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

Dinosaurs and other Critters at the Zoo, 10-18-19

Up at 7:00 am.  Well this was a busier, longer day than I thought it would be.  I was going to go to the zoo on Thursday but was too tired to go anywhere.  I was feeling stronger today, so I took a shower, put my laundry away and then went to the Sacramento Zoo.

 When I first got there, there were only about 3 other people in the zoo, so it was nice and quiet, and I was able to get lots of photos without interference. I noticed that Tuleyome’s wishing well now has 69,494 tokens in it and is in second place, behind the lions’ well but ahead of the zebras’ well.  The more tokens we get, the more money the zoo will give us at the end of the year for our habitat restoration and wildlife studies at the Silver Spur Ranch.

I was able to see the Snow Leopards Misha and her son Coconut just as they came out and went after some big beef bones that had been set out for them.  Coconut is so much larger than his mom, now, it’s amazing.  He used his beef bone like a giant toy and threw it around the enclosure before settling down to chew on it. Hah!  Both of the Bongos were also out, as were the Zebras.

Coconut the Snow Leopard is now bigger than his mom, Misha.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos and video snippets.

What I really wanted to see today were the newly upgraded lion and jaguar enclosures.  The lions’ enclosure used to be behind chain link.  Now, it’s double the size it used to be with an all glass front so you can see the big cats without any encumbrances.  I was able to get quite a few close-ups of both the male and female lion. 

Female African Lion

The jaguar enclosure is the same size it was before, but they’ve cleared out a lot of the heavy brush that was in there and put glass along the front.  Right next to its enclosure, though, there were some mechanical dinosaurs and the roars from the dinos was kind of freaking out the female jaguar.  She kept trying to figure out where the roars were coming from and sat with her tail flicking nervously before rushing off to the back of her enclosure.

The dinosaurs were part of the zoo’s “Discover the Dinosaurs” exhibit.  I don’t know if they were life-size, but they were all certainly very large.  Some of the children were afraid of them; others kept saying, “They’re not real. They’re just robots with skin.”  Hah!  A couple of them were by the main gate, and others were scattered around the zoo.  The T-Rex was back behind some building where the okapis’ enclosure was.  You could hear it before you saw it.  There were little “clue dinosaurs” around the zoo that would let you know where the big ones were “hidden”.  If kids could find all of the little clues and write down a list of where they found them, they could get a free sticker.  Cute. I saw all of the dinos except for the Pteranodon which was apparently hiding somewhere around the gift shop (maybe inside?).

Me an T-Rex

Part of the big pond where the flamingoes, pelicans and ducks live was under construction, so everyone was crammed into a smaller pond. Some of the flamingoes weren’t happy about that, I guess, because some of them were “arguing” with one another.

I finally got to see the Black Crowned Cranes.  They’ve been at the zoo for a while, but I was never able to find them.  They’re handsome birds!  Look like they have a Rococo-esque halo on their head.

Black Crowned Crane from the back. Look at the lovely “halo”!

The Kookaburras were out doing their laughing calls.  One of them was able to do it even with his beak full of dead mouse!  Ventriloquist!

A Laughing Kookaburra with his lunch.

I stopped walking around 11:00 am and had a light lunch of tea and some French fries. Then I went into the reptile house and got a few photos in there before heading out.  I ended up walking for almost 4 hours!

I had a side trip on the way home from the zoo. I stopped on a whim at the SPCA and adopted a new dog: Esteban.

Species List:

  1. African Lion
  2. Amazon Milk Frog
  3. American White Pelican
  4. Black and White Ruffed Lemur
  5. Black Crowned Crane
  6. Blue Evening Phlox, Phlox paniculate
  7. Burrowing Owl
  8. Butterfly Bush, Buddleja davidii
  9. California Newt
  10. California Tiger Salamander
  11. Camellia, Camellia sp.
  12. Caribbean Flamingo
  13. Chimpanzee
  14. Common Chuckwalla
  15. Coquerel’s Sifaka
  16. Crested Coua
  17. Crested Screamer
  18. Dinosaur, Ankylosaurus
  19. Dinosaur, Parasaurolophus
  20. Dinosaur, Stegosaurus
  21. Dinosaur, Triceratops
  22. Dinosaur, Tyrannosaurus rex 
  23. Eastern Bongo
  24. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  25. Emu
  26. Golden Mantella
  27. Green Crested Basilisk
  28. Green Mantella
  29. Green Tree Python
  30. Grevy’s Zebra
  31. Himalayan Monal
  32. Jaguar
  33. Laughing Kookaburra
  34. Madagascar Big-headed Turtle
  35. Madagascar Flat-tailed Tortoise
  36. Madagascar Tree Boa
  37. Meerkat
  38. Mongoose Lemur
  39. Northern Catalpa, Indian Bean Tree, Catalpa speciosa
  40. Northern Pacific Rattlesnake
  41. Okapi
  42. Phantasmal Dart Frog
  43. Prehensile-tailed Skink
  44. Pyracantha, Pyracantha coccinea
  45. Red Panda
  46. Red River Hog
  47. Rhinoceros Iguana
  48. Smooth-fronted Caiman
  49. Snow Leopard
  50. Spider Tortoise
  51. Standing’s Day Gecko
  52. Tawny Frogmouth
  53. Thick-billed Parrot
  54. White’s Tree Frog
  55. White-faced Saki
  56. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
  57. Yellow-banded Poison Dart Frog
  58. Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby

The “Jack” was the Standout Today, 10-15-19

I got up around 7 o’clock and headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my weekly volunteer trail walking gig.  It was 41º at the preserve when I got there – eventually, I’ll have to admit it’s really Fall and give up my soft jacket for my winter coat, but right now, the jacket seems to work okay.  It’s supposed to be about 80º by the late afternoon.

