Category Archives: galls

Magpies are Nest-Building, 02-14-21

Valentine’s Day. I was up around 7:00 am and headed over to William B. Pond Park for a walk even though I was in pain.  It was about 46° when I got there, mostly cloudy and threatening rain, so I had to wear my jacket.

The first thing I noticed were the Yellow-Billed Magpies. There was one on the ground picking up bits of wood chips, and wondered what it wanted those for. Then I realized it was part of a pair of birds that were building a nest in a tree next to the parking lot. They had the cup pretty much completed.

Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli

 Cornell says: “…Nest is extremely large structure with mud (or dung) and stick base, stick canopy (dome), and mud bowl lined with animal hair, grass, shredded bark, or rootlets…”

The repeating tick-tick-tick sound you hear in the background is someone’s bike alarm.

So, I figured they were lining the base of the nest with the wood chips.  Cool! As I looked around, I could see two other nests being built in other nearby trees.  None of them had their domed tops yet, so I figured all of the birds must’ve started building the nests around the same time. Once the domes are in place, you can’t see into the nests, so — no peeking at the babies.

Silver Wattle, Acacia dealbata

The Silver Wattle trees are in bloom right now, all decorated with bright yellow puff-balls; the first sign of spring while the cottonwood and oak trees are still pretty much naked. There were tiny bittercress plants showing off, along with some of the Bur Chervil and White Horehound.

There seemed to be Spotted Towhees everywhere I looked today; down on the ground, up in the trees and bushes. You could hear their tow-weeeh calls from all around. 

Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus

I also saw a solitary Red-Shouldered Hawk sitting in a tree, calling out, warming itself up in the morning sun.

Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The water in this part of the river was exceptionally low. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it that shallow before. If I were more sure-footed, I could have walked right across it in several spots.

American River, low water

The geese were taking advantage of all of the exposed riverbed and rocky sholes. In one spot there was a group of Turkey Vultures working on what I think was a salmon carcass. A Great Blue Heron was standing behind them. In a shallow pond next to them, male and female Wood Ducks were swimming around.

I got to see a Song Sparrow singing away in the branches of a tree near the shore. And later found a Mockingbird trying out his repertoire.

I only walked for about 2 hours and then headed back home, but this counted as hike #17 in my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
  2. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon [heard]
  3. Bittercress, Hairy Bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta
  4. Bur Parsley, Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
  5. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  6. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  7. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  8. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  9. California Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  10. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  11. Chinese Praying Mantis, Tenodera sinensis [ootheca]
  12. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  13. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  14. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  15. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  16. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  17. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  18. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  19. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  20. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  21. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus bifrons [white flowers]
  22. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  23. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous [heard]
  24. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  25. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  26. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  27. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  28. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  29. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  30. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  31. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  32. Oyster Mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus
  33. Redshank Moss, Ceratodon purpureus [green moss with red shanks on the sprouting heads]
  34. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  35. Ring-Billed Gull, Larus delawarensis [ black ring, light eye, yellow legs]
  36. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  37. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens
  38. Silky Pink Gill Mushroom, Nolanea sericea (Entoloma sericeum ssp. sericeum) [very dark brown cap with a nipple on top]
  39. Silver Wattle, Acacia dealbata
  40. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  41. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  42. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  43. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  44. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  45. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  46. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  47. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  48. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
  49. Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli