Mostly Antlers and Nubs, 11-26-19

Start Time: 7:00 am
Start Temperature: 36ºF
End Temperature: 51º F
Weather: Overcast; rain pending; some ground fog
Total Hours in the field (includes travel time): 3.25 hours
Miles Walked: 2.5
Number of Individual Species Today: 20

Rio Grande Wild Turkeys, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia, males

It was a very chilly 36º this morning when I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my regular volunteer trail walking gig.  I was ahead of the rain for my entire walk, but the heavier rain clouds were starting to move in just as I left. 

I love this time of year for several reasons, and one is because the “big boys” are out in nature right now in their full regalia… and some of the yearlings are just starting to get their “nubs.”  Because the adult bucks are in rut right now, too, they’re all walking around in their manly-man scent. You can smell them before you see them: that animal hide and musk scent. I love it.

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus. 4-Point buck approaching and crossing the trail in front of me.

I also saw quite a few does and some fawns, including some young boys who were just starting to get their nubs or were in their first-year spikes, but still hanging out with mom and their siblings. Among the big bucks, I didn’t see the 5-pointer today, but I did see two handsome 4-pointers.

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus . A more “blonde” 4-pointer.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

And the deer dominated the day for photo-taking.  There wasn’t much else showing itself, and I didn’t see any bees in or around the “bee tree” (probably because it was still so cold, and “winter is coming”.) I walked for about 2½ hours and then headed out.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  3. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  4. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  5. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  6. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  7. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  8. Coyote, Canis latrans [tracks and scat]
  9. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  10. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  11. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  12. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  13. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  14. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  15. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  16. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  17. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  18. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  19. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis [tracks]
  20. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis [heard]

River Otter Sighting, 11-24-19

I got up around 6:30 this morning and headed out to the Cosumnes River Preserve for a walk.  It was 38º when I got there, and I was glad I’d brought my heavier coat with me.

There were far less birds there today than there were when my friend Roxanne and I were last there on the 15th, so birdwatching was exceedingly disappointing.  I saw two photographers and a small group of birders out along the boardwalk, but none of them were having any luck.  The crisp fresh air was nice, but from a nature walk standpoint it was pretty much a bust… But then I saw the North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis.

I took the trail that went from the boardwalk to Franklin Blvd., and then walked along the side of the road where there’s a slough that runs alongside it. I saw the otter on the opposite side of the slough, preening.  I moved as quietly as I could and got photos of through the scrubby trees that stand between the road and the water. 

I saw the otter preening, swimming, and digging in the mud to roust out some catfish. He caught one of them, ate it and then swam right up in front of me to check me out before heading off on the rest of his morning jaunt. The closest he got was about 8 feet, so I was able to get a good shot of his face floating on the surface of the water, and also got quite a few videos of him.            

When I got home, I made sure to get him recorded in the “Otter Spotter” database with the River Otter Ecology Project .

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.
Otter on the shore:
Otter Preening:
Otter Swimming:

Otter fishing along the shore of the slough

When I was driving home, I saw quite a few hawks in the trees and along the fence lines, a pair of American Kestrels and a Prairie Falcon.  But the standout was a gorgeous juvenile Golden Eagle sitting on the top of a short tree right at the freeway access point.  I couldn’t get photos because there were cars behind me all the way.  Dang it!

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
  4. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  5. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  6. Golden Eagle, Aquila chrysaetos
  7. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  8. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  9. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  10. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
  11. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  12. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  13. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  14. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  15. Prairie Falcon, Falco mexicanus
  16. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  17. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
  18. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium
  19. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  20. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys

A Full Day of Fun and Nature, 11-20-19

My friend and fellow Certified California Naturalist, Roxanne, picked me up around 6:30 and we went over to the Fox and Goose Pub for breakfast.  It’s an old-style English pub that serves a “full English breakfast” and just about anything else you want. It’s in an area off of 10th and R downtown where the warehouses are all being refurbished and has turned into a real artsy-fartsy area with live theaters, restaurants and art galleries.  I didn’t even know it was there. She always finds the neatest places. 

Me at the Fox and Goose Pub

Because it was so early in the morning, we were able to park right next to the front door. (No other traffic around.) All of the food was very good, and the service was excellent.  Next time I go there I’ll try the full English breakfast even though it sounded like a LOT of food to me: two eggs, grilled banger, bacon, grilled tomato and mushrooms and authentic Heinz baked beans, served with your choice of toast.  [Every time I hear the phrase “full English breakfast” I think of Simon Pegg in “Run Fat Boy Run” in which, while he’s trying to deal with his stress he has “a full English breakfast with extra breakfast”.  Hah!]

After breakfast, I wanted my photo taken with the bronze fox and goose sculptures outside the building, so Roxanne obliged me. Then we headed over to William Land Park to walk the ground there until the zoo opened at 9:00 am. We walked around the pond there and cut through the WPA Rock Garden.  We saw a variety of ducks and some Cackling Geese and watched a Belted Kingfisher zip back and forth from one tree to another around the pond. (It moved too fast more me to get any pictures of it.)  We also spotted a small flock of Dark-Eyed Juncos near the open amphitheater stage and some of the ubiquitous Black Phoebes.

There were gingko trees in the garden that were shedding their lovely yellow leaves – and their incredibly stinky fruit.  I told Roxanne that the fruit smelled exactly like vomit, and, of course, she had to sniff one to make sure.  Hah! I wish I had taken photos of her reaction!  That fruit really smells awful.

Because Roxanne and I always find the weird stuff… We noticed ice plant covered with these weird white structures. They were actually female scale bugs with their white “ovisaco” behind them (in which they lay their eggs). I couldn’t tell if we were seeing the species Pulvinaria delottoi or Pulvinariella mesembryanthemi. Pulvinaria delottoi is found in California (from Africa), but most of the images I researched made me think the ones we saw might be Pulvinariella mesembryanthemi which now seem to be all over the place. In the closeup photo in the album, you can sort of see the insect a little bit better. They’re actually quite intricate little buggers under their shields.

Ice Plant Scale bugs, Pulvinaria delottoi or Pulvinariella mesembryanthemi

Right about 9:00 am, we walked across the street to the Sacramento Zoo and spent several hours there, just walking around and taking photos of all of the critters.  We’d especially wanted to see Gizmo, the new baby Red Panda, but when we went to the Red Panda enclosure he wasn’t there.  So, we walked over to where the lions were and got some great photos of them.  Both the male and female lion got up off of their giant cat tree and walked through the glass corridor that takes them to the other end of their enclosure. The corridor bows out so people can gather all around it to see when the lions pass.  I got some photos and video of the female lion walking through it in front of the male, looking at the people like she was picking out food cafeteria-style. Hah!

Lions in the hallway.

As we were walking around the lion’s enclosure, Roxanne and I found where Gizmo and his mom were being kept when they weren’t in the big exhibit. They were in the area where smaller cats and other little animals were normally kept.  Usually, the Red Pandas sleep for most of the day, but because Gizmo is growing, he needs to be fed a lot and is more active.  Both he and his mom were walking around their temporary digs, which included a raised platform that let them walk over visitors’ heads.  I thought it was funny that people were standing under the platform taking photos of the pandas with their cell phones – but all they were getting were shots of the animals’ bellies and the bottom of their feet.  Hah!

Gizmo, the Red Panda baby

I tried to get some pictures of Gizmo – who had more white on his face and body than the adults do – but the enclosure was small with a lot of weird angles and fencing separating the pandas from us humans, so I didn’t feel that any of the pictures really turned out the way I’d hoped they would.

Along with Gizmo, we also got to see Coconut, the young Snow Leopard.  I saw his mom, Misha, at first but didn’t see him, and then the docent pointed him out. He was right against the fence near my feet!  I’d never seen him that close to the fence before and was surprised to see him there.  Some kids and their parents came up to the enclosure to look at him, and when they started to walk away, Coconut got up and “stalked” them across the front of the enclosure. Yikes!

Misha the Snow Leopard

The other baby we saw was this year’s young flamingo. It was standing on the shore of the duck pond, sort of to the left of the flock of adults that were half in and half out of the water.  So, it was kinds of a babies’ day.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The meerkats were hilarious, as they always are, and the Mongoose Lemurs were eating breakfast when we saw them, so all of them had their heads in buckets. When we were watching the River Otters, their keepers approached with their food, and both of the otters ran to the door of their enclosure and stood up straight on their hind legs trying to see their keepers.  So funny.

Meerkat madness.

Part of the big pond in the front of the zoo is being refurbished for a new alligator exhibit, and all the work has rousted out the rats that used to live in the overgrowth there.  In response to the now more visible rat population, I think, we saw a young Cooper’s Hawk sitting on the fence around the work area.  Roxanne spotted it first and took me softly by the arm and pointed the bird out.  It sat there, unphased by the people all around it, for quite a while, so we were able to get quite a few photos of it. Along with the wild hawk, we also saw quite a few wild Wood Ducks taking advantage of the protected pond and the free food the zoo supplied.

A juvenile Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii

Around lunchtime, we went into the zoo’s café and shared a big plate of fries and glasses of beer before heading over to the reptile house to finish off our visit.

Species List:

  1. Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Bucorvus abyssinicus
  2. African Lion, Panthera leo
  3. Aloe, Aloe maculata
  4. American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  5. Azure-winged Magpie, Cyanopica cyanus
  6. Beaver Tail Cactus, Prickly Pear, Opuntia basilaris
  7. Bird of Paradise, flower, Strelitzia reginae
  8. Black and White Ruffed Lemur, Varecia variegata
  9. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  10. Blue Agave, Agave tequilana
  11. Cackling Goose, Branta hutchinsii
  12. California King Snake, Lampropeltis getula californiae
  13. California Newt, Taricha torosa
  14. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  15. California Tiger Salamander, Ambystoma californiense
  16. Caribbean Flamingo, Phoenicopterus ruber
  17. Cayuga Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Cayuga
  18. Chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes
  19. Chinese Three-striped Box Turtle, Cuora trifasciata
  20. Common Bracken Fern, Pteridium aquilinum
  21. Common Carp, Cyprinus carpio
  22. Common Chuckwalla, Sauromalus ater
  23. Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii
  24. Crested Coua, Coua cristata
  25. Crested Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Crested
  26. Dark-Eyed Junco (Oregon morph), Junco hyemalis
  27. Eastern Bongo, Tragelaphus eurycerus isaaci
  28. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  29. Fir Tree, Abies sp.
  30. Five-Fingered Fern, Adiantum aleuticum
  31. Fulvous Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna bicolor
  32. Gingko, Maidenhair Tree, Ginkgo biloba
  33. Golden Mantella Frog, Mantella aurantiaca
  34. Golden Raintree, Koelreuteria paniculate
  35. Green & Black Poison Dart Frog, Dendrobates auratus
  36. Green Crested Basilisk, Basiliscus sp.
  37. Green Mantella Frog, Mantella viridis
  38. Green Tree Python, Morelia viridis
  39. Grevillea, Grevillea sp.
  40. Grevy’s Zebra, Equus grevyi
  41. Hawk-Headed Parrot, Red Fan Parrot, Deroptyus accipitrinus
  42. Hellebore, Fragrant Hellebore, Helleborus odorus
  43. Henkel’s Leaf-tailed Gecko, Uroplatus henkeli
  44. Himalayan Monal, Lophophorus impejanus
  45. Ice Plant Scale, Pulvinaria delottoi or Pulvinariella mesembryanthemi
  46. Jaguar, Panthera once
  47. Knight Anole, Anolis equestris
  48. Laughing Kookaburra, Dacelo novaeguineae
  49. Madagascar Flat-tailed Tortoise , Pyxis planicauda
  50. Madagascar Giant Day Gecko , Phelsuma grandis
  51. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  52. Masai Giraffe, Giraffa tippelskirchi
  53. Meerkat, Suricata suricatta
  54. Mexican Palo Verde, Parkinsonia aculeata (yellow flowers and large seed pods)
  55. Mock Orange, Philadephus lewisii californicus
  56. Mongoose Lemur, Eulemur mongoz
  57. Naked Lady Lily, Amaryllis Belladonna
  58. Narrowleaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis
  59. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  60. Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, Crotalus oreganus oreganus
  61. Okapi, Okapia johnstoni
  62. Orpington Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Buff Orpington
  63. Pekin Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Pekin
  64. Phantasmal Dart Frog, Epipedobates tricolor
  65. Prehensile-tailed Skink, Corucia zebrata
  66. Puerto Rican Boa, Chilabothrus inornatus
  67. Red Amaranth, Amaranthus cruentus
  68. Red Kangaroo, Macropus rufus
  69. Red Panda, Ailurus fulgens
  70. Red River Hog, Potamochoerus porcus
  71. Red-billed Hornbill, Tockus erythrorhynchus
  72. Reticulated Giraffe, Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata
  73. Rhinoceros Iguana , Cyclura cornuta
  74. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
  75. Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera
  76. Silver Hedgehog Holly, Ilex aquifolium, ‘Ferox Argentea’
  77. Smoky Jungle Frog , Leptodactylus pentadactylus
  78. Smooth-fronted Caiman, Paleosuchus trigonatus
  79. Snow Leopard, Panthera uncia
  80. Southern Crested Screamer, Chauna torquata
  81. Southern White-faced Owl, Ptilopsis granti
  82. Spider Tortoise , Pyxis arachnoides
  83. Spur-winged Lapwing, Vanellus spinosus
  84. Standing’s Day Gecko, Phelsuma standingi
  85. Sumatran Orangutan, Pongo abelii
  86. Swedish Blue Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Swedish Blue
  87. Sword Fern, Polystichum sp.
  88. Tawny Frogmouth, Podargus strigoides
  89. Thick Billed Parrot, Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha
  90. Tokay Gecko , Gekko gecko
  91. Western Pond Turtle , Actinemys marmorata
  92. White-faced Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna viduata
  93. White’s Tree, Frog, Smiling Tree Frog, Litoria caerulea
  94. Wolf’s Guenon, Wolf’s Mona Monkey, Cercopithecus wolfi
  95. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
  96. Yellow-banded Poison Dart Frog, Dendrobates leucomelas
  97. Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby, Petrogale xanthopus

