Category Archives: Naturalist

Ooooo, Otters! 11-20-20

I got up around 6:30 this morning and headed over to Mather Regional Park. It was 47° and very foggy there when I first arrived, but the fog burned off as soon as the sun came up a little bit more.

There was also frost on the ground in the shadier places, and I got some photos of ice crystals on the leaf litter. The glassy-smooth water made for some pretty reflection shots, there were examples of “fall color” all around.

California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii

I had gone there because someone in a birding group had said they saw a Tundra Swan in with the resident Mute Swans in the lake. At first, my photo-taking efforts were thwarted by having the rising sun in my eyes, and the birds not being at all cooperative. I was getting frustrated.  Then I started getting photos of the swans, the small flocks of Coots, and the Pie-Billed Grebes. I noticed there were a LOT of cormorants around the lake, more than I’d ever seen there. So, I walked over to where I could get a better view of the little island there the cormorants usually hangout in the dead tree there, or sun themselves on the shore.

Double-Crested Cormorants, Phalacrocorax auratus, and Mute Swan, Cygnus olor

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

While I was there, looking at the cormorants I could hear some odd vocalizations that I couldn’t quite place coming from the island. Then I saw them… a cadre of River Otters! 

There were four of them, and I got the impression that one was the mom, two were the nearly-adult kids, and one was the dad. Dad had something big that he was eating.  It was difficult to see what it was because he kept it close to the ground in the overgrowth, but I think it was a catfish. He wouldn’t share it with anyone and kept dragging it off whenever the other came near. Mom nuzzled and groomed the younger ones and climbed around the snags and plants on the bank of the island. 

The presence of the otters didn’t seem to bother the birds in the water near them.  At one point, three swans floated right next to where the feeding otter was. They each pretty much ignored the other.

Eventually, all of the otters left the island… with Dad still chewing on a chunk of meat. He had to stop twice, to chew it down before he could swallow it and catch up to the others in the water. They disappeared down the side of the lake, moving so fast that I couldn’t keep up with them.

On that same side of the lake, though, I came across a cottonwood tree that looked like beavers had gotten to it. I haven’t seen any beavers at the lake, but they’re reputed to be there.  Some of the trees are girdled with chicken wire to keep the beavers from eating them. I didn’t think to look for beaver scat among the shavings around the base of the tree, dang it.

Beaver sign on a Cottonwood Tree

I did finally get to see the Tundra Swan, who was moving along quietly, singularly, while some of the Mute Swans sought to harass her. There was one immature grey-morph Mute Swan that tried “busking” at the other swans, until it was put in its place by another adult Mute Swan.

Ayoung dark morph Mute Swan, Cygnus olor, “busking”

When approached or “busked” at, the Tundra swan didn’t give up any ground and just floated away from the aggressors. It’s odd to see single Tundra Swans; they’re social birds and usually travel in large flocks. They also mate for life, and so they travel with their mates once they’ve established a pair bond. I inferred, then, that this lone swan was an unattached younger or less-healthy swan that couldn’t keep up with its flock, and sought out the lake as a place of respite.

A Mute Swan, Cygnus olor, busking at the Tundra Swan, Cygnus columbianus

I also saw quite a few White-Crowned and Golden-Crowned Sparrows, a few House Sparrows, Great-Tailed Grackles, and Killdeer, some Starlings, doves and Scrub Jays. I also got some photos of a Lincoln Sparrow, a Kite in the distance, and a small covey of California Quail among other birds.  So, overall it was a good nature walk.

A male California Quail, Callipepla californica

I was out for about 3 hours and headed back home.

Report Your Otter Sightings!

Don’t forget to report your otter sightings to the River Otter Ecology Project. Be an “Otter Spotter”!

Species List:

  1. American Bugleweed, Water Horehound, Lycopus americanus
  2. American Coot, Fulica americana
  3. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  4. American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
  5. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  6. Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [pink flowers]
  7. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  8. Beaver, American, Beaver, Castor canadensis [sign on tree]
  9. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  10. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  11. Bull Thistle, Cirsium vulgare
  12. California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  13. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  14. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  15. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  16. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis [heard]
  17. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  18. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  19. Cedar Waxwing, Bombycilla cedrorum
  20. Chinese Pistache, Pistacia chinensis
  21. Chinese Tallow tree, Triadica sebifera
  22. Chinese Willow, Curly Willow, Salix matsudana
  23. Cork Oak, Quercus suber
  24. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  25. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  26. Doveweed, Turkey Mullein, Croton setiger
  27. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  28. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  29. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  30. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  31. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  32. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
  33. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  34. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  35. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  36. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  37. Lincoln’s Sparrow, Melospiza lincolnii
  38. Liquid Ambar, American Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua
  39. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  40. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  41. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  42. Narrowleaf Cattail, Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  43. Narrowleaf Willow, Salix exigua
  44. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  45. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  46. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
  47. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  48. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  49. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  50. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
  51. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  52. Soft Rush, Juncus effusus
  53. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus [heard]
  54. Swamp Smartweed, False Water-Pepper, Persicara hydropiperoides [pink]
  55. Tall Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis
  56. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  57. Tundra Swan, Cygnus columbianus
  58. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  59. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  60. Water Primrose, Ludwigia hexapetala
  61. Western Gull, Larus occidentalis [spot on bill, pink legs, orange circle around eye]
  62. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  63. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys

At Cosumnes and Staten, 11-17-20

I got up around 6:00 this morning and was out the door by 6:30 to head over to the Cosumnes River Preserve.  I wanted to get out and about before the rain, which was predicted to arrive around noon. The cloud cover wasn’t complete yet, but it was enough to keep the long morning shadows at bay, and colored up nicely as the sun rose.

I went around Bruceville and Desmond Roads before going to the preserve itself, and was happy to see Cattle Egrets among the cattle in some of the fields. The cattle were mostly mamas with their calves, and I got to see a few of the calves nursing.  So sweet.

Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis, with Charolais Cattle, Bos Taurus var. Charolais

There were also lots of sparrows: White-Crowned and Golden-Crowned. And, of course, there Brewer’s and Red-Winged Blackbirds everywhere.

There were several hawks out including a Red-Shouldered one and a Red-Tailed Hawk that sat near the top of a telephone pole and seemed to be sort of leaning on it. As I got closer, I was surprised that it didn’t startle and fly away, and I worried that maybe it was sick. When I got closer enough to get a good look at it, though, I realized it was blind on one side. There was swelling and crusty exudate covering the eye.  When the bird turned its head so it was facing me, its bright good eye caught sight of me, and it kept watching me until I moved away.

Elsewhere, in another tree was another Red-Tailed Hawk being harassed by a Kestrel. As fate would have it, my camera battery died before I could get photos of the tiny bird trying to defend its tree. By the time I’d changed out the old battery for a new one and brought my camera up to take photos, the hawk was still there, but the kestrel was gone. Dang it! Such is the naturalist’s lot…

Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis

There was more water in some of the fields than I’d previously seen there, but not too many birds yet. Lots of Pintails and geese an a few gulls, but not much variety otherwise. I was hoping to see a Wilson’s Snipe, but no luck yet.

I did find one spot along the road where I saw a bird sitting in the middle of a field by itself. I thought that was odd, so I parked the car and got out to see if I could get a closer view and photo of it. I realized it was a Northern Harrier. I thought maybe it had brought its breakfast to ground, but no, it was just sitting there, like it was resting up. It shifted in the grass when it realized I was looking at it and then flew off.

Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius, sitting in a field

In the downed tules and grass along that part of the road, though, I found the remains of several crayfish, heads and claws mostly. Considering their number, all in the same area, I wondered if they’d been eaten by the birds or by people.

Red Swamp Crayfish, Crawfish, Crawdad, Procambarus clarkia

In the preserve itself, they’re still filling the wetland areas with water. The front pond is still empty by the boardwalk, but the back fields are filling up. Again, there weren’t many birds yet, just the occasional Northern Shoveler or Cinnamon Teal. By Thanksgiving we should be seeing more variety out there. Where the water is just starting to come in, everything smells awful (like rotting grass and sour bird droppings) and there’s a kind of “oil slick” on the top of the water.  Once the water reaches a certain level, all of this goes away, but right now the place stinks.

The slick on the stinky water.

At the preserve I saw Killdeer, Stilts and Pipits, but not in large numbers.  As along the roads, there were blackbirds among the tules in the preserve, and sparrows, including some Song Sparrows.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Somewhat disappointed by what I was seeing at the preserve, I decided to drive up to Staten Island Road to see if there was anything interesting there. Several of the agricultural fields have been plowed up, and others were just starting to get plowed, so there was a lot of dust and smell of manure everywhere.  Other fields, though, were nearly completely flooded, and other were left with the remnants of corn plants so the cranes and other birds could forage through them for roots, leaves and discarded corn kernels. There were also cattle in a couple of the fields but they didn’t seem to bother the birds.

There were also lots and lots of handsome Sandhill Cranes, and many of them were close enough to the road to get good photographs of them. In one spot, I was taking pictures of a small flock of them in a field when, to my surprise, two of cranes that were apparently foraging in the ditch along the side of the road, suddenly stood up right in front of me. I was able to get quite a few shots of them before they scuttled away.

Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis

I also got to see some of the cranes dancing. According to Bird Note:

“…The stately cranes are courting, renewing an annual dance they perform in earnest as the days lengthen into spring. The dance begins with a downward bow, the cranes’ long, slender bills nearly touching the ground. Then, like enormous marionettes pulled deftly upward, the cranes leap several feet off the ground, wings outstretched. Bowing and leaping, raising and lowering their wings, the cranes dance on… Sandhill Crane pairs remain together for life, and their spirited dance plays an essential role in reaffirming this bond…They might also throw a stick or some plants into the air.”

Sandhill Cranes, Grus canadensis, dancing

I saw a couple of the cranes tossing vegetation and picking up sticks, but not always while they were dancing. I also caught some photos of one who was jumping so high in the dance, that he jumped up right out of the frame.  Beautiful!

Along with the cranes there were lots of Greater White-Fronted Geese and Cackling Geese, Killdeer, blackbirds, Pipits and House Finches, and a few Meadowlarks. 

In one of the flooded fields there were Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets foraging together. Along the edges of that field were more Kildeer and Pipits, but sadly no Snipes. I didn’t see a single one all day.

A pair of Snowy Egrets, Egretta thula, beside a Great Egret, Ardea alba

In the adjacent field, however, I did get to see some Canvasback ducks. I so seldom see those, that this was a real treat.

Canvasback Duck, Aythya valisineria, drake

Oddly, too, in two of the fields, I saw Northern Harriers sitting on the ground. I wasn’t able to get any photos of one of them, but I got a few blurry pix as the other took off from the ground and flew away.  Odd to see of the birds just sitting in different fields, in different places, at different times.

Along the fence lines were dozens of House Finches showing off to one another. In some places there were so many of them, I didn’t know where to point the camera first – but I opted to try to focus on the rosy-colored boys.            

House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus, male

I was out for about 6½ hours, and was hungry and hurting by the time I got back to Sacramento

Species List:

  1. American Bugleweed, Water Horehound, Lycopus americanus
  2. American Coot, Fulica americana
  3. American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
  4. Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  5. Black Angus Cattle, Bos Taurus var. Black Angus
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  8. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  9. Cackling Goose, Branta hutchinsii
  10. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  11. Canvasback Duck, Aythya valisineria
  12. Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis
  13. Charolais Cattle, Bos Taurus var. Charolais
  14. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  15. Corn, Zea mays ssp. mays
  16. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  17. Floating Water Primrose, Ludwigia peploides ssp. Peploides
  18. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  19. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  20. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  21. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  22. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  23. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  24. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  25. Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla
  26. Narrowleaf Cattail, Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  27. Narrowleaf Willow, Salix exigua
  28. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  29. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  30. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  31. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  32. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  33. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  34. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  35. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  36. Red Swamp Crayfish, Crawfish, Crawdad, Procambarus clarkia
  37. Rice, Oryza sativa
  38. Ring-Billed Gull, Larus delawarensis
  39. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium
  40. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  41. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  42. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  43. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  44. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  45. Turkey Oak, Quercus cerris
  46. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  47. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  48. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  49. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi [flying overhead]

Lookin’ for Lichen, 11-14-20

I got up around 6:00 this morning and headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Center/Preserve for a walk. It was chilly and very foggy outside after having rained a bit yesterday.

