A Thieving Heron, 05-15-21

I got up around 6:00 this morning and headed over to the American River Bend Park for a walk. It was lovely outside, I even had to wear my jacket for most of the walk. It was 53° when I got there, but on the shadier parts of the trail it felt cooler.

The first thing I saw as I drove in was a pair of Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, two bucks in their velvet. One of them looks like he may be a three-pointer, but it’s difficult to tell at this stage. (You can read my article about antlers HERE).

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus

Very near where the deer were, I came across a small flock of about eight Mourning Doves feeding on the ground. It looked to me like they were all males. According to Cornell: “[The doves do] not scratch with feet or probe with bill but will move sparse ground litter with whisks of bill to uncover food…”

A male Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura. You can tell it’s a boy by the blue wash on the top of its head.

When I got to the area where I wanted to walk inside the park, I got out of the car and was immediately confronted by a Western Gray Squirrel that ran right up to me as though begging for a handout. When I didn’t give it anything, it ran off, bouncing off the trunk of a tree as it went along – very hyper.

The Tree of Heaven trees were in bloom in some areas.  The trees were brought here from China and are invasive.

Tree of Heaven, Ailanthus altissima

“…The tree of heaven is a problem because it reproduces very quickly and aggressively inhibits (and can even kill) native plants near it. This invasive plant produces an overly abundant amount of seeds, crowds out native species with its dense thickets and secretes a chemical into the soil that is toxic to surrounding plants…Known by a number of names including stinking sumac, Chinese sumac, varnish tree and stink tree, the plant releases a strong, offensive smell, particularly from its flowers…”

The beauty of them is that they’re insect resistant, produce a lot of shade and turn bright colors in the fall… which made them a favorite of landscapers.

The ash trees were covered in draping, dense seedpods. I found some newly forming galls of the Ash Flower Gall Mite. I don’t usually see them when they’re this “young”; the galls were bright green (instead of the yellow-brown I usually see later in the season).  There was also evidence of Ash Leaf Curl Aphid action on some of the leaves.

Along the river, I could see about twenty Turkey Vultures gathered and walking around the little island looking for castoff bits of fish, bones and fish heads to eat. There were also smaller groups of the vultures along the river side.

About 20 Turkey Vultures, Cathartes aura

As the vultures were eating one of the heads, a Great Blue Heron flew in, shoved the vultures out of the way and stole their prize, eating it right in front of them.

When the vultures moved further down the river side to go after more carrion, the heron followed after them, stealing whatever they found. At one spot, the fish they all wanted looked like it was tangled up in a stringer, and none of the birds could figure out how to get it off.  When the vultures then moved on to yet another spot, the heron again followed them.

I was surprised that the vultures did little more than raise their wings in threat at the heron; they certainly out-numbered it, but I didn’t see any of them make an advance on it. Guess they’re lovers and not fighters.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Here are a few more video snippets from today:

A Snowy Egret, Egretta thula, feeding in a still pond on the side of river.

A male Common Merganser, Mergus merganser, fishing in the river. I couldn’t tell what he’d caught, but he gobbled it right up. The water was clear enough that when he dove under the surface you could still see him.

A White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis, searches for and stashes away little tidbits from under the bark of a tree.

I walked for almost 4½ hours (ugh, very much beyond my limit) and headed home. This was hike #44 of my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Ash Flower Gall Mite, Aceria fraxiniflora
  4. Ash Leaf Curl Aphid, Prociphilus fraxinifollii
  5. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon [heard; flyby]
  6. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  7. Black Mustard, Common Wild Mustard, Brassica nigra
  8. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  9. California Brickellbush, Brickellia californica
  10. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  11. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  12. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  13. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  14. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  15. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  16. Camel Cricket, Gammarotettix bilobatus
  17. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  18. Cedar Waxwing, Bombycilla cedrorum
  19. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  20. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  21. Common Hoptree, Ptelea trifoliata
  22. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  23. Deerweed, Acmispon glaber
  24. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata [red line on leaves]
  25. Emma’s Dancer Damselfly, Argia emma
  26. Fennel Aphid, Hyadaphis foeniculi
  27. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  28. Gall Inducing Wooly Aphid, Stegophylla essigi [in live oaks, folds the leaf over itself]
  29. Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum
  30. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  31. Greater Quaking Grass, Rattlesnake Grass, Briza maxima
  32. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  33. Hairy Vetch, Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa 
  34. Hairy Woodpecker, Dryobates villosus [long bill]
  35. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  36. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  37. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  38. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  39. Irregular Spindle Gall Wasp, Andricus chrysolepidicola
  40. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus
  41. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous [heard; flyby]
  42. Leafy-Cone-Gall Tephritid Fly, Aciurina idahoensis [on rabbitbrush]
  43. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  44. London Plane Tree, Platanus × acerifolia
  45. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  46. Moth Mullein, Verbascum blattaria
  47. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  48. Northern Rough-Winged Swallow, Stelgidopteryx serripennis [ashy]
  49. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  50. Orange Bush Monkeyflower, Diplacus aurantiacus
  51. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  52. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  53. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  54. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens
  55. Smilo Grass, Oloptum miliaceum [thin, feathery looking]
  56. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  57. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  58. Tree of Heaven, Ailanthus altissima
  59. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  60. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  61. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  62. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  63. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  64. Yellow Rabbitbrush, Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus
  65. Yellow Water Iris, Yellow Flag, Iris pseudacorus [invasive]
  66. ?? tiny spider on ash gall