Spring is Springing, 03-03-20

I got up around 6:30 am this morning and after giving Esteban his breakfast, I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my weekly volunteer trail walking gig.

I HEARD a lot of creatures today, but didn’t manage to get photos of everyone… especially missed the coyotes. I could hear a pack of them yip-yowling near the pond area, but they were gone by the time I got over that way.  As I was walking near the river, I encountered a group of women who were walking together—and they had to stop me to show me the cellphone photos they got of a lone coyote who followed them for several yards along the rover trail.  That coyote was CLOSE; the cellphone photos they got of it were great.  So envious.

At one point, I sat on a bench and just let my cellphone record the sounds around me: Scrub Jays, wrens, nuthatches… Just lovely. CLICK HERE to listen in.

I did get to see a few cool things, though.  The Red-Shouldered Hawks are still working on the nest in the tree at the head of the main trail. I saw the female bringing more twigs to that one (while hubby sat in a tree further along the trail). While she was away looking for more sticks, an Eastern Fox Squirrel climbed “her” tree and sat in the nest for a while like he was testing it out. Then, he climbed out of the nest and started chewing off the tree’s new leaf-buds all around it.

The hawk came back and saw him there, and tried several times to smack him out of the tree and away from the nest, but the squirrel was persistent.  After several attempts to oust him, the hawk flew up into a nearby tree, and preened herself – while she kept an eye on the nest – until the squirrel finally left. 

A female Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus, watching the squirrel from an adjacent tree.

I was surprised the hawk didn’t just kill the intruder; she was certainly capable of doing that.  One good grip with her talons and she could’ve crushed him to death. The squirrel was lucky that he went near the nest of a live-and-let-live hawk. 

It will be interesting to see if he tries that again in the future.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

Later, on another part of the trail, I could hear Acorn Woodpeckers having a fit around one of their granary trees (where they store their acorns and sometimes also use their nesting cavities.) I was surprised to see a pair of Wood Ducks in the tree, with the woodpeckers dive-bombing them and yelling at them. 

Acorn Woodpeckers, Melanerpes formicivorus, harassing a pair of Wood Ducks, Aix sponsa

Wood Ducks nest in cavities, and they actually depend on woodpeckers, especially Northern Flickers, to drill the cavities for them when man-made duck boxes aren’t available.  The Wood Ducks in this granary tree were a pair, male and female, and I have no doubt that they were hoping to be able to nest there.  The Acorn Woodpeckers weren’t having that, though.  They did their raspy tantrum-thing until they were successful in chasing the ducks away from their tree.

There are quite a few duck boxes at the preserve, so I’m sure the ducks will be able to find somewhere else to nest.

Near the woodpeckers’ tree, I also came across some deer: a 4-pointer buck and another buck who had recently lost his antlers.  I got quite a few photos of them before they moved on. In other areas, I also found other small groups of deer, mostly does and their yearlings.

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus

I also saw several groups of Tree Swallows who seemed to be staking out territories and looking for nests. It’s almost impossible to tell the males from the females because their markings are the same, but the males do a “vertical posture” courtship thing where they get up on a high branch, stretch their neck up, bill skyward and chatter to attract the females.  Then they take the females over to potential nesting cavities and let the females check them out.  Haven’t seen anyone settle on a spot yet, but it’s very early in the season.

According to Cornell, Tree Swallows are generally monogamous for the season, and sometimes carry their “marriages” from one season to the next if their nests are successful. Some males will mate with more with one female but only if the nests are a good distance away from one another; and it’s the female who solicits that extramarital mating. (The males never force it.)

This is another cavity-nester that relies on the woodpeckers (or humans) to build nesting sites for them.  The birds line their nesting cavities with feathers and big fights can break out over who has what feathers.

According to Cornell, “Birds in possession of feathers sometimes enter a cavity, but depart still carrying feather to rejoin melee. Also, birds carrying feathers but not being chased have been seen repeatedly dropping a feather high in the air, which results in attracting birds that begin chasing. These observations suggest that chases for feathers may serve some social function in addition to acquiring feathers for the nest.”

All of the Live Oak trees in the preserve are getting their catkins, and the Valley Oaks are just starting to get their leaves.  The Western Redbud trees are starting to bloom, and I found a few Pipevine and Manroot plants around. 

Catkins on Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni

On some of the oak trees I found the tiny white cocoons of the Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moths.  The air was full of Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies, all hungry I presume after escaping from their chrysalises, but none of them landed anywhere around me where I could get photos of them. Most of them were in the air or high in the trees. 

Cocoon of a Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Bucculatrix albertiella

There aren’t any wildflowers in bloom yet, so nectar is in short supply. Since these butterflies ONLY drink nectar (and don’t use fruit or other food sources) I’m assuming they’re having to get what they need from local gardens, manroot flowers, and the like.  [[The caterpillars will eat the pipevines, but the butterflies need nectar.]]  I also saw a few Sulphur butterflies which I think were female Orange Sulphurs.  I wasn’t able to get photos of them either. Dang it.

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

As an aside: to maintain my naturalist certification and get a pin for 2020, I have to volunteer at least 40 hours per year.  It’s only March 3rd, and my walk today put me at my 40 hours already. Woot! 

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
  3. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  4. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  5. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  6. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  7. Bark Rim Lichen, Lecanora chlarotera [looks like Whitewash Lichen but has apothecia]
  8. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  9. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  10. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  11. Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  12. California Buckeye Chestnut, Aesculus californica
  13. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  14. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  15. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  16. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  17. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  18. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  19. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  20. California Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  21. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  22. Coffeeberry, California Buckthorn, Frangula californica
  23. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  24. Common Goldspeck Lichen, Candelariella vitellina [bright yellow with rimmed apothecia on rocks]
  25. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea
  26. Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus
  27. Cowpie Lichen, Diploschistes muscorum [light gray on rocks, similar to Crater Lichen but more pruinose]
  28. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  29. Crown Whitefly, Aleuroplatus coronata [larvae]
  30. Cumberland Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia
  31. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  32. European Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  33. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  34. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  35. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  36. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  37. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  38. Ink Lichen, Placynthium nigrum [pitch black, fine grained]
  39. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  40. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous [heard]
  41. Lords-And-Ladies, Arum maculatum
  42. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
  43. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  44. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  45. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  46. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  47. Orange Sulphur Butterfly, Colias eurytheme 
  48. Pacific Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  49. Peregrine Falcon, Wek-Wek, Falco peregrinus
  50. Periwinkle, Vinca major
  51. Plum, Prunus cerasifera
  52. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus
  53. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  54. Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Bucculatrix albertiella
  55. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  56. Rock Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia conspersa
  57. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  58. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens
  59. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen Polycauliona candelaria
  60. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen, Porpidia albocaerulescens
  61. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  62. Stonewall Rim Lichen, Lecona muralis [pale green/gray thallus with rose/tan apothecia gathered in the center; color can be quite variable]
  63. Stork’s Bill, Broadleaf Filaree, Erodium botrys
  64. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  65. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  66. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  67. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus dubiosus
  68. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  69. Velvety Tree Ant, Liometopum occidentale
  70. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  71. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  72. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  73. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  74. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
  75. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis