Tag Archives: Anna’s

Lots of Cavity Nesting Birds, 05-19-18

I got up around 6:00 am and was out the door by 6:30 to go over to the American River Bend Park. I was sure the Great Horned Owl owlets were fully fledged by now and off hunting, so I didn’t expect to see them. I wanted to go out there, though, to see if the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars were mature enough yet to start making their chrysalises. It’s apparently still too early for that around here, but I still got to see a lot birds and bugs and other things.

A lot of the usual suspects were out – Wild Turkeys, Starlings, Tree Swallows, Mourning Doves, House Wrens – and I was able to get photos of some of the cavity nesting birds in and around their nests. One pair of wrens was just starting to work on their nest, bringing sticks and soft stuff to line it with; another pair of wrens had babies and were flying food to them every few minutes. Standing nest tot heir tree, I was able to hear the bay birds inside cheeping away. I need to get a camera with a stretchy arm that can reach up and look down into the cavities…

The neat find of the day – even though I didn’t get many good photos because of the lighting and where the birds were – was a Western Bluebird nesting cavity. Both the male and female were feeding their nestlings (which, like the wren babies, I could hear from inside of the tree). Western Bluebirds are shy, though, and move really quickly, especially if they think you’re looking at them. (As brightly colored as the males are, it always surprises me how easily they can disappear into the shadows.) Still, I managed to get some photos of both the mom and the dad and they flew back and forth and brought bugs for their babies. At one point, the papa Bluebird figured I was getting too close to the nesting cavity, and he flew right at me, beak open. I got a few shaky photos of that before I backed off from the tree. I’m there to observe, not interfere…

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I also found a male hummingbird high up in a tree, and tried to get photos of him, but I couldn’t tell if he was an Anna’s or a Black-Chinned.

I saw some Scarab Hunter Wasps hovering close to the ground, looking for grubs to infest, and some other wasp-like insects that I haven’t been able to identify yet. There are sooooooo many insects with superfamilies, families, and tribes to go through before you ever get down to the genus and species level… They’re really difficult for me to identify properly. I really admire entomologists and their bug and insect proficiency.

One of the odd-ball insects I found was a small wasp-like thing with an iridescent blue thorax, red-orange abdomen, and somewhat clear wings. I was thinking maybe it was a kind of “Digger Wasp”, but I couldn’t find one on Bugguide.net with the right color legs. Maybe a “sawfly”?  I also found a golden fly-like thing with red eyes and an iridescent green thing I think is some kind of cuckoo wasp. I’m not sure. I’ll have to continue the search for the IDs.

I also came across quite a few Tussock Moth caterpillar cocoons. Most of them were already spent (with an opening at one end through which the mature moth emerged), but one was completely intact and had a layer of hard white “fluff” over the top of it. I’d never seen one like that, so I took photos and then did some more research when I got home.

I knew that the female moths (which are wingless) laid their eggs on their old cocoons and then covered the eggs with a layer of hair and foamy secretions from their bodies (which hardens to protect the eggs as they overwinter), and that could have been the case with the cocoon I found, but it seemed at first glance that the pupal casing was still inside the cocoon, which meant the moth hadn’t emerged yet.  A puzzle.

My research indicated that sometimes parasitic wasps will lay their eggs on top of the cocoons and as the larvae emerge they build a tight white webbing around them to protect themselves while they feast on the moth pupa inside the cocoon. I wasn’t sure which scenario I was looking at, so, I opened up the cocoon to see if there was anything inside of it.  Although the cocoon itself was intact (no emergence hole in the end of it), the pupal casing inside of it was empty.  I’m still not absolutely positive about what I was seeing, but I’m assuming the white fluff was made by a wasp, not by the female moth, and the pupa was devoured before the moth had a chance to develop. Nature is so fascinating.

The buckeye trees are all in bloom right now; so pretty. And some of the black walnut trees are already sporting new walnuts. I was surprised to see that many of the Hop Trees around had already lost most of their seeds. Lots of hungry birds out there, I guess.  Along the river, I found a lot of Elegant Clarkia in bloom as well as Bush Monkey Flowers. I would have gone further along that part of the trail but by that time I had already been on m feet for over three hours, and I needed to get back to the car.

All in all, I ended up walking for about 4 hours.

