Category Archives: photography

Lewis’s Woodpeckers at Lake Solano, 02-01-23

I got up early this morning to get myself ready to head out to Lake Solano Park with my fellow naturalist, Roxanne. We stopped for coffee first and then drove through the city of Davis into Winters and stopped at the Putah Creek Café for breakfast. When we were done there it was almost 10:00 AM, but it was still cold outside, so I figured we hadn’t missed too many of the critters that might normally be out earlier in the morning.

Along the way to and from Winters, we counted the hawks we saw along the highway, and ended up seeing about a dozen of them. [When we see a lot of hawks, we feel it’s a good birding day.] The majority of the hawks were Red-Tails, but we also saw a few Red-Shouldered Hawks.

When we got to the park we were surprised to see that the gate to the upper parking lots was closed, and only the small lower parking lot was open to the public. I think that helped to keep the number of visitors to a minimum, which I liked. Usually that lower lot is loaded with cars, but today only a few of the stalls were taken, so we had no trouble finding a place to park. Throughout the whole day, we only saw about four other people in the entire park, so the place was wonderfully quiet, and we didn’t feel rushed or crowded in any way. [The other people there seemed all to be birders who were very pleasant and shared some of their sightings with us.]

Nearest to the parking lot, we walked down to the boat launch area on the lake and got to see large flocks of Bufflehead ducks. Mixed in with them, we also saw several smaller flocks of Lesser Scaups, both males and females. I was hoping the little Buffleheads would do some of their courtship rituals, but they were more interested in getting warm and eating.

While we were at the boat launch are we also saw the first River Otter of the day. It was a solitary one, swimming along the edges of the tules. Later we saw a raft of three of them, swimming in the lake and fishing.

As always, I made sure to log the sightings into the Otter Spotter community based science database at the River Otter Ecology Project website.

There were a few more songbirds here than we saw at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge the other day. There were lots of little warblers and some Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, a few sparrows, Spotted Towhees, Robins and a chubby Hermit Thrush that seemed to show up here and there along the trail.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

In the trees were a lot of Acorn Woodpeckers moving their acorns back and forth between different holes in their granary trees. We also heard some Northern Flickers. What I was really hoping to see was a Lewis’s Woodpecker as I’d heard that they were out in the park. We were excited to find several of them– and many gave us a hard time photographing them. Hah! Finally, one of them flew up into the naked branches of a tall tree, and we were able to get some pictures of it before it flew off again.

Other cool sightings today were being able to see Belted Kingfishers across the lake, Phainopeplas in the trees (one being chased by a Mockingbird), and an Osprey. The Osprey flew in one direction overhead, and then a few seconds later, it flew back — with a huge bass in its talons. It moved too quickly for me to get any photos of it. Roxanne said that the fish in the bird’s talons looked like a torpedo.

There weren’t as many egrets and herons there as I expected to see, but we did get to see a Great Blue Heron land in a tree very near to where we were walking along the trail.

Roxanne was hoping to see some Hooded Mergansers and some Wood Ducks in the water. We did find the Hooded Mergansers (both males and females),but the Wood Ducks eluded us.

I got a video snippet of a pair of the Mergansers, and they were swimming close to one another, lifting their heads up in a synchronized manner, as though drinking, but not taking in any water. I wondered if that was the “Drinking” behavior associated with courtship. According to Cornell, “…Drinking is a ritualized behavior that can be distinguished from normal drinking motions by the strongly depressed crest and almost vertical orientation of the bill [in the males]…”

We saw quite a few Double-Crested Cormorants flying, necks outstretched, over the water, and also saw one stopping on a log to fan its drenched wings dry.

Among the plants, the Toyon were covered in red berries, and the Manroot and Pipevine vines were just starting to wake up. I’m still not really back to my full “naturalist brain” mode yet, so I’m sure I missed a lot of stuff. I tried getting some photos of lichen, too, but there wasn’t much of that to see at the park. We also didn’t see any fungi thee, which I thought was weird.

We walked for almost fours hours (and covered a slow mile and a half). I thought I did pretty well, even though I had to sit down several times along the way. I got a lot of exercise and fresh air, and got to spend the day with my friend. Super! We got back home around 3:00 PM.

