I went to Mather Lake Regional Park and walked for about 3 hours. I was looking for the osprey again, but didn’t find it. I was surprised by other things, though – including a Bald Eagle!
It was foggy and damp, around 43° when I got to the lake, and the temperature didn’t change much while I was out there. Everything seemed to be made of varying shades of gray and silver and black. I took photos of a couple of kinds of lichen, including Poplar Sunburst, and some mushrooms, including Mica Caps (a kind of ink cap) and Oyster mushrooms.
The Mute Swans were out in force on the lake, but I didn’t see the Tundra Swan this time. I wonder if it moved on in its migration. There were also large numbers of Coots, some of them sticking together in large covers while they were feeding on aquatic plants. I also saw some of the usual suspects: Double-Crested Cormorants, Mockingbirds, Canada Geese, Pied-Billed Grebes, and a Great Egret.
CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.
I caught a glimpse of a muskrat as it was swimming across the surface of the water, and also saw about five river otters. The first otter I saw was a lone one, but then I saw a group of four. All of them were swimming and feeding on the fish they were able to catch. It’s always exciting to see them. I was hoping they would come up onto the shore at some point so I could get some full body shot of them, but I guess they were too focused on breakfast. Several of them popped up long enough to look directly at me and snort loudly at my presence.
I was following this same raft of otters in the water, then saw the Bald Eagle over my head in a tree. Although eagles are historically not uncommon at the lake, they hadn’t been spotted there for years. So, I was very surprised when I saw it. More surprising, though, was when the otters gathered in the water underneath where the eagle was perched and huffed and snorted loudly at it.
Then the eagle swooped down off of its branch and flew low over the water. All of the otters ducked but didn’t fully submerge. The eagle approached one of them and literally raked its talons cross the top of the otter’s head before landing in a tree further down the bank. I didn’t get the impression that the eagle was trying to catch the otter; rather it seemed like it was flicking the otter hard on the head to show it who was boss. Of course, my camera wasn’t focusing on anything at that moment; all I got was a blur, dang it! [When I got home, I made sure to log my sighting with the River Otter Ecology Project]
Other raptors noted today were two White-Tailed Kites, a Red-Tailed Hawk, and a Red-Shouldered Hawk (heard).
Along one part of the trail, I came upon the broken skull of what I think was a small vole. It was alongside some scat that I couldn’t identify because it was too degraded. It might have been from a coyote. I know mink eat voles, but I don’t know if otter eat them as well. The scat definitely looked “mammalian”; not something that was part of a bird pellet.
As I was leaving, I came across a man with his unleashed, old, Yellow Lab. The man was walking back to his car, and the dog was following its owner with a soggy tennis ball in its mouth. At one point, the dog stopped and put its ball on the ground. The man, realizing that his dog was no longer following him, turned to look at the dog, and the dog started whining loudly and “mouthing words” at the man.
“No, you can’t go in the water,” the man said to the dog. “It’s too cold. Pick up your ball and come on.” The dog picked up the ball and continued to follow the man to the parking lot. Even as much as I HATE seeing unleashed dogs in public areas, I had to laugh at that exchange.
I walked for about 3 hours before heading home.
In response to my “otter spotter” submission on the otter versus eagle moment today, Megan Isadore at the River Otter Ecology Project emailed me:
“…Thanks for that very interesting sighting! I’m not sure if you’ve seen our series on Otter and Bald Eagle at Jenner a couple of years ago? Here’s my favorite shot of the group; the eagle had tried to “share” the otter’s prey, which he’d dragged up onto the rock. The otter prevailed…”
- American Coot, Fulica americana
- Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
- Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
- Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
- Beaver, American, Beaver, Castor canadensis [sign]
- Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
- Bluegill, Lepomis macrochirus
- Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
- Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
- California Quail, Callipepla californica
- California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
- Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
- Common Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
- Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
- Crisped Pincushion Moss, Ulota crispa
- Cytospora Canker, Cytospora chrysosperma [bright orange fruiting body, looks like frozen dodder]
- Dog, Canis lupus familiaris
- Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
- Downy Woodpecker, Picoides pubescens
- European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
- Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
- Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
- Great Egret, Ardea alba
- Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
- Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
- Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus bifrons [white flowers]
- Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
- Mica Cap, Coprinellus micaceus [an inkcap, tan cap, dark gills]
- Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
- Muskrat, Ondatra zibethicus
- Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
- Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
- Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
- Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
- Oyster Mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus
- Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
- Poplar Sunburst Lichen, Xanthomendoza hasseana [on Cottonwood]
- Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
- Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
- River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
- Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
- Say’s Phoebe, Sayornis saya
- Sheet Weaver Spiders, Family: Linyphiidae
- Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
- Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
- Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
- Star Moss, Syntrichia ruralis
- Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
- Water Vole, Arvicola amphibius [skull]
- Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
- White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
Hike #1 of my #52hikechallenge. Miles: 1.32