I got up at 6:30 this morning and headed out around 7:15 am to Mather Lake Regional Park. It was 59° and partly cloudy when I got there, and got up to 72° by the time I left. Across from the main gate on Zinfandel, on the fence line, I saw a female Northern Harrier. She was very accommodating, and stayed there while I stopped the car near her and took her photo.
Inside the park, there were hardly any people today. I only saw two fishermen – and the male photographer I’d seen past week who had tried to race me to get photos of the river otters. Today, he was on the hunt for a Green Heron that had landed on the shore near me. As soon as he approached it, it – and a second heron we hadn’t noticed – took off in a flurry. They landed further down the shore, so he took off after them.
I saw him stalking them, and once again, as soon as he approached, they took off. One of them flew all the way across the lake and landed on the rail boat launch looking very perturbed. I found a few more of the herons on my walk, and as I was leaving, I found one hunting right along the bank by the small bridge. A Canada Goose was napping right behind it.
There were more birds out and about than I’d seen in previous months, and I got treated to views of Bushtits, Belted Kingfishers, a male Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Golden- and White-Crowned Sparrows, and even a pair of White-Tailed Kites among others. The kites were tag-teaming back and forth across the park; I saw them several times in different trees. Finally, one of them sat still for a while on top of a “naked” tree and I was able to get some good shots of him.
CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.
One of the Mute Swans was floating in the water with one foot hitched up behind its back.
“…It is normal for swans to swim with one leg tucked onto their back. People are often concerned that the leg is broken or deformed but the swan is perfectly fine…It has been suggested that this behavior may play a role in helping to regulate the body temperature of the bird. The legs and feet are the only part of the swan not covered in feathers so the blood vessels are in closer contact with the air. The large surface area of the webbed foot makes it easier for heat to be transferred from the body to the air, cooling the swan. This heat exchange could also work the other way, with the feet absorbing heat from the air to warm the bird…”
I tried catching sight of the muskrat, but no luck. While I was navigating through the weeds along the edge of the lake, though, I found a large brown praying mantis on a stand of bull thistle.
The coyote brush throughout the park is starting to bloom now (mostly male plants) and was full of bees, their corbicula heavy with yellow-orange pollen. Good eating right before winter sets in.
On my way out, I saw a couple of ground squirrels scrambling around. They should be getting ready for winter, too. It doesn’t get cold enough here for them to really hibernate, but they do collect nesting material for warmth and are “seasonally lethargic” (I love that phrase) through the winter months.
I walked for about three hours and then headed home.
- American Coot, Fulica americana
- Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
- Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [pink flowers]
- Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
- Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
- Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
- Bull Thistle, Cirsium vulgare
- Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
- California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
- California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
- Callery Pear, Pyrus calleryana
- Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
- Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
- Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
- Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
- European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
- European Starling, Sturnus vulgari
- Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
- Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
- Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
- Great Egret, Ardea alba
- Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
- Green Heron, Butorides virescens
- Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
- Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
- Mediterranean Mantis, Iris oratoria
- Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
- Narrowleaf Cattail, Cattail, Typha angustifolia
- Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
- Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
- Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
- Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
- Panicled Willowherb, Epilobium brachycarpum
- Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
- Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
- Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus [heard]
- Smartweed, Persicaria lapathifolia [white]
- Soft Rush, Juncus effusus
- Swamp Smartweed, False Water-Pepper, Persicara hydropiperoides [pink]
- Swedish Blue Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Swedish Blue
- Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
- White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
- White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
- Willow Bead Gall Mite, Aculus tetanothrix
- Willow Pinecone Gall midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides