Egrets, Beaver Sign and a Deer with One Antler

It rained overnight and was mostly cloudy and drizzly on and off all day today.  I got up a little after 6:00 am and headed over to the American River Bend Park to see how the water levels are looking there.  I took an umbrella but only had to use it for a little while. And it’s on its last legs so it kept turning inside out all by itself, without any wind prompting it.  Time to get a new one…

Because it was chilly (about 45°) and mizzling, I didn’t get to see a lot of critters, but I did see more beaver-sign along the river – which has receded considerably.  In some places there is now the long swath of gravel before you get to the water. But in that swath is a lot of sand that got churned up and deposited when the river was raging, and a lot of debris: tree limbs, flotsam, garbage…

Anyway, back to the beaver stuff.  I found old scat, and another tree that had been gnawed almost all the way through.  What was weird was that under the spot where the beavers had been chewing the trunk was covered with white, frothy, almost rubbery stuff that looked like latex.  But cottonwoods don’t product latex.  So what was the stuff?  When I got home, I did some research and I think the beaver-wounded tree was suffering from “Alcohol Flux Syndrome” a bacterial infection that was probably living in the tree well before the beaver got to it.  One of the symptoms is white frothy foam that exudes from the bark and smells like fermentation…  This stuff actually had a faint odor to it but it was more like the smell of Elmer’s glue than fermentation…  When I touched it, it felt like rubber, and when I pulled a section away from the bark, you could see froth left behind on the tree…  Weird.

CLICK HERE for the entire album of photos and video snippets.

The manroot vines and pipevines are all going great guns and should be ready for the butterflies and caterpillars when they emerge (probably sometime later this month).  And there was one spot along the muddy bank where I thought I found bobcat tracks.  I was trying to get a photo of them, but the ground under my feet there was so slippery with muck that I couldn’t keep my balance.  I got a couple of shots, but you can’t really tell much from them.

At another spot, I came across a Great Egret and a Snowy Egret fishing in a still pond that had been left behind when the river receded.  Lots of tiny fish must’ve been trapped in the pool because I got video of the Snowy Egret catching about a dozen fish in less than two minutes.  I don’t know if the Great Egret was just super-picky about wat he’d eat or if he just sucked at fishing; I didn’t see him catch anything.  Both egrets were coming into their breeding plumage: long trailing and curling feathers down their back and over their tail.  So pretty.

I also came across a small herd of mule deer which included a buck that had lost one of his antlers. (They shed them this time of year.) The lack of symmetry didn’t seem to bother him or interfere with his ability to walk or graze, but it sure looked funny.

I walked for about 2 hours and then headed back home.

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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.