A Frosty Morning Walk, 02-06-19

Around 7:30 am I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.  It was a very chilly 31°when I got there, and there were some areas where everything was covered with a heavy frost.  I was glad my heavier coat was in the back seat of the car! There were only a few people on the trails as I was walking, including a small group of birders with binoculars and a spotting scope. I tried to avoid them as much as I could so I wouldn’t interfere with whatever it was they were trying to view.

Early along on my walk, I watched a pair of loudly honking Canada Geese fly over my head, circle around, and then land in two different trees along the trail. I’d never seen the geese perch in trees before, so I tried to get a closer look at them.  I think they were maybe an adult and a juvenile, and the juvenile had gotten tired of flying and couldn’t fly anymore.  He was on the tree closest to me; I could see that his face-patches, which are bright white on the adults, was sort of light gray (which is why I assumed he was a juvenile), and he seemed exhausted. Geese aren’t really made to perch in trees, and he was fumbling around a bit on the stump he’d chosen to land on.  The other goose was higher up in another tree across from him.  They honked at each other, back and forth, for several minutes. Then they took off in tandem and flew over to the river side where they landed once more on the rocky shore. I’m hoping these are resident geese that can go live on the lawns of the golf course and aren’t migrating anywhere. They younger goose couldn’t manage any kind of long-time flying…

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos.

I also watched a young Eastern Fox Squirrel running around on a cottonwood tree. At several points, the squirrel stopped, held onto the bark with its hind legs, and extended its front legs out in front of it away from the tree.  It looked like he was doing an augmented form of “planking”, using gravity to stretch his back out. I’d never seen that behavior before either, so that was two “firsts” for the day.

Further along the trail, I crossed paths with the birding group, and they pointed out a male Downy Woodpecker to me that I would have missed if they hadn’t shown it to me.  So, thanks for that.

Around the same area, I saw a Red-Tailed Hawk that was first sitting on the top of a tree and then joining the Turkey Vultures in their winding “kettle” flight up along the warm air drafts.  Below them, in another tree, was a Red-Shouldered Hawk.  At first I thought it was blind in one eye or missing eye. Closer inspection of the photos I took of it proved, though, that its right eye was just surrounded by gunk. So, it might have had an infection, but it still had its eye.

I saw a lot of deer again today, small herds of about 10 to 12 deer each in different parts of the preserve.  The adult males are still sporting their antlers, and I saw quite a few 3- and 4-pointers out there.  I also saw a young male that just had little nubbies where his first-year antlers had been’ one of the pedicles looks raw, so I assumed that he’d probably had his antlers knocked off very recently. He also had an oddly formed face, like his nose had been broken at one point or something. He had a visible underbite; his bottom jaw and teeth protruding beyond his upper row of teeth. A very distinctive-looking boy.

Even though it was chilly outside, I really enjoyed the fresh air and the movement. The only thing that was temporarily was aggravating was the fact that my camera stalled out and wouldn’t take multiple shots in a burst after about an hour or so.  That usually happens when the data card is too full to process anymore incoming information. So, I had to replace the original data card with a back-up one I had in my bag. My back up card was still in its packaging, though, so I had to struggle opening it up – with cold fingers, and the tiny knife on my keychain. Ugh!  Once I got the cards switched out, I was able to continue to take photos without interruption.

As I was going out of the park, there were truckloads of kids around the nature center, some of them screaming and running around. I heard two of their chaperones yell, “Leave the turkeys alone!!” and could hear the Wild Turkeys gobbling excitedly.  I went closer to where the turkeys were – intending to protect them from the children – just as the chaperones got their heinous charges under control and were walking away from where three gobblers were standing.  Once the kids were gone – out through the front of the preserve and across the road to an open field – the turkeys settled down and walked up to the doors of the learning center where they (once more) started strutting and posturing to their reflections in the glass doors.

After a few minutes, a small group of seniors came up and stood behind me to watch the birds. One of them said, “Oh, look. They’re looking for food.”  I explained that, no, they’re “in strut”, and then explained how the males posture, fan their tails, drop their wing feathers to the ground… what the snood on the face was… why their faces looked blue/white and their caruncles were bright red… A teaching moment. The seniors all got their phones out and started taking photos of the birds. All the while, the turkeys moved in and out of bright sunlight, making the feathers on their bodies gleam with copper, orange and green iridescence. They’re really quite beautiful.

All in all, I walked for about 3 hours before heading 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.