This was hike #2 in my #52HikeChallenge for this new year.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Alder, White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  3. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  4. Arundo, Giant Reed, Arundo donax
  5. Blackberry, Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [red canes]
  6. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  7. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
  8. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  9. Black Walnut,Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  10. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  11. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  12. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  13. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  14. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  15. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  16. California Quail, Callipepla californica [heard]
  17. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  18. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  19. Candleflame Lichen, Candelaria concolor [bright yellow-orange] 
  20. Cattail, Broad-Leaved Cattail, Typha latifolia
  21. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  22. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  23. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  24. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto [heard]
  25. Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana
  26. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  27. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  28. Grebe, Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  29. Green Heron, Butorides virescens [heard]
  30. Gull, Larus sp.
  31. Hermit Thrush, Catharus guttatus
  32. Hooded Merganser, Lophodytes cucullatus
  33. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  34. Lesser Scaup, Aythya affinis
  35. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  36. Lewis’s Woodpecker, Melanerpes lewis
  37. Lodgepole Pine, Pinus contorta
  38. Manroot, California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
  39. Mistletoe, Broadleaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron macrophyllum
  40. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  41. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus [heard]
  42. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  43. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  44. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  45. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  46. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  47. Osprey, Pandion haliaetus [flyover with fish]
  48. Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis pacifica
  49. Peafowl, Indian Peafowl, Pavo cristatus [heard]
  50. Phainopepla, Phainopepla nitens
  51. Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans [12 on the highway]
  52. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus
  53. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  54. Rose, California Wild Rose, Rosa californica [pink]
  55. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  56. Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  57. Sparrow, White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  58. Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  59. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  60. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  61. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  62. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  63. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  64. Western Pocket Gopher, Thomomys sp. [mounds]
  65. White Sweetclover, Melilotus albus
  66. Willow, Salix sp.

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A Birthday Walk at River Bend, 01-22-23

I went out a bit later than usual today, the first time I’ve been out walking in nature for over a month. I wasn’t sure how long I’d be able to last or how far I could go — my strength and stamina have been pretty minimal since the chemo infusion in December 2022.

I went to the American River Bend Park, and surprised myself in being able to travel a mile… but it took me almost four hours to do that. I had to stop and either it in the car, or sit at a picnic table to catch my breath and relax for a few minutes. Near the end of the walk, my neck and shoulders were hurting from carrying my backpack, and my left leg (where the cancer is) was getting cranky, but I made it. I left the house around 9:30 am and got back home around 2:00 pm. It was clear, crisp and cold while I was out (in the 40’s), and the wind coming off the river was frigid so I was bundled up in layers.

I was looking specifically for fungi, but was open to whatever else I might find. The cool thing about the River Bend Park is that it has a lot of diversity among species: plants, animals, fungi. So you never know what you’ll see, but you’re always guaranteed to find something.

Among the fungi I found were Blewits, Brownits, Deer Mushrooms, Red Threads, a Yellow-Staining Milk Cap, Stubble Rosegills, and others. But most of the mushrooms were few and far between; most of the time I was finding only single specimens. I was looking for but didn’t find any earthstars, large Inkcaps, puffballs, Hellvella mushrooms, coral fungi or birdsnest fungi. I don’t know if it’s too early in the season to see those, or too late.

Of the jelly fungi I found, I was surprised that I didn’t see any yellow Witch’s Butter. I found lots of the Brown Jelly Fungus, and even some Crystal Brain. And in some places the Black Jelly Roll fungus was so prolific it poured off the dead wood substrate and collected in big bubbly-oil-looking puddles on the ground. On one specimen of the stuff, I saw some tiny bright pink Springtails and little pale yellow-orange mites with long spidery legs.

CLICK HERE for the current album of photos.

I also stopped to get lichen photos, although that wasn’t my focus for today. There was a lot of Powder-Edged Speckled Greenshield, covered with soredia. I have to get back into the swing of things, though. I need to look more closely and use the “eyeball” (my macro lens) more.

There were lots and lots of Wild Turkeys around the park; male troupes, everyone looking extra shiny and colorful. Some of them ran up to the car looking for handouts. That’s not a good thing. They shouldn’t get that used to humans.

I didn’t see many other birds, though, which kind of surprised me. Maybe it was too windy for the smaller birds? I got a glimpse of some sparrows, and a Cooper’s Hawk (who kept his back to me), but not many others (other than the ubiquitous Black Phoebe). Because the river was running high and fast, there weren’t many water fowl or shorebirds around. I got some photos of Mallards and a solitary female Common Goldeneye, but that was about it. The only birds I saw and heard a lot of were the Acorn Woodpeckers. They were working hard to get windfall acorns into their granary trees.

Among the mammals I saw were a handful of Fox Squirrels, and a couple of small herds of Columbian Black-Tailed Deer. I saw most of the deer as I was heading out of the park and was seated in my car. I was able to get photos of them — does, yearlings, and 4-pointer bucks — through the open windows of the car.

As I said, I was out for about four hours, and even though it wore me out, I enjoyed it soooo much. I missed being out in nature, and was happy I was able to do this on my birthday. A gift to myself.

This was hike #1 of my #52HikeChallenge for this new year.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Agaric Mushroom, Coprinopsis uliginicola
  3. Alder, White Alder, Alnus rhI ombifolia
  4. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna [heard]
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Black Witches’ Butter, Black Jelly Roll, Exidia glandulosa
  7. Bleachy Entoloma, Entoloma ferruginans
  8. Blewit Mushroom, Purple Core, Lepista nuda
  9. Boreal Button Lichen, Buellia disciformis 
  10. Brown Jelly Fungus, Leafy Brain, Phaeotremella foliacea
  11. Brownit Mushroom, Clitocybe brunneocephala
  12. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  13. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis [fly over]
  14. Candleflame Lichen, Candelaria sp.
  15. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  16. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  17. Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii
  18. Coral Spot, Nectria cinnabarina
  19. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  20. Crust Fungus, Stereum sp.
  21. Crystal Brain Fungus, Myxarium nucleatum
  22. Deer Mushroom, Pluteus cervinus
  23. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger 
  24. Giraffe Spots Crust Fungus, Peniophora albobadia
  25. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  26. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  27. Gull, Larus sp.
  28. Hairy Curtain Crust, Stereum hirsutum
  29. Hoary Rosette Lichen, Physcia aipolia
  30. Impatient Inkcap Mushroom, Tulosesus impatiens (formerly Coprinellus impatiens)
  31. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  32. Little Mite, Linopodes sp.
  33. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  34. Oak, Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  35. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  36. Olive, Olea europaea
  37. Pin-Cushion Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona polycarpa 
  38. Pleated Marasmius, Red Thread, Marasmius plicatulus
  39. Powder-Edged Speckled Greenshield, Flavopunctelia soredica [pale green, lots of soredia]
  40. Ribbon Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha
  41. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  42. Sparrow, White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  43. Springtail, Subclass Collembola
  44. Tall Psathyrella, Psathyrella longipes
  45. Trumpet Lichen, Cladonia fimbriata
  46. Tuberous Polypore, Polyporus tuberaster [similar to Dryad’s Saddle]
  47. White Stubble Rosegill, Volvopluteus gloiocephalusi [white or gray mushroom, slick cap with colored center, pale pink to gills, papery volva]
  48. Yellow-Staining Milk Cap, Lactarius xanthogalactus [reddish cap, milky

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A Lovely Drive at the Yolo Bypass, 12-09-22

Since I last posted, when I quit chemotherapy, things haven’t changed a whole lot. But I do see little improvements in my condition. I can walk a little further without getting winded; over the last few days the vertigo has receded a bit and only seems to get triggered if I bend over. Every tiny improvement helps.

Today, I was literally in tears when my friend Roxanne took me out to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area. I hadn’t been outside in Nature for a MONTH, and was getting very depressed about that. We were out for about 5 hours, and because we stayed on the auto tour loop I never had to get out of the car. The vertigo wasn’t as issue as long as she didn’t drive too fast taking turns… and was only triggered when I needed to use a porta potty and had to bend over to lift the lid on the toilet. Hah! 

The other issue for me was that I catch a chill really easily now – I don’t know what that’s about – so I was in my heavy coat and knit cap.  When we’re birding from the car, we keep the windows open so the camera can see out without obstruction. It was maybe 53º outside, but with windchill it felt like 47º.  Luckily, Roxanne has a car that lets you set different inside temperatures for the driver and passenger, so she set her side of the car to 66º and I set mine to78º and we were comfy even with the windows open.

