Mostly Squirrels, 02-28-17

It was so pretty outside, I felt compelled to go walk somewhere for a little while after my meeting. So I went over to William Land Park.  I couldn’t get near the ponds — they’re under construction, getting cleaned out and replanted — which was kind of a bummer.  But the critters don’t care that fences are up, so they were in the water: ducks, geese, a cormorant, lots of turtles… I also got a lot of photos of squirrels, which are always fun to watch.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Hawks, Deer and a Handsome Turkey

Up at 6:30 am again.  It was colder today (32° when I headed out), but we didn’t have any rain.  Overcast broke up by the afternoon to show off blue sky, brought sunshine and a few fluffy clouds…

I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my walk today, and for the first two hours pretty much had the whole place to myself.  It was cold enough so there was still frost on the ground, and as the sun came up further in the sky, fog developed close to the ground in some places… I had on a long-sleeved shirt and a jacket, but had to keep my hands in my pockets as I walked to keep them warm; only taking them out when there was something to photograph.

CLICK HERE to see the full album.

I was greeted by a Spotted Towhee and then heard the Red-Shouldered Hawks screeching, so I went to check out their nest.  I think they have nestlings already – because mom doesn’t sit non-stop – and I saw her leave the nest and come back with a snake… which may have been her own breakfast snack, but I think she was feeding babies.  Because of the way the nest sits up in its tree, I can’t see down into the nest… so I can’t see any babies until they get big enough to lift their heads up over the side of the nest…  But mama is always fun to watch (and papa was right nearby, too), so I think I was standing under their tree for 15 or 20 minutes, just watching and listening to them…

Then I heard a ruckus in a nearby tree and saw some Acorn Woodpeckers trying to oust a European Starling from “their” tree.  The Starling was pretty brazen, flying to and from the tree, ducking into a nest hole and daring the Woodpeckers to touch her.  One of the Woodpeckers kept poking its head into the hole, trying to stab and harass the Starling but the Starling wasn’t budging…  I came across a few other Starling nest-holes along my walk. They seemed to be all over the place…

I also got to see California Towhees, a couple of Northern Flickers, Golden-Crowned Sparrows, and Mourning Doves.

At one point along the trail, I came across a small herd of mule deer (mostly moms and their kids) and a flock of female Wild Turkeys.  I stood in one spot and got photos from all around me.  It was neat; 360° nature.  As I was taking photos, a buck (sans antlers) walked into view and a male Wild Turkey came up the trail in full strut…  I got quite a few good shots of everyone. Some of the deer were pretty scruffy-looking, almost “mangy”, but I think they’re shedding their winter coats right now…  I also got to see some California Ground Squirrels and tree squirrels along the way.

I walked for about 3 hours (which is pretty much my limit), and headed back to the house, stopping at BelAir and picked up some stuff for lupper.

Lots of Beaver Sign at the American River

I got up around 6:30 this morning and headed over to the American River Bend Park to see how things were there… The river was actually higher than it was the last time I was there.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos and video snippets.

When I went into the park, I saw something bright in a distant tree that I thought might be an owl or other large bird, so I stopped off in the turn-around the fishermen usually use to get a better view.  It was just a bent branch with dead leaves on it (a veritable “stick-bird” sighting), but since I’d parked and gotten out of the car anyway, I decided to walk down the trail there to the river to see how high the water was.  It was so high that 90% of the trail was under water!  Wow!  I took a little bit of video, and then went to check out what looked like beaver sign to me…

Sure enough, an old cottonwood tree on the now-riverside-bank of the river had been chewed up by beavers. You could see all the spat-out chunks around the tree, and the beavers’ teeth marks in the wood.  I was able to get right next to the tree, so I could get some good shots of the wood… and I also found beaver scat, which I had never seen “live” before.  It looks like little round balls of chunky sawdust.  When the river was at its drought-stage, the beavers never came up this close to the parking areas.  But now that the river is so high, they’re right up close.  I didn’t get to see any today  — I need to get out there a lot earlier – but it was cool to see the chewed up bits and the scat anyway.

