Lots of Deer and Coyotes Today

I got up around 6:00 this morning and headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my walk.  The sun was just coming up as I got to the preserve, and mine was only one of 2 cars in the parking lot.  As soon as I got out of the car I could hear coyotes yip-yowling in the distance.  I was expecting to just get to see some wasp galls on the oak trees and not much else.  I was pleased, then, when I got to see lots of deer and other critters.

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I walked past the nature center, and found a small herd of three does with their fawns on the hill behind the building.  There was a spot – about 15 feet from me – where the fence is deliberately low so the deer can jump it there.  All of the does and their babies came right down to the fence and jumped it right in front of me.  So cool.  I then followed after them as they went into the grass among the oak trees and settled down there.  Among all of them was a young fawn, just coming out of his spots, who was lame in one hind leg.  The injury wasn’t bad enough to keep him from walking, or even jumping a little bit when he needed to, but it made him limp. As I walked down the trail nearest to them, I saw on the other side of the trail a fourth doe with two fawns of her own.  I think I spent about a half an hour there, just watching them and taking photos and some video snippets.

Video of the deer crossing the fence: https://youtu.be/7z4tg26-tlU

Video of lots of deer on the trail in front of me (and then more arrive): https://youtu.be/Y0wIxZ8SDNU

I saw one of the does squat to urinate, a behavior I had read about but had never seen before.  It’s called “rub urinating”.  The does urinate on the tarsal glands on their inside of their legs, mixing the gland’s scent with the scent of their pee.  The strong mixed smell lets the boys know she’s in estrus.  There are actually fake-does called “Estrus Bettys” that hunters use to lure male deer out in the open; they’re made to look like a doe squatting to rub-urinate.  Hah-ha-ha!

After a while, I went along the trail and came across a bachelor flock of male Wild Turkeys in a small open field.  There was one jerk-turkey who kept trying to goad the other males into fighting with him, but none of other took the bait.  Hah!  As I was leaving the turkeys behind, I heard them start up their high clucking alarm call, so I turned around to see what their issue was.  Right behind me on the trail were FIVE COYOTES!  They were maybe twenty feet from me.  I think it was a set of parents and their almost-grown cubs.  They loped across the turkeys’ lawn and sat down in the grass like they owned the place.  Hah!  When they realized I was taking pictures of them, the coyotes all got to their feet again.  One doubled back, crossed the trail in front of me, and disappeared into the brush.  I was a little worried that he was circling around me, but I never saw him again.  Back out on the field, the papa coyote sat on his haunches in the grass and just stared at me.  I think they’re such beautiful animals; I love their bright yellow eyes.  I watched him and the pack until they disbursed into the woods.

Video of the coyotes: https://youtu.be/elPXQFUWiLA

Further along the trail, I came across another herd of deer, 10 in all, which included does, fawns, some “spike bucks” (young males less than a year old with single-prong antlers), another young male with 4-points shedding his velvet, and an adult male (6-prong) sitting in the grass.  Even a further distance down the trail, I came across a fawn sitting under a tree with no mama in sight.  That’s not unusual; mother mule deer often leave their young behind while they go foraging or go down to the river bank for a drink.  But I worried about this little one being alone while the coyotes were out foraging.

I circled around the whole perimeter of the preserve and headed back to the nature center.  Along the way I saw several woodpeckers, including Acorn Woodpeckers, a Nuthall’s Woodpecker and a Hairy Woodpecker.  Lots of kewl creatures.  I was very pleased.  My round-about walk took about 3 hours.

Herons, Egret and Beaver at the American River Bend Park

I was able to sleep in a little bit this morning, but was still out the door by about 6:15 am.

I went over to the American River Bend Park and walked around for about three hours.  Parts of the bike trail were closed off while it’s being repaved, and there were detours all over for the bikers… but some of them decided to ride their bikes on the nature trails (where I was walking, and where the bikes are not allowed) so that kind of irritated me.  I’d get my camera lined up to take a photo and some biker would come up behind me and yell, “On your left!”  Rrrrgh!

While I was on the trail, I inadvertently thwarted two hawks’ attempts at breakfast.  I walked up on one hawk that was sitting on the ground.  When it saw me it took off… and so did the jackrabbit it was sitting on. Oops!  Then when I was walking along the bank of the river I saw a Belted Kingfisher flying ahead of me… and I spooked a hawk that flew out of a tree from behind me.  It tried making a grab for the Kingfisher in mid-air, but because I’d startled it, it was off on its trajectory, and missed its meal by just an inch or so.  In between those two incidents, I came across a place on the trail that was covered in bird feathers.  A fox or hawk had been successful in killing a bird, but had snapped the head off and left it behind.  A Mourning Dove by the look of the head.  The attack must’ve been recent, too, because the bird’s eyes were still intact, and the blood was still red and not fully congealed.  I know it sounds weird, but I thought the head was so beautiful, I wanted to keep the skull, so I wrapped it in a receipt inside my carry bag and took it home.

Along the trail, I also came across a couple of Great Blue Herons, a Great Egret, and some Common Mergansers, along with dragonflies and other small critters.  The cool find of the morning, though, was when I was heading back to the car.  I looked down from the trail to the bank of the river below and saw something large and hairy rummaging around in the water.  Even with my telephoto lens, it was hard for me to make out what it was, so after taking a few still shots, I started taking video of it.  It turned out to be a large beaver that was eating freshwater clams along the bank.  It rolled up in the water, chewing on the clam, and then dove under the surface again.  I was able to see it moving under the water for a while, then lost it.  Cool!