I was hoping the rain would have started to wake up the lichen on the rocks and trees in the preserve, and I did get to see quite a few nice specimens of common lichens. There was lots of Green Shield Lichen, Hoary Lichen, Gold Dust, Bark Rim Lichen, California Camouflage Lichen, Candleflame Lichen, Farinose Cartilage Lichen, Oakmoss, Shrubby Sunburst Lichen and others.  Most often, there were several different ones on the same tree or stem.  I’m looking forward to seeing some new and different ones as the season goes forward.

There were a lot of deer out and about, including several bucks, everything from a young spike buck to an older 4-pointer. There was also one with thick malformed antlers, and I got the impression that they had been broken off during the velvet stage when they were trying to grow. The buck looked pretty solid and the girth of the base of his antlers made me think he was probably a very mature guy. I wondered what happened to his rack.

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus

CLICK HERE for an article I wrote on antlers.
CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I saw several of the bucks do the Flehman sniff thing, but couldn’t get photos of them doing that.

I could hear all kinds of songbirds, but most of them were very good at avoiding the camera. I did get photos of Spotted Towhees and a Bewick’s Wren. 

At one spot along the River Trail, I could hear a Kestrel calling. It took me a while to find her; she was sitting on the top of a tree. A little – but loud – female. I also saw a couple of Red-Shouldered Hawks in the trees along the trails.

American Kestrel, Falco sparverius, female
Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus

I was kind of surprised of the amount of coyote scat on the trails… but I didn’t see any of the coyotes.

Coyote, Canis latrans [scat]

At the bee tree, I saw only a single bee sitting at the opening of the hive. The sentry. I guessed the other bees were all inside the tree trying to keep the queen warm from the chilly morning weather.

I walked for about 3 hours and headed back home.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. Bark Rim Lichen, Lecanora chlarotera [looks like Whitewash Lichen but has apothecia]
  4. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  5. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  6. Brown Jelly Fungus, Jelly Leaf, Tremella foliacea
  7. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica [dark green with brown apothecia, on trees]
  8. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  9. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  10. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  11. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  12. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  13. Candleflame Lichen, Candelaria concolor [bright yellow, crumbly-looking]
  14. Ceramic Parchment Lichen, Xylobolus frustulatus [hoary or pale brown, flat like parchment]
  15. Chinese Pistache, Pistacia chinensis
  16. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  17. Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus
  18. Coyote, Canis latrans [scat]
  19. Creeping Moss, Conardia compacta
  20. Cushion Moss, Leucobryum sp.
  21. False Turkey Tail fungus, Crowded Parchment Fungus, Stereum complicatum
  22. Farinose Cartilage Lichen,  Ramalina farinacea [like Oakmoss but very thin branches]
  23. Feral European Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  24. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  25. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  26. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  27. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  28. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus bifrons
  29. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  30. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  31. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  32. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii
  33. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri [with soredia]
  34. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  35. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  36. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  37. Soap Plant, Wavy Leafed Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  38. Split Porecrust, Schizopora paradoxa
  39. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  40. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha [without soredia]
  41. Sulphur Shelf Fungus, Western Hardwood Sulphur Shelf, Laetiporus gilbertsonii
  42. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  43. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  44. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

Coconut’s Last Day at the Zoo, 11-12-20

I got up around 7:00 this morning. It was about 44° outside when I headed out about 8:30 to get to the Sacramento Zoo by 9:00. Although I had already gone about a week ago, I went today because it was Coconut the Snow Leopard’s last day at the zoo. He’s going to the Oglebay Good Zoo in West Virginia to head their breeding program there.

For those of you who don’t know, Coconut was born at the Sacramento Zoo in 2018 to his mom Misha and dad Blizzard. He was one of a pair of twins, but his twin died shortly after birth. And Coconut was born with several birth defects. He had “swimmer’s syndrome”, which meant his back legs didn’t support his weight, so when he tried to walk, his back legs would just drag back and forth behind him. He had to go through about a year of physical therapy to get him to be able to walk and jump normally.

He also had eyelid defects, known as colombas. His eyelid turned inward so the lashes grew toward the eyes instead of out and away from them. He was also slightly cross-eyed. He was trained to accept voluntary injections (so he wouldn’t have to be darted to get an injection), and had surgery on his eyes in October 2018. Since then, he’s been growing and progressing normally and is now old enough and healthy enough to get into the breeding program to help save his species in the wild.

Coconut on his last day in the zoo

I’ve “known” Coconut since he was born, and have photos of him from when he was a cub to today. He holds a special place in my heart, so I had to go see him one last time.

Today, he was out on exhibit with his mom, Misha. It was also “bone day” today, so both of them were chewing on their giant beef bones for quite a while.

When Misha was done with her bone, she jumped up on the rocks in the enclosure to sit in the sun, and Coconut jumped up next to her and put his head against her body, snuggling in. Everyone who was watching them, knowing this was his last day with his mom, all said, “Awwwwwwwwwwwww.” Then Misha started licking and grooming him. That almost brought me to tears.

Farewell, Coconut! Love you! Good luck in Virginia!

The lions and jaguar were all out today, but the jaguar spent her time hiding in the greenery of her enclosure, so all you could see was the top of her head.

Male African Lion

The orangutans were also out, but the chimps were indoors while their enclosure was being cleaned. I got glimpses of the Red River Hogs, but they were staying at the far end of their enclosure, so I couldn’t get any good photos of them.

Sumatran Orangutan

And the Bongos weren’t on display because the zoo is upgrading the fence around their yard. Apparently, the young female Bongo, Taylor Swift (yeah, that’s really her name) had been able to jump all of the fences they set up before, so for her safety, and the safety of visitors, the fence is begin reimagined. Taylor Swift is the only animal that has escaped from its enclosure at the zoo – ever. She’s a smart little gal.

Some of the flamingos were gathered around a feeding station and fussing at each other in their raspy-screechy voices.

I was also able to see the Red Pandas again. They’ve been much more active lately than I’ve ever seen them. I think they like the cooler weather.

Red Panda, Ailurus fulgens

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

In the koi fish tank, there were two Chinese Stripe-necked Turtles in there. I don’t know if they were battling or having sex (sometimes they look the same in animals),but one of the turtles was riding the shell of the other one and biting the bottom one’s face and neck so much that the turtle on the bottom withdrew its head all the way into its shell (so it looked “headless”).

This species mates in the water, but aggression can also take place in the water, so, I couldn’t tell what was actually going on. In this pair both were about the same size, so it was hard to tell if either was male or female. (In this species, the female is larger than the male.) I tried to do research on the behavior of the species, but couldn’t find anything, even in the scientific journals online. So, I messaged the zoo to see if they could tell me what I was seeing.

The zoo actually messaged me back before the end of the day to tell me that I was seeing breeding behavior – the biting was typical for the species. Well… now we know.

I stopped by to see Glory the baby giraffe again who was out with her mom, dad, and aunty Sky. Dad is so brimming with testosterone right now that his spots are almost black.

Glory the Masai Giraffe. One of the visitors to the zoo exclaimed, “Look at how perfect her ossicones are!” She does have pretty ones, that’s for certain.
Look how dark the male giraffe’s spots are right now!

I walked around the zoo for about 2½ hours before heading home…but, of course, I had to get myself some cotton candy before I left. Hah!

Species List:

