waaaaay too long for me, and by the time I got back to the car, my feet and ankles were killing me. I stopped at Togo’s on the way home to pick up some sandwiches for “linner” and could barely walk across the parking lot.

Visiting the Cormorant Rookery at the Bufferlands

On Saturday, I slept in a tiny bit and got up around 7:00 am.  I was out the door a little after 8 o’clock to get over to the Regional San’s (Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District) Bufferlands area.  They were having a nature walk through part of their riparian and wetlands habitat that included some rookery sites.

Our guides were Roger Jones and Bryan Young.  Roger is an awesome photographer and has allowed me to use some of his photos in our Tuleyome Tales articles and in our Species Guide book.  He invited me to table for Tuleyome at their upcoming “Walk on the Wild Side” event on May 16th.  I will probably take him up on that.  He’d like to do more with Tuleyome.

Anyway, on the tour, we saw Kites, Swainson’s Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, Red-Tailed Hawks, Double-Crested Cormorants, Brewer’s Blackbirds, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Tricolored Blackbirds, Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows, egrets, herons, and even some American White Pelicans… but most of them were so far away it was hard to get photos of them.  Although there were still several Cormorant nests in one colony, most of the herons and egrets had already moved out, so we saw only a handful of their nests.  It was a little bit disappointing, but you can’t expect Mother Nature to perform on cue.  And I was glad I got to see where the rookeries are and what the nests look like; now I know what to look for.  I most enjoyed watching the cormorants in their nests – and seeing them feed their babies.  What was interesting, too, was the fact that the cormorants don’t “sing” or make other sounds like that; instead, to greet one another they use a pig-like grunting sound.  Sounded like a massive “bacon fest” in the tree tops.  Hah!

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We also got a little bit of information about the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District’s plant operations, and the “symbiotic” relationship they had with some adjoining facilities.  Not only does the plant do all of the waste water management for Sacramento County and part of Yolo County, they also give some of their solid waste materials to a plant next door that uses it to make industrial fertilizer which is shipped out to farms in the surrounding counties.  Another plant next door, takes some of the methane from the waste water facility and uses it to generate electricity.  I’d love to do a tour of the waste water plant someday… maybe over my vacation?

We were done with the tour around noon, and it only took me about 20 minutes to get back to the house.

Flowers, Bees and a Ladder-Back Woodpecker, 03-20-15

After work on Friday, I took the dog over to the WPA Rock Garden and duck pond for a walk.  More and more flowers are starting to bloom; in another week or so the garden should really be showing off.  I saw several different kinds of butterflies today including a Painted Lady, Tiger Swallowtail, and Pipevine Swallowtails.  I watched one Pipevine Swallowtail hunting for a place to lay her eggs – I can now recognize pre-egg-laying butterfly behavior; that’s kind of kewl! – and watched as she laid a couple of them (and I got a little bit of it).  That’s always neat to see.  I also got some photos of another Pipevine Swallowtail sipping nectar from some flowers.

Here is a snippet of video of the egg-laying:  http://youtu.be/F05u1Cg495I

Along with the ubiquitous European Honeybees and Carpenter Bees, I also came across a large solitary California Bumblebee (bombus californicus) with bright orange pollen in the “baskets” on its legs.  I wonder if it was a queen.  Like honeybees, bumblebees form colonies under a single queen, although their colonies far less extensive than those of honeybees.  According to the Xerces Society, “…Most bumble bees nest in the ground in cavities such as abandoned rodent burrows, holes in building foundations, or stacks of firewood. Once the queen finds a suitable site, she will begin preparing the nest space by building a small wax cup, called a honey pot, and collects pollen which she will use to feed her developing brood. When the nest is sufficiently provisioned, she will lay eggs on the pollen lump and begin incubating the eggs by laying her abdomen over the brood to keep the eggs or larvae warm. At this point the queen remains in the nest unless she needs to collect more food. Nearly four weeks after laying the first eggs her first workers will emerge as adults and begin the jobs of foraging, nest cleaning, and brood care. The colony will grow throughout the summer and the workers will help the queen produce a clutch of male offspring, followed soon by new queen bees. These reproductive bees will leave the nest and find mates…”

The bombus californicus are said to be in decline, but there is also some speculation that they’re merely a subspecies of another kind of bumblebee so entomologists don’t know what to do about them.  I can remember that at the Stagecoach Drive house, Dad disturbed a large colony of bumblebees living under one of the stands of pampas grass on the backyard hill.

