Mostly Deer and the Stink-Eye from a Hawk, 08-27-19

Around 6:00 am, I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my normal Tuesday volunteer trail-walking thing.  I know it was going up to 102º today, so I kept the walk relatively short.  It was 63º at the river when I got there; and it was already 82º by the time I left around 9:30 am.  My fellow trail-walker Mary Messenger (The Other Mary) had arrived a few minutes before I did, so we walked together for the most part.

It seemed like only the deer were out in force today, so we got some fairly good photos of them, and we also saw a young Red-Shouldered Hawk and a few other birds.  Heard the Northern Flickers… I’ve missed their call. If they’re coming back it means Fall is around the corner (yay!).

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Among the deer, we saw several boys in their velvet.  Some of them were underneath the low branches of a Black Walnut tree in the shade so it was hard to get photos of them.  I snap away anyway hoping to get SOMETHING that’s useable. (It seemed like I got quite a few shots of them “yelling” – their mouths wide open as they moved their food around their teeth.)  I saw the one deer with the long face (which is think is more pure Mule Deer than the Columbian Black-Tailed subspecies), and the one that is sort of blond (which I think is the one I saw as a fawn when he had a really bad cough.)  Wish there was some way I could do a more accurate account of them as individuals.

Waaaaaatsaaaaaaap, homey?!

 We saw one fawn with its mom, but mom was very protective of it and trotted away when she saw it.  So, we basically got a lot of butt-shots of that one.

Everywhere we went, we could hear the scrape-scrape-scrape-scrape of the Eastern Fox Squirrels and Western Gray Squirrels busily chewing the husks off of the walnuts. They’re such noisy eaters! 

And I could also hear the buzzy song of the cicadas in the trees, especially around the small pond.  Apparently, it’s the males who sing – and the females who “click”. I think the species we have around here is the Say’s Cicada (based on its coloring and its sound). They’re too high up in the shrubbery for me to get any photos of them, though, – and, of course, they shut up as soon as you get close to them, so it’s hard to triangulate on their location.  Smart beasties. 

 On one part of the trail we met up with a couple of photographers, Gene and Cathy. They stopped and chatted about what they were looking for and what they’d been seeing lately.  Last week, they said, they spent about 2 hours going back and forth along the riverbank following the flight of an osprey… And then they got to see it dive into the water after a fish. The fish was so big, the bird couldn’t get up out of the water with it and had to wing-paddle its way to the shore (on the opposite side of the river) to eat it.  Wow!  How cool was that?!  We exchanged information on other sightings, like the bucks jousting in the fall, the melanistic squirrel, the first sighting of the twin fawns this year.  Gene said, “Everyone’s seen them this year but me!”  Hah! It was nice to meet them.

I was surprised when further along the same trail I encountered a group of birders and found that my former naturalist student (now graduate) Pam was among them.  She gave me a hug and let me know what she’s been up to lately.  She’s trying to learn more about birding and nature observation in general and has been volunteering with the local SPCA and wildlife rescue group.  My students rock!

As we were finishing up our walk, we caught sight of the young Red-Shouldered Hawk that seems to hang around the trees near the nature center a lot.  Definitely a boy, based on his coloring.  I think he’s figured out that there are frogs and crawfish in the little pond there, so he can grab snacks from it throughout the day.  He gave us the stink-eye for a while and then flew off.

The young Red-Shouldered Hawk by the little pond.

We also a young California Scrub Jay trying to get the meat out of a piece of a black walnut.  Those things are really solid, and when the jay smacked down on it with his beak, the nut went flying and ricocheted off of the wire fence beside him!  Then the bird just stood there for a minute, looking kind of embarrassed… Hah!

Because it was heating up quickly outside by then, The Other Mary and I cut our walk short and headed back to our respective homes. 

SPECIES LIST:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. Assassin Bug, Zelus luridus (nymph)
3. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
4. Black Saddlebags Dragonfly, Tramea lacerate
5. Black Walnut Tree, Juglans nigra
6. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
7. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
8. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
9. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
10. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
11. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
12. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
13. Fiery Skipper, Hylephila phyleus
14. Fig, Common Fig, Ficus carica
15. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
16. Flax-Leaf Horseweed, Erigeron canadensis
17. Jimson Weed, Datura stramonium
18. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus (heard)
19. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
20. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
21. Red Harvester Ant, Pogonomyrmex barbatus
22. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
23. Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Bucculatrix albertiella
24. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
25. Say’s Cicada, Okanagana rimosa rimosa (heard)
26. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus (heard)
27. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
28. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
29. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus

Lots of Nature on a Short Walk, 08-24-19

Around 6:00 am, I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my volunteer trail-walking thing. I had decided before leaving the house that I would keep this walk relatively short in order to try to beat the heat.  It was 65º when I got to the preserve, and 75º when I left about 2-1/2 hours later.

Even though I didn’t do the longer route I normally do, I was still able to see quite a lot.  When I first drove in, there was a small herd of deer along the side of the road, including a 2-point buck still in his velvet.  Later, I saw individual deer here and there, and as I was leaving the preserve, I came across a mama are her TWO fawns. That was the first set of twins I’d seen at Effie Yeaw. (The first for this season was at the Cosumnes River Preserve). So, that was great to see.

One of a pair of twin fawns, Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus

I was also happy to see that the feral beehive was swarming with bees again today.  The last time I saw it, there were less than a dozen bees near the entrance.  Today, there were hundreds.  So, the queen is apparently still ensconced there. I don’t know what was going on the day the hive was nearly naked.

CLICK HERE for the full album pf photos.

Another happy find was the galls of the Plate Gall Wasp on a blue oak tree.  I’d been looking for those all summer and this was the first time I’d been able to see them close enough to get some decent photos of them.  They form on the back of the blue oak leaves and are small and flat and look like a pale blotch from a distance, so they can be hard to find. I was able to use the 20x macro enhancement lens on my cellphone to get some good close-ups.  You can see the waxy-looking surface of the gall, the tiny red pinpoint in the center, and the white spots on each one. They kind of look like flattened out jellyfish.  Very cool.

The gall of a Plate Gall Wasp, Liodora pattersonae

I got glimpses of Black-Tailed Jackrabbits, a couple of Desert Cottontail, and a very healthy-looking coyote.  I also watch Wild Turkeys jumping for grapes on the wild grapevines and chasing down a whole cluster of grapes after one was able to pull it down.  So funny.

As I was walking, I said to myself that I’d really like to get some good shots of a California Ground Squirrel before I went home, and on my way toward the nature center to log my volunteer hours, I found quite a few of the squirrels.  There was a pair of them near the front of their burrow on one side of the trail, and a super-chubby one eating seeds out of the dried grass on the other.  Made my morning.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus
3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
4. Assassin Bug, Zelus luridus (green)
5. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans (heard)
7. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
8. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
9. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
10. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
11. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
12. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
13. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
14. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
15. Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus
16. Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii (heard)
17. Coyote, Canis latrans
18. Crystalline Gall Wasp, Andricus crystallinus
19. Curly Cup Gumweed, Grindelia squarrosa
20. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
21. Disc Gall Wasp, Andricus parmula
22. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
23. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
24. Feral Honeybees, Apis mellifera
25. Geometrid moth, Family: Geometridae
26. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
27. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous (heard)
28. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
29. Mule Fat, Baccharis salicifolia
30. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii (heard)
31. Oak Treehopper, Platycotis vittata (exuvia)
32. Plate Gall Wasp, Liodora pattersonae
33. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
34. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
35. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
36. Saucer Gall Wasp, Andricus gigas
37. Say’s Cicada, Okanagana rimosa rimosa (recorded sound and exuvia)
38. Soap Plant, Wavy Leafed Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
39. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
40. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
41. Urchin Gall Wasp, Antron quercusechinus
42. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
43. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana

Surprised by Fawns when Looking for Galls, 08-20-19

My friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne Moger, picked me up and did all the driving today.  She took a longer route to the Cosumnes River Preserve down Freeport Avenue which is a lot more picturesque than going by the freeway.  There are some really nice views of the river along the road… And the weather was cooperative.  It was 59º when we left the house around 6:30 am, and it got up to about 86º by the afternoon.  There was a slight breeze blowing most of the time, so it was very nice.

The gates at the preserve hadn’t opened yet by the time we arrived, so Roxanne parked on the side of the road (as everyone does when the gates are closed): the walking trails are open even when the boardwalk and nature center aren’t.  I wasn’t expecting there to be many birds or much water at the preserve this time of year, but I was actually surprised to see most of the sloughs and little pond completely dry and empty. 

Only one pond had water in it, and it was a really nice surprise to see standing on the far bank of it two fawns still in their spots!  Mom didn’t seem to around anywhere, so I inferred that she must have left the fawns there (where there was shade and water for them) while she went foraging.  That’s not an uncommon thing for mother deer to do.  This was first pair of twins I’d seen this year so far.  (All the other fawns I’ve seen have been singles, even though twin births are the norm for the Columbian Black-Tailed Deer.)  I think I took about a 100 photos of them. Hah!

