Tag Archives: 4 pointer

Mostly Bucks and Gobblers, 12-05-18

It was chilly and overcast for most of the day, but not much in the way of rain.

I got up around 7:00 am, right around the same time Lissa got up and let her dogs out for their morning potty. I got Sergeant Margie outside and fed him his breakfast. I had a small bite of food, so I could take a pain pill and then headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk even though I was in some pain (around a 6 or 7). I didn’t cover as much ground as I normally would have, but still got in about a three-hour walk.

The place seemed dominated by the “boys” today: small bachelor groups of Wild Turkeys, and the bucks in rut. I saw bucks from young spike-bucks up to the big 4-pointers. One of the larger bucks was chasing the other ones all over the place, challenging them, no matter their age, and making everyone scatter. There was a 2-point buck about 8 to 10 feet from me beside the trail at one point who was nursing a sore leg. Another 2-pointer walked up, charged the wounded one, and the wounded one rushed away – right toward me! Yikes! He pivoted to one side before hitting me, but that was close!

The turkeys were far more cooperative and mellow. Many of them were just sitting around showing off their snoods to one another.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I also saw the melanistic squirrel again. This time I was able to get a few halfway decent photos of him before he ran off into the high grass.

Some fungi are just starting to show up. I got photos of a really beautiful specimen of Oyster Mushrooms growing near the base of a tree. One of the caps was about a foot wide. I think they’re so lovely; they bend up and back to reveal their gills. Kind of look like off-white wings.

I got home by about 11:30 and had some lunch.

That Rattlesnake was a Surprise, 11-24-18

I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve around 8:00 am.  It was overcast, around 58°, and mist-raining when I got there, but the mist stopped shortly after I arrived. I was able to do a slow 3 hour walk but couldn’t cover as much ground as I normally could. Saw lots of different birds today. That’s not unusual since the migrations are going on right now.  Within the first few minutes of my arriving, I got photos of Ruby a Crowned Kinglet, Golden-Crowned Sparrows and California Towhees.  I also saw several Bewick’s Wrens, an American Robin, California Scrub Jays, Western Bluebirds, Mourning Dives, the ubiquitous Acorn Woodpeckers, and a small flock of Dark Eyed Juncos (in what looked like both the “slate” and “Oregon” color forms).

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

On the river, I saw Canada Geese, Mallards, a Snowy Egret, some Bufflehead ducks, and a female Common Merganser. In the river, I also saw the humped backs and dorsal fins of some salmon… but every time I tried to get a photo of that, the fish ducked down under the water again.

The Wild Turkeys were out en masse. This time of year, the males are showing off a lot, and it seemed like the flock I was looking at actually broke along “gang” lines: one part of the flock intimidating and chasing off the other part. I got some still shots of them and some video snippets.

I saw the melanistic Eastern Fox Squirrel again. He was down on the ground but kept himself well hidden in the tall dried grass and weeds, so I didn’t get any real picture of him.  There were also California Ground Squirrels, Western Gray Squirrels, and “normal colored” Fox Squirrels in abundance.

Among the deer I saw today, most of them were the big bucks, so lying down in the grass, some following after females. There’s a young spike buck that thinks he’s the bees’ knees and walks right up into the big bucks’ harems to try to lure the girls out. They ignore him, but he’s persistent. Gotta give him props for that.  Another one of the bucks I saw looked badly beaten up. One of his antlers had cracked off close to the pedicle (and the break looked so clean it looked like it could have been done with a saw). He had battle scars and shallow gouges on one shoulder and walked with a slight limp. The Rut can be rough!

At one point along the trail, I stopped to get a photo of some Sulphur Shelf Fungus and saw what I though was an odd light-and-dark pattern on the ground. I couldn’t tell what I was looking at with the naked eye, so I zoomed my camera in to take a closer look.  Oddly enough, it was a rattlesnake!  It’s super unusual for those guys to be out when it’s “cold”; most of them have gone underground into their hibernacula already.  While I was taking photos of the snake, careful not to get too close (even though I knew that in the cool air he’d be pretty torpid), a family group (grandparents to little grandchildren) came by and I got to do my “naturalist” thing for them. I explained how rattlesnakes were ectothermic and usually slept during the winter months in a state called brumation (which is like hibernation for warm-blooded animals), blah, blah, blah.   And the mother with the little girls in the group said, “That’s neat… but we’re going to stay on the other side of the trail for now.” Hah! Good call.

The recent rain has brought out some of the early season fungi and I was able to find jelly fungus and Barometer Earthstars here and there. The rain also fattened up the mosses and lichen so parts of the forest are looking green already even as the fall colors start showing off.

As I mentioned, I walked for about 3 hours and then headed back home.

Lots of Deer and a Squirrel Stuffing Her Face, 11-17-18

After giving the dog his breakfast, I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk. The air quality has been so bad that the zoo and other recreation places in Sacramento have all shut down for the day. The nature center at Effie Yeaw was also closed, but the trails were still open.

It was about 38° at the river, so I could see my breath in the cold air; and it got up to about 60° by the afternoon. I don’t know how much the smoke is affecting the local temperatures, but I’m sure it’s contributing to the lows.

The first thing I saw when I went into the preserve was the big 4-pointer buck (now working on 5 points) with his harem of does.  In my head, I refer to him as “Big Boy” because of the size of his rack.  He was hanging out in the meadow right next to the picnic area, so I was able to get quite a few photos of him.  As I watched him, a spike buck (1-point) approached, following after a doe who had a fawn with her.  The fawn was pretty good-sized and out of its spot, but still considerably smaller than its mom.  The doe headed deeper into the meadow and the spike buck followed her but was cut off by Big Boy who then tried to get the doe into his own harem. The fawn got spooked and ran toward the harem while its mom was being pursued. She wasn’t receptive to either one of the boys and pretty much ignored them. I didn’t hang around there long enough to see when she reunited with her fawn.

At different points along the trail I saw other deer: some lone does, some small herds, and some of the other larger bucks, including a 3-pointer who, oddly enough, seemed to have the center of his back shaved. There was a large spot that was completely hairless, and the margins of the spot were too clean and symmetrical to have been natural (like mange or something). I couldn’t see any suture marks or anything that might have suggested the buck had gotten medical attention, so I wonder what had caused the bald patch. (I guess I’ll have to call him “Baldy” for now.)  The obvious “flaw” in his coat didn’t seem to detract from his attractiveness to the does. He had his own small harem of three or four of them.

When I was walking away from the 3-pointer and his group, a male photographer came up the trail. “He walked right by you, didn’t he?” he said, referring to Baldy.

“Yeah. He’s got some females with him right now.” I said.

The male photographer then joked that the deer weren’t cooperating with him much, but the squirrels were posing for him everywhere he looked. He even struck a couple of squirrelly poses to demonstrate. Hah!  I’d gotten a lot of squirrel photos, too. They were all over the place: California Ground Squirrels, Western Gray Squirrels, Eastern Fox Squirrels… I got photos of some of them chewing on black walnuts, and one female literally stuffing her face with grass and leaves for her winter nest.  So funny.

I also came across solitary deer throughout the forest; some camouflaged so well in the gold-brown grass that I was only able to see them because their silhouettes gave them away. I saw the doe with the peculiarly long, thin face (“Long Face”); she’s very distinctive. At one spot on the trail, I could HEAR the deer before I saw them.  There was a small group of does and fawn that were very loudly crunching on acorns (which are plentiful this time of year). They needed to eat with their mouths shut. Hah! I guess they felt safe enough, though, to make that much noise.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

One of the obvious things all along the trails today was the coyote scat. It seemed to be on every trail; some of it very fresh. I must have just missed seeing some of the coyotes.  I think, though, that a coyote is what caused a flock of Wild Turkeys to take off en masse from the top of a hill and fly down, right over my head, into the woods. Those things are BIG; I was surprised when none of them hit me or crashed into anything.

A neat sighting was a male Western Bluebird sitting on top of a bat box along the Natoma Trail. There are a few bat boxes on posts throughout the preserve, but I don’t think they attract very many bats. The boxes look too “exposed” to me; they get the full sun in the summer months. Bats need darkness and protection to sleep in during the day; I doubt that those sunny “saunas” are attractive to any of them.  I’ve seen lots of different birds use the boxes as perches, though, like the Western Bluebird, so I guess they’re not a complete waste.

On my way out of the preserve, I came across a couple of volunteers who were taking the nature center’s “animal ambassador” bird out for some air.  One was Wak-Wak, a female Peregrine Falcon, and the other was Orion, the Swainson’s Hawk I’d seen the last time I was there. Wak-Wak had been accidentally shot by hunters (who then rescued the bird and brought it in for care), so one of her wings is permanently mangled and she can’t fly.

I walked for about 3½ hours and then headed back home.

 

The Bucks are in Rut at the Effie Yeaw Preserve, 11-10-18

I slept in a tiny bit this morning and got up around 7:00. After giving the dog his breakfast, I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.  It was a chilly 34° at the river!  Got up to about 70° by the afternoon.  The air quality was bad enough today to spark a “Very Unhealthy” purple warning.

At the preserve, the first thing I saw was a small harem of female deer and a couple of fawns, along with a young spike buck.  I got quite a few photos of him doing his “Flehmen Sniff” thing. He closes his nostrils and pulls air in and over the “vomeronasal organ” in the roof of his mouth to pick up on the pheromones of the females around him to learn if they’re in estrus or not. He lifts his top lip because the intake part of the organ is just behind his upper front teeth.

I also saw other deer dotting the preserve here and there including the big 4-pointer (who I think is now a 5-pointer, but I can’t tell for sure from the photos I got of him). He was tucked away on the other side of a field in the shade, so at first, I didn’t see him. When I stepped into the field, though, to get some shots of a Red-Shouldered Hawk (I saw two of them today) he moved, and only then did I realize he was there. It looked like one of the prongs on his rack had been snapped off, but he was still very impressive looking.

I found another older buck in a different part of the preserve, but his rack was really wonky.  On one side, he only had on long prong, and on the other side, he had a 3-point antler with a gnarly-looking eye guard. The doe he was pursuing, though, didn’t seem to mind too much that he was “uneven”…  Several different things can make the antlers messed up like that: the pedicle on the head from which the antlers grow may have been damaged somehow; or the antlers themselves might have been damaged while they were still in their velvet stage and growing; or the buck may have nerve damage in the hind leg opposite from the malformed antler.

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos.

You may also notice in the photos that the mature bucks’ necks swell during the rut. Although I couldn’t find any scientific studies about this phenomenon, the consensus seems to be that the swelling is caused by a dramatic increase in testosterone during the rut which affects the blood vessels and muscles in the neck (along with other parts of the body; hah!). The thick neck is apparently attractive to the females, and also helps to cushion the head and body when the bucks joust, absorbing some of the shock when the bucks butt heads. Interesting!

As I mentioned, I saw two Red-Shouldered Hawks in different parts of the preserve today, and I also saw a Red-Tailed Hawk, but that one flew off before I could get any good shots of it.  Inside the nature center at the preserve, I also got to see Orion, the preserve’s Swainson’s Hawk. He’s still a youngster, so doesn’t have his adult coloring yet, but he’s a handsome bird.

Along the usual suspects like Wild Turkeys, California Scrub Jays, Northern Flickers, Spotted Towhees and Acorn Woodpeckers, I got to see a tiny Hermit Thrush in the scrubby brush on the side of the trail. I hardly ever get to see those little guys, so it’s always kind of a treat when I can get pictures of one of them.

There were lots of California Ground Squirrels and Eastern Fox Squirrels around.  The squirrels can have a second breeding season in the fall, and I saw one of them carrying a big mouthful of grass to its nest.  The cool thing was being able to spot the melanistic squirrel (all black) again.  I hadn’t seen that guy for a year.  The last time I saw him was actually on November 22nd last year.  Maybe he only comes out once a year. Hah! (You can see last year’s photos HERE.)

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed back o the car. On my way out of the preserve, I stopped in at the nature center (which is when I saw Orion) and picked up several copies of “The Acorn” magazine published by the American River Natural History Association. My lichen photo is featured on the cover.  Super cool!

 

Young Deer and Squirrels, 10-06-18

DAY 1 OF MY VACATION. Even so, my body woke me up at 5:00 am because that’s when it’s used to getting up. Even Sergeant Margie was awake, so I made him breakfast and made some coffee for myself and worked on my journal until about 7:00 am. Then I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.

It was 55º when I got there; perfect walking weather. It remained sunny and breezy all day and got up to about 80º by the late afternoon.

At the preserve, I saw a lot of deer including does, fawns, and bucks… and the big 4-pointer buck that is so impressive. He was sitting off to the left side of the Meadow Trail, just looking majestic. I saw the fawn with the chewed-up neck again; he’s healing nicely. And there was another fawn with his mom at the opposite end of the preserve from the other deer. That one has a really broad nose and looks so cute in photos.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I could hear Cooper’s Hawks, Killdeer on the river, and Belted Kingfishers but wasn’t able to actually see them.

There is more Sulphur Shelf fungus around than I have ever seen in the preserve. I wonder if it’s a result of the 2017 flooding in the park…

I also got to see a group of about six baby California Ground Squirrels scampering around outside their burrow. They were fully furred, but still about half the size of mom. They ran in circles, rolled around in the grass, jumped on top of one another, and explored the world outside their front door. I got a little bit of video of them, but it doesn’t do their cuteness justice.

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed back to the house.

Very Much a “Deer Day”, 01-01-18

Happy New Year!

Around 6:30 am I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my first walk of the new year. It was 37º outside, and the sky was full of little tight-fisted clouds. There was some ground fog here and there, but not a lot. Got up to about 61º by the late afternoon.

It was very much a “deer day” today. I hadn’t walked more than 100 feet from the trailhead when I came across a spot where a lot of young bucks were just waking up. They stretched and peed and sparred and had some breakfast. Within just a few minutes I had taken over 300 photos! (Keep in mind that a lot of them are sort of “duplicates”, taking about 3 or 4 shots in succession – but still… Wow.)

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos and video snippets.

I saw one of the boys reach his head up into a tangle a low-hanging branches and vines and rub his head and face all over them. I think he was both trying to get an older buck’s scent off of the branches, and put some of his own on them. The male deer have a scent gland right between their antlers (that the females don’t have) and they rub their forehead against trees and other outcroppings to mark their ill-defined territories, and announce to the females (and other males) just how mature and potent they are.

The bucks near the trailhead were all 2-pointers, and had settled down into a bachelor group to sleep for the night. There were no females around them, so all of their sparring was more for one another’s benefit than to impress the gals. I later came across the big 4-point buck, who seemed to have gotten himself a tiny harem of two receptive females. He wasn’t very accommodating today – on the move a lot — so I didn’t get very many photos of him.

In another area, I found a lot of females, many with their fawns. The fawns are all out of their spots now and getting bigger by the day, but they still like getting groomed by their mamas. This group was mostly in the shadows, so it was hard to get any good shot of them, but I did get a few…

There were also quite a few cooperative California Scrub Jays and Wild Turkeys out today, too, and I was able to get quite a few shots of them. I was also surprised by all of the Turkey Vultures around this morning. I even came across a pair sitting side-by-side on a branch, with one of them hunkered down so it was laying on the branch. And nearby were ones doing their outstretched-wing “heraldic” pose, trying to warm up in the early morning sunlight.

In the river, I caught sight of a small flock of Common Goldeneye ducks; mostly males and one female. They’re “nervous” birds, though, and take off at the slightest provocation, so they were gone before I could get to the shore.

I did get some photos of a male Nutthall’s Woodpecker, though. I’ve gotten to the point where I can distinguish the rapping sound of the Acorn Woodpeckers from other woodpeckers… The Nutthall’s rapping sound is “lighter” and quicker than the Acorn’s… So I followed the sound and was able to find the Nutthall’s high over my head, hanging upside down on the underside of a branch, pecking away…

I also got some distant photos of a male Red-Shouldered Hawk and a lovely Northern Flicker – an immature red-shafted male holding his tail feathers out like a fan of red darts…

The most irritating sighting of the day was of a fisherman standing in the river with his unleashed dog beside him. Effie Yeaw is a nature preserve; it’s illegal to fish anywhere near it. There are signs all over that say that, but some people feel they can just ignore the law. This is why we can’t have nice things.

I walked for about 3½ hours, and then headed back home.