A Short Walk at Effie, 11-05-21

I got up a little after 7:00 this morning and was planning to get out for a walk, even though I haven’t done one for a month. I was hurting from constipation and my (now normal) morning pain, but was determined to get out, even if it was just for a little while.

I left the house around 8:00 am and headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. It’s relatively close to the house and the trails are all flat, so I figured I could walk there without too much of a strain — and could get home quickly again if I needed to. It was partly cloudy and 45º when I got there.

Because I was stiff and hurting, it was hard to focus on the nature around me, but I still relished being outside. I saw quite a few deer, including  couple of large bucks, and a pair of does with a fawn between them. I thought the bucks might joust, but they didn’t. They were pretty well matched in age and size, but one of them had a narrow gash on its neck from a previous fight, so I don’t think it was too keen to start another one. Along with their heavy racks of antlers, the mature bucks are also sporting their thick “hormone necks”; they have so much testosterone surging through their bodies that their necks and muscles all bulk up.

I was surprised by the number of ravens I saw at the refuge, and they all seemed very chatty, cawing and clicking to one another from the tree tops. One of the ravens had gone up into the granary tree of some Acorn Woodpeckers and they kept trying to chase it out.

I could hear Flickers calling from the surrounding trees, too, but their camouflage is better than the ravens’ so they were very difficult to see.

I only saw a few fungi including some Sulphur Shelf, a few puff balls, and some Pleated Inkcaps, but I was actually kind of surprised there wasn’t more. I was in pain and moving pretty slowly, though, so I didn’t cover much ground. I was out for about 90 minutes and headed back to the car.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Even though it was early when I got back to the house, I made myself a bowl of soup and had it with some crackers for brunch. Then I crashed for the rest of the day.

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Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  3. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  4. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis [flyover]
  5. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  6. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  7. Conical Brittlestem Mushroom, Mower’s Mushroom, Parasola conopilea
  8. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  9. Dark Jerusalem Cricket, Ammopelmatus fuscus [nest hole in ground]
  10. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  11. Liquid Ambar, American Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua
  12. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Summer Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [spiky ball]
  13. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  14. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  15. Paltry Puffball, Puffball Fungus, Bovista californica
  16. Pleated Inkcap Mushroom, Parasola plicatilis
  17. Raven, Common Raven, Corvus corax
  18. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus [heard, glimpsed]
  19. Sulphur Shelf Fungus, Western Hardwood Sulphur Shelf, Laetiporus gilbertsonii
  20. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata

Nature in the Yard, 11-02-21

My friend Roxanne reminded me, in her recent Facebook posts, that there are possible nature experiences even your own backyard, so even though I’m still in recovery from my surgery, I did a little search before lunchtime this morning.

We’re seeing Mourning Doves, Eurasian Collared Doves, White-Crowned Sparrows, Scrub Jays, House Finches, Black Phoebes and House Sparrows at the birdfeeders in the front yard.  Eastern Fox Squirrels and Gray Squirrels are also regular visitors there. [[And there are also a few neighborhood cats that come into the yard to drink water out of birdbath.]] 

In the backyard today, I found some Cottony Cushion Scale insects, Icerya purchasi, on the lemon tree including a mama with her attached egg sac and some young ones in various instars. They were all being tended by some ants. 

On the mandarin orange tree, I also found some interesting “flat” eggs on one of the leaves. I think they might have been from a kind of scale insect, too, but I’m not certain. I’ll post them to iNaturalist and see if anyone can tell me more about them.

Update, 11-04-21, Eggs Hatched

I checked on the insect eggs I’d found the other day. I thought they were from some kind of scale insect, but today, the eggs hatched… and now I think they might be gnat or midge babies. [Non-Biting Midge: Chironomus sp.]


Buy Me a Coffee!

Donate $5 to buy me a coffee so I have the fuel I need to keep exploring and bring more of nature to you. Thanks!


Species List:

  1. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  2. Argentine Ant, Linepithema humile
  3. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  4. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  5. Cat, Felis catus
  6. Cottony Cushion Scale, Icerya purchasi
  7. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  8. Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis
  9. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  10. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  11. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  12. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  13. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  14. Scale Insects, Superfamily: Coccoidea [eggs]
  15. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys

Back Online, 11-01-21

I haven’t been recording anything in my journal or blog for almost a month now because I was recovering — and am still recovering — from my surgery on October 8th.

According to the pathology reports, the doctor excised three small fibrous tumors (“yellow-tan” in color) and seven “suspicious” lymph nodes. One of the tumors was adhered to the abdominal wall, and here was one that was laying on the iliac artery. The doctor had to be really careful about that one so as not to nick the artery.

The surgery itself took about 3 hours, but then it took forever for me to wake up from the anesthesia. No nausea after surgery this time, but I just couldn’t seem to wake up fully. I’d wake up, fall back asleep, wake up, fall back asleep… Eventually, the male nurse who was tending to me, just stood by the bed and poked me whenever I started to drift off again. He also had a loud alarm that went off when my breathing slowed, so I could hear it and rouse myself again.  *Sigh* I got into the hospital around 9:30 in the morning, and was finally able to go home around 8:00 pm.

The first night home was a little rough for both my sister Melissa and me: for me, because I had trouble finding a comfortable position in which to lay, and for Melissa, because she kept listening for me to make sure I was breathing and didn’t fall into too deep a sleep. She could tell when I was doing well by my snoring. Hah! Glad that came in handy for something.

The last time I had surgery (in 2019) recovery took 6 weeks. This time, because fewer and smaller things were taken out of me, the doctor and I were hoping that my recovery would be a lot shorter…but it seems like it’s going to take the full 6 weeks anyway. Over the weeks that followed, I was disappointed that I wasn’t feeling better sooner, and was frustrated with myself.  So much so, that I tried “forcing” myself to do things, like doing small chores and walking before my body was ready, and that would knock me back. Some mornings, the pain was so intense that I couldn’t stand up straight, and I would vomit… And that was very disheartening.

In the middle of all of this, the mattress on my bed gave out completely, and I couldn’t get comfortable at all. I had to set aside some funds to buy a new one but had to wait until my social security money came in around the 28th, and then could only afford an off-brand bed-in-a-box from Amazon. Melissa didn’t want me getting something that may or may not work, so she spent time doing a lot of research online and found a firm Serta she thought might work well for me and ordered it. I still had to wait for it (it was delivered on the 29th), but I am sooooo grateful for it. I’ve only had it for a few days now, but have been able to sleep more soundly at night because of it. I still have to get up in the night to pee (TMI, I know), but once I fall asleep, I sleep a lot more soundly which is necessary for healing. Thank you, Melissa!!

Because of my pain and lack of sleep in the weeks before, I didn’t have any appetite, and had to force myself to eat — sometimes successfully, sometimes not. I lost about 6 pounds. I can well afford to lose the poundage, but that’s really not the way to do it. Getting my digestive tract to work right was also a struggle.  Some of the pain meds make my BM’s soft, but then the Oxy makes me constipated, so it’s something of a juggling act.  Around the 26th, I finally got my appetite back and had a big meal of chicken and green salad.

On the 28th I went to the surgery follow-up appointment with Dr. Suby and Melissa went with me. I’m glad she did; I couldn’t have gotten through it without her. I was in some pain that morning, but was also frustrated by the fact that I had to go to the Response Road facility for the appointment. I hate that place. There’s nowhere to park in the huge parking lot, and all but one of the entrances to the building were closed off because of COVID protocols. We finally found a spot to park on one end of the building, then had to walk to the other side of it to get inside. Once inside, we then had to walk all the way back to the opposite end of the building again to check in for the appointment. By then, I was exhausted and hurting, and couldn’t breathe with the face mask on… and I had a total breakdown and ended up crying through most of the meeting. I was such a mess.

All of the bits of tumor and lymph nodes that were extracted and tested revealed no signs of cancer, so that was good to hear. But the doctor seemed sort of surprised by the fact that the surgery didn’t help alleviate some of my abdominal pain — and that I was having such a difficult time with the recovery. She said the first thing she wanted me to do was to get the pain somewhat under control before going on to anything else. So, I’ll be on more Oxy for a little while. Then she wants me to get another CT scan or MRI, and have an appointment with a pain specialist. If the abdominal pain isn’t being caused by the tumors in the abdomen, she said, it might be caused by something in the spine. (Eew. Let’s hope not.)

I got messaged by both radiology and the pain management folks before I got home after the appointment.  Dr. Suby suggested I got immediately over to the ER to get the scan done, but I told her I just couldn’t do that. My sister Monica had gone to the ER and never came out (and had died just the night before this appointment); I just couldn’t deal with it.  I’ll call / message radiology and the pain people early next week and set up appointments then. I wanted a drama-free, appointment-free weekend.

So, anyway, now I’m home, got my new mattress, got my appetite back and hopefully will start healing in earnest. I can’t say thank you enough to Melissa who saw me through all of this and was such a great support.

Hopefully, I’ll be out and doing my nature-tracking thing again before Thanksgiving.

Squabs! 10-01-21

Today, we got our first glimpse of the baby doves in their nest in the palm tree in our backyard. There’s one obvious one in the foreground, but you can also see the eye and part of the head of a second one closer to the back.

According to Cornell: About the hatchlings, “…Not much information. Day 7 after hatching, mostly covered in down, with pin-feathers on wings. By day 12, fully feathered, primaries almost fully grown, black collar not visible. Day 14, juveniles same color as adults. On day 17, black collar on both chicks present, lacking white edge. Self-preens from day 11. Stands in nest at 15–16 d, exercises wings, and makes short excursions. First vocalizes 4–7 h after hatching… Young fed by regurgitation. To feed, young insert bill inside parent’s bill. Nestlings fed with crop milk, a substance resembling cottage cheese produced in crop. Usually fed within a few hours of hatching, mainly by female up to 10 d; then also fed seeds. Fledglings attended by both parents at first, later only by male…”

Species List:

  • Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto

Travels of a Certified California Naturalist