Mostly Bull Frogs, But Some Other Critters, Too on 05-29-17

Memorial Day.  I spent part of my day at the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve.  The weather was nice. It never got over 74º and there was a slight breeze blowing all day…

At the nature preserve I mostly got photos of Red Shouldered Hawks and Bullfrogs; no deer were around today.  I think the females are off having their babies.  We’ll probably see a lot of fawns in June and July…

See the complete album of video & pix here.

The Red Shouldered Hawk babies in the nest right next to the nature center are out of their white down and into their fledgling feathers.  I got some shots and video of one of them who, still sleepy, poked his head up from the side of the nest when he heard mom and dad screeching from other parts of the preserve.  He looked around and tried to track other birds with his eyes, then just sat there dozing.  Hey, it was still early!  I found another fledgling in a different part of the preserve that was just learning how to fly.  It parent was sitting in one tree, calling soft encouragement to it while it, in a nearby tree, fluttered along the branches.  It was tiring work for the young bird, and it had to stop and take breaks between each attempt to calm itself down, straighten its feathers and rest.

The bullfrogs were the other species of which I saw a lot. They were all over the place in the small ponds on the property.  I saw a lot of minnows and tadpoles, too.  Some of the minnows looked pregnant… One of the bullfrogs started singing, and I was able to get a little of video of that.  I know they’re invasive species, but I love that deep cello-like sound they make.

Among the other critters I saw today were California Scrub Jays, Acorn Woodpeckers, a pair of Mallards, a Black Phoebe singing from the top of the flagpole near the nature center, quite a few Mourning Doves, some Spotted Towhees, a female Common Merganser dozing on the riverbank, and a big ol’ Katydid nymph on a milkweed plant.

I also found a Tree Swallow’s nest and when I waited outside of it to get a photo of mom when she came out again, dad, sitting in a branch over my head, buzz-bombed me several times to get me to move away.  Hah!  While I was there, I saw a woman walk by with a ladder and asked her if she was checking out the nests.  She said the preserve had put up 14 new bird boxes and it was her job to keep an eye on them and count the number of eggs and chicks she found in them.  She stopped, took out her cellphone, and showed me photos: baby House Wrens, baby Tree Swallows, baby Western Bluebirds, and baby Oak Titmice.  What a neat job!  I would LOVE to be able to do that on one of Tuleyome’s properties.

During my walk, I was surprised to see a lot of Brodiaea flowers in bloom in the dry grass; bright purple-blue flowers with white centers. So pretty. And I found the big puffy white heads of Salsify that was going to seed. In that state, they look like humongous dandelions, but the seed-heads are as big as your hand. There were also some late-blooming Elegant Clarkia, Miniature Lupine, tarweed, St. John’s Wort, and deer weed flowering, but the Soap Root plants haven’t opened their buds yet.

There was lots of coyote scat on the trails – some of it pretty fresh – but I didn’t see any of the coyotes themselves…

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed back home.

It was Hit and Miss at the Refuges on Saturday

I was going to sleep in today, but the dogs got me up a little before 5:00 am, and then I couldn’t get back to sleep. So, I just got up and headed over to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge for the day.

When I drove into the refuge I saw a Turkey Vulture sitting on the edge of the sign at the mouth of the auto-tour. It let me walk up pretty close to get photos of it before it flew away. I think those are the coolest birds… I heard some Bitterns “pumper-lunking” but only saw a few in flight, and didn’t get any photos. The bullfrogs were doing their ninja thing, too: I could hear their deep cello-calls, but couldn’t see or photograph any of them…

Click here for the full album of photos and videos.

I did get some good photos of Clark’s Grebes and a few other birds, though.

There was a male Great Tailed Grackle in the tules around the permanent wetlands that was performing for the females. He went through a variety of different calls including its high-pitched “peep”, deep-throated “clap!” and loud echoing “yeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!” I got some video of him, but was interrupted a few times by other drivers along the trail who crept or rushed past my car. One lady parked right next to my car and yelled through the open window, “Did you see the owl?!” Uh, yes… but I’m trying to film a grackle right now… Guh!

I also came across a family group of otters, a mom and dad and two babies. They were one of the permanent ponds but moved so quickly, it was really difficult to get any clear shots of them. I did manage to get a little bit of video, though… until dad saw me, snorted loudly and turned his family around.

When I was done at the Sacramento refuge, I headed over to the Colusa one. I hadn’t been there in quite a while because they took the brunt of the flooding earlier in the year, and were closed to the public for months. It was kind of a waste to go there today, though, because now they’ve drained off a lot of the water (so the surrounding rice fields can have it), and most of it is just a big dirt hole with flowers growing here and there.

One pond was filled with dead carp – stinking bodies everywhere – and others that were slowly dying as the pond evaporates. The carp come up with the flood waters, and when the flood recedes, they get caught in-land and can’t get out. I was surprised that the refuge allows them to suffer slow deaths like that; surely there must be some way to collect them and relocate them.

Where there were spots in the refuge that still had water in them, the water was shallow, and the banks were overrun with water primrose… One interesting thing, though, was that in some of the waterless ponds there were crayfish chimneys, structures the crayfish make by piling up little balls of mud. The bottom of the chimney opens into water (when there is water), and the top opens to the air. They use them to hide in when they’re breeding and getting ready to lay their eggs…

My visit to the Colusa refuge was also kind of ruined because there was a biplane from one of the neighboring rice fields flying around. He’d circle over the refuge, fly down really low, and dump seeds and pesticides on the fields next door. The noise was horrible… You can’t “relax and enjoy nature” when there’s some guy buzz-bombing the place every few minutes. It was ugly… I won’t need to go back there at all for the rest of the year…

Back to the Cosumnes River Preserve, 05-18-17

DAY 13 OF MY VACATION. I got up around 6 o’clock this morning and headed out to the Cosumnes River Preserve. I was looking for damselflies and dragonflies; it’s early in the season but as the weather is turning warmer, I thought they should be starting to emerge… It got up to 85º today…

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos and videos.

At the preserve, I didn’t see a lot of dragon- or damselflies, but I did find a great example of exuvia – the exoskeleton left behind when a dragonfly leaves its aquatic body and emerges as a winged dragonfly. I was able to get a lot of close-up photos of it.  I also saw two garter snakes and got some photos of the Virginia Rail and she scurried back and forth getting bugs for her babies.  And for some reason there were a lot of crayfish all over the place; most of them in areas where the egrets and herons couldn’t get in to eat them. They must’ve figured out where it was safer… I also saw quite a few tiny Pacific Tree Frogs, and came across a small Tadpole snail.  I’m always surprised when I’m able to catch sight of the teeny stuff like that…

When I got to the preserve its was 54º, but by the time I left it was already 76º — which is “too hot” for walking.  I walked for about 4 ½ hours… and was exhausted by the time I got back home. My feet and ankles just can’t take walks that long anymore…