Lots of Critters on Saturday

My plan was to sleep in today until at least 8:00 am…but I got up right around 7:00 to let the dog out to pee, and then I couldn’t get back to sleep… So I got dressed and headed out to the American River Bend Park for a walk.

The first thing that greeted us was an Acorn Woodpecker pounding an acorn into a tree right near the car…  There were several Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies that looked like they’d just come out of their chrysalises, and were trying to warm up – although with all of the overcast, there wasn’t much sunlight for them to work with… And it was nice to see the wild turkeys were back after they went AWOL for several months.  Further along the trail we came across a mama Mule Deer and her daughter.  I actually crossed paths with them a few times along my walk… Lots of Jackrabbits running around.  I also found one of their “forms”.  (They don’t sleep in burrows or warrens like rabbits; they rough out little hollow forms in the ground or in the shrubbery and sleep in those instead.)  One of them was very brave and kept poking his head up to see where I was; and I came across one that was apparently blind in one eye.

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On the bird front: I photographed my first Hermit Thrush, so I was able to add him to my 1000-species list.  Along the riverside, I saw geese, Goldeneyes, Mallards, Common Mergansers and other water birds, Starlings, Flickers, Spotted Towhees, Tree Swallows, a White Breasted Nuthatch, several pairs of Western Bluebirds, lots of Scrub Jays…  I was surprised to see some Killdeer right along the shore (usually they’re not there because the fishermen disturb their nests), along with a tiny Spotted Sandpiper (a non-breeding adult without its tell-tale spots).  I also spotted a tiny green-backed Lesser Goldfinch (male) singing in an Alder tree along the shore while the wind jostled him around.  As I was watching the Goldfinch, a Snowy Egret flew across the river and landed on the stones below the footpath, so I got some photos of him, too.  He was in his mating regalia with curling feathers covering his tail.  I actually saw quite a few pairs of the Snowy Egrets on the island in the middle of the river.  There are no tall trees on the island, so they can’t make a rookery there – but they can along either shore…

I saw a guy digging for clams along the shore; I’m not sure if that’s legal at the park or not.  And I came across several people walking their dogs – unleased.  Guh!  Pet peeve.  (Pun intended.)  Anyway, I ended up walking for over 3 hours!  So, I headed back home, stopping off at Togo’s for sandwiches for lunch…

Got My Garden Plot… Then Took a Walk

I got a lot of small projects done at the office, and then headed out around 2:30 pm to go over to the Hanna & Herbert Bauer Memorial Garden, right next door to the Yolo County Mental Health Department building, a community garden.  I met with a gal named Rebecca there and put a deposit down on a plot that looks to my eye to be about 10 feet wide by 8 feet deep.  I’m planning to get back over to it sometime this weekend to measure it out and get it ready for my seedlings.  The plot I chose (#3) backs up against a fence, so I can use that as a trellis for beans and other vines.  And the plot was the only “abandoned” one from last year that had been cleared out by the previous owners.  Some of the other old plots were covered with dead matter and weeds.  To have a plot in the garden you have to promise to keep your plot growing and keep it from encroaching on other people’s stuff, AND you’re supposed to help keep the common area and pathways clear.  Well, obviously that didn’t happen last year, because much of the space is a ghastly mess. The garden supplies all of the tools, and an on-hand gardener who will answer all your planting questions… should be fun!  I’ll set up a page for the garden and take photos of it periodically, so you can see how it’s progressing.  Here’s what it looks like now:

my plot

After I’d signed up for my plot, I headed home, but stopped briefly at William Land Park and the middle-sized pond for a short walk.  Little-by-little the flowers are starting to open up in the surrounding gardens… but their beauty was kind of shattered by the fact that some nincompoops were playing their twangy electric guitars – and not well – from the hatchback of their car in the parking lot.  The noise permeated everything.  Gad.  I go out into nature for QUIET, not to listen to some grating guitar noise.  People must’ve complained because the park rangers came by and told them to turn off their amps…

I watched a little male Anna’s Hummingbird fly back and forth and “chortle” to another hummer.  He’d sit on one branch, make his angry kissy sounds, then fly across the path to another branch, and do the same thing there.  Back and forth, back and forth… until the other bird got tired of his chattering and left.  I also got to see an egret, the Green Heron (which is kind of a “resident” there now), the ubiquitous ducks, geese, and crows, a Northern Flicker, a Yellow Rumped Warbler, some Mourning Doves, and some Robins.  Clouds were piling up over the eastern horizon, and Marty said that as he was heading home from work in Folsom there were some loud claps of thunder and a little smooshy hail… I think the clouds are awesome and got a bunch of photos of them.

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After just an hour or so, I headed back to the car and went on home… to crash for the day.

Flowers and Birds

After work, I took the dog over to the WPA Rock Garden and the pond adjacent to it.  Things are starting to wake up in the garden, but it still has a way to go before it’s at its most impressive.  There were a lot of hug Jack-in-the-Pulpit flowers in bloom: huge purple hoods with a thick blackish-purple stamen sticking up from the middle of them.  I think they’re neat flowers.  All of their “sex organs” are down inside the base of the flower and look sort of alien.  And when the flower’s “hood” wilts and dies away, it’s replaced by a stalk covered with bright red seeds.  So cool-looking…

At the pond I watched and followed a Green Heron for a while.  I saw him catch something, but I’m not sure what it was.  Then he licked his “lips” with a long wormlike tongue.  I also came across two of the Cormorants again; an adult and a juvenile.  They were standing on either side of a fountain, like bookends, under the fountain’s spray.  Then the younger one moved off to another location before they both went fishing…

The dog and I walked for about 2 hours and then headed back home.

A Foggy Walk at the River Bend Park

I was up around 7:00 and headed out with the dog to the American River Bend Park for our walk.  It was cold, sunny and clear in our part of Sacramento (41º), but a thick fog bank had moved in at the river, so photo-taking was hampered a bit by that.  Everything took on a “diffused” look in the images.

I was surprised by the number of Hevella (“Elfin Saddles”) there were all over the place; and not little ones, either.  Most of them were the size of my fist.  I’ve never seen them that big or that profuse here before.  I also found some jelly fungus, and some large specimens of other mushrooms, including Amanita bisporigera, commonly known as Death Angels or Destroying Angels: pure white and deathly poisonous… which seemed appropriate in the foggy environment.

As I was walking along, I thought to myself that this kind of heavy fog would be great for the major predators; the smaller critters wouldn’t see them coming until it was too late.  And just as that thought entered my mind, a pair of coyotes stepped out on the path in front of me.  The male moved on a bit, but the female – I think she was pregnant – eyed us for quite a while.  I got several photos of her, but the fog made her look “fuzzy” in all of the pictures.  Still it was neat to see them…  I came across another pair in another part of the park after the fog had lifted a bit, and was irritated to see some moron with his two dogs off-leash – one a big Mountain Dog and the other a small white terrier — daring the coyotes to come after the larger of his two dogs.   How come some humans are the most STUPID animals in the forest?  His big dog might have been a match to one coyote, but not two… and we were only seeing two; there may have been more. And why would he want them to come after his dogs at all?  Idiot.  The coyotes – a lot smarter than he was — didn’t take his bait and just loped off.

Along the trails, the manroot vines were already shooting up everywhere, sometimes stretching straight up from the ground to grab onto low-lying tree branches like green snakes.  And the pipevines are getting their Calabash-pipe flowers on them already (about a month too soon.)

The trees were full of birds, but because of the fog I could get very many photos of them, but I still managed to get some shots of Acorn Woodpeckers, a White-Breasted Nuthatch, and a gorgeous iridescent blue Tree Swallow that was so clean and shiny she looked like she’d just come out of the salon.  The fog lifted just before we left the park.  The dog and I ended up walking for almost 3 hours (!) and then headed back home.

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.

Birds and Bugs at William Land Park

I went to William Land Park again after work.  I’d thought of going up to the Cosumnes Preserve, but I’m low on gas and can’t afford to fill up until tomorrow… so I stuck with the nearby park. I saw all the usual suspects: crows, ducks, geese, some gulls, an egret…  But there were four cormorants there today: two adults and two juveniles.   The juvies are lighter in coloring than the adults, and look like pale snakes when they lift their head and long necks out of the water… I got one shot of one of the juveniles “gaping” – showing of the bright blue inside of its mouth…

Two of the Canada Geese have gotten very bold and walked right up to me to inspect my camera bag for food.  They’d never done that before.  One both approached and hissed, so I figured he was pretty confused about pond-side etiquette…  There were four pairs of Wood Ducks on the island in the middle of the pond.  It looks like they’ve taken over the side that has the duck box on it.  It would be neat to have them breeding in the park, but there are so many people that visit it I’m worried that people won’t leave the boxes alone…

Along with the Wood Ducks on the island there were two Scrub Jays nattering at each other.  I also spotted a couple of turtles swimming around with their heads just above the surface of the water… Lots of Ring-Billed gulls hanging around…

I got some video of the Muscovy Ducks head-bobbing at each other.  Two big males were vying for the attention of a smaller female… and then everyone seemed to get bored at the same time and they all went their own way.  Head-bobbing in the water is usually part of a mating dance, but head-bobbing on land can also be associated with “familiarity” – like the ducks are greeting and high-fiving one another.  Muscovy Ducks don’t quack very often, so in the video everyone is just kind of huffing and breathing at one another.  It’s so funny to watch.

Just as I was starting to leave the park, I noticed a thin black “cloud” near the top of one of the fir trees on the island in the middle of the pond.  I thought at first something was burning up there and I was seeing smoke, but then as I watched it I realized I was seeing a cloud of insects.  They were too small and too far away for me to identify them, but there must’ve been a thousand of them moving in the air like a murmuration of Starlings – only on a tiny scale.  Do mosquitoes swarm like that?

I was at the park for about 90 minutes and then headed home.  When I parked in front of the house, I noticed there was a Cedar Waxing and some Robins sitting in a tress across the street, so I took some photos of them before getting out of the car.  Me sitting in the car parked at the curb with a telephoto lens hanging out of the half-opened window: I wonder what our nosey neighbors thought of that?  Hah!