There were a lot of deer out today, but I’m seeing mostly does and fawns and some yearlings. None of the big boys were around today.

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus. There were a lot of deer out today.

I also heard and saw quite a few Northern Flickers, but they’re pretty camera shy, so I didn’t get any really good photos of them.

As I was walking the River Trail, I could see fog on the water in the American River, which was cool.  I also saw quite a few deer wading through the water along the shore.  Around that same area, I saw a small flock of female Rio Grande Wild Turkeys scratching through the grass. One of them was limping badly and held her foot up when she was standing still. The way she was holding that foot made me think her leg was broken, or there was some kind of nerve damage in that leg. Rather than putting her foot down flat, she had her knuckles curled so the topside of her toes was touching the ground. I’m going to worry about her now…

The female turkey was holding her foot “upside down”, which is often an indicator that there is nerve damage somewhere in the leg or hip.

As I was heading out of the preserve, I caught sight of a male Nuttall’s Woodpecker flitting through the grass and up the sides of dead trees, and I got some photos and a video snippet of him.  Then when he flew out of sight, a female Nuttall’s flew in, so I was able to get a few photos of her, too.           

Then I saw a Jackrabbit near the nature center who was chewing on some horseweed plants.  It hung around for quite a while, and even remained where it was when a small group of children walked by.  I showed them where the jackrabbit was and was surprised by how quiet they were when looking at it.  They were careful to move silently and slowly and kept themselves calm even though they were grinning from ear to ear and stifling giggles with their hands.  It was nice to see that kind of respect for nature; they’re parents did a good job.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.
Video of a small herd of deer: https://youtu.be/GJpMhjhvHoM
Video of a Northern Flicker: https://youtu.be/TOt9_4mkgT0
Video of a Jackrabbit eating Horseweed: https://youtu.be/_PiSxEl37nY

I walked for about 3 hours and then went into the nature center to log my hours. The volunteer coordinator, Rachael, was there and let me know that she’s going to be leading a sunset walk at William Pond Park later in the week and will take folks over the bridge into the River Bend Park to listen for owls.  Sounds like fun!

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus
  3. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  4. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  7. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  8. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  9. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  10. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  11. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  12. Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus
  13. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  14. Flax-Leaf Horseweed, Erigeron canadensis
  15. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  16. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  17. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  18. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  19. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  20. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  21. Olive Tree, Olea europaea
  22. Peregrine Falcon, Wek-Wek, Falco peregrinus
  23. Pyracantha, Pyracantha coccinea
  24. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  25. Soap Plant, Wavy Leafed Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  26. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  27. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
  28. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  29. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys

Twig Galls are Rupturing, 10-13-19

Up at 7:00 am today, and I headed out to the American River Bend Park for a walk. It was a chilly 43º at the river in the morning and got up to 80º by the afternoon. I’m really liking this fall weather. It’s one of my favorite times of the year. It was still smelling smoky outside, but not as bad as it was yesterday.

I took a different route than I normally do for my walk, hoping to maybe see something a little different, but the “between the seasons” lack of subject matter continued. I did get to see two different species of wrens: the Bewick’s Wren and House Wren. Those little, buzzy guys are staking out territories this time of year.

An easy way to tell the Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii, from a House Wren is to look for the bright white eyebrow over the eye. The House Wren doesn’t have that.

The standout for the day, though, was actually the galls of the Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens. They are “rupturing” this time of year. The tiny wasp lays its eggs inside the softer twigs of the Live Oak trees, and the tree forms a capsule around each one. Then as the wasp larvae grow and develop, the capsules get larger and twig swells. When the wasps are ready to hatch out, the capsules burst out through the skin of the twig and fall to the ground, where the wasps escape their capsules and fly off. I think it’s odd for an insect to wait until October to go through its breeding cycle, but I guess there’s an insect for every season…

Galls of the Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis

I also found a few first-generation galls of the Live Oak Gall Wasp (round balls with spikes on them), including a grouping of the galls. I’ve seen them singly before lots of times, but had never seen a grouping before, so that was cool.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I walked for about 2½ hours and then headed back home.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Alder Tongue Gall Fungus, Taphrina alni
  3. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  4. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  5. California Brickellbush, Brickellia californica
  6. California Buckwheat, Eriogonum fasciculatum
  7. California Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  8. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  9. Chinese Tallow tree, Triadica sebifera
  10. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  11. Goldenrod Bunch Gall, Goldenrod Floret Gall Midge, Solidago canadensis
  12. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  13. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  14. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  15. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
  16. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  17. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus [red-shafted]
  18. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  19. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  20. Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta [chrysalis]
  21. Pipevine, California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  22. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  23. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  24. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens
  25. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  26. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
  27. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  28. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  29. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia