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.

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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.