Vacation Day #1: American River Bend Park

DAY ONE OF MY FALL VACATION. I got up around 6:15 this morning and headed out to the American River Bend Park for a walk.

I hadn’t been over there for a while, and was kind of surprised to see that much of the tall dry grass in the park had been mowed down, and trees trimmed everywhere.  In all the years I’ve been going there, I’d never seen the place look so “manicured”.  The wildlife didn’t seem to mind…

CLICK HERE for a full album of photos and video snippets.

I missed a couple of opportunities for photos when I first drove in. There was a trio of mule deer does by the side of the main trail but they startled and ran off before I could get my camera out of it bag. And then I came across a coyote, who loped away from me, I front of the car before ducking off the trail into the underbrush, where I lost sight of it…. Oddly enough, I came across it again as I was leaving the park but again, it was ahead of me on the trail, so all I got were photos of it from the rear.  It was a young female, I think; lean but healthy-looking. There was a lot of fresh scat on different parts of the trail, too, so I know there’s more than just the female out there…

We’re sort of “between seasons” right now at the park, so there was only a smattering of wildlife to see… and no fungi out yet, except for the Sulphur Shelf.  I found two nice specimens of that.

The Western Bluebirds were in the park, pairing up for the winter, as well.  I saw a lot of little males vying for perching spots, and a couple of females.  The males’ blue coloring is always so, kind of, “shocking” against the yellow-tan of the dead grass and the dark green of the evergreen oaks… I also got a few nice shots of Oak Titmice and a Mourning Dove, a couple of crummy shots of a Yellow-Rumped Warbler, and some photos and a video snippet of a female Northern Flicker eating blue elderberries from the trees.  On rocks in the river, I saw some Killdeer, a young Herring Gull, several sleepy female Common Mergansers, and a Spotted Sandpiper (without its breeding spots). And on the shore, I got a few photos of White-Crowned Sparrows, some Black Phoebes, and a House Finch.

The ash trees were covered in seeds… and some of those odd crumpled-ball-like galls that the mites roust up.  There wasn’t a lot of fall color out there, yet. It hasn’t been cold enough.  What was colorful, though, was a handsome Western Fence Lizard I came across. He must have just shed, because his skin was really bright and shiny. He was standing up on top of a fence post, so I could see his yellow sides and bright blue belly…

I walked for about 3½  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.