At the park, the middle pond is being drained out a lot right now, so it isn’t very pretty – and a lot of the waterbirds are discouraged by how shallow the thing is.  I think the city is doing this so they can get in and clean out several years of crud that has accumulated on the bottom of the pond.  They need SOME of that to keep the pond “alive” and to encourage waterborne insects and fish to live there.  But because it’s landlocked debris just keeps filling up inside of it until it gets to the point that the mess is choking all of their equipment, and no light can get to the bottom of the pond.  So they dredge it out, save as many living larvae and fish as they can, and then refill it.

Along with the waterfowl today, I also saw a lot of crows, Goldfinches, Robins and a few Ladder-Backed Woodpeckers (Picoides scalaris).  I also got a photo of a pair of tiny Linyphiidae spiders on the back of a flowering tobacco plant leaf.  There are so many spider in that group that I can’t clearly identify individual species, but they’re sometimes call “Sheet Weavers” or “Dwarf Spiders” because of their diminutive size and the kind of webs they build…  It was a nice walk.

What was funny was that while we were in the garden two different people recognized Sergeant Margie.  Hah!  My dog is famous.

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Cemetery Walk on Friday

I spent a couple of hours walking around the Sacramento Old Historic City Cemetery.  There isn’t a lot blooming in the gardens yet, of course – it’s February – but some flowers were showing off, and I did get to do a tiny bit of birding, and was surprised to see a pair of Tiger Swallowtail butterflies flittering around.  During my walk I came across Mockingbirds, Scrub Jays, Bushtits, sparrows, Oregon Juncos, Northern Flickers, hummingbirds, doves, Robins, House Finches, Starlings, Goldfinches gobbling up pollen from the pine trees… and the catch of the day: a female Nutthall’s Woodpecker poking around the trees… The Bushtits were “nectar robbing” from some flowers.  Their beaks aren’t made to dip down the log necks of the flowers, so they found the blooms where Carpenter Bees had bitten ting holes in toward the base of the flower, and got the nectar through the holes.  The birds are tiny and move so fast it’s hard to get a clear shot of them, but I managed to get a few fair ones.


I walked around for about 2 hours (time flies when you’re having fun) and made it back to the main gate just as a ranger showed up to close and lock it.  Nick. Of. Time.

In Search of Coral Fungus

Up at 8:00 am.  I had some coffee and went through some of my photos from yesterday.  Then around 9:30 I headed back to the River Bend Park.

I went to a different part of the park today, and was on the lookout specifically for coral fungus.  I found one small specimen, so I know it got wet enough to wake them up.  There should be lots more out in another week or so.  There were lots of yellow, red and brown ‘shrooms out, including some huge stands of Honey Fungus which are parasitic.  On one pair of small yellow wax caps, I found some male Winter Midges (tiny black-and-white guys with fuzzy antenna) waiting for the sun to come out so they could dry off.  Just before I started back to the car I came across an area where the rangers had put up some line fences and cut out a path from the picnic area all the way to the river, and covered it with mulch.  It was very nice-looking and easy to walk on… but of course, it was so new and “invasive” that no fungi were growing around it… In one area, I found the carcass of a wild turkey.  Only one wing and the bones of the body, including the deep breast bone were left.  Somebody had a good supper.

I walked for about 2½ hours and headed back home.

Cotton Tails and Orb Weavers

I let myself sleep in a tiny bit on Saturday, and didn’t get up until after 7:30 am.  I did some laundry and had a little breakfast, and then went out to the Cosumnes River Preserve — and pretty much the place all to myself for about 2½ hours.  Wow, that was nice!  We had a lot of rain yesterday, and I really wanted to get over to the American River Bend Park to see if there was any slime mold waking up — but the trails were closed for a marathon today…  The riparian area at the Cosumnes River Preserve isn’t as nice at the area at the American River, but I made due.  Saw a lot of damselflies in a variety of colors, including black ones, brilliant blue ones, and pale multicolored ones.  I also saw quite a few Cottontail Rabbits.  One came out onto the path and posed for me a couple of times, so I got lots of photos and some video of him.  They’re not as big as the Jack Rabbits at the River Bend Park, but are sure cute!

I later came across a spider I’d never seen before; it had an odd-shaped hump on its back (like a traffic cone) and sat with all of its legs gathered up around its face.  Weird.  I looked it up as soon as I got home and found out it was a kind of Trash-line Orb Weaver spider (Cyclosa conica).  I’d seen trash-line webs before, but never a spider like this one; so that was kewl.  There was also a tiny bright yellow Araneus orb spider with an egg sac that was almost bigger than she was.  Further on, I got my first in-person look at an American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis).  At first all I saw was a yellow flash go by me, and then I saw it perching in the wetland area on some tule.  Such a pretty little thing.  On the way back to the car, I saw some Tiger Swallowtail butterflies flitting around through all the weeds and wildflowers that abutted the parking lot area.  More pretty pretties… so it was a nice trip.

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