New Year’s Eve at the Cosumnes River Preserve

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

New Year’s Eve.  It was cold and foggy when I got up around 7:15 this morning.

I put in a load of laundry in the dryer, got the dishes going in the dishwasher and made a pot of coffee before sending off copies of my latest Tuleyome Tales to the local media.  This one, timely enough, is on bald eagles.  I also set up a list of topics for the tales for 2016, and got that loaded up so it’s ready to go in 2016.  All of that took about 2 hours, and by then the dishes were washed and the clothes were dry, so I unpacked those machines and put everything away.

Around 11:00 am, I headed over to the Cosumnes River Preserve for a walk.  It was sunny in Sacramento when I left the house, but was still foggy at the preserve (at least for a little while).  There wasn’t a lot to see today (it was in the 40’s ad a lot of the birds were huddled on the ground).  But I did get some photos of the tiny Dunlins, and I saw the Sora again and got a few photos of it.  I also got quite a few shots of an Eastern Red Squirrel munching on thistles; with its winter coat on, its ears had extra red fur on them that made them really stand out.  I was out there for about 2 hours and then headed back home.

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My Book’s Been Published!

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

I got a post-Christmas gift from the mail carrier this morning: an advance copy of my new book “The Chubby Woman’s Walkabout Guide to Cool Stuff on the American River”!

This is the first in a series of books I’m writing on the plant and animal species typically found along the American River in northern California.  It’s a pocket guide (about 4 x 6) that contains photos (all of which I took myself) of almost 200 species of galls, slime molds, fungi, lichen and insects.  Written with the everyday nature lover in mind, it provides basic information about each species, and during what time of the year you’re most likely to find them.  All of the photographs were taken with moderate- to low-end camera equipment that is more easily obtainable by every day folks.

Upcoming volumes will focus of plants and flowers, mammals, reptiles and amphibians and birds.

All of the proceeds from the sale of the books will be donated to nonprofit conservation organizations like the American River Parkway Foundation and Tuleyome.

To order your copy, CLICK HERE, or simply go to Lulu.com and search for “Mary K. Hanson”.

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

 

Mostly Eagles, But Some Other Critters, Too

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

I got up around 6:30 this morning, and turned on some lights in the kitchen and on the back porch so Waukegan could see well enough to use the doggie door and get outside.  Since I was up, I decided to stay up, and around 7:00 headed out with Sergeant Margie to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge again.  It was sunny but chilly all day; 34° when I left the house… It was really clear outside and all of the mountains were out, some with new snow on them.  The drive is a long one (about 90-minutes each way), but the nice weather makes it a lot easier.

I did the auto tour but didn’t walk any of the trails there (in part so I could keep the heater running in the car while I viewed the wildlife. Hah!)  I found the American Bittern again (in a different pond than I’d seen him in before), and when I was stopped taking photos of it, two otters climbed out of the water and ran across the path in front of me to the pond on the opposite side!  There was also a pairs of American Coots, that stepped out of the water near me.  They didn’t notice the car at first, so they came close enough for me to get some shots of their feet (which is their most interesting feature; they have lobed-toes).  When they realized the car was sitting there, they looked shocked and scuttled back into the water.  I also came across another Coot who was eating the intestines of some other critter.  They’re omnivorous; I’d seen Coots eating seeds and bugs and whatnot, but never saw one eating “meat” before.  I took some video of that one.

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I saw lots of Bald Eagles today including three adults and two juveniles (that looked like they were a year or two old).  One of the adults flew into a tree and perched above the road… then pooped on the car.  Hah!  How rude!  I also saw lots of the Red-Tailed Hawks, a Red-Shouldered Hawk and a gorgeous Peregrine Falcon along with White-Crowned Sparrows, Turkey Vultures, Northern Shovelers, White-Faced Ibis, Meadowlarks, White-Fronted Geese, Snow Geese, Ring-Necked Ducks, Black Phoebes, Ruddy Ducks, Bufflehead Ducks, Ravens, Green Teals, Mallards, some Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets and Pintail Ducks, etc.

After the tour, I took Sergeant Margie on a short walk and we had some lunch before heading back to Sacramento.

