A Surprise from a Wood Duck

I actually went in to work a little late today because I needed to pick up some stuff from the Effie Yeaw Nature Center, but they don’t open until 9:00 am. They’d been shut down since the middle of last week because of flooding; the American River overflowed its banks right where they’re located, and submerged most of their nature trails. They also had some major trees downed by winds, including a huge Black Walnut tree just outside the center. Half of its branches were on the ground already, and more were threatening to fall.
Anyway, I worked a little bit from home, then went over to the nature center. I had left the house early expecting traffic to be hideous, but it actually wasn’t too bad, so I got to the center before they opened. I took the opportunity to walk for a little while on one of the shorter loop-trails right near the center, and got to see a lot of wildlife.

Last year, a pair of Red-Shouldered Hawks had built a successful nest in an oak tree right next to the nature center building… and mama hawk was out in that same tree sprucing up the nest for this year. It was so neat to see her back! Last year she had two offspring; I’m interested to see how many she has this year. (I could hear papa calling to her from another tree nearby, but couldn’t see him.)

CLICK HERE for an album of photos and video snippets.

While I was taking photos of the nest, a couple of Mule Deer does walked into view, some sparrows came to eat bugs off a nearby stump, and a fat ground squirrel came up and looked at me from behind a fallen log. A very “Disney-in-the-forest” moment. Then I heard some Acorn Woodpeckers clamoring overhead, so I looked up to see what they were upset about, and was surprised to see a handsome male Wood Duck sitting in their tree. I assumed he was up there guarding a female (that I couldn’t see) and was probably scoping out a possible nesting spot. Wood Ducks typically nest about 30 to 50 feet above the ground in trees or duck boxes. The woodpeckers were having a fit, though, and after a few minutes the female duck flew out from wherever she’d been hidden in the tree – with the male chasing right behind her – making a racket herself with her squeaking cries. They both flew over a field and out of view.

All that nature in just about 15 minutes. It really made me miss my walks! I haven’t been able to go much of anywhere for a couple of months because all of my favorite places have been flooded out… I saw some photos of the Cosumnes Preserve that showed water all the way up to the decks on their nature center building and in the landscape all around them. They have a lower parking lot and an upper parking lot adjacent to their nature center, and the lower parking lot was total submerged… Wow.

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Mary K. Hanson is a breast cancer survivor who, at age 61, took coursework to become a Certified California Naturalist. The author of “The Chubby Woman’s Walkabout”™ blog, Ms. Hanson has also written nature-based feature articles published in regional newspapers, authored over ten books, including her "Cool Stuff Along the American" series of guide books, and has had her photographs featured in books, articles, calendars, on the American River Parkway Foundation’s Instagram stream, and even the White House blog. This year Ms. Hanson is helping to launch and teach a new Certified California Naturalist course through Tuleyome, in partnership with the University of California and the Woodland Library, so members of the public can themselves become certified as naturalists in the state. All of the photos seen on her website were taken by Ms. Hanson herself (unless noted otherwise) with moderate- to low-end photographic equipment more easily affordable to the everyday nature enthusiast. She also occasionally leads photo-walks through the American River Bend Park for the public and is sometimes available for public speaking.