That Phainopepla was a Surprise, 09-29-18

I got up around :30 this morning and headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my walk. The weather was just how I like it: cool, in the 50’s, partly cloudy, a tiny bit breezy. Loved it!

The first thing I saw was a small herd of Columbian Black-Tailed Deer: all does and fawns. One of the fawns was the little one with the roughed-up neck that I’d seen several times before. The other two fawns were a little older, out of their spots but still “snack sized”. One of them was very jaunty. He was jumping and running all over the place. He tried to engage the other fawns, but they weren’t interested in his high-energy antics. After bouncing around for a while, the wired fawn took off like a shot across the preserve. I didn’t see him after that, but I’m assuming her found his way back to his mom.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I also came across two young (2-pointer) bucks who were play-sparring. I tried to get photos, and got a few, but the boys’ sparring matches were so short – one of them giving up almost immediately – if was hard to get any good head-butting photos.

There were also a lot of squirrels out today: California Ground Squirrels, Eastern Fox Squirrels, and Western Grey Squirrels. Most of them were either eating or caching nuts and acorns. It’s that time of year. At one spot, there was a female Eastern Fox Squirrel eating from the shrubs, unaware that in a tree right over her head there was a Red-Shouldered Hawk. The hawk saw the squirrel but didn’t go after it and flew off after a little while. In another tree nearby there were three Turkey Vultures trying to warm up before breakfast.

The surprise of the day was spotting a male Phainopepla near the river. That’s a kind of bird. The males are a shiny midnight blue color with red eyes and a stiff crest on the top of their head. I heard the bird first. It’s one of the few birds whose call I can mimic pretty well – mostly because it’s a single note. Hah! He called, I called, he called, I called… then I saw him flit away form the top of a tree, circle over my head and land back in the same spot again. I was able to get a few photos of him before he took off.

I walked for about 3 ½ hours, and then headed back to the house.

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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.