Mostly Pix of a Great Blue Heron on the River

Great Blue Heron. Copyright © 2015 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Great Blue Heron. Copyright © 2015 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

I went out to the American River Bend Park around 9:00 am, and it was still cold (about 35°).  The sun was out for a little bit, but then a thick overcast rolled in and covered it up.  I had gone on my walk with no real agenda in mind; just wanted the exercise and to see whatever Nature wanted to show me today.  Two people with dogs passed me on the trail and both of them remarked that there was a pair of coyotes behind them on the trail, stalking them, and that nothing seemed to intimidate them.  One guy described the pair as “brazen”.  Being the idiot that I am, I immediately turned around and went back along the trail to find the coyotes.  I never did find them, but I did get to see a lot of birds along the river’s edge, and also came across a large Mule Deer buck napping in among the trees.

Among the birds I saw were Bufflehead and Goldeneye Ducks, Great Blue Herons, seagulls, Snowy Egrets, Mallards, Lesser Goldfinches, a Spotted Sandpiper, a Belted Kingfisher, Oak Titmice, and lots of Turkey Vultures.  Some of the Vultures were sitting up in the trees, and  actually had frost clinging to some of their feathers.  Other vultures I saw were standing on the rocks in the river eating fish leftovers. One of the Great Blue Herons was also eating fish leftovers – including big segments of bones — from the rocks and stood and posed for me for almost 20 minutes.  Got LOTS of photos of that guy.

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In the non-animal realm, I also got some photos of rust fungus (Puccinia baccharis?) erupting out of the stems of a coyote brush.  I’d seen stem galls created by midges, wasps, and mites, but had never seen ones created by fungus before.  They were kind of cool: swellings in the stem filled with rust-colored spores that were erupting out through gaps in the wood…  Nature is so… variable.

I walked for about 2 ½  hours and by the time I headed back home it was in the 40’s.

33° at the Cosumnes River Preserve

Female American Kestrel. Copyright © 2015 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Female American Kestrel. Copyright © 2015 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

I got up around 6:30 this morning and headed out around 7:00 to do some grocery shopping and go over to the Cosumnes River Preserve for a walk.

It was a fingertip-freezing 33° at the preserve, so I kept my walk pretty short.  I’d dressed for the cold, but it still managed to get through my layers of clothes and into my bones.  Rattle-rattle- rattle…  The birds were apparently smarter than the humans, and were staying hunkered down in the tules and long grasses and were really difficult to spot.  I did come across a pair of kestrels – a male and a female – who were working on different sides of the road, several Turkey Vultures, and a Red-Shouldered Hawk, along with the usual ducks and geese. I did some gulls fighting over a duck carcass, and some Black-Necked Stilts horning in on a Northern Shoveler “feeding vortex” but nothing else outstanding or special.

Still, it was a nice – if exceedingly chilly – walk.  The sun was out, the air was fresh and cold, and you could see the mountains all along the horizon with their new blankets of snow…  Just lovely.

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Lots of Christmas Deer on Christmas Eve

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

Around 8:00 am, I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my walk.  It was about 44° and cloudy when I went out, and it sprinkle-rained all the while I was walking.  I had my umbrella with me, so I was okay, but I think the bright pink umbrella and my hoodied head confused a lot of the wildlife that was out there.  There were lots and lots of mule deer, for example, and a few of the females walked tentatively up to me to try to figure out what I was.  Hah!  One of the females was limping as she walked, and I noticed that one of her ankles was badly swollen.  I took some photos of her, and will let the preserve know that one of their resident deer is injured…  I saw large harems of the females – and got some video snippets of them moving through the preserve – along with three large bucks, and a younger “spike buck”.  Some of the females were in estrus, and the males stayed close to the harems, but they also stepped out of the thickets to check me out, so I got some really good photos of them.

I also came across a flock of wild turkeys and saw a “leucistic” one among them.  Not a true albino, it was mostly white but also had some dark coloring.  I guess, technically, it could be called a “diluted” turkey… It was really kewl-looking.

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I walked for about two hours and then headed back to the car.  Just as I got in, the clouds opened up and the sun came out.  What timing!

Here’s a video of the turkey:  https://youtu.be/zXSMM-obxUs