The fawns were a BIG surprise!

Roxanne and I had really gone to look for galls and spiders.  Although we didn’t see much in the way of spiders, the galls didn’t disappoint.  There were some trees that were COVERED in Red Cone galls, and others dripping with honeydew from the Flat-Topped Honeydew galls. Lots of Yellow Wig Galls, Spiny Turbans and Oak Apples, along with a few Convoluted Galls, Disk Galls, Fuzzy Galls, Club Galls and some others.  We also saw some Ash Flower galls and Leafcurl.  On some of the willow trees we found some Willow Apple Galls made by wasps and Blister galls made by mites.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The queen Paper Wasp on her nest. There were no eggs in the chambers yet.

While we were looking for more galls, I noticed, tucked under a leaf, a Paper Wasp queen and two of her daughters working on their nest. The daughters flew off when we lifted a leaf to get a better view of the nest, but the queen stayed where she was and gave us the stink-eye until we left her alone.  As far as I could tell, there were no new eggs in the chambers of the nest yet.  So, I inferred that the daughters had just finished them, and the queen hadn’t laid any more eggs yet.  Paper Wasps are far less aggressive than Yellow Jackets, so I’m actually able to get pretty close to them; close enough, in fact, to get a pretty good photo of the queen’s face.  Each Paper Wasp has different facial markings, so they recognize each other as individuals.  So cool. ((You can read more about that here: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/12/111202-wasps-people-faces-recognition-insects-science-animals/))

Along the side of the road I found a big chunk of some kind of animal hide, a few large bones (which I assumed were from a deer), and part of an opossum skeleton, including half a skull, one paw and some rib bones. And, yeah, I took photos of the opossum.

 We also saw a Painted Lady butterfly, a couple of Lorquin’s Admiral butterflies, a Cabbage White and a Monarch (!).  

At one point along the trail, we heard this weird clicking/rasping sound and couldn’t figure out what it was. Might have been a hidden bird or maybe the trees rubbing together?  We just couldn’t figure it out no matter how close we were able to get to it. It kind of creeped me out…. Especially when it got louder when Roxanne approached it from a different angle. What is it?! Here’s the video: https://youtu.be/3bTIqvSkUA4

We found several different species of willows along the way.  And ID-ing willows is kind of difficult for me because I’m not really a “plants” person and they “all look the same” to me.  (Is that being a plant racist?) But here’s a good guide from Calscape: https://calscape.org/loc-california/Salix(all)/vw-list/np-0?

We walked from the pond near the boardwalk area, through the oak woodland and up to the nature center… a total of about 4 hours, which is my limit.

SPECIES LIST:

1. Ash Flower Gall Mite, Eriophyes fraxinivorus
2. Ash Leaf Curl Aphid, Prociphilus fraxinifolii
3. Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
4. Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
5. Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis
6. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
7. Club Gall Wasp, Xanthoteras clavuloides
8. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
9. Common Brown Leafhopper, Orosius orientalis
10. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea
11. Common Water Hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes
12. Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
13. Disc Gall Wasp, Andricus parmula
14. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
15. Floating Water Primrose, Ludwigia peploides ssp. peploides
16. Fuzzy Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis washingtonensis
17. Great Egret, Ardea alba
18. Jumping Oak Galls, Neuroterus saltatorius
19. Leafy Bud Gall Wasp, Andricus foliates
20. Lorquin’s Admiral Butterfly, Limenitis lorquini
21. Monarch Butterfly, Danaus plexippus
22. Narrowleaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis
23. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
24. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
25. Pacific Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
26. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui
27. Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula
28. Praying Mantis, Mantis sp. (exuvia)
29. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
30. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium
31. Spiny Turban Gall Wasp, Antron douglasii
32. Spotted Orb Weaver Spider, Neoscona crucifera
33. Trashline Orb Weaver Spider, Cyclosa conica
34. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
35. Twinberry Honeysuckle, Lonicera involucrate
36. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
37. Velvety Tree Ant, Liometopum occidentale
38. Virginia Opossum, Didelphis virginiana
39. Willow Apple Gall Wasp, Pontania californica
40. Willow Bead Gall Mite, Blister Gall, Aculops tentanothrix
41. Woolly Aphid, Prociphilus sp.
42. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi
… and a teneral damselfly I was unable to identify.