Spring???

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In the midst of a recent snowstorm, Leonard and I saw and heard our first harbingers of spring. Normally red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) begin to appear in the cottonwoods beside our house in February or early March. They flock in … Continue reading

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Serviceberry Galls

Gymnosporangium clavipes is a widespread rust (fungus) that infects over 480 species in 11 genera. Also called cedar quince/hawthorn rust, G. clavipes is heteroecious, meaning that it requires two alternate hosts to complete it life cycle.

One host, various members of Juniperus, is infected in late summer or early fall. The spores germinate, infect the host and then remain asymptomatic until the following spring. Infections result in mild swelling of twigs. The bark becomes flaky and many twigs die the first year of infection. Those twigs that survive become perennially infected and can produce spores for up to 20 years. The infection first appears as orange masses in bark cracks. After spring rainfalls, the infection gelatinizes into gooey masses (telia). The telia mature and release basidiospores which are carried by the wind. Any basidiospores that land on members of the rose family (second host), to which serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) belongs, can germinate. Cedar quince/hawthorn rust may infect leaves, petioles, thorns, young branches or fruit of this second host. When the fruit is infected, long tubes (aecia) up to 1/2 inch form on the fruit. The fruit dies. In late summer or fall, the aecia release aeciospores, which are borne by the wind back to the primary host (Juniperus species) to begin the cycle again.

Generally, G. clavipes infection itself is not considered life-threatening to the hosts. However, infection can weaken the host and predispose it to injury from insects, weather or other pathogens.

Gymnosporangium clavipes galls on black hawthorn (Crataegus douglasii) are pictured in my post “Cedar Quince/Hawthorn Rust” from 08-03-16.

These serviceberry galls were on infected shrubs near the Lower Ash Creek Campground bridge (Lassen County CA).

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Chaparral Honeysuckle

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Chaparral honeysuckle (Lonicera interrupta) is a native vine or shrub found in the chaparral and ponderosa pine forests of Oregon, California and Arizona. Although this perennial prefers elevations from 4,000 ft to 6,000 ft, it does grow at lower elevations, … Continue reading

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Pushup

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Muskrats (Ondatra zibethica) construct and utilize several different types of homes, feeding places and safe zones. The most visible are lodges built from vegetation on the ground or on a substrate of anchored aquatic herbage. These structures can rise five … Continue reading

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Flicker in Winter

Red-shafted Flicker

Red-shafted Flicker

The northern flicker (Colaptes auratus) is an ant-eating woodpecker. Unlike the typical woodpecker, northern flickers spend most of their time on the ground where they dig to find ants. Instead of leaning against their tails on tree trunks while feeding, northern flickers, when in trees, usually perch on horizontal boughs.

Northern flickers also eat beetles and other insects. Particularly in the winter, fruits and seeds complete their diet.

Northern flickers are migratory with those breeding in northern latitudes moving further south in winter. Flickers remain in our area (Lookout CA) throughout the winter.

In the midst of winter, with the ground covered in deep snow, northern flickers cannot obtain the ants and other ground-dwelling insects that comprise their usual diet. It is then that northern flickers lean against tree trunks and scale back bark searching for larvae, grubs and small insects. This flicker was photographed on a willow in our yard – Modoc County CA.

There are two groups of northern flickers, yellow-shafted and red-shafted, formerly considered separate species. Red-shafted flickers are a western group and yellow-shafted flickers are an eastern group. However both groups readily hybridize, resulting in a wide range of intergrades resulting in both groups being placed in the same species.

 

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Reading the Snow

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Snow and frigid temperatures have inundated Big Valley CA, our home, recently. Leonard and I enjoy “reading the snow” to determine which animals wander through our pastures and the wildlife area on our property. We found the tracks of four … Continue reading

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Bush Mint

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Bush mint (Mentha spicata) is a rhizomatous perennial native to Eurasia and Southwest Asia. Introduced as an ornamental and medicinal plant, bush mint has naturalized throughout most of North America. Like all members of the mint family, bush mint has … Continue reading

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