October 14, 2021

Joseph D. Grant - no GPS data

My cell phone with GPS tracking app died while I was on the trail, so no GPS data was recorded. What a pain to go back to the old way of guesstimating the location of each observation!

Posted on October 14, 2021 13:12 by truthseqr truthseqr | 2 comments | Leave a comment

September 27, 2021

Mammal latrines at Baylands

A few days ago I noticed several latrines (collections of scat) along a Baylands Trail. Today I went back to document them. I saw 8 latrines in all along Moffett Channel. I think they might be from one or more raccoons. Whatever deposited these samples was feasting on crabs. You can see parts of the claws and shells in the scat.

Posted on September 27, 2021 23:29 by truthseqr truthseqr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 16, 2021

Feather Day at Joseph D. Grant Park

I found more than 27 feathers at Joseph D. Grant Park today. There was one section on Lower San Felipe Trail, in particular, that was a treasure trove of feathers. What a cool find! It appeared that one or more turkeys were killed, based on the number of turkey feathers in the area, and many birds and animals feasted on the remains. There were two species of owl (Barn Owl, Great Horned Owl), two species of hawk (Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk), and crow feathers. There were so many barn owl feathers and droppings, it appeared as though an owl must've been roosting in the grand oak tree overlooking this spot. There was also bobcat and coyote scat, which suggest they feasted there as well. Such a cool place!

In addition to the above feathers, I found an Acorn Woodpecker feather and one from a Collared Dove.

Posted on July 16, 2021 00:20 by truthseqr truthseqr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 23, 2020

Very Small Feather Collection from SF Bay

Monday, October 19, 2020 was a day for seeing lots of tiny feathers floating on waves in the San Francisco Bay and landing in among the reeds and other detritus on the beach. Since it was a windy day and impossible to photograph these feathers in situ, I brought them home to photograph and measure them, then took them back where I found them.

There were hundreds of birds swimming on the water, including: coots, pied-billed grebes, mallards, cormorants, and others.

All of a sudden, dozens of birds took flight. There was a disturbance in the water. Then we saw a harbor seal! I've never seen one this far south in the bay. What a treat! But the birds didn't think so.

Posted on October 23, 2020 16:01 by truthseqr truthseqr | 11 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 18, 2020

Virtual Urban Bioblitz - 10/10/2020

Participated in this bioblitz that was part of the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory (SFBBO) fall fundraiser. I collected observations from two sites: Baylands and Ulistac.

Here is the project:

Baylands by the Sunnyvale Water Treatment Plant
3.25 hours (7:30-10:45am)

Ulistac Natural Area
1.5 hours (1:25-2:50am)

My observations for the day (194 total):

Posted on October 18, 2020 11:48 by truthseqr truthseqr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 21, 2020

Brush Rabbit vs Desert Cottontail

These two species (Sylvilagus bachmani vs Sylvilagus audubonii) are very similar.

Here are some good discussions for telling them apart:

Here's a rare & exceptional photo of the two species side-by-side

Helpful notes from @biohexx1:
The way that I tell desert from brush cottontails is:

1.) dark tips on the ears
desert cottontails have dark tips:

2.) ear length to body ratio
desert cottontails have longer ears (though no where near
as long as jackrabbits) than brush:

3.) rust-colored nape of neck and legs (desert) vs. unicolor gray (brush)

4.) 'fluffiness' of tail
muted tail (brush)
fluffy tail (desert)

5.) geography
Having said all of this, it can be hard to tell one from the other sometimes. People use cell phones which doesn't give the best quality of image from far-away. People only get one picture/one angle of the rabbit. Sometimes the rabbit is in a shrub or shadow and hard to see features. Sometimes the rabbit is in a rest-position and you can't see the back of its neck and its ears are lain down.

Posted on August 21, 2020 19:22 by truthseqr truthseqr | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 19, 2020

What grows first after goats "mow" the hillside?

At first glance, this hillside near the Sunnyvale, CA water treatment plant and the Baylands looked very bare. Goats were brought in to "mow" the hillside in mid-April:

But it was interesting to see what plants are the first to sprout on this seemingly barren hillside: ribwort plantain, shortpod mustard, bristly oxtongue, mallow, yellow starthistle, bird's foot trefoil, and wild oats, all of which attracted bees, butterflies, and wasps.

Not so barren after all.

Posted on June 19, 2020 12:52 by truthseqr truthseqr | 7 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 03, 2020

Salt Marsh Caterpillars

On Sunday, May 31, 2020, I happened upon dozens of salt marsh moth larvae. According to Wikipedia,
"The larva, known as the salt marsh caterpillar, which grows to about 5 cm (2 in) in length, is highly variable in color, ranging from pale yellow to rusty orange brown to dark brownish black. It is hairy, with numerous soft setae, growing in tufts (several tufts on each segment), with a few individual hairs that are longer toward the end of the body. The thoracic and abdominal segments have a few rows of orange or black warts, and it has one tiny white dot per segment, on both sides of its body."

