Lots to See at the River Bend Park Today

:  I got up with the dogs around 6:30 am and then went over to the American River Bend Park for my walk without having any breakfast.  I spent about an hour or so walking along the riverside, looking at and photographing the plant-life there: rushes and sedges, dove weed, hemlock, and a whole catalog of other stuff which will look great in my naturalist journal.  I’ve noticed all along that on some of the dead willows I’ve seen there are little cluster-structures that look like pine cones, and I never knew what they were.  While I was researching the Narrowleaf Willows I saw along the river, I found out that the structures are actually galls caused by midge larvae (Rabdophaga strobiloides).  The larvae enter the stems of the willows and secrete a chemical that tells the willows to form “leaves” over them… The “leaves” form a little pointed end ball over the larvae that look sort of like tiny pinecones.  How kewl is that?!

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While I was at the river, a Spotted Sandpiper flew right up onto a log in the water in front of me and I was able to get a lot of photos (and some video) of it.

Then I drove the car over the camping area, and walked around there for about 3 more hours.  While I was photographing some Mourning Doves and a pair of Western Bluebirds, the rangers drove up beside me and said, “There’s a Red-Shouldered Hawk next right over there beyond that truck, and it looks like there’s a hawk in it right now.”  They then drove a few feet around the camping area, and pointed out the tree to me.  I was able to get photos and video of the fledgling hawk standing on the rim of the next.  So neat.  The bird was well camouflaged ad I would have missed him completely if the rangers hadn’t pointed him out to me.

I also watched A White-Breasted Nuthatch fly over to the bluebirds’ nest and peak in – right before the male bluebird flew in and chased the nuthatch away.  Hah!  Then I watched a pair of Wrens feeding their tree full of babies.  I could hear the hatchlings peeping inside of the tree and caught a glimpse of them one time when their parent flew by.  The entrance to their tree-hole nest was more like a slash in the side of the tree, and at first I couldn’t believe the birds were actually able to get into and out of it, but they squeezed through the entrance without a problem.  I then walked up the trail a bit and found the Tree Swallows’ nest again.  The parents were tag-teaming, feeding the babies in shifts.

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As I was leaving the Tree Swallows, I came across a pair of Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies – a male and a female – chasing each other over the trail.  I stopped to watch them, hoping I could get some good photos, but I was interrupted by a group of ladies who came up the trail being me.  They wanted to get past me, but I asked them to wait to see if the butterflies settled down together.  “It’s a mating pair…” I told the women, and they all stopped to watch the butterflies.  I got to tell them a little bit about the butterflies’ mating behaviors while they watched – doing my “naturalist” things.  When the butterflies moved on, so did the group of woman, and as the last one passed me she said, “See you in class on Tuesday.”  I did a double-take and realized she was the younger girl from the naturalist class (the youngest one in the class).  I had to laugh; small world!

I took so many photos and video clips during my walk that I burned through two batteries!  By the time I got to the car it was after 11:00 am, so I headed back home, stopping for sandwiches on the way to have for lunch.  I then crashed for the rest of the day.