I got up around 6:30 this morning, and headed over to the American River for a walk. It was partly cloudy when I left the house, but pretty much cleared up by the afternoon. Because it had rained during the night, everything was wet and there were big puddles all around.
I started off by going to the Gristmill Access to the river; I’d never been there before but wanted to check it out. The entry was another one of those drop-down-off-a-cliff int o the gravel parking area which wasn’t very large. There is a single short trail (about a ½ mile out and back), some porta-potties and ready access to the rocky shore of the river.
Right next to the parking area near the top of a tree was a Red-Tailed Hawk sitting on its nest, squawking away. I got the impression that it was a male, based on its coloring and the fact that it didn’t have a brood patch (where the female hawks lose their feathers to expose their skin to their eggs to keep them warm.)
The trail is narrow and follows the up and down curves of the hillsides. It’s right behind a residential area, so there are a lot of non-native trees and plants mixed in with the wild native stuff. I could identify Live and Valley Oak trees, Cottonwood trees, lots of elderberry trees and some non-native almond trees. I think I also spotted a Silverleaf Oak among the trees, which I’d never seen before. I wonder if it gets any kind of galls on it.
On the ground were the usual suspects like vetch, manroot, bedstraw, Mugwort, horehound, and miner’s lettuce in the tall grass.
There are bird boxes everywhere, from small bluebird boxes, to duck boxes to larger barn owl boxes. Each box was numbered, so I assumed someone it keeping track of them. I checked that out online after I got home and found that the Sacramento Audubon Society set most of them up and tracks what’s there.
“…An amazing number of rarities have been found here: Eastern Wood-Pewee, Red-eyed Vireo, Tennessee Warbler, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Hooded Warbler, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak… Jeri Langham and his cadre of friends and students scour it, sometimes several times a day, during migration. Gristmill is big enough to attract and hold interesting birds, but small enough and open enough to allow for good coverage…”
Cool! I don’t know what most of those birds are! And most warblers are tiny, fast-moving birds, so I’ll need to keep a sharper eye out myself. CLICK HERE for more information on what to look for along the river.
I saw a large Blewit and lot of Yellow Fieldcap mushrooms in the grass, but not much else in the way of fungi (although I stuck pretty much to trail during this first time out).
In the surrounding trees, bushes and blackberry vines were White-Crowned Sparrows, Spotted Towhees, and Oak Titmice.
The trail looks down on the river, so I got to see quite a few birds in and around the water including a Snowy Egret, Coots, Common Goldeneyes, Wood Ducks and Common Mergansers (which I’m sure will be occupying some of the duck boxes as spring approaches), and Bufflehead ducks.
Some of the male Buffleheads were doing their head-bobbing courtship dances which is always so funny to watch, but I also saw some of them dive down under the surface of the water — which was clear enough and shallow enough to see through. As I watched, I could see one male dive and launch himself like a torpedo toward another male, then crash into the other male causing it to panic and leap out of the water. Hah! That’s one way to take out the competition.
Back and forth across the river and through the trees was a pair of Belt Kingfishers flying around, chattering at one another, and face-planting into the water for fish. The female stopped a few times so I could get photos of her, but the male just wouldn’t sit still.
I came across some European Starlings fussing near the top of the tree. It looked like one of them had found a nesting cavity, but was doing house cleaning, taking out beakfuls of detritus from inside the cavity and tossing it out onto the trail.
The biggest surprise of the walk was finding a tiny Western Screech Owl napping in one of the duck boxes. It must’ve been dozing during the early morning rain because some of its feathers were still wet. Such a cutie.
CLICK HERE for the photos from Gristmill.
I spent about an hour out there, just doing the out and back. I want to get back there, though, to spend more time when the plants are more fully fledged and the birds are doing their thing. I then headed over to the American River Bend Park to finish off my walk and look for fungi.
At the park, I found some new outcroppings of False Turkey Tail, jelly fungi, and the first emerging horsehair mushrooms. I was hoping for some coral or bird’s nest fungus but I didn’t find any of those.
The Wild Turkeys were out strutting. There was a large group of males near a group of females, and among them was a much-smaller turkey who was the “wrong color”. Adult males have iridescent black bodies; this one was predominantly brown. It was also about half the size of the adult males. Additionally, its face was more like a female’s, without all the heavy red caruncles. So, I didn’t know what I was looking at: was it a horny teenager, or a female with too many male hormones?
I posted video and photos to some birding groups on Facebook so see if I could get an answer. One speculated that it might have been an Alpha Female showing off for the group… But I thought Alpha Females only displayed male behavior when there were no males around. There were plenty of males here. My sister Melissa suggested that it was a lesbian female…which kind of makes more sense to me.
I also saw quite a few deer — most of them at a distance — including some does, and some two- and three-pointer males still hanging onto their antlers.
The big surprise here was seen as I was leaving the park. I stopped by the spot where Great Horned Owls had nested last year… and found mama owl sitting on the nest today. Yay! I’m looking forward to owlets!
CLICK HERE for the photos from the RiverBend Park.
I counted the two walks combined as hike #20 in my #52HikeChallenge. It’s only month two, and I’ve got 20 hikes in already. It’ll be interesting to see what my final total is at the end of the year.
- Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
- Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
- American Coot, Fulica americana
- Bark Rim Lichen, Lecanora chlarotera [looks like Whitewash Lichen but has apothecia]
- Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
- Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
- Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
- Black Jelly Roll Fungus, Black Witches’ Butter, Exidia glandulosa
- Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
- Blewit Mushroom, Purple Core, Lepista nuda
- Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
- Brown Jelly Fungus, Leafy Brain, Phaeotremella foliacea
- Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
- Bur Parsley, Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
- California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
- California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
- California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
- California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
- California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
- Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
- Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
- Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
- Common Sunburst Lichen, Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina [yellow-orange,on wood/trees]
- Dark-Eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis
- Dark-Winged Fungus Gnat, Bradysia sp.
- Deer Mushroom, Pluteus cervinus
- Dog, Canis lupus familiaris
- Dryad’s Saddle, Hawk’s Wing, Polyporus squamosus
- Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
- European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
- False Turkey-Tail, Stereum hirsutum [thin, flattish, brown underside]
- False Turkey-Tail, Stereum ostrea
- Farinose Cartilage Lichen, Ramalina farinacea [like Oakmoss but very thin branches]
- Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
- Giraffe Spots, Peniophora albobadia [flat, brown w/light rim]
- Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
- Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
- Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa
- Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus bifrons [white flowers]
- Holm Oak, Quercus ilex
- Jelly Spot Fungus, Dacrymyces stillatus
- Magpie Inkcap, Common Inkcap, Coprinopsis picacea
- Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
- Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
- Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
- Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
- Oak-leaf Pinwheel Mushroom, Horsehair Mushroom, Marasmiellus quercophilus
- Peach Tree, Prunus persica
- Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
- Red Edge Brittlestem Mushroom, Psathyrella corrugis [young have red-brown caps and white stipe; turn pale tan and brown with age]
- Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
- Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
- Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
- Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
- Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha [without soredia]
- Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
- Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
- Western Screech Owl, Megascops kennicottii
- White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
- White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
- Witch’s Butter Jelly Fungus, Tremella mesenterica
- Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
- Yellow Fieldcap Mushroom, Bolbitius titubans