Sunday at the American River, 10-09-16

I was up and out the door before 6:30 this morning, and headed for the American River Bend Park.  I wasn’t looking for anything in particular; I just needed to get out and walk.

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos.

As we’re sort of “between seasons” right now – the cold weather hasn’t moved in yet – and the bird migrations have just started, there wasn’t a whole lot to see but I managed to get some photos anyway.  I was kind of surprised by the late-season Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly chrysalises I found along the trail (still green, they’re so new).; and one of them was particularly tiny, so if it survives the winter, the emerging butterfly is going to be unusually small.

It was in the 50’s when I started my walk, and the temperature difference between the air and the water caused parts of the river to develop their own tiny fog banks in some spots. It other areas, it looked the river was “steaming”.

There were quite a few “fall galls” to see including some Pumpkin Galls, late-season Goldenrod galls, and twig galls on the Coyote Brush.  This time of year, too both the male and female Coyote Brush bushes are in bloom so I was able to get photos of their distinctive flowers.  Female flowers are longish and fluffy; male flowers are short an stubby. Besides their male and female flowers, another fun fact about Coyote Brush is that it’s a chaparral plant that is part of the sunflower family, even though it doesn’t look anything even remotely like a sunflower. They also have a natural fire retardant in their leaves that helps them fend off wildfires (for a little while). Pretty cool, huh?

This is the time of year for acorns, too, and although I didn’t come across a lot of them, they were visible, especially on the Live Oak trees.  I didn’t see too many birds, though… mostly the ubiquitous Canada Geese, but I did get to see a female Common Merganser doing stretches in the water, and a tiny Spotted Sandpiper (that wasn’t in its breeding spots) bobbing along the rocks.  There was a Belted Kingfisher, too, but she kept herself to the other side of the river, so although I was able hear her chattering away, I wasn’t able to get any clear photos of her. I’m seeing photos on Facebook of lots of the migrating birds coming to our area, and I’m making note of where they’re seen, so I can do a “tour” of the surrounding areas and get as many photos as I can during my vacation.

I walked for about 2 hours and then headed back to the car.

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Mary K. Hanson is an author, nature photographer and Certified California Naturalist living with terminal cancer.