Got to See Some River Otters, 09-28-20

I got up around 6:00 am, and was out the door around 6:45 to head out to Mather Lake Regional Park. There are a few more wildfires started up, so we’re getting air quality alerts again.  Not too bad:  102 AQI (Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups) 

When I arrived at the park the sun was just starting to come up over the horizon, and the first thing I saw was movement on the surface of the lake. I thought, “oooo, muskrat!”, but then I realized there was more than one thing moving in the water.

It was a raft of FIVE RIVER OTTERS!

Three of the five North American River Otters, Lontra canadensis

I was one of two people with a camera on the shore, and the other guy spotted the otters about the same time I did. He rushed down one side of the lake, and I “rushed” (which is hard with a cane) down another. The male photographer was moving so fast, he startled the otters and they turned my way. It was hard to get photos of them because the rising sun was behind them for the most part, but I did get a tiny bit of video of the otters when they lifted up in the water to look at a fisherman near the water’s edge. So cool!

Of course, I reported the sighting to the River Otter Ecology Project, Otter Spotter.

When the otters dove near a small flock of Canada Geese, the geese took off with a lot of clamoring noise. The otters must have “goosed” them. Hah!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I caught glimpses of a Belted Kingfisher that was flying between the trees, but it wouldn’t sit still anywhere long enough for me to get photos of it.  When I watched a Double-Crested Cormorant flying over the water, its flight path was interrupted by a Green Heron who then lighted on the twiggy remnants of a submerged log.  Even though the heron was pretty far away, I was able to get a couple of photos of it…and the small turtle sitting on a rock near the twigs.

Green Heron, Butorides virescens

I also saw my “spirit bird”, a Black Phoebe. It was flitting back and forth from snags over the water and back again. On one trip, it caught an insect midair, then returned to snag to swallow it down.

Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans

There were a lot of Pied-Billed Grebes in the water, adults and juveniles, all of them swimming and fishing among rafts of water vegetation. The Mute Swans were all about, of course, along with the geese. I also saw small flocks of Bushtits and Lesser Goldfinches. I heard California Quail and Northern Flickers, but couldn’t catch sight of them.  It was nice to see and hear the familiar song of White-Crowned Sparrows who are just now starting to migrate back into the area.

White-Crowned Sparrow,Zonotrichia leucophrys

Blue damselflies were still decorating the plants at the water’s edge, but their numbers are dwindling.  And I only saw two dragonflies. There were lots of midges in the air, and I was also aware of the mosquitoes today (having pretty much missed them otherwise this year).

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

Species List:

  1. American Bugleweed, Water Horehound, Lycopus americanus
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Argentine Ant, Linepithema humile
  4. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
  5. Bishop Pine, Pinus muricata [fascicles of TWO needles]
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  8. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  10. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  11. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  12. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  13. Common Spike-Rush, Eleocharis palustris [has a head somewhat like SB Sedge]
  14. Cottonwood Petiole Gall, Poplar Petiole Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populitransversus
  15. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  16. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  17. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  18. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  19. Familiar Bluet Damselfly, Enallagma civile
  20. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  21. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  22. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
  23. Green Heron, Butorides virescens
  24. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  25. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  26. Largemouth Bass, Micropterus salmoides
  27. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  28. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  29. Mosquito, Common House Mosquito, Culex pipiens
  30. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  31. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  32. Narrowleaf Cattail, Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  33. Narrowleaf Willow, Salix exigua
  34. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus [heard]
  35. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  36. Pacific Forktail Damselfly, Ischnura cervula
  37. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  38. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans
  39. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  40. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
  41. Soft Rush, Juncus effusus
  42. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  43. Tule Bluet Damselfly, Enallagma carunculatum
  44. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  45. Willow Bead Gall Mite, Aculus tetanothrix
  46. Willow Herb, Epilobium brachycarpum [tiny pink flowers, seeds almost like soaproot]
  47. Willow Pinecone Gall midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides