Vacation Day #10: Birds, Bucks and a Bambi

DAY TEN OF MY FALL VACATION… I slept in until about 6:00 am and immediately headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve again.  It was 43º at the river when I got there; there was also low fog on the ground for a while. By the time I left it was in the low 60’s…

At the refuge, I was surprised to see two pairs of Red Shouldered Hawks building up their nests; it seemed like kind of a weird part of the year for them to be doing that.  One was the pair that regularly keeps a nest right beside the nature center; and the other nest was located along the Pond Trail at the #48 water spigot, right across from where the bee hive was. (The queen and her troop have moved on and are no longer nesting in the tree.) I got to see both pairs of birds going back and forth, collecting grass and twigs for the nests and building them up. Red-Shouldered Hawks usually start breeding when they’re 2 years old, and pairs stay together for life.  Both males and females are involved in nest construction, and the process can take up to 5 weeks. Everything I’ve read say the hawks only have one clutch per year – and they usually have them in the spring at the preserve… That’s why I think it’s so odd to see them building their nests now, in October.

I was hoping to be able to see some of the Mule Deer bucks at the preserve. This time of year, they’re in rut and have their full racks of antlers.  Well I kind of hit the jackpot at one spot along the trail. I found one two-pointer buck standing in the tall grass and browsing, and as I watched him, I realized that there were two larger bucks sitting down in the grass near him.  I could see their antlers, but it was difficult to see their heads or any other part of their bodies; there was one two-pointer and one three-pointer.  As I was watching them, the guy who does the regular deer-count at the preserve came by.  I pointed out the bucks to him and he was very appreciative; he would’ve walked right past them if I hadn’t told him where they were.

Later on, I also came across a young doe and her new fawn. The little guy was still in his spots. He was pretty good at keeping himself at a distance from me and ducking for cover, but his mom didn’t seem very attentive. I worry that the little guy will get taken by coyotes because his mom isn’t keeping a good eye on him. There was an older fawn that was hanging around the mom and her baby, too, but I don’t know if he belonged to the same family or not. The mom wouldn’t let him get close enough to her to nurse, but otherwise didn’t seem interested in him…

Along with the regular contingency of Acorn Woodpeckers at the preserve, I also got to see Hairy Woodpeckers and a Nutthall’s Woodpecker today. The male Phainopepla was also hanging around, so I got to see him for a little bit, too. Oher birds seen today included Mourning Doves, European Starlings, California Scrub Jays, California Towhees, a Mockingbird, some American Robins, Northern Flickers, and a small contingency of Lesser Goldfinches drinking from a water fountain…

Here are some pix and videos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhnaturalist/albums/72157689533852116

 I walked around for about 3 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.