Big Bucks and Tiny Termites, 11-10-17

A little after 6:00, I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.  It was partly cloudy and around 55º outside when I got there, but the cloud cover intensified while I was there.

CLICK HERE to see the entire photo album.

As I entered the preserve, I saw a doe and her fawn right off the bat, and was able to see more mamas with single babies along the trails. One of the mamas was looking kind of thin to me; I worried that maybe she wasn’t getting enough to feed herself and make milk for her fawn.  The fawn made me smile. He’d walk for a while then settle himself down in the grass to rest… and mama would walk up and poke him in the butt with her nose to make him get back onto his feet and walk some more.  I saw them do this three or four times before the baby won and just stayed seated in the grass – with mom browsing nearby. Hah!

At another spot I saw a 2-pointer buck in the tall grass, and as I moved a little bit closer to where he was, I saw a doe and a 4-pointer buck in the same area. The 4-pointer was very cooperative and posed for some photos. The 2-pointer was less cooperative and eventually just sat down in the grass. I guess he figured there was no way he was going to be able to compete with the larger male.

There were a lot of regular-suspects birds out today including Spotted Towhees, Turkey Vultures, Acorn Woodpeckers, European Starlings, Mourning Doves, and wrens… There are a couple of bat boxes set up on posts in the preserves, and on one of them an Acorn Woodpecker was trying to bang holes in it.  If there were bats roosting in there, their little heads must have been throbbing!

Beth S., an awesome photographer who is also a Facebook friend, said she might be out at the preserve today, too.  I didn’t see her until I was working my way out of the place, but met up with her around the trail closest to the nature center. She was trying to get photos of an Oak Titmouse – one of my “nemesis birds”; I hardly ever get a decent photo of those little guys, they move so quickly.  While we were there, a Red-Shouldered Hawk flew into a nearby tree, so Beth went to see if she could get a shot of it from a better angle. While she was doing that, I noticed little insects flying around slowly here and there, and recognized their flight as that of the winged-version of termites.  When the termite mound has reached a saturation point, winged kings and queens take off to mate and find new places to establish their own mounds. The weather today was perfect for a flight… not too hot or too cold, no wind, not too wet…

At first I couldn’t see where the termites were coming from, but then I noticed that several different kinds of birds were gathering around a fallen tree and stump: Oak Titmice, Dark-Eyed Juncos, Northern Flickers and Ruby Kinglets (!).  So I went back down the trail to check out that area… and found that the termites were emerging from the little stump.  Cool!  I got several photos of them and some photos of the birds, too… And then Beth came back saying she’d gotten some good photos of the hawk.  I showed her where the termites were so she could take some photos, too, if she wanted to, and then headed out of the preserve.

I walked for about 4 hours today. Phew!

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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.