Vacation Day 8. I got up around 7:00 am today, and headed off to Lake Solano Park in Winters around 8:00. The weather was nice – about 70° — but it felt really humid there, and some haze was still hanging around all the foothills.
There were a lot of peahens out there with their babies today. Some were little guys, just getting their feathers, and some looked like mini versions of their moms. So cute! I’d never seen baby peafowl before, so that was kind of cool. There were a few males out, too, but they didn’t have all of their long trailing feathers on their tails. That didn’t stop them from try to display to the females, though… who pretty much just ignored them and pecked at the ground. Hah! The males are so pretty, I ended up taking lots of photos of them anyway – even without their full tail-fans. I also came across Scrub Jays, Crows, Great Egrets, a Great Blue Heron, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Hairy Woodpeckers, Nutthall’s Woodpeckers, Cedar Waxwings, a Red-Breasted Nuthatch, Northern Flickers, and lots of Acorn Woodpeckers. An adult male California Quail jumped up onto the side of an old scag of a tree by the lakeside and did his “Chi-ca-go!” call for me. I got some good shots of him.
I also got to see a male Phainopepla and about three females all in the same area. I’ve been trying to get a photo of this bird from the first time I heard about it. The males are iridescent black and the females are sort of buff-gray but they both have long tails and a crest on their heads. One of the females got close enough so I could get some fairly decent shots of her – right down to her red-orange eyes. So beautiful.
Then I watched some Bufflehead ducks doing their bobbing-head and splash-and-dash dances for some females. They were pretty far away, so the video I got is kind of washed out, but they’re soooo funny to watch. According to Cornell’s “All About Birds” website: “…Males court females by flying over them, skiing to a stop on the water with their crests raised, and bobbing their heads. During the breeding season, territorial birds attack intruders by flying or swimming underwater at them and thrashing at them with their wings. When a pair intrudes into a territory, the territorial male often chases the intruding female while the intruding male chases after them both. Males leave their mates during incubation in order to molt, but return to the same mate multiple years in a row (one of the few duck species in which this is true)…”
The oak trees were dropping acorns everywhere… some of them plopping into the lake scaring the birds. The toyon bushes and pyracantha bushes were all decked out in their red berries; and the mistletoe was full of berries, too. So fall has “fallen” around the lake.
I found a ragged Monarch Butterfly resting in the weeds, and also came across a caterpillar that kind of freaked me out. It’s body was black with red spikes like a Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillar, but it’s head and butt were bright orange – absolutely the wrong shape and color for a Pipevine Swallowtail. I took a lot of photos of it, and when I went home, I tried to figure out what it was. I’m still not certain, but I think it was a Spotted Fireworm (Choristoneura parallela). I put in a request to Bugguide.net to see if their people can get me a better ID. ((Hmmm… the folks at Bugguide.net say it’s a Battus philenor, a kind of Pipevine Swallowtail, but different from the subspecies we have at the American River which is Battus philenor hirsuta. I’m not sure I believe that, but I’ll accept it for now.))
When I finished the trail on one side of the park, I was going to continue to on to the trail along the river by the campground (which is across the road from the park), but the entrance was all blocked off. I looked like they were trying to replace a bridge there (while the water is low). So that cut about an hour off my walk. I went back to the car, had a light lunch (crackers, tuna fish, grapes and cucumbers) and then headed back home.