Lots of Damselflies, 05-10-21

I got up a little before 6:00 this morning and headed over to the Mather Lake Regional Park for a walk. It was 62° there, but super-windy which made it feel colder. I had to wear my jacket for the whole walk.

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, so I just roamed around. The Goldwire is in bloom along the water’s edge, the cottonwood trees are in their cotton, and the blackberry vines are starting to flower.

I could hear several male quails doing their “chi-ca-go” calls. I was happy to see one jump up on the fence then onto the ground where I could get some photos and a video snippet. In the same area I saw a Western Bluebird and a Eurasian Collared Dove.  

There are several pairs of geese with goslings. I saw one creche with four adults and 18+ babies! I also saw some Mallard females with ducklings.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

There seemed to be fewer Mute Swans on the lake this year in comparison to the same time last year. I only saw two with cygnets, and the number of cygnets per brood seemed smaller (only three or four per parenting pair). I wonder if the park managers went through and culled some of the swans and/or destroyed nests and took eggs.

I was near the edge of the lake looking at the willows there, and was surprised to see a Bushtit over my head on one of the branches. The little bird had some food in its beak for its babies. I then realized its nest was in the tree right next to me. Once I realized it was there, it was easy to see when I got close to the tree, but otherwise it was very well camouflaged. It’s sitting pretty low in the tree, though, so I hope everyone just leaves it alone.

Nest of Bushtits, American Bushtits, Psaltriparus minimus

While I was taking photos of the nest, I saw movement in the water out of the corner of my eye. There was a chubby muskrat swimming by. It climbed up onto the bank, chomping on some water vegetation. I got some photos and video of it, then walked around the back of the spur it was resting on to get photos of it from the other side. That proximity was too close for the critter, though, and it gave me a look, stuffed its face with more vegetation and swam away.

Muskrat, Ondatra zibethicus

The damselflies seemed out in force today. Most of them were Pacific Forktails. They’re small, only about an inch in length. The males have four dots on the top of their thorax, and the bottom of their eyes is green.

Females can look very varied, but can be differentiated from the males by the fact that at the end of their black tail only one of the segments is blue (the males have two blue segments). Gynomorphic females have kaki sides; and andromorphic females look somewhat similar to the males but they have orange patches behind the eyes when they’re young.  Older females tend to go sooty grey with pruinose. Some of them have white pterostigma (the colored cell on the edge of the wings), and sometimes its dusky… So ID-ing them can be quite a challenge.

When I was heading back to the car, I saw a White-Tailed Kite fly into the top of a cottonwood tree and break off one of the twiggy branches. It then flow off into another tree where I assume it was nest-building. I couldn’t see the exact nest site, but it looked like it might have been on top of a large outcropping of mistletoe. (Owls sometimes do that, too.)

White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus

In other trees, I saw a Fox Squirrel next to its drey, and the next of a Yellow-Billed Magpies. Their nests rounded, with a domed top and a hole in the side for the entrance/exit. Everybody was working on stuff. Busy-busy.

There was a young Ground Squirrel sitting on top of a fence post near the parking lot eating what looked like a carrot.

I walked for about 3½ hours and headed home. This was hike #43 in my #52HikeChallenge. When I got back to the house, I found two ticks on me. Yuck-ah. Those guys freak me out.