I found them on the following six plants (in order of frequency):

  • Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum)
  • Broadleaved Pepperweed (Lepidium latifolium)
  • Bindweeds (Genus Convolvulus)
  • Armenian Blackberry (Rubus armeniacus)
  • Stinking Chamomile (Anthemis cotula)
  • Shortpod Mustard (Hirschfeldia incana)

There were so many different sizes, colors, and patterns of these delightful caterpillars, that I went a little hog-wild in photographing them, but I don't know when I'll see them again.


Posted on June 03, 2020 20:22 by truthseqr truthseqr | 18 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 26, 2020

April 09, 2020

Yellow-faced Bumble Bees & Other Pyrobombus Species in the SF Bay Area

@alexis_amphibian (Alexis Babyan) provided this very helpful information about the difficulties in distinguishing bumble bees in the Pyrobombus subgenus from each other.

Bombus vosnesenskii, Yellow-faced Bumblebee, is by far the most common bumblebee in the Pyrobombus subgenus likely to be seen in this region (Santa Clara County, CA). It has a dark body with yellow hairs on the face and what I call the "shoulders"- the front part of the thorax- and has a band of yellow hairs towards the rear of the abdomen.
BugGuide page: https://bugguide.net/node/view/19538#id
Range: https://www.discoverlife.org/mp/20m?act=make_map&kind=Bombus+vosnesenskii

The nearly identical Bombus caliginosus also appears in this range (Santa Clara County, CA), and can rarely be told apart by photographs. Bombus caliginosus, Fog-Belt Bumblebee, is very tricky: it looks basically the same as Bombus vosnesenskii - a dark body with yellow hairs on the face and "shoulders"- and has a band of yellow hairs towards the rear of the abdomen. BugGuide has a whole section of photos of bumblebees that are either B. vosnesenskii or B. caliginosus - the experts can't say for sure:
Range: https://www.discoverlife.org/mp/20m?act=make_map&kind=Bombus+caliginosus

From a Bay Nature article:
"The difference between Bombus vosnesenskii and Bombus caliginosus, according to the insect reference BugGuide: “Females with malar space relatively short and S4 usually black as compared with caliginosus, and males with different antennal proportions. These characters are rarely visible in photos so those taken at coastal sites where both could occur are rarely identifiable.”

Other possible distinguishing characteristics:
A second partial yellow stripe towards the end of the abdomen (at T5?) is characteristic of male B. vosnesenskii, although male B. caliginosus sometimes also have this pattern. B. vosnesenskii is said to have a neater, tidier-looking coat of hairs overall compared to B. caliginosus, which runs a little shaggier.

I gather that the two can only reliably be distinguished under the microscope. B. caliginosus has some additional yellow hairs on its underside that B. vosnesenskii doesn't have, and there is apparently something different about the proportion of the malar region (cheek area) and the proportion of the antennae of the males. These are subtle enough differences that they won't be visible in regular size photos of live, active, individuals out in the fields. Of all the thousands of photos of bees in the Backyard Pollinators project, there are currently only 7 photos that claim to be Bombus caliginosus, and currently only one of those photos has attained "research grade." That photo is of a dead individual, not on a flower, but I left it in the project because confirmed photos of B. caliginosus are so scarce: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/31271389

Bombus melanopygus, Black-tailed Bumblebee, is the second-most common likely to be seen in this region, but it is easy to distinguish from B. vosnesenskii because in addition to having yellow hairs on its face and a yellow stripe towards the rear of its abdomen, it has an additional very wide yellow stripe around its midsection (the rear part of its thorax and the front part of its abdomen.) Bombus melanopygus in some regions also have orange/red hairs on their abdomens, but the ones we get in our region only have black and yellow hairs. (The different color forms of B. melanopygus were previously believed to be different species, but they are currently understood to be a single species.)
BugGuide page: https://bugguide.net/node/view/15019#id
Range: https://www.discoverlife.org/mp/20m?act=make_map&kind=Bombus+melanopygus

Bombus vandykei is also tricky. It also looks basically the same as B. vosnesenskii and B. caliginosus- at least, the females do- the males are much more yellow overall. A female B. vandykei looks the same as a B. vosnesenskii to my eye, but apparently the yellow stripe towards the rear of the abdomen is positioned at a different body segment.
B. vandykei is rarely seen in the SF Bay area, but there are occasional observations of it in Sonoma County, Santa Clara County and Solano County.
BugGuide page: https://bugguide.net/node/view/122324#id
Range: https://www.discoverlife.org/mp/20m?act=make_map&kind=Bombus+vandykei

Bombus flavifrons, Yellow-fronted Bumblebee (https://bugguide.net/node/view/181080#id) is also in the same subgenus and might be confused with the less common Bombus sitkensis, Sitka Bumblebee (https://bugguide.net/node/view/121804#id)
Range: https://www.discoverlife.org/mp/20m?act=make_map&kind=Bombus+flavifrons

Bombus bifarius, Black-notched Bumblebee, is another less-common member of this subgenus, and could be mistaken for Bombus melanopygus.
BugGuide page: https://bugguide.net/node/view/184373

John Kehoe has made several educational videos about native bees:
Bee Video: Mason, Carder and Leafcutter Bees


Posted on April 09, 2020 03:31 by truthseqr truthseqr | 0 comments | Leave a comment