Happy First Day of Spring! We had partly cloudy skies today, but norain, so I decided to go for a short walk at the Gristmill Recreation Area on the American River.
Spring is just gearing up, and the weather is still pretty chilly, so there wasn’t a great deal to see at the rec area yet. As things ramp up, there will be a lot more birds and a lot more plant life to look at. The river was running VERY high and fast today. So much so that boaters weren’t being able to use the boat ramp here tp launch their boats into the river.
Most of the trees are still without their leaves there, but the perennial Coast Live Oaks were starting to get their catkins. There was a lot of Manroot growing all over the place, and the Giraffe’s Head Henbit plants were starting to flower in the long grass.
At one of the Manroot vines, a California Ground Squirrel was having breakfast, eating the soft new leaves and buds off the vine while holding it with its hand. In another area, there were a pair of ground squirrels, one of which had dirt all over the front of its face and snout from digging.
With all of the bird boxes along that particular trail, I was surprised that I wasn’t seeing more birds out there. I DID get to watch a House Wren as she carried twigs to the nest box and set them inside.
I also saw some finches, Bushtits, and Western Bluebirds there. One of the bluebirds looked like it had two ticks attached to its chest.
One surprise was seeing some different jelly fungi at the site on the Blue Elderberry trees: Brown Jelly fungus, and the bright yellow, very tiny Jelly Spots.
I walked for about two hours before heading home. This was hike #12 of my #52HikeChallenge for the year.
I took my dog Esteban with me on a preliminary drive up along Highway 16 West in search of wildflowers. We took the route up through the city of Woodland — which gave me the opportunity to top off my gas tank — and past the 505 interchange. It was overcast, but there was no rain.
There weren’t a lot of wildflowers along the roadsides in the early part of the drive, and I was concerned that the trip might be a bust. I was happy, then, when I found outcroppings of flowers as I got closer to Camp Haswell, an old and now defunct Boy Scout Camp right across from the trailhead to the Valley Vista Trail.
The parking area at the camp was a mudhole after all of the rains, and the building at the site is totally decrepit now, but there are porta-potties you can use if you need a break. Here, I found clusters of Popcorn Flowers, Fiddleneck, Miniature Lupine, Shining Pepperweed and Blue Dicks. Later in the season there should be pink Owl Clover and yellow Goldfields here, too.
Further along the road I was finding lots of Taw Manroot and California Dutchman’s Pipevine vines, some in bloom. The Pipestem Clematis had spread out wide canopies along the tops of some of the lower-growth trees and shrubs and was just starting to bud. In another week or two, it should be spectacular.
There weren’t many birds around, which was kind of surprising. I saw a single Flicker, a Western Bluebird, a couple of Scrub Jays, and a pair of Canada Geese on a rock in the creek. No sparrows, no swallows, no finches or Kingbirds, and no warblers. I was expecting more considering we’re going into the spring season. Likewise, I didn’t see many insects other than a few bees and some mosquitoes in a damp part of the forest.
The both Cache Creek nd Bear Creek were running, high, fast and muddy. I’ve never seen so much water in them.
I stopped at one of the turnouts at the Cache Creek Regional Park to get some photos and video of the creek there. As I drove in, I could see that some of the boulders there were covered in a variety of lichen.
As I was getting photos of some of the lichen, a young woman came up to me to ask if I was rock hunting. I told her, no, I was looking at the lichen. Then, of course, I had to explain to her what the lichen was. Then she asked, “But what does it do?”
As the National Park Service says, “…They are a keystone species in many ecosystems. They serve as a food source and habitat for many animals such as deer, birds, and rodents. They provide nesting materials for birds. They protect trees and rocks from extreme elements such as rain, wind, and snow… One of the reasons we don’t want lichen to disappear from the forest is that they also act as an air scrubber for the air that we breathe. Much like a mop cleans a floor, lichen help clean our air. Lichen trap particulate matter in the air like dust, while also absorbing smaller pollutants like sulfur, mercury, and nitrogen. This means cleaner, healthier air for us to breathe.” Cool stuff!
While I was walking around looking for more of the lichen, I got out of the sight of Esteban, who was waiting in the car. I suddenly could hear him barking, so I looked over to the car and saw him sitting in the front driver’s side seat. His leash, which is connected to a seatbelt in the back seat of the car, isn’t long enough to allow him to get into the front seat, so I wondered how he’d managed that trick.
