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