All Sorts of Critters Were Out Today! 07-30-17

I got up around 5:30 and headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve.  The sun was just coming up as I got there.

When I first started walking the trail, I could hear Wild Turkeys in the trees around me, so I looked for them.  They were waaaaaaaaay the heck up in the trees, about 60 or 70 feet up squeaking and gibbering at each other.  They’re not super strong fliers, but they can travel short distances when they want to.  As they came out of the trees, though, I could hear them crashing through leaves and branches.  One zoomed right over my head and landed (not too gracefully) in a tree down the trail from me.

Click Here for the full album of photos and video snippets.

As I was walking down another part of the trail, I saw two fawns hiding in the branches of some low-growing tree, so I stopped to look at them.  They were caught between being scared and being curious. One would inch its way forward and then retreat while the other stuck its nose out toward me to check my scent… I went around the side of the trees – but slowly, haltingly, because I didn’t want to startle them – and saw their mom coming toward me from across a shallow field.  She had left her kids in the shade while she browsed.  When the fawns saw her, they ran right up to her and started to nurse. So cute!  I got a little video of that.  Then. While the babies were out n the open, I took a bunch of photos of them.  Their mom wasn’t too sure about my camera, so she maneuvered herself in between me and her kids, and then walked them back toward the trees.  She then went around behind me and across the trail – and the fawns went running and stotting after her.  Made my morning.

Right after I saw them, a mother Wild Turkey came down the trail with her fledgling poult. Just the one; I’m assuming she lost the others.  There are a lot of coyotes around there.  In fact, as I was heading out of the preserve later, I saw one of the docents standing in front of the nature center. “You just missed a great shot,” she said.

“Mother and fawn?” I asked.

“Mother chasing a coyote away from her fawn!”

Whoa.

I came across other deer, including another female with one fawn that was a little older than the spotted twins but still “snack sized”.  And I saw two bucks in their velvet. I was able to get some photos of one of them, but the other one bolted as soon as he saw me.

Lot to Fox Squirrels and California Ground Squirrels around. It seemed like every Fox Squirrel I saw was chewing through the hide of a black walnut. One of the Ground Squirrels was makings its loud chirp!-chirp!-chirp! alarm call.  There was actually a Siamese cat out there, stalking it. The cat gave up, though, when the squirrel kept up its racket.

I got to see and get some photos of a Flame Skimmer dragonfly as well as a blue Pondhawks, and also found my first Saucer and Spiny Turban galls of the season.  More wasp galls should be making their appearance over the next month or so.

So I got to see a lot of different things on my 3 ½ hour walk, then I headed back home.

Looking for Grebes; Found Just About Anything But

I was out the door with Sergeant Margie by about 4:00 am, and drove out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge by way of the gas station and Jack’s.

I got to the refuge just as the sun was coming up, and as I got out of the car Great Blue Herons lurched out from the tops of the surrounding trees where they’d roosted for the night and flew off over my head… and one small bat came flitting around me to check me out. I didn’t get pictures of them, of course, because it was too dark and they moved too fast… As the sub came up, so did the temperatures and by 9:00 am it was already in the 80’. The car did NOT like the heat, and neither did I…

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos from today.

I was hoping the Clark’s and Western Grebes would be doing some courtship stuff, but they were uncooperative. I saw the Great Horned Owls, but they were sitting on top of a distant fence with their backs to me. (So rude! Hah!) And I came across a huge gathering of Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets, but they were behind thick blinds of tules, and I couldn’t get the camera to see through and past the tules to the birds… So that was frustrating…

At one old scraggly tree I came across a bunch of young Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows jousting with each other. They were out catching the early morning bugs over the water and would go to the tree to rest… and argue with one another over who go what branch. This extended into a nearby willow tree where the scuffling continued… While I was watching them I caught sight of a young male Hairy Woodpecker who was testing out his navigation skills. He was pretty scruffy-looking, but seemed to be able to get around okay…

There were dragonflies, damselflies and big orb-weaver spiders everywhere, which is typical for this time of year, but among them I was surprised to get my very first photo of a Twelve Spotted Skimmer dragonfly. I’d seen Eight Spotted Skimmers before, but not a Twelve Spotted one… and I’d never seen any of the spotted skimmers at the refuge before. Usually, I only see them around Lake Solano. They usually seem to be in constant motion, which makes getting a photos of them hard for me. This Twelve Spotted one was parked on the top of a tule among a “flock” of Variegated Meadowhawks, so I quickly got as many picture of it as I could.

Among the birds out there today, I was also surprised to get my first still shot close-up of a Common Tern. (I think it was a Common one; I’m not very good at telling some of them apart.) I got a few good photos of a young Black-Crowned Night Heron who was fishing among the cattails and reeds, some late-in-the-season Snow Geese drifting on the water (juvenile and an adult), and a very cooperative juvenile Mourning Dove. She was sitting in the shade on a ranch near the viewing platform, and stayed right where she was while I got some close-ups of her. The doves have such lovely faces…

I also got some photos of a Great Egret sitting on top of a dead tree. It gaped while I was watching it so I got some photos of its tongue. Heron tongues are so weird-looking. Toward the back, where they attach in the throat, they’re flat, but near the front are arrowhead-like projections which help hold prey in the mouth and allow the birds to use the arrowhead like mini-trowels and shove the prey back from the front of the beak into the gullet…

I headed out of the preserve by about 10 o’clock and was back to the house by noon.