I went to the car and realized, as I got closer, that he had somehow wriggled out of his harness and was no longer restricted by the leash attached to it. I got into the car, got him back into his harness, and moved the leash so he could sit in the front seat for the rest of our journey.
On the drive back home, I was so tired, I found myself almost falling asleep at the wheel. The rest stop I usually go to was closed — again — so I stopped at a Starbucks to get some coffee to give me a caffeine boost. It was the WORST Starbucks I’d ever been to. The wait in line took “forever” because the staff was so slow at taking and preparing orders. The drink they gave me was room temperature — not hot or cold — and flat, with little flavor (even with an extra shot). Disappointing. Still, it gave me the boost I needed to get me home.
After the wind and rain storm that blew through yesterday, I was anxious to get out for a walk before the next raft of storms came into the area. It was overcast all day today, but we didn’t get any rain.
I tried first to go over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve because the County website said it was one of the few places that was open after yesterday’s storm. But when I got there, I found the gates were closed, so I couldn’t get in there. I then decided to go over to William Land Park instead.
There were hardly any cars in the parking lot, so I had my choice of parking spaces. At the WPA Rock Garden, adjacent to the park, I could tell right away that a lot of the trees and plants in the garden had been cut back, severely so in some cases, so the whole garden looked rather “naked”. I was hoping there would be some springtime blossoms there, but the cold has been causing a delay in flowering. There were a few plants in bloom, but everything else looked barren or struggling.
At the middle pond, I was happy to see that all of the lotus plants had been pulled out of the water so there were now places for the ducks and geese to actually swim. [See the before and after photos below.] It also means there will be more opportunities for dragonflies and damselflies to emerge and/or lay their eggs, and room for crawfish to roam around (and feed the larger birds like herons and egrets).
More species will visit the pond when the weather permits, but today I saw a few of the usual suspects: Mallards, Canada Geese, and Wood Ducks. On the lawns and in the trees, I saw other bird species including Crows, Western Bluebirds, Audubon’s Warblers, Anna’s Hummingbirds, Scrub Jays, and Robins.
One funny moment of the morning was when I could see, at a distance, something red in the open knot hole on the side of a tree. I couldn’t tell what it was; it was too large and too red to be a kind of slime mold. When I got close enough, I realized it was a tiny Spider-Man figure “climbing” inside the hole. I usually don’t like it when humans “decorate” trees in the wild, but this was so unexpected it made me chuckle.
I was really hoping, as I was leaving the park through the WPA Garden, to see the little Hermit Thrush that can usually be found in the garden. I was happy, then, when I actually saw TWO. I don’t know if they were a male and female pair, or if it was two males, but one chased the other one out of its area and stood pumping its tail for a few seconds before going on with its own feeding for the morning.
After a disappointing walk yesterday, during which the weather thwarted our efforts to document wildlife, today’s walk was wonderful. It was in the 40’s without a hint of a breeze so I went over to the American River Bend Park again and walked a different trail than I did on February 23rd. It helped, too, that my cancer-related leg pain was very manageable.
Before I even pulled the car in to park somewhere, I saw Western Bluebirds and a red-faced Sapsucker, and caught sight of a coyote on the other side of a meadow trying to take out a deer. The coyote was trying to grab the deer’s face — which might have worked if there were other coyotes going after the flanks of the deer, but by itself it couldn’t effectively take the deer down. This whole scenario was taking place too far away for me to get any photos or video, but it was quite a way to start my walk.
There were a lot of recently felled trees all around. I’m assuming the County is continuing to cull trees to thin out the forest.
There were large groups of Wild Turkeys around, males and females all together, and I saw quite a few Jackrabbits. There were also several Red-Shouldered Hawks flying overhead, screeling at one another. Sometimes their sound came from almost every direction at the same time. Nature was enjoying the nice weather, too.
I could hear other birds all around me but couldn’t get photos of all of them. I did see/hear Northern Flickers, Spotted Towhees, wrens, Scrub Jays, Black Phoebes, Acorn Woodpeckers, and others.
I specifically wanted to check out the lichen on the buckeye trees because it’s different from those that are common on the oak trees. I was able to do that to some extent, but then my macro lens decided it didn’t want work anymore, so I couldn’t get all the close-ups I wanted.
On my way out of the park I was surprised to see the coyote again. He was sitting quietly in the shade on a small hillock right near the side of the road. I thought he’d dart away when I approached, but instead he stayed where he was and watched the traffic on the road. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a coyote that was as “silvery” as this one was. He was so handsome. It was a note on which to end my walk.
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