Saw My First Fawns Today, 09-11-21

I got up around 6:00 this morning and headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk. I hadn’t been there in a while. It was 61º when I got there, and went up to 90º by the afternoon.

Noise from the work being done in the river was really distracting, even overwhelming at times. Huge trucks are carrying and dumping gravel along the river side, and even larger front loaders are shoveling it around and laying it down in layers.  The work is to reform the river bottom to make it more amenable to the winter run salmon and steelhead.

From the Water Forum: “…For over 10 years, the Water Forum has partnered with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), along with the city and county of Sacramento to implement gravel restoration projects in the lower American River to promote the wild spawning of native steelhead and salmon… Quality spawning and rearing habitat for Chinook salmon and steelhead is limited on the lower American River because of Nimbus and Folsom Dams.

“Fall-run Chinook Salmon migrate upstream as adults to spawn from October through December. In the egg-laying process, females create a ‘nest’ in loose gravel in flowing water, depositing their eggs and then covering them up with more gravel.  Gravel is carefully placed in the river before fall-run salmon are triggered by cooling temperatures to spawn, and after the high spring and summer flows. The channel restoration projects are designed to create habitat based on modeling that takes into account factors such as water velocity and depth.  The project replenishes a resource that has historically been an important part of the lower American River and its delicate ecosystem…”

This is the first time work has been done near the Effie Yeaw preserve. It will be interesting to see if the changes really lure the salmon in to lay their eggs there.  This is site 30 of about 53 work sites along the river, and the cost for the work on just this site is over $4-million. Yikes!

Anyway, the first thing I saw was a female coyote.  She crossed the road in front of my car, then loped up into the tall grass. Two people walked by with their dogs on leashes, and the coyote turned to follow them. The humans walking the dogs saw the coyote, and pulled their pets behind them to protect them. The coyote then turned back and disappeared into the woods. She was beautiful; I wish I had been able to get more photos of her.

Coyote, Canis latrans

I saw a few deer, including a pair of moms with their fawns. These were the first fawns I’ve seen this season. They were maybe three or four months old and just getting out of their spots. The fawns were really feeling their oats and were running, stotting, and boinging off of tree trunks and fallen snags. It was hard to get photos of them; they were mostly just moving blurs. Finally, their moms led them off into the high grass and understory twiggy things where I couldn’t follow.

I came across one young buck, still in his velvet, but I didn’t see any older ones. I wonder if the noise in the river is keeping them at bay?

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I saw Acorn Woodpeckers collecting acorns and moving them about in their granary trees. I also saw one drilling a new hole. According to Cornell: “…The birds drill the holes primarily in the winter, in the thick bark of dead limbs where the drilling does no harm to a living tree…” 

And a good article on the birds can be found HERE.

I also came across wild turkeys, quail and a few other birds, but not a lot. 

I walked for about 2 ½ hours and started to head back to the car. Even though I was tired by then, I made the effort to go take a look at the “bee tree” down one of the other trails. For some reason, seeing that the hive there is still active makes me happy. [And it was very active this morning.]

I also noticed little flags in the ground in the field near the tree and a new narrow trench dug out. I think they’re working on restoring and upgrading their fire suppression system. [So, more noise and dirt for the wildlife to have to deal with.]

The surprise of the day was seeing two very small specimens of Sulphur Shelf fungus.  It’s usually the first fungus to appear in the fall because it doesn’t need a lot of rain to wake up the spores. Should be seeing a lot of it out over the next few months.

The whole walk ended up taking about 3 hours. This was hike #78 of my annual hike challenge. #CABiodiversityDay.

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Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  5. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  6. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  7. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  8. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  9. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  10. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  11. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  12. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis [flyover]
  13. Clustered Gall Wasp, Andricus brunneus
  14. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  15. Coyote, Canis latrans
  16. Devil’s Beggarticks, Bidens frondosa
  17. Dog, Canis lupus familiaris
  18. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  19. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  20. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  21. Gall Inducing Wooly Aphid, Stegophylla essigi [in live oaks, folds the leaf over itself; sometimes the leaf turns red/reddish]
  22. Green Lacewing, Chrysopa coloradensis
  23. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  24. Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  25. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous [heard]
  26. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [looks like a soft funnel, green to brown]
  27. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  28. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  29. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  30. Saucer Gall Wasp, Andricus gigas [cup shaped, sometimes rough edges]
  31. Shaggy Bracket Fungus, Inonotus hispidus
  32. Striped Volcano Gall Wasp, Andricus atrimentus, Summer generation [looks like a tiny volcano]
  33. Sulphur Shelf Fungus, Western Hardwood Sulphur Shelf, Laetiporus gilbertsonii
  34. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  35. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  36. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis [heard]

Helped Out a Fellow Naturalist, 09-10-21

In my email today, I got a follow up message from a fellow named Lauren de Boer.  He had written to me in March:

“I am currently taking the citizen naturalist certification course and decided to focus on oaks. I’ve run across you name many times in the course of my research. You are prolific! And the quality of your photography is impressive. There is one photo where you are holding two live oak leaves for comparison that would be very helpful for the pocket guide to oaks I am creating. Would it be possible to have permission to use the photo? Since the guide will be for print and online, I would need a hi res version.”

I gave him permission to use the photo — and whatever other photos he’d like to use — and today he says:

Thank you again for the use of the photo of oak leaves. The Pocket Guide to Northern California Oaks is finished and has been printed. Now I’d like to send you copy in gratitude for your contribution.”

Cool! I’m looking forward to seeing it and I’m so happy that I was able to assist an other naturalist with their capstone project.

Doves at the House Part 2, 09-10-21

The Eurasian Collared Doves are still maintaining the nesting site in the palm tree in the backyard. I set out a little bit of seed for them so they don’t have to go far to eat something. I know the finches and jays will probably eat most of it, but they’ll leave the millet for the doves.

Here’s a video snippet of one of the parents on the nest. Mom and dad both incubate the eggs, and I can’t tell the sexes apart in this species.

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Species List:

  • Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  • Queen Palm, Syagrus romanzoffiana

Stone Lake and Staten Island, 09-09-21

I got up around 6:00 this morning, and was out the door by about 6:30 to head over to the Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. It was already 71º outside, and there were clouds in the air, so it was a little humid, too. (It got up to 99º today.) Not the best weather for walking. I’m generally not impressed with Stone Lakes at all, but one of my FB friends said she’d been able to find galls on the oak trees there, so I gave the place another shot.

Still not impressed.

Although there are quite a few Valley Oaks on the property, most of them are young and have very small leaves.  None of them were sporting many galls, and those that were sporting them didn’t have many species represented. There were quite a few Flat-Topped Honeydew galls all being protected by ferocious ants, some Oak Apples and Red Cones, Convoluted galls and Yellow Wigs.

But I didn’t find a single Spined Turban gall (which are very common in this area), and I only found one Club Gall and one Woollybear. Discoveries were few and far between — which makes for a “boring” outing.  I did find some old Spiny Leaf galls and Leafy Bract galls on the rose bushes.

I found a small aggregate of wasps napping between the leaves of a sycamore tree.  They often sleep together when they don’t have a nest, and are getting themselves ready this time of year to go into torpor for the winter months.

Black Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula

The find of the day there, though, was a huge paper wasp nest. It was built on the underside of a lateral bar on a wooden fence and was almost as long as my forearm! There were hundreds of cells. It looked like the wasps had capped off the ones nearest the center of the nest, but the outlying cells were still open, and I think the queen was laying eggs in them.

Paper Wasps aren’t volatile like Yellowjackets; they tolerate you as long as you don’t disturb them too much, so I was able to get some close-ups of the gals at work. Among the group was one with an all-yellow face and pale eyes.  I think that was a Golden Paper Wasp, Polistes auriferi, among the aggregate of European Paper Wasps, Polistes dominula.  One of these things is not like the other…

There were also a handful of dragonflies and damselflies skittering about, and I was happy to get a couple of shots of a large female Green Darner dragonfly sunning herself on a rose bush. These dragonflies are usually the last ones we see in a season and breed in September and October, so I’m hoping to see more around before the year is up.

A female Green Darner Dragonfly, Anax junius

There wasn’t much else to see at the preserve, and I knew I was pretty close to Staten Island Road, so I decided to drive over there. Folks in one of the birding FB groups had mentioned that they saw Sandhill Cranes there already. I was skeptical. It’s really early in the season for them. But I went anyway just to take a look-see.

Black-Necked Stilts, Himantopus mexicanus, and Long-Billed Dowitchers, Limnodromus scolopaceus

By then it was about 83º outside — too hot for me — but on the road I can stay in my air conditioned car and shoot photos out through the windows.  I only saw a few cranes at a distance, and they were flying elsewhere, but I was surprised to find some Red-Necked Phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus) in their non-breeding clothes.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos from the day.

The phalaropes are small little busy-bodies, and are migrating now, so I was happy to catch sight of them. They were so interested in what they were doing that when I got out of the car for a few minutes to get a closer look, they didn’t startle or fly off. They just kept doing their swimming circles, and came pretty close (within 15 feet I’d guess).

Cornell says: “…Migrates between Nearctic breeding grounds and wintering areas in tropical oceans, primarily off west coast of Peru and Chile… Presence on numerous large and small inland bodies of water suggests that fall overland migrants are largely traveling in short hops. Fall migration period longer than spring; first fall migrants appear in midsummer, last fall migrants linger into Nov…”

I also saw a few Northern Shovelers, Black-Necked Stilts, Canada Geese, some Greater Yellowlegs, Long-Billed Dowitchers, and a few others, but not a lot. The corn fields along the road haven’t been harvested/mowed down yet, and only one field was flooded when I was there. In a few more weeks, we should be able to see more birds. We’re still super-early in the migration season. #CABiodiversityDay.

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Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  4. Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
  5. Assassin Bug, Leafhopper Assassin Bug, Zelus renardii
  6. Bagrada Bug, Bagrada hilaris
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans [nest]
  8. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  9. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  10. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  11. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  12. Broadleaved Pepperweed, Lepidium latifolium
  13. Cabbage White butterfly, Pieris rapae
  14. California Sycamore, Western Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  15. California Vole, California Meadow Mouse, Microtus californicus eximus
  16. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  17. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  18. Club Gall Wasp, Atrusca clavuloides
  19. Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
  20. Corn, Maize, Zea mays
  21. Damselfly, Familiar Bluet, Enallagma civile
  22. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  23. Formica Ant, Lasius americanus
  24. Great Egret, Ardea alba         
  25. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  26. Green Darner Dragonfly, Anax junius
  27. Green Lacewing, Chrysopa coloradensis
  28. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  29. Leafhopper, Alconeura sp.
  30. Leafminer, Family: Agromyzidae [on sunflower leaves ,maybe Liriomyza sativae]
  31. Leafy Bract Gall Wasp, Diplolepis californica [hard rosette gall on rose bush]
  32. Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla
  33. Long-Billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus scolopaceus
  34. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  35. Narrowleaf Milkweed, Mexican Whorled Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis
  36. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  37. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  38. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  39. Orbweaver Spider, Subfamily: Araneinae
  40. Paper Wasp, Black Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula
  41. Paper Wasp, Golden Paper Wasp, Polistes aurifer
  42. Pistache, Pistacia sp.
  43. Raccoon, Common Raccoon, Procyon lotor [scat, latrine area]
  44. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  45. Red-Necked Phalarope, Phalaropus lobatus
  46. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus
  47. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  48. Round-Gall Wasp, Fuzzy Gall, Burnettweldia washingtonensis [round, fuzzy, on twigs]
  49. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  50. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  51. Spiny Leaf Gall Wasp, Diplolepis polita [on rose leaves]
  52. Sunflower, Common Sunflower, Helianthus annuus
  53. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  54. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  55. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
  56. Water Smartweed, Persicaria amphibia [pink]
  57. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  58. Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis
  59. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi
  60. Willow Bead Gall Mite, Aculus tetanothrix
  61. Woollybear Gall Wasp, Atrusca trimaculosa
  62. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi 

Travels of a Certified California Naturalist