A Beaver Sighting… and Other Critters, 12-23-17

I gave the dog his breakfast and let him out to go potty, then I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.  It was about 38º when I got there, and about 48º when I left.  Anything around 50º is actually a really pleasant walking temperature. As I was walking through the preserve, I saw a large group of people moving along other trails around me.  I think it might have been from their naturalist class, but I’m not sure. The group was moving very quickly and making a lot of noise, so I bet they didn’t get to see much of anything on their too-quick, too-loud hike… When I lead my naturalists groups out into the field, we’re going to move super-slowly and keep the chatter down…

Here is the album of photos and video snippets from today.

There were a lot of deer out today.  I saw one of the bucks reaching up into a tree to try to snag some of the still-tender leaves from it. It stood up on its hind legs, ad used one its front legs to brace itself against the tree as it reached up.  I tried to get photos and video of it, but he was too obscured by grass and twiglets and the camera didn’t know what to focus on.

In the meadow area, the big 4-pointer buck was holding court. There were three younger bucks in the meadow along with two does (one looking very pregnant) and a fawn. The younger bucks were challenging each other, but when the big 4-pointer walked up to them, none of them even tried to challenge him. They just backed down or turned away.

A little further up the trail, I saw the buck I’d seen several times before sitting among the tall weeds and twigs. He’s the one who has one foreshortened antler. The last time I saw him, he still had his tall antler intact and been wrestling with the other young bucks.  Today, though, he looked thoroughly beaten. His tall antler was broken off, and the whole top of his head looked like it had beaten down to the skull.  He was still alive and wasn’t “bloodied”, and his eyes looked clear, but he’d obviously taken an horrible beating at some point over the week.

As I was walking along the river side, I saw what I first thought was a log floating in the water. But then I realized the “log” was moving against the current, not with it, so I rushed (as fast as my chubby body will rush, hah!) down closer to the shore and realized it was beaver swimming in the water!  I tracked it upstream, and where it came close to the shore on my side of the river, then it made a sharp right and swam across the river to the other side.  I was hoping to be able to see it come up onto the river bank, but I lost track of it when it ducked under the surface.  So neat to see one of those guys, though!  I got several video snippets of it along with some photos.

Walking back downstream, I saw that the Great Blue Heron I’d seen there a week or so ago had returned and was dozing in its favorite spot.  It flew off before I could get around to the front of it to get some better photos, but then I was able to see a teenage Turkey Vulture and its parent eating some dead salmon on a sandbar – with a Herring Gull standing around looking for handouts.  I knew one of the vultures was a teenager because, although it was fully fledged, it’s beak hadn’t turned completely white yet.  While I was video-taping the birds, I also noticed a tiny Spotted Sandpiper, run up behind them and then flit away.

When I stopped to try to get a photo of a Red-Breasted Sapsucker, it flew off just as a Red-Shouldered Hawk flew down into the tree across the trail from me. It was literally at eye-level and only about 20 feet away from me. It was partially obscured by a branch, but it was still neat to see one that close.

As I was leaving the preserve, I saw another Red-Shouldered Hawk sitting on the ground.  I think it had gone after a vole or something and then the vole ducked underground… As I approached the bird, it flew up into a tree, and I was able to get some photos of it before it took off over the preserve.

I walked for about 3 ½ hours and head 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.