Lots of Behaviors – and Fawns, 07-30-19

I got up about 5:00 am this morning and immediately headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my Monarch Larvae Monitoring Project and Trail Walking volunteer work. My friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne, came along. It was about 60° when we got there and was around 77° when we left.  A relatively mild morning for summer, weatherwise.

I know it’s a productive trail walking day when I come home with over 1100 photos in my camera. So much to see today! 

Well, we didn’t see actually anything worth reporting on our milkweed plot (except that is smelled like something had urinated there), but on some of the plants in the other plots we found lots and lots of Green Lacewing eggs, a large spider, some Ladybeetles and lot of Oleander Aphids.  We also found a katydid nymph who was in her “teenage” instar.  Her wings weren’t fully developed yet, and she was missing a hopper leg, so she was kind of clumsy on the plant. 

We knew it was a female by its pronounced tan-colored ovipositor on the end of its abdomen.  The adult females lay eggs in rows, one stacked against the other and sort of glues them down onto rough twigs to secure them in place.  All of the katydids we’re seeing now will only live for the season and will probably all be dead by October, so they have to work fast.  And just a fun fact about these little critters: both the males and the females can make sounds with their wings and legs, and they “hear” through tympanic membranes in the knees of their front legs!

When we were working on the milkweed plants, we could hear the wild Turkeys “complaining” from a nearby hillside.  We never did figure out what they were fussing about, but we were able to get a few photos of them when they walked by.

Later on, we found a group of female turkeys scratching in the dirt and leaves under a tree, just like chickens do, looking for seeds and bugs.  And a little further along the trail, we also came across a group of males who were bullying one another.  One seemed to be taking a lot of crap from another one, and a third one would join in now and then to bite them on the heads.          

Major face wrestling. Sometimes they’d get their opponent’s whole head in their mouths. In this photo, both birds have their nictitating membranes shut over their eyes to protect them from getting scratched.  These are immature male Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia

The two main competitors were “face-wrestling”, biting on another on the face or neck and wrapping their necks around one another, each one trying to get the other to submit.  We watched them for quite a while, and then a second pair started wrestling, too.  One hiker came by to watch with us for a little bit and take some video of them. 

When we left the turkeys to look for some galls, we could hear a hiker behind us yelling at the turkeys, “Hey, break it up, you guys!”  Hah!  And when we walked back that way, we found them still fighting. 

I walked right up to them in the hopes of getting some super-close-up photos of the fight (and in part in hopes of breaking them up so they could rest for at least a minute), but they ignored me. When I got too close, too, the bigger bully would drag the other one away from me by his face or by pulling on the skin on its neck.  It didn’t look like they were biting hard, no one was bleeding profusely, and no one had ripped anyone else’s snood off, but they looked like their beaks were pinching hard enough to abrade and bruise each other. They must have been exhausted, but neither one wanted to give up. 

We could tell they were all immature males by their feathering (short and incomplete tail feather, and unfinished wing tips), and by the fact that their spurs weren’t developed yet. Some females walked by but were totally unimpressed with the “little boys” and just kept walking. 

As we were coming around the side of the nature center building, we saw the first of FOUR fawns and their moms for the day.  The fawn’s mom was keeping her baby pretty well hidden in the tall grass and stickery shrubs around, but Roxanne and I did manage to get a few photos of it.  I think this first fawn was a female, based on the shape of its face and eyes.  (We can never see enough of the babies’ undercarriages to tell their sex for sure.)  I got one photo of this little girl with her mouth open, showing just her bottom teeth, and then another photo where it looks like she’s grinning, and you can see all of her front teeth.  So cute!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Fawn #1 by the nature center. I think this one is a girl. I love her little “smile”. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Mule deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus

“Actually, we were kind of on
cuteness overload through the whole walk,
as more fawns crossed our path.”

Fawn #2 was with its mom along the Pond Trail, browsing in the grass with her. I think this one was a little boy. At one point a squirrel jumped out of a nearby tree and startled the little guy. He jumped straight up in the air… looked at us, and then walked over to his mom as though to say, “I meant to do that. I wasn’t really scared.” Hahahaha!

Fawns #3 and #4 were close together.  We’d stopped to look at Fawn #3 who was browsing along the Meadow Trail with its mom, when from behind us Fawn #4 arrived with his mom.  Fawn #4 looked like he was right out of the box, he was sooooooo tiny.  He wasn’t a newborn, I could tell, because the tips of his ears weren’t curled back, but I bet he was no more than a week old.  I got one photo of the two fawns side-by-side and the tiny one is about HALF the size of the other one.

All of the does we came across only had one fawn with them even though it’s “normal” for the Black-Tailed deer to have twins.  All of the does were very calm, even when we approached them on the trail, so I inferred that they were all experienced moms who had had babies before and were accustomed to having humans around them (to a degree).  No flighty or neglectful ladies in this group.

We also saw two bucks in their velvet, a two-pointer, and the three-pointer with the really tall antlers.  “Tall Boy” knows he’s handsome, so he came right down near the trail and walked right past us, showing himself off.  Such a he-man. It looked like the boys were shedding their summer coats and starting to get their winter coats in.  The winter coats are more gray, whereas the summer coats are more tan.

We saw quite a few different galls today including Live Oak Gall Wasp galls (2nd Generation), Pumpkin Galls, Saucer Galls, Two-Horned Galls, Kernel Galls, Urchin Galls, and some Clustered Galls (the first of these that I’ve seen for this season).  Roxanne and I tried to remember the trees the best ones were on so we could show them to the naturalist students this coming Saturday on the field trip. 

We also stopped at the “bee tree” on the Pond Trail to see if the feral colony of honeybees was still there, and they were.  Lots of them were clustered around the opening to the hive.  I don’t know if they were just torpid form the early morning chill, or if they were getting ready to fan the queen to keep her cool when the sun came up a little further in the sky.

 At one spot, we saw a family of Oak Titmice chasing off a Bewick’s Wren that got too close to “their” tree, and at another spot we saw a Northern Mockingbird dive-bombing an adult Red-Shouldered Hawk who was sitting in “its” tree.  Lots of fussy neighbors.  A little earlier, we’d seen what I thought at first glance was a juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawk, but when I got the photos home and looked at them, I discovered it was actually a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk.  (It was pretty far away, and I only got one or two photos before it flew off.)

And, of course, we saw quite a few squirrels including Eastern Fox Squirrels and California Ground Squirrels. The Fox Squirrels were in the trees scraping the husks off of black walnuts: scritch- scritch- scritch- scritch.            

It was so nice outside, and we were having so much fun that we walked for about 4 hours!

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
3. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens
4. Asian Lady Beetle, Harlequin Labybug, Harmonia axyridis
5. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
6. Black Harvester Ant, Messor pergandei
7. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
8. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
9. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
10. Clustered Gall Wasp, Andricus brunneus
11. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Mule deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
12. Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii (juvenile)
13. Crown Whitefly, Aleuroplatus coronata
14. Crystalline Gall Wasp, Andricus crystallinus
15. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
16. Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea
17. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
18. Kernel Flower Gall Wasp, Callirhytis serricornis
19. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 2nd Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
20. Meadow Katydid, Orchelimum nigripes (nymph, female)
21. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
22. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
23. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii
24. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
25. Red Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
26. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
27. Saucer Gall Wasp, Andricus gigas
28. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa
29. Sudden Oak Death pathogen, Phytophthora ramorum
30. Trashline Orb Weaver Spider, Cyclosa conica
31. Treehopper, Oak Treehopper, Platycotis vittata (exuvia)
32. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus dubiosus
33. Urchin Gall Wasp, Antron quercusechinus
34. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
35. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum (in flight)
36. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
37. Western Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly, Papilio rutulus
38. White Crab Spider, Misumessus sp.