At the William Land Park, 08-05-17

I went over to William Land Park to look for bugs and galls. It was still overcast, but a little bit cooler than yesterday when I headed out, around 66º…

When I got to the park, it was actually still “too dark” to take many photos, so I watched the ducks in the pond for a while as the sun rose a little bit higher.  There was also a murder of crows in the tall trees across the street from the park, and watched them gather and squawk at one another.  I heard what I thought was a Barn Owl in another nearby tree, but I couldn’t see it.  There were also hummingbirds chasing each other around, and I got a few photos of one of them drinking sprinkler water off the petals of a rose.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Then I walked through the WPA Rock Garden and did get to see about three different praying mantises (one large green one, one smaller green and tan one, and then a very small tan one). I believe they were all the same species, just in different stages of growth. They were ll hanging around the sunflowers.  As for galls, there was one Valley Oak on the property that was loaded with Red Cone galls and Spiny Turban galls – and I mean LOADED. Some of the leaves were thoroughly covered in galls.  I was hoping to see some jumping galls, but it’s still a little early in the season for them… maybe in another few weeks, if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to see those.

I walked for about 2 ½ hours and then headed back home.

Testing Out My New Camera, 07-08-17

Around 5:30 this morning, I headed out to the William Land Park to try to get a walk in before it got too warm outside… but it was almost too late to avoid the heat. When I got into the car the outside temperature was already at 77º! There was also a little bit of an overcast, so it was humid, too. (It’s supposed to get up to 106º today. Climate Change sucks the big one.)

I’d gotten a new camera (a Nikon one that’s about half the price of my beloved-and-now-deceased Fujifilm camera) and I was anxious to check it out. All of the buttons are in different places than they were on my Fujifilm but the functionality is about the same. The focal depth for macro (super close up) shots is a little better on the Nikon than it was on my other camera, so I’m actually able to get in closer than I could before, but I need to work on just HOW close “closer” can be. [Some of the close-ups turned out awesome; some were fuzzy because I was “too close”.]

I also have to learn all over again, how to get the camera to focus on what I WANT it to focus on (and not on what the camera wants to focus on itself.)

The WPA Rock Garden at the park is a good place to work on stuff like that, because it offers a wide range of close up and distant photo opportunities.

You can see the album of photos here:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhnaturalist/albums/72157683856518290 

I got some awesome “bug” photos of a Yellow-Faced Bumblebee, Praying Mantis, a Longhorn Bee sleeping on the face of a sunflower, and a Wolf Spider whose eggs were hatching (and the hatched-out little spiderlings were clinging to mama’s butt.) I also came across a large Bold Jumping Spider, and wanted to see if I could get a photo of its iridescent blue-green fangs – and I did, but the focus wasn’t right, so I ended up with the petals of the flower in focus, and the spider in a soft blur on top of them. Gotta work on that.

The telephoto capability of the Nikon is slightly better than my old Fujifilm camera, too. (It’s a 60x, and the Fujifilm was a 50x.) The Nikon is a little “sluggish”, though, in moving the lens to the correct position, so if the subject isn’t sitting still, the camera has trouble tracking it and adjusting the focus. Practice will help me figure that out, though, I think. I tried “chasing” several hummingbirds around… That was humorous. Blurry fuzzballs everywhere.

There was a young Anna’s Hummingbird that was testing out its wings and trying to drink water from the leaves in the garden (which must’ve been watered overnight; the paths were totally muddy). When it sat down on a branch, I was able to get some pretty good shots of it (at about 20 feet away), along with a video snippet of it preening itself. I didn’t know how to set the speed for the video capture, though, so it came out in slow-motion. I’ll have to read up more on that…

I checked out the garden’s milkweed plants – they have Narrowleaf and Showy Milkweed growing in there – but didn’t see any signs of Monarch eggs or caterpillars. Maybe in another week or so…

I also came across some Wood Ducks with babies, a gaggle of Canada Geese that included some fledglings who were half-in and half-out of their baby fuzz, and a Green Heron that was fishing along the edge of the small pond. The heron wasn’t using lures, but it was using a great “stealth” technique (getting down almost on its belly along the edge of the pond to sneak up on tiny fish). It was pretty successful; caught at least three fish and a tadpole while I was watching it… And, of course, there were the ubiquitous Black Phoebes everywhere, and an American Robin with a beak full of bugs for her babies…

I’m so glad to have a camera again!

I walked for about 2 hours and then headed home.