The pipevines and Manroot vines are all starting to grow throughout the park, and I came across one lonely female Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, but she was pretty wet and cold (it was about 43° at the river), so I don’t know if she’ll make it.  I pulled her out of the wet grass and propped her up in the crook of a tree to dry off and warm up in the rising sun.  (Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies are toxic to birds, so there was no danger in putting her out where birds could spot her.)  I saw quite a bit of Henbit out there in the tall grass, along with stinging nettle, mugwort, horehound, and miner’s lettuce.  All of those plants will really assert themselves over the next month…

At one point on my walk, I accidentally flushed out a large covey of quails.  One of the females stopped for a moment, so I was able to get a few quick shots of her.  They’re such pretty, funny-looking birds; they always make me smile.  I also saw a female Common Merganser, some California Towhees, European Starlings, Acorn Woodpeckers, California Scrub Jays, Tree Swallows and Wild Turkeys.   I also came across quite a few mule deer (singles or in small family groups)… Not too much in the way of fungi today, but I did come across some brown jelly fungus, Haymaker and Deershield mushrooms, and some Elfin Saddles. Then I found a big swath of Ink Cap Mushrooms and got some photos and video of them.

I walked around for about 3 hours and then headed home. On my way out of the park, I came across some mules deer who were walking past some dozing Wild Turkeys, and while I was getting a little video of them, a tree squirrel stopped in the shot – and the deer started too poop… so there was a little bit of nature-overload in that moment.  Hah

Mostly Deer and Some Birds Today

It’s supposed to rain all weekend, “one of the worst storms yet”, the weather-people keep telling us, but although it was overcast, it wasn’t raining when I got up around 6:30 am.  So, I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve again to see if they were open, and if I could walk around there a bit.

Most of the trails there were open, except for the one that lead down to the river… because it was UNDER the river.  I was astonished to see how far up the water had come.  There’s a bench along one of the trails that looks out onto the river trail.  I’ve often sat there during my walks at the preserve because it’s a spot where there’s usually a lot of deer and wild turkeys.  Normally, the bench looks out over a series of shallow plateaus and a green knoll, that step down like gigantic steps from the bench area, down and down, hundreds and hundreds of feet toward the river. Usually, all you can see from the bench are the gravelly plateaus and trees, and maybe a tiny sliver-glimpse of the river so far away…  Today, the river was right up near the bench.  And I could see debris along the trail left behind when the river rose up farther, dumped stuff around the trees and then receded again.  Nature is so amazing – and scary.

Anyway, even though it was drizzling a tiny bit and I sometimes had to open my umbrella to keep the camera dry, I got to see quit a few things this morning.  As soon as I walked into the preserve, I could hear light squeaks coming from near the tree where the Red-Shouldered Hawks’ nest was, so I went over there to investigate, thinking maybe one of the hawks had caught something…  I was half right.  The male hawk and caught the female and was mating with her, right out there in front of God and everybody.  Hah!  They were in a tree right over my head, and I wasn’t able to get any photos of “the act” but I did manage to get some pictures afterwards, when they were both sitting on different branches of the tree, doing some post-coital feather-straightening.  Then mama flew off to the nest and sat there for a while.

CLICK HERE for an album of photos and video snippets.

I also saw a lot of other birds like California Towhees, a White-Breasted Nuthatch, Acorn Woodpeckers, Golden-Crowned Sparrows, Spotted Towhees, European Starlings, California Scrub Jays, and a flock of Wild Turkeys.  But the big deal today was the number of Mule Deer I came across.  I think the high water has crowded them all into the preserve, so they seemed to be everywhere.  Lots of does and yearlings (no little babies yet), and some young bucks that were shedding their antlers (so their headsets were wonky or were missing the antlers on one side).  I came across a fairly large herd of the deer – maybe 15 or so – in one area by the trail, so I stopped to take pictures of them and some video snippets.  While I was doing that, I suddenly heard, “snort, snort snort!” from behind me, so I turned around and there, right on the side of the trail, was a handsome two-pointer buck.  I think he didn’t know what to make of my red-and-white polka-dotted umbrella and had walked up to investigate.  If I hadn’t turned around, I’m sure he would have reached out with his snout and touched it…  I took some photos of him, and then moved on little bit, so he had enough room to decide which way to go from there. He walked off to my right through the woods, but kept an eye on me…

I walked through the preserve for about 2 hours, and then headed back to the house stopping at BelAir to pick up some groceries on the way.  When I got home, Marty was up and had coffee brewing… and the rain clouds were just starting to darken outside.

It was a nice morning.