Tag Archives: Acorn woodpeckers

A Wednesday Walk at Lake Solano Park, 11-07-18

I got up around 6:00 this morning and headed out to Lake Solano Park for Tuleyome’s scheduled “Wednesday Walk” there. I stopped in Woodland to pick up some stuff for lunch, and then continued on to the park, arriving there just a little bit before 8:00 am.

When I drove into the main gate, I was astonished to see the gates closed and PARK CLOSED signs up. My coworker Nate was across the street in the camping area and came over to my car to let me know that, unbeknownst to him, the park was shut down because they were doing spraying for invasive species. The camping ground side of the park was open though.

I tracked down a ranger and asked him if it was okay for us to park in their overflow lot (which is usually only for 30-minute-parking) because our group couldn’t access the park for our schedule d event. He said that would be okay as long as we still paid the day use fee ($6 per car) and put the day use ticket on our dashboards with “Ranger OKed” written on them. So, we did that, and ended up with about 9 people on the walk.

The trail along Putah Creek on the campground side of Lake Solano isn’t as “manicured” as the one on the park side, and it gets a little gnarly toward the end of it where it abuts private land. We had two older ladies with us who weren’t able to walk long distances, so I stayed pretty much at the back of the group with them, identifying birds for them and showing them things like galls, midges, and other stuff along the way.

About halfway down the trail, the ladies decided they’d better turn back before they got too tired, so once they were gone, I caught up with Nate and the rest of the group. I thought it was funny that throughout the walk, some of the participants kept coming back to me to ask questions rather than deferring to Nate (who knows just about as much as I do about nature areas); I guess I looked “knowledgeable” or something.

One of the folks asked more about our naturalist course, and a couple of other people asked about our trail camera project… so the publicity I’m doing for those in local newspapers is having some effect, and that’s always good to know.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

We walked for about two hours before getting back to our cars. I was kind of disappointed in the wildlife showing there: not a lot was going on. But we did see Acorn Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, Scrub Jays, a Eurasian Collared Dove, lots of Mallards, Buffleheads and Canada Geese, several Great Blue Herons, some Double-Crested Cormorants, Spotted Towhees, and a few Pied-Billed Grebes. We had wanted to take the group to the park side of the lake, so they’d have a chance to see the Western Screech Owl that often sleeps there, but, no… the spraying was going on.

One odd thing we saw was a small group of Bushtits clinging to the side of the nature center, picking at what I first thought was splotches of dark mold. I couldn’t understand why the little birds were so interested in that. As we got closer, though, we realized that the splotches were not mold but rather clumps of small dark midges (bugs) that had gotten caught in the cobwebs on the building. Smart birds! They had whole buffet of midges to eat!

Deer, Squirrels and Vultures on 10-27-18

I got around 6:30 am and headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. It was a little foggy and about 49º at the preserve when I got there but went up to about 77º by the afternoon.

The first thing I saw when I got into the preserve was a large 3-pointer buck. He was moving through the meadow with the fog around his flanks and ankles. He was really too far away to get any super good photos of him, but I was still able to get a handful of fairly good images.

Then I came across a group of females, one fawn and a spike buck. Because the group was so close to one another, I was able to get a few two-fer shots which I always like. One female stepped forward to act as a barrier between me and the rest of the group. She eventually crossed the trail and hung out in the shallow pasture on that side. Among the deer there, I’m able to recognize a few individuals, especially one with a very long face. That one was a part of this group, so I was able to get photos of her. The deer seemed fine with me there (all dressed in black and not moving much) but were startled when a pair of other walkers came by (dressed in more brightly colored clothing and walking somewhat quickly).

The “shy mama” deer and her fawn were on the other side of the preserve. She doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to introduce her baby to the rest of the herd.

There were a LOT of Turkey Vultures out thus morning, including a couple of juveniles (with their steel-black beaks). At one spot I was able to see seven or eight of them all standing with their wings out in the “heraldic” pose. I think they’re such neat birds.

I also saw quite a few Northern Flickers out today, a Red-Shouldered Hawk hunting in the same field he was the last time I was out at the preserve, and a Cooper’s Hawk that only show me its back. I caught a glimpse of a coyote but was unable to get any photos of it.

I was able to get some video footage of an Eastern Fox Squirrel worrying the meat out of an old black walnut shell, and more footage of a California Ground Squirrel pealing and eating an acorn, and another Ground Squirrel working on the front of its burrow. I’m always fascinated by how well and quickly they can manipulate things with their front paws.

Showy Milkweed is all dying right now and going to seed. Only one or two Monarch caterpillars early in the year and nothing this fall. Much less than last year.

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

Nature Walk on a Lovely Day, 09-14-18

I went on a photo walk with my coworker, Nate, and one of Tuleyome’s donors/volunteers, Sami, to Lake Solano Park this morning.

The weather was extraordinarily lovely today. It was in the 50’s at the park and got up to about 75º by the late afternoon. There was slight breeze and the sky was filled with cirrus clouds. Gorgeous.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

Sami is an avid birder – she logged 300 species last year! – and she was able to point out birds to us that we might have otherwise missed. Many of them – including a juvenile Golden Eagle – were on the fly and moving fast so I wasn’t able to get photos of them. But it was still cool to see them.

And Nate is a total nature nerd, like me, so it’s always fun to go out into the field with him. We get excited by things like bugs and fungus and otter scat… so, we enjoyed locating and identifying galls on the trees in the park, hah! We even found a gall I had never seen before. (Or at least didn’t recognize. It turned out to be an early stage of the Round Gall.)

The stand outs for the day for me, though, besides the lovely scenery at the park (which sits right along Putah Creek), were the peahens and their babies, a sleepy Western Screech Owl, a juvenile Great Blue Heron (who startled us by “appearing” on the shore right next to the path we were walking on), and an American White Pelican who was sitting in the middle of the creek, preening, sunning, and doing a little fishing.

We walked for about 3 hours, and then headed our separate ways.

One-, Two, and Three-Point Bucks, 09-03-18

I have the day off and got up around 6:00 am to head over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve.

There were a lot of deer out at the preserve today. The bachelor groups of bucks are starting to move back in, and I saw spike bucks, two-pointers and three-pointers; some in their velvet, some not. No fawns today, though.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I saw a Red-Shouldered Hawk stalking what I think was a snake along the ground. The snake must’ve found a hole to duck into, though, because after a few minutes, the hawk gave up and flew away.

At another point along the trail, I saw two juvenile California Ground Squirrels in the grass to my right. You can tell the juveniles from the adults not only by their smaller size, but also by the nearly white collar around their neck and shoulders. The two kids rushed across the trail in front of me, and one of them ducked into the cover of a twiggy, low-lying Blue Elderberry tree. I got a couple of photos of it before it got itself into an area where there were so many twigs I could barely see it anymore.

The second juvenile remained in the middle of the trail, and I was able to get a lot of photos of it while it foraged for little seeds and stuff on the ground. Then suddenly it was like it realized it needed to be under better cover, and it rushed up the side of a tree. It peeked around the trunk to look at me, and then jumped down and buried itself in the long grass. Hah! So cute!

At the little pond, I saw a handful of Bullfrog tadpoles, including one that already had its legs but hadn’t lost its tail yet.

I’m a bit concerned that one of the trees on the property – the Half-Blood, part Valley Oak, part Blue Oak – still doesn’t have more than a handful of galls on it. It’s usually covered in them, especially the Crystalline Galls, but this year there’s nothing. I wonder if the preserve crew sprayed Round-Up or some other killer around the base of it, and the tree is still suffering so it can’t support its normal load of wasp galls…

I walked for about 3 ½ hours and then headed back home.

Mostly Galls and Fawns, 08-04-18

Up at 5:30 to get over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve by 6:30. The smoke in the air was thick again and the sun came up over the American River fiery red, making the water look like lava. It was about 60º when I got to the preserve and made it up to about 95º by the late afternoon.

At the preserve, I saw a few deer, mostly does and a pair of twin fawns who kept their eye on me from a distance. The little boy fawn was slightly braver than his sister and walked up to within about 15 feet of me – still hiding behind some foliage. His sister followed him a few seconds later and I got photos and a video snippet of them together. So cute.

Early on in my walk, I came across a juvenile Turkey Vulture flying low to the ground between the trees with a much smaller hawk chasing him. He flew up onto a snag of a tree and posed for a little bit before flying off again. I followed the hawk and found it in another tree further up the road: a Red-Shouldered Hawk. I ended up seeing three of them today.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

It’s that time of the year again when the Fox Squirrels and Gray Squirrels are up in the Black Walnut trees stealing walnuts. They take them up into the branches and scrape the husks off of them with their teeth. As they do that, their teeth squeak and rasp against the hard shell under the husk, and you can hear that sound from several feet away. I heard about six squirrels but only got photos of two of them.

More galls are starting to show themselves – finally. I saw several newly formed spiny galls from the Live Oak Wasp, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis, and several very nicely formed Kernel Galls from the wasp Callirhytis serricornis. And I even found a few tiny Pumpkin Galls (Dryocosmus minusculus). These are all found on Live Oak Trees.

On my way out of the preserve, I saw several juvenile Western Bluebirds in the trees around the small pond. They’re such pretty little birds.

I walked for about three hours and then went home.

A Gorgeous Coyote, 07-27-18

I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk. It was about 61º when I left the house and got up to 103º by the late afternoon. The air throughout Sacramento County is dense and hazy with the smoke from the 45,000-acre Carr Fire (more on that later) even though the fire is about 180 miles away.

At the preserve, I was at first kind of disappointed that I wasn’t seeing very much, but then Nature “opened the doors”, and I got good shots of a Red-Shouldered Hawk, a mama deer and her twin babies, dragonflies, and a mama coyote and glimpses of two of her pups.

I saw the young coyotes first. They were “hunting” along the trail in the tall grass. They’re so cute when they do that: standing still with their ears pricked forward and then play-pouncing on whatever they found in the grass. I was only able to get some very short video snippets of them; when they saw me, they took off. Then a little further down the trail, the mama coyote came out and crossed the trail right in front of me. I was able to get quite a few still shots of her as she paused periodically on her way across a meadow to look at me. She was soooo beautiful.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

When I saw the mother deer and her babies, I again saw the babies first. They came bounding out from behind a tall brush pile of downed trees and twigs, feeling their oats and playing, and mom followed after them. The fawns came running out toward me, but then when they realized I was another animal, they went bouncing back to mom. Made me smile.

I didn’t see the fawn that had the cough today, although I did see his mom browsing in her favorite spot. I worry that he didn’t make it… but the preserve is about 100 acres wide, so maybe I just missed him today…

I walked for about three hours and headed back home.