Nests and Puddling, 03-18-22

I got up around 7:00 this morning and head out to the American River Bend Park for a walk. I wanted to beat the rain that’s supposed to come through on Saturday.

As soon as I got into the park, I was greeted by different critters: a buck (starting to grow his new antlers) browsing through the grass and into the manroot vines, several jackrabbits, and wild turkeys.

The air was full of the bright songs of House Wrens and the honking of Canada Geese arguing with one another in the river.

There were also lots of gulls screaming from the opposite side of the river, but they were too far away for me to tell what species they were.

In the water there were Common Mergansers and Goldeneyes, Mallards, Bufflehead ducks and a few Spotted Sandpipers. And along the shore, I came across a Great Blue Heron and a Snowy Egret.

I walked there for about three hours, taking photos of the birds, the plants, the lichen, and then headed over to the spot where the Great Horned Owls had had a nest last year. No sign of them this year. That’s sad; I’ll miss them. 

Then I decided to go over to the Gristmill Recreation Area to see if I could find the little Western Screech Owl that usually nests there. It’s “right around the corner” from the River Bend Park off of Bradshaw Road.

The first thing I saw was a male Mourning Dove flying alongside the car with nesting material in his beak. I stopped the car and followed him with my eyes, and watched him land just above a female dove on a small tree on the side of the road. I kept watching them for several minutes, seeing the male leave to collect more nesting materials and returning faithfully to his mate. I’ll try to remember to keep an eye on the nest as the weeks go by.

I also saw the Red-Shouldered Hawks in their nest above the parking area. The female was squawking from the middle of the nest and the male flew up to her, presenting her with what looked like a vole for breakfast. He then flew off the nest again, straight toward me and over my head.

I saw a couple of the bird boxes being occupied while I was there: one by Tree Swallows and another by House Wrens. It’s nice to see the boxes utilized. And I saw what I think was an elaborate squirrel drey in the top of another tree. Spring has sprung.

An usual nest high in a tree

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The little owl wasn’t in the nest box it normally uses, at least not that I could see. It might have been tucked down inside of it, brooding over eggs or hatchlings.

In the high grass there were Brown Grass Bugs, and ladybeetles and their larvae. But there weren’t a lot of birds in the water here. I caught a glimpse of a male Belted Kingfisher. He landed briefly on a tree near the trail, but was gone again before I could lift my camera. There seemed to be Northern Flickers all over the place, but they’re so good at hiding I couldn’t get a decent photo of any of them. Likewise, trying to get photos of the Starlings seemed impossible. Sometimes nature photography can be frustrating.

As I was heading back down the trail to the car, I came across a man [who I later learned was Michael Tscheu, a member of the Sacramento Region California Naturalists group on Facebook]. He asked, “Did you see the coyote?”  I hadn‘t, I told him, and he said it had come up behind me on the trail. It must have seen me and then gone off into the underbrush.

He then showed me where there were the remains of a deer carcass – a leg and some entrails. There were other parts including a rib cage, the man said, further in the brush. No doubt, the coyote had been eating some of it, although it was unclear if the coyote had taken the deer down. The deer could have been a carcass being tossed away by poachers after the head was taken, or the deer could have been hit by a car, and pieces of it brought into the area… It was hard to tell.

I was struck by the fact that (1) the soft stuff hadn’t been eaten yet, and (2) there was a Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly feeding on the juices of the entrails. I’d read and heard of other butterfly species “puddling” on corpses, but I’d never seen a Pipevine Swallowtail do that.

Butterflies that feed on “…carrion seem to prefer ammonium ions rather than sodium. In rotting, the tissues of fruits release sugars and other organic compounds such as alcohols that result from the metabolic processes of decay organisms, used as fuel by butterflies…” And apparently the males do it more than the females. I learn something new every day.

The man speculated that the coyotes might be working on a den nearby, but, I don’t know… The place is directly adjacent to a residential area. There are people going through that area every day, some with their unleashed dogs. I couldn’t imagine that that sort of environment would entice a coyote to birth its babies there… Who knows, though; I’ll try to keep an eye on the area.

I walked for a little over and hour at Gristmill, so my total for the day was something over four hours – and my body knew it. My heels and ankles, neck and shoulders and hips were hurting. But I was proud to have been able to make it that long. I haven’t had that much stamina since before my surgery in January. This was walk #13 in my #52HikeChallenge for the year.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Alder, White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  3. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
  4. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  5. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  6. Bark Rim Lichen, Lecanora chlarotera [looks like Whitewash Lichen but has apothecia]
  7. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon [heard, glimpsed]
  8. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  9. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  10. Brown Grass Bug, Irbisia californica
  11. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  12. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  13. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  14. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica [dark green with brown apothecia, on trees]
  15. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  16. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  17. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  18. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  19. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  20. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  21. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  22. Chinese Pistache, Pistacia chinensis
  23. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  24. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  25. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  26. Common Sunburst Lichen, Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina [yellow-orange, on wood/trees]
  27. Coyote Brush Rust Gall, Puccinia evadens
  28. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  29. Cranefly, European Crane Fly, Tipula paludosa
  30. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  31. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  32. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger [rusty belly]
  33. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  34. Frosted Lichen, Physconia sp.
  35. Frosted Rim-Lichen, Lecanora caesiorubella [white with white apothecia]
  36. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  37. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  38. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  39. Greenbottle Fly, Common European Greenbottle Fly, Lucilia sericata
  40. Gull, Larus sp.
  41. Hoary Rosette Lichen, Physcia aipolia [hoary, brown apothecia]
  42. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
  43. Ladybeetle, Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens
  44. Ladybeetle, Seven-Spotted Lady Beetle, Coccinella septempunctata
  45. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  46. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  47. Manroot, California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  48. Mantis, Arizona Mantis, Stagmomantis limbata [large ootheca]
  49. Mealy Rim Lichen, Lecanora strobilina [greenish apothecia]
  50. Moss, Lyell’s Bristle-Moss, Pulvigera lyellii
  51. Moss, Silky Wall Feather-Moss, Homalothecium sericeum
  52. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  53. Non-Biting Midges, Family: Chironomidae
  54. Northern California Black Walnut, Juglans hindsii
  55. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  56. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  57. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  58. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  59. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  60. Powder-Edged Speckled Greenshield, Flavopunctelia soredica [pale green, lots of soredia]
  61. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans
  62. Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans
  63. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  64. Shepherd’s-Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
  65. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  66. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  67. Speckled Greenshield Lichen, Flavopunctelia flaventior
  68. Spotted Sandpiper, Actitis macularius
  69. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha [without soredia]
  70. Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  71. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  72. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  73. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  74. Vetch, Common Vetch, Vicia sativa [pink flowers]
  75. Vole, California Vole, Microtus californicus
  76. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  77. Western Hoptree, Ptelea crenulate
  78. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  79. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

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