From Owlets to Muskrats, 04-10-21

I got up around 6:00 am and went to the American River Bend Park first just to check on mama Great Horned Owl and her owlets, then I was off to Mather Lake Regional Park to see how things were going there.

At the River Bend Park, I parked near the “owl tree” and immediately saw mama Great Horned Owl sitting on a branch to the right of the nest. She was dozing. Inside the nest I could see two owlets. One was standing up, while the other stayed down inside the nest; only the top of its head was visible.

On the nearby lawn, the male Wild Turkeys were strutting for the females. In the early morning light, their iridescent feathers took on a deep copper tone. They’re really such beautiful animals.

After taking several photos, I headed over to Mather Lake. All of the trees are starting to leaf-out including the willows, cottonwoods and oaks, so there were varying shades of green all around the lake.  One of the first things I saw there was a House Finch flying onto a nest she had under the roof of one of the kiosks. The nest had a mud base and was filled with spun dried grass.

House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus, and her nest

The male Red-Winged Blackbirds were out in force, singing from the trees and tules; and a Great Tailed Grackle was joining in from an adjacent tree.

In yet another tree, I saw a Green Heron.  It was croaking at a second heron that I only saw when the two of them took off and flew out of the park.

Several of the Coyote Brush bushes and Willow Dock plants were infested with aphids; light green on the Coyote Brush and deeper, richer green on the dock… But I’m not sure of the species. There are so many different ones, it’s hard to tell. I’ll have to do more research.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Along the trail I got a brief glimpse of a cottontail rabbit, and also saw a tiny pocket gopher running by.  Oh, I saw my first Western Kingbird of the season, and also saw my first Sankefly of the season, so those were cool.

Snakefly, Agulla adnixa

The biggest surprise of the say, though, was seeing a muskrat swimming back and forth in the water several times. It was gathering greenery from the bottom of the lake, bringing it to the surface, and carrying it to the opposite side of the little island in the lake. I assumed it was taking the greenery to fill its nest, wherever that was. Maybe feeding babies?

Unfortunately for the muskrat, the island was being occupied by Canada Geese. Some of the geese chased the muskrat and nipped at him, and another goose stole the muskrat’s greenery and ate it! Poor little thing. Even with all the abuse, the muskrat kept focused on its task. I watched it go back and forth three times before I lost track of it.

On my way out to the parking lot, I noticed that two pairs of the Canada Geese had goslings with them — three babies each — and were walking them from the water’s edge, then back up onto the grass, where the adults tried to settle down to rest in the sunshine. Some of the goslings weren’t interested in napping, though, and rushed back to the water. Hah!  Brats!

Canada Goose, Branta canadensis, and goslings

On the way home, I drove down Eagle’s Nest Road beside the protected vernal pool area.  There’s no water out there that I could see, but some of the goldfields flowers and pan poppies were out blooming.

In another field, surrounded by temporary fencing, was a huge herd of Nubian Goats (the ones with the long floppy ears) working to clear the field. The herd included adult and baby goats, and when the baby goats ran, they looked like Cocker Spaniels running, ears flapping. One of the babies’ hide was covered in dots and splotches, and one of the splotches looked like a white heart on its side. How cute is that?!

I was out walking for almost 4 hours. This was hike #34 of my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. ?? Ants farming the aphids
  2. Aphid, Family: Aphididae [pale green on coyote brush]
  3. Aphid, Family: Aphididae [rich green on willow dock]
  4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  5. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  6. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  7. Bur Parsley, Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  8. California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  10. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  11. Cattle, Bos taurus
  12. Cobwebby Thistle, Cirsium occidentale
  13. Common Cat’s-Ear, Hypochaeris radicata
  14. Cork Oak, Quercus suber
  15. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  16. Coyote Brush Rust, Puccinia evadens
  17. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  18. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  19. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  20. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  21. Frying Pan Poppy, Eschscholzia lobbii
  22. Goat, Nubian Goat, Capra aegagrus hircus
  23. Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica
  24. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  25. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  26. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  27. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
  28. Green Heron, Butorides virescens
  29. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa
  30. Hermit Thrush, Catharus guttatus
  31. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  32. Lincoln’s Sparrow, Melospiza lincolnii
  33. Lupine, Arroyo Lupine, Lupinus succulentus
  34. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  35. Mossy Stonecrop, Crassula tillaea [red]
  36. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  37. Multiflora Rose, Rosa multiflora [like white rock rose]
  38. Muskrat, Ondatra zibethicus
  39. Mustard Yellow Polypore, Fuscoporia gilva [like a bracket fungus]
  40. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  41. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  42. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  43. Ribwort Plantain, Plantago lanceolata
  44. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  45. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  46. Snakefly, Agulla adnixa
  47. Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica
  48. Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni
  49. Swedish Blue Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Swedish Blue
  50. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  51. Wall Barley, Hordeum murinum
  52. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  53. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  54. Western Kingbird, Tyrant Flycatcher, Tyrannus verticalis
  55. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  56. Willow Dock, Rumex salicifolius