Big news! Joanna Rutkowski, who lives near the Truckee River in Olympic Valley, has volunteered to help out with wildlife photo-missions and guest-blogging for Truckee River Guide. It’s incredibly exciting to have another set of eyes (and very capable camera lens) on the river. Joanna is a freelance photographer and graphic designer — check out some of her work at jrphotofolio.com, and stay tuned for more updates from Olympic Valley. Thanks Joanna!
Curiosities on a Quiet Tuesday
by Joanna Rutkowski
I started my walk along the river on Tuesday morning in the Truckee District of the Tahoe National Forest, just north of the intersection of Squaw Valley Road and California State Route 89. This is not an official trail, but the area is well trodden as it runs along the Truckee River Bike Trail.
Heading south along the river, the first thing that caught my attention was the trill of some birds darting through the Thinleaf Alders lining the bank. The birds were skittish and I couldn’t get a good look at them, so I turned my attention towards the damp soil at my feet.
There had been a light rainfall earlier, so everything was still a little soggy, and colors stood out more vibrantly. Some small yellow blossoms caught my eye, so I took a closer look and snapped some photos.Rust fungus (Puccinia monoica) growing on plants in the Truckee District on Mar. 17, 2015. Photo: Joanna Rutkowski. Puccinia monoica growing on plants along the Truckee River on Mar. 17, 2015. Photo: Joanna Rutkowski. A close-up of the Puccinia monoica spores on Mar. 17, 2015. Photo: Joanna Rutkowski.
I sent the photos to Kelsey, who passed them on to Sarah Barga at UNR, who identified the tricky blossoms on these plants as pseudoflowers produced by Puccinia monoica. It turns out that Puccinia monoica is a type of rust fungus that prevents the host plant from flowering, hijacks its nutrients, and uses the host plant to facilitate its own sexual reproduction — a fascinating and surprising discovery for such an inconspicuous plant.
Further along the river, I finally caught a glimpse of the elusive birds feeding in the Thinleaf Alders:A Mountain Chickadee feeding in a Thinleaf Alder in the Truckee District on Mar.17, 2015. Photo: Joanna Rutkowski.
It was getting warmer as I neared Alpine Meadows Road and the end of my walk, so I started exploring in the river channel. I was surprised to see what looked like Signal Crayfish carcasses strewn everywhere under the water.One of several Signal Crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) carcasses along the bottom of the river on Mar. 17, 2015. Photo: Joanna Rutkowski.
At first I wondered if something in the area was effecting the water and causing crayfish to die… but it was later brought to my attention that the crayfish may be molting. The typical molting season for crayfish in the Truckee River seems to be August, however, other factors such as water temperature and length of daylight have an effect on cycles. Anyone out there have any other ideas?
Apparently molting crayfish attract trout — so if it is in fact the start of a molting cycle, I suppose it’s time get out on the Truckee and keep an eye out for some interesting fish finds!A Signal Crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) carcass beneath the water on Mar. 17, 2015. Photo: Joanna Rutkowski.
Joanna Rutkowski is a full-time adventurer, freelance graphic designer and photographer, passionate about art, travel, writing and learning. Follow her adventures on Instagram (instagram.com/joannarutkowski/), Twitter @jrphotofolio and on the web at www.jrphotofolio.com