  1. African Lion, Panthera leo
  2. American Alligator, Alligator mississippiensis
  3. Black Crowned Crane, Balearica pavonina
  4. Blue Green Echeveria, Echeveria gibbiflora
  5. Caribbean Flamingo, Phoenicopterus ruber
  6. Chinese Pistache, Pistacia chinensis
  7. Chinese Stripe-necked Turtle, Mauremys sinensis
  8. Coquerel’s Sifaka, Propithecus coquereli
  9. Crested Coua, Coua cristata
  10. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  11. Greater Roadrunner, Geococcyx californianus
  12. Grevy’s Zebra, Equus grevyi
  13. Hermit Thrush, Catharus guttatus
  14. Himalayan Monal, Lophophorus impejanus
  15. Jaguar, Panthera onca
  16. Laughing Kookaburra, Dacelo novaeguineae
  17. Liquid Ambar, Chinese Sweetgum, Liquidambar formosana
  18. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  19. Masai Giraffe, Giraffa tippelskirchi
  20. Meerkat, Suricata suricatta
  21. Okapi, Okapia johnstoni
  22. Pyracantha, Firethorn,  Pyracantha coccinea
  23. Red Kangaroo, Macropus rufus
  24. Red Panda, Ailurus fulgens
  25. Red River Hog, Potamochoerus porcus
  26. Reticulated Giraffe, Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata
  27. Silver Wattle, Acacia dealbata
  28. Snow Leopard, Panthera uncia
  29. Squirrel Monkey, Saimiri sciureus
  30. Strawberry Tree, Arbutus unedo
  31. Sumatran Orangutan, Pongo abelii
  32. White-faced Saki, Pithecia pithecia
  33. Wolf’s Guenon, Wolf’s Mona Monkey, Cercopithecus wolfi
  34. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
  35. Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby, Petrogale xanthopus

My Article on Microhabitats has been published, 11-11-20

I wrote an article called “Exploring the Mysteries of Microhabitats with Your Cellphone” for the Effie Yeaw Nature Center’s publication The Acorn. The article includes photos that I took of a pseudoscorpion and globular springtail among other things.

CLICK HERE to read the article.

The Sora was the Stand-Out today, 11-10-20

I got up around 5:30 this morning and was out the door before 6:00 with the dog to head over to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  It was 34° and slightly overcast when I left the house.  It only got up to a high of 61° by the late afternoon.

Wetland area, looking west toward the foothills and Snow Mountain.

On the way to the refuge I counted 21 hawks along the highway, all Red-Tails as far as I could tell.  I also saw a huge flock of crows and a Raven.

When I got to the refuge, I wasn’t really surprised to see frost on the ground near the restroom facility.  The big Red-Shouldered Hawk in a nearby tree was a nice treat, though.  I saw quite a few hawks along the auto-tour route today. The first thing I saw, though, was a White-Tailed Kite. It seems to have taken up residence there.        

There were a lot of sparrows all along the route, mostly Savannahs, as well as the usual ducks and geese. 

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Something was really riling up the Snow Geese; they took off en masse several times while I was there. One gentleman said he’d seen an eagle, but I didn’t see any. 

Snow Geese, Chen caerulescens

I did watch a Peregrine Falcon trying to eat his breakfast on one of the little islands. It was being accosted by a small flock of Turkey Vultures, including a dark-headed juvenile who was a bit more assertive than the adults.

In one section, there was a flock of Lesser Goldfinches eating the dried blossoms and seeds of the teasel and Starthistle around the tules.      

Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria, male

And in the slough by the extension loop gate, there were a couple of young Pied-Billed Grebes and a fussy little Sora.

I actually drove the route TWICE and was still out of there before noon. There were too many cars on the auto-tour route today, which causes the wildlife to move further away and hide, but I still got to see quite a lot… even though it was much of the same.  Looking forward to better, more varied fare as the season moves forward.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
  4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  5. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  6. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  7. Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides
  8. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  9. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  10. Common Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  11. Common Raven, Corvus corax
  12. Common Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum
  13. Eared Grebe, Podiceps nigricollis
  14. Floating Water Primrose, Ludwigia peploides ssp. Peploides
  15. Gadwall duck, Mareca Strepera
  16. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  17. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  18. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  19. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  20. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  21. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  22. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  23. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  24. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris [heard]
  25. Narrowleaf Willow, Salix exigua
  26. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  27. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  28. Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus
  29. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  30. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
  31. Red Gum Eucalyptus, River Redgum, Eucalyptus camaldulensis
  32. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  33. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  34. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  35. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
  36. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  37. Ross’s Goose, Chen rossii
  38. Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
  39. Salt Grass, Distichlis spicata
  40. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  41. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
  42. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  43. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  44. Sora, Porzana carolina
  45. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  46. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  47. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  48. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  49. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis