Un-Wet Wetlands and Lots of Egrets

After I facilitated a volunteer orientation for Tuleyome this morning, I was thinking of running over to my community garden plot to check it out, but I also realized my car was screaming for gasoline… and the gas station and garden are at opposite ends of town.  So I opted to put gas in (and will try to get to garden plot tomorrow).

As I was heading home, I still wanted to do something outside, but I hadn’t brought my walking shoes with me to the orientation… So I decided to go over to the Cosumnes River Preserve because I can see some critters from the car, and can walk around the paved boardwalk area.  I wasn’t expecting to see a lot; most of the wetland area you can get to is already dry and going green with grasses, weeds, and wildflowers.  It’s pretty, but you don’t get a wide variety of birds you’d normally see if the wetlands were actually “wet”.  Still, I got the great treat of coming across some egrets in a deep pond-like culvert along the side of the road.

There was a Great Egret and a pair of Snowy Egrets fishing for frogs and crayfish.  All of the birds were pretty amenable to having me stand on the side of the road and photograph them as longs as I didn’t get too close or move too much.  I got a little bit of video of one of the Snowy Egrets chasing down a meal and then trying to fit it into his mouth and down his throat… and BOTH Snowies also did some displaying for me – lifting up their trailing feathers (like peacocks) and topknots and croaking at each other as they passed one another…  I’d seen photos of this kind of display before but had never seen it firsthand.  It was awesome.  These birds seemed to be a pair; they traveled together, ate together, and snuggled down in a tree top later together…  They were both sporting some “rouge” in the skin above their beaks, but that didn’t show up much in the photos.  The Great Egret flew off at one point and landed at the other side of the culvert… but then he was chased off by a Red-Winged Blackbird that was singing over there.  Guess the blackbird didn’t want to share the stage.  Hah!

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Here is the vocalizing blackbird: http://youtu.be/jMbOBM44dTM
Here is the egrets fishing: https://youtu.be/94d5VPZjZwQ
Here are the Snowies showing off: http://youtu.be/TmWiOBfIqjY

There were wild bull thistles and spotted thistles everywhere, and tons of wild mustard and other flowering things, so there were lots of bees around… and it was pretty.  We’d had a lot of rain last night, and clouds were still threatening in the sky, but had broken up into giant sofa-masses, so I got some neat cloud photos, too.  It was a good spur-of-the-moment excursion.

The White House Featured one of My Photos!

I just found out that the White House featured my photo of a mama mule deer and her daughter in their press release and blog post about climate change today.  Wow!  What a great way to end my Earth Day!


Here’s a snippet:

my photo in a white house message

I am sooo flattered I’m almost in tears!


Even in the backyard, nature is awesome!

During my lunch break at the office today, I found a journal online that I’d like to use for my naturalist class and ordered it.  Hopefully it will get here over the weekend, so I’ll have it for class next week.  And my boss, Sara, asked me if I’d seen the Google doodle for the day, and I hadn’t yet. So she asked me to check it out.  It was a little app that let you know what kind of animal you were.  Sara was a “bee”… I came up as a “Komodo Dragon”.  Apparently, I tested out as someone with an “appetite for life – as well as the ability to swallow an entire goat”.  Hah-ha-ha-ha-ha!

komodo dragon

I was home again with the dog by about 3:00 pm and rested up a little bit before going outside to set up the grille to cook some cheap steaks.  While I was doing that, I noticed a large White-Spotted Jumping Spider near the outside wall of the house, so I got my camera and took some photos of him.  The jumping spiders are so cool-looking with their iridescent fangs, and very ferocious.  This one tolerated me for a little while and then reared up and jumped right onto the lens of my camera.  Yikes!  Hah!  Feisty little beastie!

I also found some wild jack-in-the-pulpit (Arum maculatum, I think) growing in the yard and one of them had a blossom on it.  I think those are such neat-looking things… and the “reproductive parts” of them are extraordinarily beautiful to me.  (Eeew… that sounded kind of creepy, didn’t it?)  Anyway, I picked the blossom so I could take photos of the spadix inside of it, and I found a tiny baby snail in here.  As I was photographing the innards of the flower, the snail woke up and stretched itself out.  It was nearly translucent and looked almost like glass… so pretty.

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Even in the backyard, nature is awesome!

My First Certified Naturalist Class

Yep.  I’m going legit.  Hah!

I went to my first Certified Naturalist class today.  They’re taking place Tuesday now through June 9th at the Effie Yeaw Nature Center in Carmichael.  I can only get there by surface streets and traffic in the late afternoon is a “B”, so it took me an hour.  (I’ll have to leave the house earlier next time.)

The first 90 minutes of the class included some introductions and then a walk through the oak forest to the American River, which included spotting deer, woodpeckers, turkeys, water fowl, a tag-teaming pair of Red-Shouldered Hawks, Titmice, wrens, and other critters, information on ant colonies, a little bit of animal tracking, seeing the Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars (one in the process of forming its chrysalis), identifying galls and granary trees, looking nests, trying to spot cotton rabbits and jack rabbits in the tall grass, and seeking to identify some of the plants in the area.  Then there was a short break, and after that we had a presentation on what a “naturalist” is and what role the naturalist plays in educating the public, and learned a few key terms.  The classes are four hours long, but tonight’s class sure didn’t feel like four hours; it felt more like 1 or 2.  Very engaging, very educational.  I was really pleased.  I hope the rest of them are this appealing.

Here’s the video of the ducklings: https://youtu.be/Bd2o57v6xtc

Another neat thing: they had each attendee tell the rest of the class about who they were and why they were taking the course.  A lot of my classmates (all except one was over 40) were retired grade school teachers and some of them worked for the Effie Yeaw center.  When I told them about myself and that I was with Tuleyome, there was a lot of positive response; a lot of them knew what Tuleyome was and what we were doing in the Berryessa Snow Mountain region – and two of them stopped me after class to tell me they’d read my Tuleyome Tales articles in the newspapers and really enjoyed them.  So, that awesome!

I’m taking copious notes to share with the rest of the office staff, and we’re also supposed to start keeping a field journal, so I’ll need to find something that’s easy to carry and can stand being out in the “wilderness”…