Dragonflies, B.A.S.’s, Grebes and Pelicans

I got up around 6:00 am and headed out with the dog to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge because there had been reports of Western Grebes there — and I didn’t have any photos of them yet. It was overcast but warm all day, in the 90’s by the afternoon, so it was muggy outside.  The good thing about the refuge, though, is that I can travel through the auto-tour part of it in the car with the air conditioner on.

I did see the Grebes which are beautiful long-necked birds with bright red eyes — and some awesome American White Pelicans — but the story of the day was the HUNDREDS of dragonflies that were out all along the driving tour road. In some places they were literally on every tule and plant I saw. There were also dozens of B.A.S’s (big-a$$ spiders) everywhere. I would’ve gotten more and better photos, but for some reason my camera reset itself to some weird picture size mode, so most of the pictures I got were about a third of the size I normally want them. Don’t know how that happened…

When I do the driving tour, I leave the windows open so I can hold the camera out through them… and along the way several of the dragonflies and one damselfly, flew into the car and landed on me or the dog. Hah!

Most of the dragonflies were Meadowhawks. On some of the tules the dragonflies perched on there was also “exuvia”.  When the dragonfly nymphs climb out of the water, they shed their skin and emerge as winged dragonflies.  The shed skin is the exuvia.

I also came across several Great Egrets that were fishing in the shallow stands of water, and I saw one catch several HUGE dragonfly nymphs…  I drove so slowly through the preserve that the 4-mile circle took me about 5 hours…

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When I finished the route, I drove straight home… so that was a long day in the car.


Video of a Great Egret stalking dragonfly larvae: https://youtu.be/RoEfUcTuHzU.

Marsh Wren singing: https://youtu.be/Y5Ivw-aXtCo


Babies… and a Snake on Sunday

I got up at 5:30 and went out to the American River Bend Park.  Not a lot to see out there today, but I did get to see a HUGE garter snake, and some ducks and geese with their babies.  It bothered me, though, that the birds let me get to within about 5 feet of them and didn’t startle.  It’s not good for them to be so complacent around humans.  And someone had left seed and bread for them on the shore…  which is probably by the snake was down there.  Humans bait the birds, and then the snake comes in and picks off the babies… Stupid humans…  On my way out of the park I came across a male mule deer in his  velvet.  It looked like he was working on a pretty big rack so he must be well over 2 years old…

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A Very Hot Squirrel

There’s a huge bracket fungus at the base of the Mulberry tree in the backyard, and I noticed that a neighborhood squirrel often sought it out in the heat of the day — like a little shelf it could lay on.  I took some ice and water out and left it on the bracket to cool it off… and this is how I found the squirrel about an hour later… It was HOT out there, man…. but my squirrel was chillaxin’.
Copyright ©2015.  Mary K. Hanson.  All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2015. Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

In Norden, CA for a Few Days

I was in Norden, California, in Nevada County (sort of around where the Sugarbowl Ski Resort is) for a Tuleyome staff strategic planning meeting, but I also had some time to get out into the forest and get some photos.  The pine forest — at almost 7000 feet — is a very different kind of terrain than I’m used to (I’m a riparian habitat kind of person), so the nature sounds were unfamiliar as were a lot of the plants and trees I saw.  It gave my new “naturalist” brain a real work out.

I got to see a lot of little Dark-Eyed Juncos, a Steller’s Jay and a Hairy Woodpecker, and was able to catch glimpses of some Phainopeplas (both males and females), but the Phainopeplas didn’t sit still long enough for me to get any photos of them.  Soooo frustrating.  Because of the higher elevation, the wildflowers there were at their peak and I was able to get a lot of photos of those — including the new-to-me Pussy Paws which I just fell in love with.

Here are photos I took on the first day:

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As an aside, I learned that the colorful Wolf Lichen, which can be used to make dyes, is also toxic.  It contains vulpinic acid, a toxin that attacks the respiratory system.  It used to be used to kill wolves and foxes.  (The toxin would be delivered into the carcass of a dead prey animal, and when the wolves ate the prey, they were poisoned by it.)  So it’s beautiful but deadly stuff.

On the last day of the meetings, my coworkers and I also did some sightseeing of other creeks and lakes in the surrounding area, including a stop at the Cisco Grove Gould Park along the South Yuba River (which in this drought year was looking more like a creek). Got even more wildflower photos that day.  It was a very busy, productive, and interesting few days… but, as always, it was nice to get back home.

Here are some photos I took that day:

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Cute Duckling and Green Heron

The weather was actually nicer today than it was yesterday, and after I dropped Marty off, I went over to the WPA Rock Garden and duck pond for a short walk.  When I first got there I was surprised to see a small flock of Mallards sitting in a long stretch of iceplant.  Must’ve been nice and cool in there.  Hah!

I wanted to see some bugs and eggs and praying mantises… but the place was surprisingly bug-free (relatively speaking of course).  Oh, but I did get some close-ups of a female Carpenter Bee who landed on a branch to groom herself for a few seconds… There are lots of flowers in bloom – including the thistles – so I got a lot of pictures of flowers but not much else.  And my walk was being constantly interrupted by a woman using the garden to take professional photos of kids and their families… and the kids were screaming and crying all the while.  Ugh.  Surely there are OTHER places they can go and do that…

At the pond though, I was taking photos and video of a mama Mallard with her one lonely duckling and saw a Green Heron swoop over the pond and land in a floating enclosure of lotus plants.  I walked around the pond to get a better view of him, and he posed for some photos then got down to business plucking tiny fish out of the water.  I video-taped him catching two of them in a row.

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When I got home it was around 10 o’clock.  I did a couple of loads of laundry and rebooted the dishwasher, then started packing for my own trip mid-week to “somewhere near Tahoe” for the Tuleyome staff’s strategic planning meeting: 2 nights and 3 days in “The Cabin in the Woods”.  Yikes!

Video of the Duckling: https://www.dropbox.com/s/6pc2yx0zgvdfdth/WPArockgarden061415%20303.MOV?dl=0

Video of the Heron: https://www.dropbox.com/s/992yqyjnq2e19ak/WPArockgarden061415%20367.MOV?dl=0

1st Time Bird, 1st Time Bugs… and Ants Herding Treehopper Nymphs

Saturday morning: I wanted to “beat the heat” — it got up to 100 today.  Blick. — so I got up a little after 5 o’clock and headed out to the American River Bend Park.  I was hoping to see a lot of dragonflies, but… well, I did see two different kinds.  I went to the William Pond Park side of the river – which I don’t really like because it’s too “manicured” and I seldom see many critters over there.  As I was crossing the bridge, though, I noticed movement in the water and focused my camera on it get some video.  The thing in the water was pretty far away, so in the small view screen on the camera I couldn’t tell if it was an otter or a beaver… when I got home and could see the enlarged version I discovered it was a beaver.  My first “live” shot of a beaver in the river.  I was very pleased with that.  Then I got a glimpse of a Belted Kingfisher.  We both saw one another at the same time, and he was faster than me – out of camera range before I could focus on him.  Dang it!

Along the way across the bridge, I noticed there were tons of orb spiders who’d built webs between the bars on both sides of the bridge, so I got some snaps of them… and lots of Canada Geese in the water.  Other birds I saw were the usual suspects: Starlings, Northern Flickers, Scrub Jays, Acorn, Ladder-backed (red on the front of the head) and Hairy Woodpeckers (red on the back of the head), Black Phoebes, Anna’s Hummingbirds, Wild Turkeys, Wrens, Finches… The Flickers I saw were a mama and young fledgling.  The fledgling had all its feathers but not its mature coloring yet… and it was begging mama for food.  Damn teenagers.  Hah!  And I found a dead bird that looked like it might have been a young fledgling turkey.  Sighting of the day, though, was an Ash-Throated Flycatcher who I found singing near the top of a tree.  I’d never gotten a photo of one of those before.

Later, when I went back to the River Bend park side of the river, I also found the Mourning Dove nest again – she’s still cooking her babies – and caught some glimpses of the young Red-Shouldered Hawk testing out his wings.  He’d fly-hop from tree, to scag, to bush, to tree, and would also “whine” for his mama occasionally.  Soft yet piercing hawk-screeches, as though he was making them under his breath.  Oh, and while I was watching him and taking photos, this pair of House Finches flew over my head and pooped on me; hit me right on the forearm.  Guh!  Well, at least they didn’t crap on my camera!

I also saw a pair of mule deer, and one of them was in his “velvet” (just starting to grow his antlers, and they were still fuzzy), but only one antler seemed to be growing normally.  The other one was stubby and sort of gnarled up against his head.  It’ll be interesting to see how that turns out for him…

Came across some ants “herding” tiny Treehopper nymphs.  The ants were tending the eggs and keeping the striped Treehoppers all in one area on several long leaves of a tree.  The Treehoppers produce honeydew and the ants collect and feed on that.  Cool.  I later found larger “instars” (molts) of the Treehoppers and determined they were Oak Treehoppers (Platycotis vittatus).  Other insects included Cabbage White, Sulphur, some tiny Gray Hairstreak and small Buckeye butterflies; loads of damselflies; a Common Whitetail dragonfly and a Widow Skimmer dragonfly; and a bright reddish-orange Velvet Ant (whose name is deceiving because it isn’t really an ant.  It’s a kind of wingless wasp that’s also called “cow killer” because the sting it gives is so horrible.)

In the plant realm, I came across a Mesquite Tree, which I’d never photographed before, so I can add that to my naturalist list.  I think it was Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) but I’m not positive. The seed pods were pretty old and dried out.  I also found some flowering Jimsonweed.

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I didn’t see as many dragonflies as I was hoping to, but… it turned out to be a good day for photographing anyway, so I went home happy.  It was about 68° when I started out (at 5:30 am mind you!) and was already 80° when I headed home around 10:00 am.  Humid, too.  Yick.