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Found a Robin’s Nest at William Land Park, 06-23-18

I headed out with the dog to the William Land Park for a short walk. And I mean short. We were only out there for about 90-minutes. It was 73º already when we left the house at 5:30 am! and 80º when we got back home.

On our way to the park, I came across a mother Wild Turkey and her NINE poults. They were by an open field right near a bus stop. Mom was on one side of a rickety chain link fence, and the babies, who were on the sidewalk, couldn’t figure out how to get through the fence to meet up with her.  So, they were running back and forth, peeping loudly. Mom finally walked up to where there was a gap in the fence and stayed there until the kids could join her.

In the WPA Rock Garden, there were different species of Mullein in bloom all over garden, yellow and white. Just some fun facts about mullein: it’s a biennial plant; the word mullein, comes from the German language, meaning “king’s candle” because of its scepter-like, candle-straight growth in its second year; the leaves and flowers are edible and make a nice tea. Most of the mullein we see are non-natives and the Woolly species is considered an invasive in California even though it’s not really that aggressive.

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

I also saw signs that the Leaf-Cutter Bees had been busy at work in the garden. They cut out perfect little half-circles in the soft leaves of the Redbud trees to line their nests. I also saw a lot of the ubiquitous European Honey Bees, some Yellow-Faced Bumblebees, some Long-Horned Bees just waking up from their overnight torpor, and a small group of bright red Assassin Bug nymphs on the stems of some Red Poppies of Flanders.

I also found what I thought was a collection of tiny, black shiny insect eggs. I took photos of them and when I blew the images up I realized that the little black things were actually bug nymphs (Pittosporum shield bug, Monteithiella humeralis, I think) just hatching out of their white eggs. Cool!

At the pond, there was a Mallard mama out with her seven ducklings, and also a mama Swedish Blue/Mallard hybrid with her three ducklings. One of her ducklings looked like a Mallard baby, but the other two were black and yellow with light colored bibs like the Swedish Blues. One of those babies also had black feet with yellow toes. So cute!

There was also a lone Wood Duck (a little female who didn’t take any guff from the larger Mallards), a Crested Duck, a pair of Peking Ducks, and some Indian Runner Ducks. No geese, though, which I thought was kind of odd.

High in a tree on one side of the pond, I could see a nest and something moving around in it. The nest was made of twigs and grass, and also had some white ribbon hanging from the bottom of it (which made it easy to spot). For I while I couldn’t tell what kind of bird was moving around it, so I tried looking at it from different angles and different distances from the tree. I then I realized it was Robin’s nest. Mama Robin came by to check on the kids – there were actually three of them in there. I think she’d brought them something to eat, but I couldn’t tell what it was. Papa Robin showed up a few seconds later, and then both parents flew off again to find more breakfast.

Oh, one thing I noticed that I’d never seen before: a mosquito drinking nectar from a flower. I knew the females drank blood, but for some reason it never occurred to me that they (and the males) drink nectar, too.

As I said, we only walked for about 90 minutes and then headed back home because it was already getting too warm outside. It got up to 102 today.

Last Day of Vacation: WPA Rock Garden

Black-Crowned Night Heron. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Black-Crowned Night Heron. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

Last day of vacation.  Both Marty and  I got up around 6:00 this morning, and I headed over to the WPA Rock Garden and the duck ponds at William Land Park for my walk.

The garden is starting to really show off; another week and it should be spectacular.  Lots of flowers and trees in bloom; layer upon layer of color in some places…  LOTS of snails.  I know the gardeners hate them, but I like taking photos of them.  I like the whorl in their shell, their “nubbly” skin and their stalk eyes… I also found a lot of Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, and one young White-lined Sphinx Moth caterpillar.  I was hoping to see some Monarch caterpillars, but… nothing yet.  I did see several Ladybeetle larvae and one of them in its pupal stage.

It was 51° outside, so I was a little surprised to see steam rising off the duck pond behind the garden… I was also surprised – shocked actually – to see a Black-Crowned Night Heron fishing along the edge of the larger pond.  I had NEVER seen one of those in that park, and was surprised to see it in such an open spot, and out that “late” in the morning.  (This is the breeding season, though, and sometimes they’ll hunt during the day when that’s going on.)  This bird was pretty bold, too, and let me get fairy close to it so I could get the photos I wanted.  When someone brought their dog close, though, the heron took off and set itself down on the island in the middle of the pond.  An older couple who were taking pictures with their cellphones saw it when it landed and asked me what it was.  When I told them, they then asked me to identify the other birds they were seeing: Turkey Vultures, Chinese Geese, Canada Geese, Mallards, Cormorants, Wood Ducks…  I got to do my “naturalist” thing. Hah! When I identified “those big brown birds” as Turkey Vultures, the couple were afraid that the vultures would hurt the ducklings in the pond, but they felt better when I assured them that Turkey Vultures don’t generally go for live prey – they’re carrion eaters.  (I didn’t tell the couple that the Night Heron might eat chicks and ducklings, though.)

The Turkey Vultures were hanging around the trees near the edges of the largest pond, and one of them decided it liked a nesting box as a perch.  I don’t know if there was anyone occupying the nest box, but the Turkey Vulture looked so “incongruous” sitting on top of it.  Lots of people stopped to take pictures of it.

This time of year, it’s always fun to see all the ducklings and goslings around.  Along with the Canada Geese goslings, I saw Mallard ducklings and Wood Duck ducklings… There are also a lot of very “horny” male ducks – the ones who couldn’t get a female of their own, I think – that were harassing some of the females even if the females had ducklings with them.  There was a Swedish Blue duck that kept trying to get to a female Mallard, and the male Mallards ganged up on him to make him leave her alone.  In the garden, I came across a female Cayuga duck being harassed by a male.  She ran close to where I was standing and the male backed off, waddling away through the plants.  The female hung around me for a few minutes, following me until I went into a part of the garden where she might have felt too “exposed”…

There was one of the big white Chinese Geese pond-side who was harassing people rather than other birds.  Its companion, I noticed, was blind on one side, and the big white was hyper-protective of it.  I saw it bite one woman, and later attack another woman’s Chihuahua.  The Canada Geese hissed at anyone who came near their goslings, but they didn’t “attack” like the Chinese Goose did.  When I walked by the Chinese Goose, I kept my camera bag between the birds and my body, so if it bit at me it would get fabric and not skin.  It lowered its head and ran at me, but pulled up at the last second and walked back to its companion.  Fake out.

There were also lots and lots of squirrels running around.  A few of them were “people-friendly” and ran up to me so I could take their pictures.  I actually ended up taking over 600 photos throughout the walk, and picked about 100 of them that I really liked to share with you.  There are so many that I’m breaking them into two albums (one for flowers and one for birds).

Album #1:

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Album #2:

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