Leeches! 06-27-18

I got to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve around 6:30 am and it was 56º; shirt-sleeve weather. I love it. The first thing I saw when I went into the preserve was a pair of Black Phoebes. A mama was feeding bugs to her fully-fledged offspring. What a spoiled kid! Hah!  Then I saw a long, dark slug making its way slowly across the trail. I was kind of surprised by how long it was. I don’t know enough about snails and slugs to properly identify it. (That’ll be my homework for the next day or so.)

The real close-encounter-of-the-slimy-kind came a little later when I was near the restoration pond on the trail. I found a Red-Eared Slider Turtle there. I think she’d come up to lay her eggs. When I got closer to her, I realized she was covered in LEECHES — and some of the leeches had babies. They were on her shell and in around her face and head. I tried pulling them off, but they were tough, so I got out my Yolo County Library key fob thing and used that to successfully scrape them off.

While I was doing that a small family group — mother, grandmother and 2 little girls — came up and asked what I was doing. So, I showed them the leeches and the turtle and explained how the leeches live, what kind of turtle it was, what an invasive species was, how turtles lay their eggs, etc. It was a cool teaching moment. The mom and grandma had their cell phones out and were taking photos and video. While I was talking about the turtle, she stretched her neck out so they could see her red “ears” and her toenails. They were all so excited about that.

None of the ladies had ever seen a live leech before and didn’t realize that leeches are found in a lot of the waterways around here. The adults thought they were cool; the kids thought they were super gross. Hah!  Here are some of the videos I took just before the family showed up:

Leeches video 1: https://youtu.be/i4ptncDfPo4

Leeches video 2: https://youtu.be/_9wsmvDeVsA

And here are the photos from todayhttps://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhnaturalist/albums/72157696783328501

On another part of the trail I could hear a Red-Tailed Hawk making is distinctive screeling sound from the top of a tree.  I located her and realized she had some fledglings in the tree with her. I couldn’t get any photos of the juveniles because they were in a part of the tree that was very leafy, and the leaves obscured them.  I got the distinct impression, though, that their mom did NOT like me being so close to their tree.  She flew in circles over my head several times and landed in the bare branches of other nearby trees, screaming and screaming. I was able to get a lot of photos of her – and in most of them she’s vocalizing, mouth wide open.

I had to abbreviate my walk because I got a call saying the handyman who was scheduled for 2:00 pm today was actually going to show up around 9:30 am.

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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.