Some Wildlife Encounters at the River Bend Park

Around 8:00 AM Sergeant Margie and I went over to the American River Bend Park for a walk.  The sky was totally gray and overcast… But it’s still too dry in the forest, so there weren’t any mushrooms or other fungi out yet, but I did get to see some pretty neat wild life including a Red-Shouldered Hawk and a pair of Mule Deer (a doe and what I assume was her son, a young handsome “spike bull” male.  He had his spike antlers, but no prongs on them yet, so he was probably only one or 2 years old.)  And I also got some photos of an Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus).

“…Acorn woodpeckers, as their name implies, depend heavily on acorns for food. In some parts of their range (e.g., California), the woodpeckers create granaries or “acorn trees” by drilling holes in dead trees, dead branches, telephone poles, and wooden buildings. The woodpeckers then collect acorns and find a hole that is just the right size for the acorn. As acorns dry out, they are moved to smaller holes and granary maintenance requires a significant amount of the bird’s time. They also feed on insects, sap, and fruit… Acorn woodpeckers practice cooperative breeding, which is a relatively rare evolutionary trait that is thought to occur in only nine percent of bird species. Cooperative breeding is defined as more than two birds taking care of nestlings in the nest. In the acorn woodpecker, cooperative breeding occurs in two ways. Coalitions of adult acorn woodpeckers nest together, localizing to storage granaries. Additionally, adult offspring often stay in their parents’ nest and help raise the next generation of woodpeckers… Most nests are made up of only three males and two females. Nesting groups can also contain up to ten offspring helpers. Interestingly, these breeding coalitions are typically closely related. The males are often brothers, and the females are usually sisters. Inbreeding is rare, however, meaning that co-breeders of the opposite sex are almost never related…”  The best way to help maintain local flocks of these woodpeckers is by preserving “mature oak and pine-oak stands of trees and to provide dead limbs and snags for nesting, roosting, and granary sites…”

I found a couple of granary trees on my walk.  Last year was a mast year for acorns, so the granary trees are stuffed to the gunnels with seeds…

The dog and I walked around for about 2 hours and then headed back home.  By then it was just starting to sprinkle outside.  I hope this “angel spit” is the harbinger of more rain.  We really need it.