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Here’s the beaver video snippet: https://youtu.be/luROAWjxW-g

Not Too Much Going On Out There

There wasn’t a lot going out outside over the last few days, so I’m combining Saturday’s and Sunday’s excursions into one post.

On Saturday, I got up around 7:00 am and headed out to the American River Bend Park for a walk.  It was about 58° when I went out and got up to 73° by the time I left.  It’s really clear out today; not a sign of a cloud.   We’re “between seasons” right now.  Most of the critters are done reproducing for the year, migrations are just starting, some critters are shutting down as winter comes up… so there isn’t a whole lot to see right now until the migrating birds start coming through in greater numbers.  As a result, I didn’t get  whole lot of photos… but the weather was perfect for walking, so I got in some good exercise.

The water in the river is low right now, too, and slow moving.  Signs all over the park were warning kayakers that because of the slow-moving water their rowing trips would take longer.  The shallower water also meant that folks could walk out into the middle of the river by the park and only be knee-high in the water.  So weird…

I was out for about 2 ½ hours and then headed back to the house.

On Sunday,  I slept in a little bit and got up around 8:00 am, did a load of laundry and took out the trash, then headed out to the Cosumnes River Preserve.  I wasn’t expecting to see much.  Their wetlands aren’t flooded yet, and they’re still working on the boardwalk area, so you can’t get in there (even though that’s where the ponds fill first, and that’s where the birds are starting to congregate.)

I did manage to see some Canada Geese, a few Ibis, some Black-Necked Stilts and Killdeer, and what I thinks were some Northern Shovelers in their dark “eclipse plumage”.  All of them were so far away, though, I didn’t get very photos of anything.  Since there wasn’t much in the way of birds to see, I had the place almost entirely to myself while I was there.  I walked along the road and sidewalks by the ponds across from the nature center.  The place stinks right now, because the water is flooding in and all the dead and rotted stuff is getting lifted up and swirled around so it’s kind of gross  The stench will leave as soon as there’s more water and the temperatures cool down.  What’s neat about the stinky water, is that a lot of larger dragonflies like their water kind of brackish, so there were dragonflies all over the place – including Blue-Eyed Darners and Giant Green Darners — and I was able to get some photos of several of them, including some mating pairs laying eggs in the water.

I walked around for about 2 ½ hours and then headed home, but I stopped first at Raley’s to pick up some groceries and something for lunch.  When I got home, I unpack everything, put in another load of laundry and rebooted the dishwasher before crashing for the day.

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Muscovy Ducklings! (And Other Birds, Too.)

I actually intended to sleep in this morning, but Waukegan woke the whole house up scratching and banging her feet against the floor. Since I was then up anyway, I decided to get dressed and head out to William Land Park again – without the dog this time – to see if I could get some more bird shots. I love taking Sergeant Margie with me on walks, but sometimes he scares off the wildlife, so I went solo today.

I walked around both the middle pond and the large pond this morning. At the middle pond, the Green Heron and Great Blue Heron were back, so I got a lot of shots of them. I actually got some photos of the Green Heron catching fish which is always cool to watch. I also saw the female Belted Kingfisher again. She was high up at the top of a scraggy-looking pine tree, but I managed to get a few photos of her. I also got some photos of a squirrel and a hummingbird in the WPA Rock Garden.

At the large pond the big attraction was a Muscovy Duck with her brood of four ducklings: 3 yellow babies and one black one. While I was watching her, though, and getting photos of the babies, I was accosted by a new all-white Chinese Goose that stalked me for a while, then ran up and bit me in the stomach! Ouch! I took hold of her throat until she let go, and then I released her. Geese can’t do a whole lot of damage because they don’t have teeth, but… man!… that hard pinch hurt; and I’ll probably be a little black-and-blue. A guy walking his baby in a stroller came up and said that same goose had gotten him a few times. She’s brutal. I was wondering if she’s the “Princess” goose I watched grow up a couple of years ago. If she is, she grew up to be a major bitch! Hah! I was kind of glad I hadn’t brought Sergeant Margie with me; that goose would have scared the crap out of him.

Of the yellow ducklings, one of them had an all-pink bill and another had a little of an orange blush on the head. One of the yellow ones, too, was starting to sprout a black tail, so they should be really interesting looking when they grow up. The little black one was actually more like very dark brown with some yellow and white patches on its belly. So cute…

After getting more (and more) photos of the ducklings – I can’t resist taking photos of those little fuzzies – I kept walking around the perimeter of the pond. I got some pix of some resident Wood Ducks that were pairing off for the winter, and was surprised to hear the chatter-chatter-chatter of another Kingfisher.

I looked around and found it – a male this time – in a tree on the opposite side of the pond. He was pretty far away, but I managed to get some shots of him before he flew off chattering again. Those birds are soooo noisy!

There was also a group of juvenile Western Bluebirds around there, and a Ring-Billed Gull who was hanging around a Crow for a while… so I got a goodly amount of bird photos on my morning sojourn.

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I walked around for about 2 ½ hours and then headed back home.