Green Therapy Time, 11-19-19

I got up around 7:00 am and headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my weekly volunteer trail walking gig. The weather was lovely, about 49º at the river and mostly sunny. I really needed to get outside into my happy, green “therapy place” and start recovering from the trauma of yesterday.

Not a lot to see today, though, although I did get to see one of the big-big bucks, the 5-pointer. He was sitting down right on the side of the trail and didn’t move as I walked by and took photos of him… until I stepped back to get a shot of the doe behind him. I guess he didn’t like that and got onto his feet and stepped out a little bit, before going back to stand by the doe. They both eventually walked off, him following her across the trail and into the woods. Such a handsome thing.

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus

I also got to see quite a few California Ground Squirrels, which I love, and got some video of a European Starling singing and gurgling overhead.

California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I walked for about 2½ hours and then headed home.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  3. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  4. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  5. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  6. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  7. Chinese Pistache Tree, Pistacia chinensis
  8. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  9. Coyote, Canis latrans [scat]
  10. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  11. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  12. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  13. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  14. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  15. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  16. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  17. Pipevine, California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  18. Raccoon, Procyon lotor [tracks]
  19. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  20. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  21. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  22. Sulphur Shelf Fungus, Western Sulphur Shelf Fungus, Laetiporus gilbertsonii
  23. Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni
  24. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata

Cranes in the Fields, 11-15-19

I was out the door by 6:30 to go with my friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne Moger, to the Cosumnes River Preserve.  Roxanne was acting as chauffeur today, so she did all of the driving.

It was chilly there, in the 40s, crisp and clear; very autumnal.  The sun was just starting to work its way up through the morning clouds and there was a bit of ground fog in some of the rice fields and pastures.  Roxanne had never taken the short route around Bruceville and Desmond Roads near the preserve, so we went there first.  There were flocks of Greater White-Fronted Geese and Canada Geese, and couple dozen or so Sandhill Cranes in the fields, so we got out of the car a couple of times to get some photos of them. 

Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
Sandhill Cranes

Morning “fly-in” hours are the best time to see the cranes in that area.  There were both adults and juveniles in the groups. We saw a couple of Great Egrets and a Great Blue Heron out there as well.

In another field, we saw some Greater Yellowlegs walking around and a very large gull sitting on an outcropping watching a Northern Harrier eat its breakfast on the ground.  There were actually a lot of hawk out today.  On the preserve we saw both Northern Harriers and Red-Tailed Hawks, and along the freeway both going to the preserve and coming back home, we saw more Red-Tails and a Swainson’s hawk.

Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius, female
Northern Harrier eating its prey.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

There was a waning moon overhead, so tried to get some photos of birds flying past it.  The White-Fronted Geese were the most “cooperative”. Whenever their flocks would startle and take off into the sky, I’d focus my camera on the moon and activate the shutter whenever birds passed by it.  Got a few fairly good shots out of that exercise.

Greater White-Fronted Geese, Anser albifrons, flying over the moon
Geese Flyover

We walked along the boardwalk and the slough that runs along the road for about 2½ hours before heading back toward Sacramento.  We saw eight hawks along the highway on the way there.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
  3. Ash Flower Gall Mite, Eriophyes fraxinivorus
  4. Black Angus Cattle, Bos Taurus var. Black Angus
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  7. Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
  8. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  9. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  10. Club Gall Wasp, Xanthoteras clavuloides
  11. Gadwall duck, Mareca strepera
  12. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  13. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  14. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  15. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  16. Herring Gull, Larus argentatus
  17. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  18. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  19. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris [heard]
  20. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  21. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  22. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  23. Pennyroyal, Penny Royal, Mentha pulegium
  24. Purpletop Vervain, Verbena bonariensis
  25. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  26. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  27. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium
  28. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  29. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  30. Say’s Phoebe, Sayornis saya
  31. Tricolored Blackbird, Agelaius tricolor
  32. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  33. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  34. Western Gull, Larus occidentalis (second winter, juvenile)
  35. White Ash, Fraxinus americana
  36. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  37. Willow Pine Cone Gall Midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides