A Windy Day at the PReserve, 10-27-19

I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my walk today. When I got there, it was early-morning sunny and very breezy. A sign at the front of the trails let people know that the winds could bring down parts of the trees and trees might fall and block the trails, so take caution.  The winds were about 25 mph and pretty constant; sometimes you’d get a heavy gust but nothing that would knock you or spin you around. Every once in a while, I’d get attacked by a dust devil or swirls of fallen leaves, but I didn’t encounter anything more ferocious than that.

Just listen to the wind in the trees.

Because of the winds, though, I didn’t see any rabbits and the deer where kind of hunkered down in more protected areas rather than being out in the fields.  Prey animals like the big-eared mule deer and rabbits depend a lot on hearing, and when it’s really windy, the sound of the moving air messes up their auditory input.  They can differentiate between a gust of wind moving through the grass and a predator moving through the grass, so they try to stay sheltered from the wind when they can.  The deer I saw were all in the shelter of trees or browsing close to tall stands of bushes.

A Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus, fawn stays in the shelter of the thickets against the wind.

I saw a few of the younger bucks today, including some spike bucks, a 2-pointer and a three-pointer.  One of the spike bucks was feeling his oats and running and stotting all over the place.  He ran across the trail right in front of me and then came to a crashing halt when the 3-point buck stepped into view.  Hah!  You could almost hear the brakes screeching.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

There were a lot of Turkey Vultures out and about, riding the swirling gusts of wind into the sky and zooming down again.  It looked like they were having fun.  Not too, too many little birds were skittering around, though. I’m assuming the they didn’t want to have to fight the wind unless it was entirely necessary.

Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura

Although we seldom get a lot, we’re just starting to see some Fall color around here.  The Chinese Pistache trees, Liquidambars, and Trees of Heaven are starting to turn orange and fiery red.  We need one good cold snap for them to go into full-color mode. 

I didn’t see any migrating waterfowl in the river, but there were a few gulls, Mallards, Common Mergansers and a Great Blue Heron.  Oh, and I saw a Spotted Sandpiper (without its spots) bopping around a rock in the water.

A non-breeding Spotted Sandpiper bopping along a rock in the American River.

Among a small group of female Wild Turkeys, I saw the one with the injured leg again.  When I was trying to get some video of her, some of the other ends moved in around her – almost as if in a “protective” mode.  I was expecting them to take advantage of her injury and knock her around, but they didn’t. I was kind of surprised by that.

Not surprisingly, I saw a lot of Wild Turkey tracks on the trails, along with deer track, and what I think were a jackrabbit’s and raccoon’s tracks.

On my way out of the preserve I found a Red-Shouldered Hawk sitting in a tree next to the demonstration pond. He posed for a while and then took off low over the ground, making the ground squirrels “cheep!” their alarm calls.

Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus

I walked for about 3 ½ hours and then headed back home.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  3. Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  4. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  5. California Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  6. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  7. Chinese Pistache, Pistacia chinensis
  8. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  9. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  10. Cottonwood, Fremont Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  11. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  12. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  13. Feral Honeybees, Apis mellifera
  14. Flax-Leaf Horseweed, Erigeron canadensis
  15. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  16. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  17. Liquidambar, Liquid Amber Tree, Liquidambar styraciflua
  18. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  19. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  20. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  21. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  22. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  23. Raccoon, Procyon lotor
  24. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  25. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  26. Spotted Sandpiper, Actitis macularius
  27. Sulphur Shelf Fungus, Western Sulphur Shelf Fungus, Laetiporus gilbertsonii
  28. Tree of Heaven, Ailanthus altissima
  29. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  30. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  31. Western Gull, Larus occidentalis
  32. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis

A Cat-Faced Spider and some Devil’s Thorns, 10-19-19

Around 7:00 am, I went out with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne to the “Open Trail Day” at the Bufferlands Regional San.  The bufferlands are comprise of 2150 acres of land around the Sacramento wastewater treatment facility that separate the facility from the surrounding neighborhoods – and had been landscaped to provide natural and manmade habitat for regional wildlife and plant species.

Certified California Naturalist, Roxanne Moger, walking down the trail surrounded by poison oak.

According to their website, “…With a varied mix of upland and wetland habitats, the Bufferlands is an important wildlife area, supporting more than 230 species of birds, 25 species of native mammals and several native fish, amphibians, and reptiles. The Bufferlands is also home to more than 20 species of rare plants and animals, including several threatened and endangered species such as Swainson’s hawk, vernal pool fairy shrimp and giant garter snakes… Habitat restoration and enhancement efforts on the Bufferlands are ongoing. Through these efforts, the size of our riparian forests has more than doubled, and native perennial grasses are now an integral part of the landscape. Also, our staff continues to work with the resident farmers to better structure Bufferlands agricultural operations to benefit wildlife. For example, cattle grazing is used to enhance areas for the western burrowing owl, where vegetation would otherwise become too thick for these small raptors to hunt…”

A lot of its current look is due in great part to Roger Jones, their Senior Natural Resource Specialist. And he’s a great nature photographer to boot.

Roger Jones (and a Burrowing Owl)
This is one of my favorite photos that Roger took. He let me use it with my article on coyotes.

Access to the property is generally controlled, but the facility holds a lot of events there including walks to view cormorant, heron and egret rookeries, birdwatching at Meadowlark and Fishhead Lakes, the “Walk on the Wild Side” annual party and tours, and today’s Open Trail Day among others.

Finding the entrance to place proved to be a little tricky. The route Roxanne normally takes there was shut down at one point, so she had to recalculate and approach it from another way.  Still, I was amazed at how “hidden” the gravel road into the park side of the preserve was: a narrow opening across the street from a marina in the tiny town of Fremont.  There was plenty of parking on a grass and gravel lawn, and the trails were clearly marked, so once we got there we were good for the rest of the morning. Roger and one of the other rangers were there to check us in.  He remembered Roxanne from previous excursions there and remembered me from Tuleyome. He also follows me on Facebook and offered condolences for my loss of Sergeant Margie. Aww. I thought that was so thoughtful of him.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

We’re still between seasons – the migrating birds haven’t come in yet, and it’s still too dry for fungi – so there wasn’t a massive number of things to see.  Part of the trail, too, led under the I5 Freeway, where construction was going on, so any wildlife we might have seen around there was scared off by the noise and mess.  But we did enjoy spotting the iron animal totems along the route that went through a shallow forest of 100-year old oak trees, and the poison oak was actually quite beautiful this time of year.  So, most of my photos today were scenery shots.

See how many metal animal totems you can find along the trails.

The real standout was a Cat-Faced Spider we found in her big web on our walk back to the parking area.  She was a big gal, who tried to thwart our attempts to get pictures of her, until we got her to climb on top of our cellphones. Hah!  Had no idea those things were good for that.

I saw a few things I’d never seen or gotten good photos of before, and that’s always fun: Osage-Orange, Devil’s Thorns, Spiny Rose Galls and Panicled Willowherb.

Puncture Vine, Devil’s Thorns, Tribulus terrestris

We ended up walking for about 4 hours, which was really beyond my limit, especially after my long walk at the Zoo yesterday and my lack of sleep during the night.  I was totally exhausted and hurting all over when we got back home.

Species List:

  1. Ash Flower Gall Mite, Eriophyes fraxinivorus
  2. Asian Lady Beetle, Harlequin Labybug, Harmonia axyridis
  3. Assassin Bug, Zelus luridus
  4. Bobcat, Lynx rufus [scat]
  5. Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  6. Boxelder Bug, Boisea trivittata
  7. Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides
  8. Burred Horsehair Lichen, Bryoria furcellata
  9. Bush Sunflower, Encelia californica
  10. California Blackberry, Rubus ursinus
  11. California Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  12. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  13. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  14. Cat-Faced Orb Weaver Spider, Araneus gemmoides
  15. Chicory, Cichorium intybus
  16. Chinese Praying Mantis, Tenodera sinensis
  17. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea [lion, nymph]
  18. Cottonwood, Fremont Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  19. Coyote, Canis latrans [scat]
  20. Fat-Hen, Atriplex prostrata
  21. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  22. Green Plant Bug, Chinavia hilaris
  23. Harlequin Bug, Murgantia histrionica
  24. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  25. Horse (domesticated), Equus ferus
  26. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  27. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  28. Osage-Orange, Maclura pomifera
  29. Pacific Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  30. Panicled Willowherb, Epilobium brachycarpum
  31. Pokeweed, Phytolacca decandra
  32. Puncture Vine, Devil’s Thorns, Tribulus terrestris
  33. Rice, Oryza sativa
  34. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium
  35. Spiny Leaf Gall Wasp, Spiny Rose Gall, Diplolepis polita
  36. Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  37. Unidentified Milk Vetch, Astragalus sp.
  38. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  39. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
  40. White Sweetclover, Melilotus albus
  41. Woollybear Gall Wasp, Sphaeroteras trimaculosum