So Much Life Today, 12-03-20

I got up around 6:00 this morning, and was out the door by 6:30 to go out to the Mather Lake Regional Park for a walk with my friend Roxanne. It was about 37° when we got to the lake, clear and “crisp”. It was a super-fun, super busy wildlife day. There were actually times when we were telling Mother Nature, “Wait a minute, I want to get photos of this before you show me that!” Hah!

As we were stalking a Great Egret on the side of the lake, we noticed movement on the water beside us. Inside a little hidey-hole we saw a muskrat eating his breakfast. Right near him was a Green Heron trying to eat a “huge” fish. And then a Black Phoebe flew in…

The whole morning was like that — so much life everywhere.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

We could see Belted King Fishers flying and face-planting in the water after fish. They move sooooo fast! One of them parked itself on the telephone wire over where the muskrat and friends were found, and I was able to get a so-so photo of it.

And in the same area as the Great Egret on the bank, we saw a pair of Great Blue Herons. We couldn’t tell if their behavior was aggressive or courtship-like, but they kept in close proximity to one another. When one flew to a different part of the bank, the other flew onto a nearby trail so it could keep an eye on the first one. Then when that one flew to a different part of the bank, the other flew into a tree nearby. It was like they were “stalking” each other, getting close but not too close. I tried looking up the behavior in Cornell, but couldn’t really find anything that corresponded to what we were seeing.

I came across the cottonwood tree that was further “excavated” by a beaver (we could see the teeth-marks in the wood), and was surprised to see it blooming with clusters of oyster mushrooms, some black ants, and outcroppings of that Cytospora Canker I just learned to identify yesterday!

I really think that given another week or so, that beaver will have that tree felled and in the water. I also think we spotted the beaver den today, too.

Beaver’s den?

On the lake was the lone Tundra Swan among the Mute Swans, Roxanne found a Fox Sparrow, and I found a Western Bluebird that looked almost sooty-dark.

There were LOADS of Double-Crested Cormorants in the water and in the trees along the edge, grayish juveniles and dark adults. In the water, we also saw a few Buffleheads (!). Then we were surprised by the appearance of a single otter. She poked her head up a few times before swimming off.

There was just so much to see today. I was VERY pleased with the visit.

At one point, while we were heading back to the car, we came across a spot where tree roots were clogging up the trail and I didn’t think I could walk over them. So, I opted instead to walk along the edge of the trail under the branches of a willow tree. As I was ducking under them and moving along, a blackberry vine got wrapped up around my shoe, tripping me, and I fell forward against the tree. Now, for me, that’s “near fatal” because once I’m down, I can’t get back up onto my feet by myself (a combination of muscle weakness and pain in my left hip caused by arthritis and a pinched nerve). Luckily, Rox was with me. She stepped in behind me and lifted me upon to my feet while I used the narrow tree trunk like a handicapped bar to pull myself up. Between the two of us, we got me back up onto my feet. The fall tweaked out my hip joint a bit, but I was still able to walk the rest of the way back to the car. Phew! Thanks, again, Rox for being there and being such a good friend!

We took the scenic route back home, following Zinfandel down toward the vernal pool area where the road is no longer paved all the way to where it intersected with Jackson and other recognizable roads…

Species List:

  1. American Bugleweed, Water Horehound, Lycopus americanus
  2. American Coot, Fulica americana
  3. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius [in flight]
  4. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  5. Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [pink flowers]
  6. Beaver, American, Beaver, Castor canadensis [sign and den]
  7. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
  8. Black Garden Ant, Common Black Ant, Lasius niger
  9. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  10. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  11. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  12. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  13. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  14. Callery Pear, Pyrus calleryana
  15. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  16. Chinese Pistache, Pistacia chinensis
  17. Chinese Willow, Curly Willow, Salix matsudana
  18. Common Yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas
  19. Coyote Brush Stem Gall moth, Gnorimoschema baccharisella
  20. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  21. Cytospora Canker, Cytospora chrysosperma [bright orange fruiting body, looks like frozen dodder]
  22. Dog, Canis lupus familiaris
  23. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  24. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  25. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  26. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  27. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  28. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  29. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  30. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
  31. Green Heron, Butorides virescens
  32. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  33. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  34. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  35. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  36. Muskrat, Ondatra zibethicus
  37. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  38. Narrowleaf Cattail, Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  39. Narrowleaf Willow, Salix exigua
  40. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  41. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius [in flight]
  42. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  43. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  44. Oyster Mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus
  45. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  46. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  47. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  48. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
  49. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  50. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  51. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  52. Smallmouth Bass, Micropterus dolomieu
  53. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  54. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  55. Tundra Swan, Cygnus columbianus
  56. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  57. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  58. Western Gull, Larus occidentalis [spot on bill, pink legs, orange circle around eye]
  59. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  60. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  61. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys