Category Archives: Firsts

My Lecture on Galls Went Off Well

On Thursday, September 29th I gave a lecture on plant galls for the public at the Davis Library for Tuleyome.  It went over well.  I got applause, and afterwards several people gave me some real positive feedback.  One thing I need, though, is a microphone. My old voice doesn’t carry very far.

I have been asked by the Napa County RCD to do the lecture for them next year in April.  Woot!

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Mostly Deer at the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve

Labor Day.  I got up around 6:00 am and went over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.  It was 51° when I got to the preserve – my favorite walking temperature – and was only in the 70’s by the time I left.

I came across a couple of Green Darner dragonflies trying to warm themselves up in the early morning light. One was sitting in the grass, and another was sitting up in a tree.  The one in the grass was still torpid from the cool air, so I was able to pick it up and get a little video and a few other photos of it. It was biting at my finger while I was holding it – which is like a sharp little pinch – and arched its tail like it was threatening to sting me even though dragonflies don’t have stingers.  (Some dragonfly species have learned that if they threaten to sting, whatever is holding them will let go in a reflex action to protect themselves from a sting.)

CLICK HERE for the video of the dragonfly.

I saw quite a few Mule Deer, including one two-point buck who was off browsing by himself.  As I was watching one female deer in the distance, I caught sight of a coyote running through the grass.  At one spot, he stopped under the shade of a tree. I aimed the camera at him, but didn’t think I got the shot because it was so dark in the shaded area.  As luck would have it, the camera-gods were with me, and I got a lovely shot of the coyote scratching himself under the tree.

CLICK HERE for the video of the coyote.

I also got to see hummingbirds, Wild Turkeys, some California Towhees, Acorn Woodpeckers. Mourning Doves, Bullfrogs, California Ground Squirrels and a couple of Red-Shouldered Hawks. And I found a Brown Lacewing (Hemerobius spp.) that seemed to be snacking on Crown Whitefly nymphs. Brown Lacewings are a little more rare than Green Lacewings, so that was a neat find…

CLICK HERE for an album of all of the photos from today.

I walked for about three hours and then headed back to the car.

A Lovely Saturday at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Lots to share today…  I got up around 5:45 this morning and headed out with the dog to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. It was actually overcast when I left the house, nice and cool.  The temperatures stayed pleasant throughout the day: around 80° with a cool breeze by the late afternoon.

I was taking a chance that the extended loop at the refuge would still be open for the Labor Day weekend, and my gamble paid off.  (I think they’re actually closing the loop on September 10th.) I wasn’t looking for anything in particular; just looking around to see what Nature wanted to show me today.  That kind of outing is always really relaxing for me.  When you’re not expecting anything, then anything can be a surprise.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos from today.

The first critter we saw was a Turkey Vulture sitting in a eucalyptus tree near the parking lot, just casing the joint and relaxing in the shade.  Then there was a series of jackrabbits (and Cottontails, but they moved to fast for me to get any photos of them). I also came across some mule deer, including a fawn that was separated from its mom. (I think she was foraging along the side of a nearby slough.) It’s not unusual for the youngsters to be left alone for short periods of time, so I wasn’t worried about the little guy.

At one point along the auto-tour route, I came across a pair of young female Ring-Neck Pheasants foraging in the dried grass along the edge of the road.  I parked the car and watched them for a little while. One of the pair was pretty skittish, but the other one didn’t seem to mind that I was there – as long as I didn’t move. Toward the end of the route, I also came across a more adult female pheasant and got a tiny bit of video of her. The males are more elaborate-looking, but I love the patterns on the feathers of the females. It looks like each one was paint individually…

CLICK HERE for a video of the young pheasants foraging.

CLICK HERE for a video of the mature female pheasant. You can hear in this one how much the wind had picked up.

There were  a lot of Clark’s and Western Grebes on the water in the permanent wetlands area, most of them trying to feed their voracious children.  You could hear the kids “yelling” for food all along that part of the route: high-pitching whining cries that got louder whenever their parents came up from a dive with a bug or small fish for the kids to eat.  I got several video snippets of that. Some of the parents were more successful at finding a meal for the kids than others.  I watched one Western Grebe that came up with a bug or a fish every time it dove down for something; and I watched another parent that came up empty-handed every time. The kids were all able to recognize their own parent, too, so the ones that weren’t getting fed by their parents never went after the adults who came up with fish every time.

I also watched while one “teenager” preened while it waited for its parent to bring it food.  I’m always fascinated by the way the grebes’ legs and feet are  attached to its body.  The legs don’t sit underneath in the center of the bird’s like they do in most bird species; instead, they’re positioned near the back of the bird’s body which makes them great swimmers, but rather clumsy on land. They also have lobed (not webbed feet) and often lift their feet out of the water to shake them off… or even lift the whole leg out of the water and bend it over their back to tuck the foot in under the wing (called “foot-shipping”). It looks really goofy when they do this.  I have a little bit of video of this so you can see what I mean.

CLICK HERE for a video of the “foot shipping” juvenile Grebe.

CLICK HERE for a video of a juvenile Clark’s Grebe getting fed by its parent.  turn the sound up and you’ll hear the high-pitched call from the juvenile.

CLICK HERE for a video of a juvenile who got separated from its parent and then had to rush to get its meal. In the background of this video you can hear the harsh calls of a flock of Common Terns that were circling and swooping overhead.

 

There were lots of American White Pelicans out today, some just napping, some preening, some fishing in large groups.  Alongside them were Double-Crested Cormorants. When the temperature started to rise, the cormorants would gape and make their throats waggle (gular fluttering) to cool off a bit. I also saw (and got a little video of) some of the juveniles sparring with one another: opening their hooks beaks and rattling them against one another’s while their grunted.  There was also one of the cormorants that picked up feathers and carried them over to other cormorants in the flock. I saw him do this with a scraggly black feather and white gull feather… But I haven’t been able to find anything that describes this behavior or why the cormorant was doing it.  It was a juvenile, so I don’t think it was any kind of “courting” behavior… and I didn’t see it eat the feathers (like the grebes do sometimes to aid in their digestion), so I was stumped.  Fascinated, but stumped.  I wish I had more time to just sit out in nature and view/video more of the behavior stuff… I find it all so interesting.

CLICK HERE for a video o the pelicans feeding.

CLICK HERE for the video of the sparring juveniles. Turn the sound up to hear the sounds the birds are making.  You can also see some Gadwalls in this clip.

CLICK HERE for a video of the cormorants doing their “gular fluttering” thing.

Among the other birds, we got so see Great Egrets, a lone Red-Tailed Hawk, Ring-Billed Gulls, Pied-Billed Grebes, a few Ruddy Ducks, a female Ring-Necked Duck, a Greater Yellowlegs, and a pair of White-Faced Ibis feeding in the shallows alongside the road. The sun was behind them, though, so I didn’t get very good shots of them.

I also got photos of a few different dragonfly species and other “incidental” stuff like wasps and bindweed… whatever looked interesting at the moment.

The best “find” of the day for me was coming across a small group of river otters.  They’d found a cache of fish (and bullfrogs, I think) near the shore and were chowing down.  I got a little video of them crunching away at their catch. It’s so hard to get clear photos of the otters when they’re in the water because they move so swiftly; and then they’ll disappear under the surface and pop up again somewhere else… I never know where to point the camera.  Hah!

CLICK HERE for a video of the otters eating.

CLICK HERE for a video of the otters swimming.

The dog and I headed back home around noon and got to the house a little after 2:00 pm.

Mostly Deer and Galls Today, 08-28-16

I got up at :00 this morning, and headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve.  It was another gorgeous day: 56° when I went out to the preserve, and by 10:30 when I was heading home, it was still only 68° outside.  It didn’t get into the high 70’s until the later afternoon…

I was walking for the exercise more than anything else; just open to whatever Nature wanted to show me today.  I saw a lot of mule deer, including some babies just out of their spots and some males sporting new shiny antlers (now that the velvet has all been shed).  There was one grouping of five that stopped right in front of me along the trail near the nature center building, and it was the first time I’d ever heard deer vocalizing at one another.  The group was made up of females and some yearlings, and they made these odd, deep, low-volume “groans” at one another.  Because I’d never heard the deer make so much as a peep before, at first I didn’t believe what I was hearing.  But the sound went on for several minutes, and intensified a little bit when another female joined the group.  I wonder what they were saying to one another…

CLICK HERE for the complete album of photos from today.

All around the preserve I found a lot of galls on the oak trees; nothing new, but a wide variety of them. I also came across a pair of adult female Wild Turkeys.  Each of them had a single surviving poult, one a little older than other.  I got a little video of them walking the trail in front of me pecking at the ground for grit and seeds.

CLICK HERE to see the video.

I also came across one oak tree where some of the acorns had obviously been infested with something and were malformed and “weeping” some kind of fluid.  I know there are wasps, weevils and moths that infest acorns, but didn’t break the acorns open to see what was inside of them… And I got a couple of photos of some katydid nymphs, and the abandoned exoskeleton of a large praying mantis in the brush around the nature center.

At one of the man-made ponds I found some young Bullfrogs loitering on the rocks and fallen tules as I was heading back toward my car.  I found the frogs just as a family was coming up to the pond, so I told them about the frogs and the parents were as excited to see them as the kids were.  The mom told me this was their first time at the preserve and they’d hardly gotten in the front gate and they’d already spotted a small herd of deer and the frogs; they were very happy.

Lots of Babies at the Zoo, 08-20-16

I got up around 8:00 am this morning, and headed over to the Sacramento Zoo. I’m still fighting off a little bit of the vertigo and the drowsiness from the medication, but I needed to get moving and get some fresh air… and I felt that if I got super-dizzy while at the zoo, at least there would be a lot of people around who could help me… I walked slowly and used railings wherever I could and I made it through most of the zoo.  I didn’t get over to the chimpanzee house or the reptile house, but I still got to see a lot of stuff.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE WHOLE ALBUM of photos.

Over the previous several months a lot of babies had been born to the zoo, and I got to see several of them today which was fun.  The Red River hoglets are getting big and are out of their stripes and into their more adult coats now. They’re still smaller than mom and dad, and don’t have the tassels on their ears that the adults have but I still think they’re cute.

Then I saw the baby Masai giraffe.  When you see it in photos by itself, it doesn’t look all that small.  But then its dad walked by and, wow, the baby is still small.  Like all of the giraffes, it has such a gentle face, and gorgeous long eyelashes… I actually sat down on a bench next to the giraffe enclosure and watched it for almost 20 minutes…

Next to the giraffe enclosure is the on-site animal hospital. They have windows along the front of it, so you can look in at the exam rooms and see what’s going on, if anything.  Today, there were two female veterinarians in there working on one of the guinea fowl.  They had the bird sedated and on a table with IV’s, but I don’t know exactly what they were doing to it…

Then I went to see the new baby Wolf’s Guenon (born on June 5th); it’s just a little stick with fur that is always on the go.  It was sometimes hard to get pictures of him, he was moving so fast.  But he was soooo adorable.  It’s mom was right near the baby and huffed and growled at me when she felt I getting too close to their habitat. I’d never heard her make any kind of noise before, so it was kind of a surprise.

None of the big cats were out today except for the male lion – and he sat with his back to the fence, so I didn’t get any really good photos of him. I did get to see a lot more animals, though, including the aardvark who was out of his cave; this was the first time I’ve seen him out in the sunlight…

After about 2 hours, I was getting a little nauseous and tired, so I headed back home.

Screech Owl Release

I’d signed up and donated to participate in the release of wild Screech Owls through the Greater Sacramento Chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers on the 17th.  I’d never seen a live Screech Owl and was really looking forward to it.

The personnel at GSC AAZK were incredibly rude (and billed me TWICE for my donation), however, so they sort of destroyed the mood of the whole event).  Obviously, I won’t ever be donating to them again.  But the proceeds of the night’s event went to support the Wildlife Care Association in Sacramento, and I love the work they do.  And their personnel were very polite and accommodating, and put on an interesting talk before the release was going to happen that evening. GSC AAZK could learn a LOT from them.

The release was not quite I’d hoped. The owl they handed me flew away before it even touched my glove.  It was great to see it return so easily to the wild, but I was disappointed because I didn’t even get the chance to LOOK at it before it took off.  As the event was ending, however, the personnel from WCA came running up to me and asked if I’d like to get some photos taken with their animal ambassador Screech Owl (not one that was going to be released, but one they used for educational purposes).  I thought that was very nice of them, so I did that.  The little ambassador Screech Owl had a blown pupil (like David Bowie) and was so tiny. Not as small as the Northern Pygmy, but still pretty small.  It was cool be able to be that close to it.

WCA: 1    GSC AAZK: a big fat zero.

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