And, oh my gosh, as I said, I was literally in tears with happiness when we first headed out to the bypass. And I was surprised to hear the sound of my own voice laughing over our in-car chatter as we drove along the auto tour route. I literally hadn’t heard myself laugh for over a month. The chemo has taken so much from me, it was nice to get a little joy back. Nature heals…literally. Before I left the house I took my blood pressure and pulse. They were 141/81 and 129. (My pulse has run real fast since chemo.) When I got back home from being out in nature, they were 127/87 and 113.  I needed that sooooo much.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos. I may add more to this as I process more of the photos.

While we were out we saw over thirty different species of birds, but the coolest thing we found were American Bitterns. They’re somewhat secretive birds that usually hang out in the high grasses and tules, so we’re happy when we can spot one. Today, we spotted FIVE of them. I was so excited!  

We also came across two young, “orphaned” Snow Geese in different ponds. There was no flock of Snow Geese anywhere around them, so we surmised the youngsters couldn’t keep up with the flock and either dropped out when the flock was flying over the bypass, or had been left behind when the flock left the bypass. They seemed healthy enough; I hope they’ll be okay. 

We did see quite a few dead birds in the water, and I wondered if they had been affected by avian flu.

As I said, we were out for about 5 hours and got back to the house around 1:30 PM. It was SUCH a nice day; I hope to be able to get out again soon.

Species List:

  1. American Bittern, Botaurus lentiginosus
  2. American Coot, Fulica americana
  3. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  4. American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
  5. American Wigeon, Anas americana
  6. Ash, Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  7. Bisnaga, Visnaga daucoides
  8. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  9. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  10. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  11. Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
  12. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  13. Gadwall Duck, Mareca strepera
  14. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  15. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  16. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  17. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  18. Grebe, Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  19. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  20. Gull, Herring Gull, Larus argentatus
  21. Gull, Larus sp.
  22. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  23. Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla
  24. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  25. Meshweaver Spider, Family: Dictynidae
  26. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  27. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  28. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  29. Pigeon, Rock Pigeon, Columba livia
  30. Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans
  31. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus
  32. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  33. Rose, California Wild Rose, Rosa californica [pink]
  34. Saltbush, Big Saltbush, Atriplex lentiformis
  35. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
  36. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  37. Sparrow, House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  38. Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  39. Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  40. Sparrow, White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  41. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  42. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  43. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  44. Wren, Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris

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In Agony at Effie, 10-19-22

I wanted to go for a walk again after being “down” because of leg pain, but was actually in a lot of pain even as I headed out to Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve again. I chose that location because it’s close and I know all of the trails there – and where the benches are. Despite that, I barely made a single loop of the main trail, the nerve pain in my left leg was so horrific.

I had to sit wherever I could and got to the point where I was shaking and sweating, and felt like I was going to faint. I leaned over on one of the trail signs — and vomited. Then I stayed there, hanging onto the sign until I felt I could walk a little further. I made it to the picnic tables in front of the nature center, but was feeling pretty fragile. Fainting can wreak havoc on my blood sugar level, so I found one of my glucose tablets in my bag and sat at the table for about 15 minutes until I felt the fainting symptoms resolve.  Then it took me several minutes more to get myself up and over to the car in the parking lot. Gad!

Despite the agony, I DID get to see several deer, including a 4-point buck. There was one group that included the 4-pointer, some younger spike bucks, a single doe, and another doe with a fawn. The big buck followed the females, sniffing the air, to see if they were in season yet. Neither one seemed interested in him and just focused on eating.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

Later, one of the spike bucks challenged the 4-pointer. It was a hugely unbalanced fight; the 4-pointer was physically larger than the younger bucks, and had a more deadly rack of antlers. It looked to me like the 4-pointer was playing with the smaller buck; they fake-jousted for a few minutes, then ran back and forth chasing one another. Buck zoomies!

I don’t use my left leg to drive, so I was able to get back to the house without too much difficulty. Still, I spent the rest of the day in bed. I just can’t seem to get ahead of the pain…It’s so frustrating.

As an aside:

Just FYI. Because the cancer is rearing its head again, and I have a calendar full of doctor’s appointments, chemo classes and lab work, it may be a while before I post again…and posts may be fewer and far between. I’m still around — unless you hear otherwise — just not at my laptop or in the field.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  3. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  4. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus

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