Tag Archives: bird

A Young Cooper’s Hawk, 07-05-19

While my coworker Nate Lillge was out getting coffee before the naturalist class, he caught sight of a raptor sitting in the middle of the road. He was worried about it getting hit by a car, but when a jogger went stomping by, the bird flew up into a nearby tree.

Nate called the office to let us know the bird was out there, and just before class started, he drove me over to the spot where he’d seen it. We both think it was a fledgling Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii), and it was complaining softly all the while it was sitting up there, no doubt waiting for its parents to bring it lunch. It was a neat pre-class sighting.

CLICK HERE for the photos.

Trying to Beat the Heat on 06-05-19

I got up around 5:00 am this morning so I could get out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve before it got too hot outside. The predicted high for today was 100°. When I got to the preserve, it was already about 67° outside.

Just seconds after I arrived, my CalNat graduate/friend, Roxanne M., showed up to join me and so did “The Other Mary”, Mary M., another volunteer trail walker at Effie Yeaw.  She brought a small bag for me filled with blackberries from her yard. I thought that was so nice of her.

The three of us walked for about 3 hours, but we cut out walk short because it was humid and hot at the river. When we left, it was already about 80°– and it was only a little after 9 o’clock. Pleh!

We weren’t expecting to see a lot, because nature is kind of in a transition period right now. We’re waiting for mammal babies to be born and insects to start showing themselves.  And, we didn’t see a whole lot, but Roxanne and I can always find something to look at and focus on.

Roxanne is doing a seed-collecting thing right now for the naturalist class, and so she stops at different plants to see what kind of seeds they have on them and how the seeds might be disbursed.  She took on this project on all by herself and is volunteering all the time it’s taking her to collect specimens and ID the plants.  I’m so proud of her!

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

On our walk we saw a group of about four deer including a young buck in his velvet and a very pregnant doe. And later on, we also saw a bunch of baby rusty-headed Common Mergansers zooming down the riverside with their mom. It was so cute to see some of the babies swimming with their face down in the water, like the adults do, looking for things to eat.  Roxanne, The Other Mary and I all tried to get photos of them, but they moved so-so fast, it was really hard!

I also stopped to get some video of a hive of Common Black Ants (yeah, they’re really called that) carrying their larvae from one nest to another — most likely because the old nest was compromised in some way (infested with fungus, collapsing, etc.).

Moving the eggs and babies around can be really risky because they make for tasty treats for other insects and some birds, so the workers who carry them (very gently in their jaws) have to move really fast and know right where they’re going.

Queen ants are pretty awesome. They control the sex of all of their offspring (only creating males when it’s time for nuptial flights; ost ants you see are females); they can live for up to 15 (some say 30) years, and only mate during their nuptial flights… which means they can mate with several males during that short-term flight period, and then hang onto the sperm for the rest of their entire lives.

On our way out of the preserve we noticed leaves with circular cutouts on them. They’re made by Leafcutting Bees (Megachile sp.), a kind of native bee that lives in cavities. They use the bits they cut out of the leaves to line their tube-like nests and build a neat row of individual compartments, in each of which they’ll form a small doughy mound of pollen and nectar. On top of each of these mounds, the bee will lay a single egg.

Mother leafcutters can control the gender of their offspring, and often lay the eggs of their female offspring in the back of the tube-nest and the males in the front. This way, if the nest is invaded by a bird or other insects, it’s the males that will die first, leaving the females protected.

Although they’re solitary bees and don’t produce a lot of offspring, leafcutters are great pollinators. You can encourage them to pollinate your garden by building nesting boxes, called “bee condos”, for them in your yard. Here is a guide from the Xerces Society on how to do that: http://ow.ly/MhVf50uygX1.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
  2. Asian Ladybeetle, Harmonia axyridis,
  3. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
  4. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum,
  5. Bullock’s Oriole, Icterus bullockii,
  6. California Brodiaea, Brodiaea californica,
  7. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
  8. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
  9. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
  10. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis,
  11. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
  12. Common Black Ant, Lasius niger,
  13. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser,
  14. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  15. Coyote Mint, Monardella villosa,
  16. Dogtail Grass, Cynosurus echinatus,
  17. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata,
  18. English Plantain, Ribwort, Plantago lanceolata,
  19. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris,
  20. Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum,
  21. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata,
  22. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
  23. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
  24. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus,
  25. Leaf-Cutter Bee, Megachile,
  26. Long-Jawed Orb-Weaver Spider, Tetragnatha elongate,
  27. Mock Orange, Lewis’s Mockorange, Philadelphus lewisii,
  28. Moss, Bryum Moss, Bryum capillare,
  29. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii,
  30. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus,
  31. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia,
  32. Pacific Bent Grass, Agrostis avenacea,
  33. Praying Mantis, European Mantis, Mantis religiosa,
  34. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
  35. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa,
  36. Spicebush, Calycanthus occidentalis,
  37. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura,
  38. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
  39. Valley x Blue Oak, Quercus lobata x douglasii,
  40. Variable Flatsedge, Cyperus difformis,
  41. Wavy-Leaf Soap Plant, California Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum,
  42. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
  43. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia,
  44. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare,
  45. Winter Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa,
  46. Yellow Water Iris, Yellow Flag, Iris pseudacorus,

So Many Flowers, Goslings and Ducklings Today, 05-04-19

I got up around 6:00 this morning and headed out to William Land Park and the WPA Rock Garden. I was hoping to see lots of bugs, but it was still too early for that, I guess. Instead, I focused on the flowers which were in abundance, and also got to see some ducklings and goslings, and a Green Heron, too.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

There were two Mallard mamas with babies. One had three ducklings, and another one had five. In that group of five there were two that looked like Swedish Blue ducklings. I guess the Mallards don’t care. There were 15 goslings in one of the groups, called a crèche, that was being overseen by two pairs of adults. All the fuzz. Soooo cute!

I wanted to go through the garden, then around both the middle pond and the larger pond further on in the park. But there was some event happening in that end of the park – I think it was the Doggie Dash — so access to the larger pond was completely blocked off. So, when I was done at the middle pond and garden, I went to the store and picked up some groceries. I walked for about 2 hours at the park, and another half hour in the store, so I got my exercise in for the day.  I was back home before 10:00 am.

I spent part of the afternoon trying to identify all of the flowers I’d seen at the garden. I totally suck when it comes to ID-ing cultivated garden flowers (because there are so many varieties, and so many weird things thrown in from other countries), so I tried using the iNaturalist app and Calflora.org to help me.  Between the two of them, I was able to identify most of the things (but I might be way off on some of them). I had to laugh, though, when iNaturalist identified a seed pod as a “Dwarf Mexican Tree Frog”. Hah! Apparently, face-recognition doesn’t work well on plants and seeds.

Species List:

1. Albanian Spurge, Euphorbia characias,
2. Aloe, Aloe maculata,
3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna,
4. Autumn Sage (red), Salvia greggii,
5. Beaver Tail Cactus, Prickly Pear, Opuntia basilaris.
6. Birch Tree, Betula sp.,
7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
8. Brass Buttons, Cotula coronopifolia,
9. Brazil Raintree, Brunfelsia pauciflora,
10. Bronze Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare,
11. California Buckeye, Aesculus californica,
12. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica,
13. Calla Lily, Zantedeschia aethiopica,
14. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis,
15. Cleveland Sage, Salvia clevelandii,
16. Coast Redwood, Sequoia sempervirens,
17. Columbine, Aquilegia sp.,
18. Common Borage, Borago officinalis,
19. Common Bracken, Pteridium aquilinum,
20. Common Hibiscus, Hibiscus syriacus,
21. Creeping Lantana, Lantana montevidensis,
22. Crevice Alumroot, Heuchera micranthai,
23. Crevice Alumroot, Heuchera micrantha,
24. Dwarf Morning Glory, Convolvulus tricolor,
25. Egg Leaf Spurge, Euphorbia oblongata,
26. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata,
27. Firethorn, Pyracantha, Pyracantha coccinea,
28. Fleabane, Seaside Daisy, Erigeron glaucus,
29. Fountain Grass, Pennisetum setaceum,
30. Freshwater Snail, unidentified,
31. Garden Geranium, Pelargonium ×hortorum,
32. Garden Snail, Cornu aspersum,
33. Giant Fennel, Ferula communis,
34. Greater Honeywort (orange), Cerinthe major,
35. Greater Honeywort (purple), Cerinthe major,
36. Green Heron, Butorides virescens,
37. Hooker’s Evening Primrose, Oenothera elata,
38. Hummingbird Sage, Salvia spathacea,
39. Iceplant, Carpobrotus edulis,
40. Introduced Sage, Salvia pratensis,
41. Iris, Iris sp.,
42. Jerusalem Sage, Phlomis fruticosa,
43. Lacy Phacelia, Phacelia tanacetifolia,
44. Lamb’s Ear Hedgenettle, Stachys byzantina,
45. Love-in-a-Mist, Nigella damascene,
46. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos,
47. Many Flowered Tobacco, Nicotiana acuminata var. multiflora,
48. Mediterranean Catchfly, Silene colorata,
49. Mediterranean Sage, Salvia aethiopis,
50. Money Plant, Silver Dollar Plant, Lunaria annua,
51. Nightshade, New Zealand Nightshade, Solanum aviculare,
52. Pacific Bleeding Heart, Dicentra Formosa,
53. Pekin Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Pekin,
54. Peruvian Lily, Alstroemeria aurea,
55. Pincushion Flower, Scabiosa atropurpurea,
56. Red Hot Poker, Kniphofia uvaria,
57. Red Poppy of Flanders, Corn Poppy, Papaver rhoeas,
58. Red Valerian, Jupiter’s Beard, Centranthus ruber,
59. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans,
60. Rocket Larkspur (purple), Consolida ajacis,
61. Rocket Larkspur (white), Consolida ajacis,
62. Rose, Rosa sp.,
63. Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera,
64. Sage, Salvia officinalis,
65. Silver Sage, Salvia argentea,
66. Smokebush, Cotinus coggygria,
67. Spice Bush, Calycanthus occidentalis,
68. Spittlebug, Meadow Spittlebug, Philaenus spumarius,
69. Swedish Blue duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Swedish,
70. Sweet William, Dianthus barbatus,
71. Tasmanian Flax-Lily, Dianella tasmanica,
72. Toadflax, Linaria sp.,
73. Tower of Jewels, Echium wildpretii,
74. Trailing Abutilon, Callianthe megapotamica,
75. Unidentified Fern, possibly Polystichum sp.,
76. Unidentified Plantain, Plantago sp.,
77. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana,
78. Western Columbine, Aquilegia Formosa,
79. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis,
80. White Valerian, Centranthus sp.,
81. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa,
82. Wood Pink (white variation), Dianthus sylvestris,

The Springtime Birds are Moving In, 03-07-19

I headed out to the American River Bend Park around 7:00 am.  It was mostly cloudy when I got there, around 49°, but the rain moved in while I was walking.  Not a lot of rain, but enough so that I needed my umbrella.

The first things I saw were a handful of deer, does, and some Eastern Fox Squirrels including one that was chomping on a black walnut.  I’d gone, especially, to see if the Red-Shouldered Hawk I’d spotted last week was still sitting on the nest near the lawn turn out… and she was there. Yay!  Because of the angle at which I can vie the nest, it’s hard to see the mama, but she’s in there. I could see the top of her head, heard her calling, and saw her rearranging some of the nesting materials. I’m assuming she’s sitting on eggs now.

As I walked along, I saw a lot of Western Bluebirds and Audubon Warblers all over the place. I think everyone’s pairing off now and looking for nesting sites.  I also saw some Tree Swallows and Lesser Goldfinches… along with a small flock of Northern Flickers and, of course, loads of Starlings and Acorn Woodpeckers.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I was really surprised by the number and size of the Elfin Saddle fungi around the park. I’ve never seen so many around there that were so large. And another nice surprise: I saw a male Belted Kingfisher flying back and forth along the side of the river, and I got a few photos of him when he rested for a brief time in a tree. But he was pretty far away, so the photos aren’t great. Kingfishers are like my “nemesis birds”; I can very seldom get a descent shot of one of them.  They’re so fast and so shy.

I walked for a little over three hours and then headed home.

Species List: 

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata
3. Barometer Earthstar Fungus, Astraeus hygrometricus
4. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
5. Bird’s Nest Fungus, Cyathus stercoreus
6. Black Jelly Roll Fungus, Exidia glandulosa
7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
8. Black Walnut, California Walnut, Juglans californica
9. Brown Jelly Fungus, Jelly Leaf, Tremella foliacea
10. California Manroot, Marah fabaceus
11. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica
12. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
13. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
14. Destroying Angel, Western North American Destroying Angel, Amanita ocreata
15. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
16. Elfin Saddle Fungus, False Morel, Helvella lacunosa
17. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
18. False Turkey Tail Fungus, Stereum hirsutum
19. Gallium, Velcro-Grass, Bedstraw, Galium aparine
20. Gem-Studded Puff Ball, Lycoperdon perlatum
21. Gnorimoschema baccharisella moth stem gall
22. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
23. Haymaker Mushrooms, Panaeolus foenisecii
24. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
25. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
26. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
27. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
28. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
29. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
30. Palomino Cup Fungus, Peziza repanda
31. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
32. Red-Tread Mushroom, Marasmius plicatulus
33. Rust fungus, Puccinia evadens
34. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans
35. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
36. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
37. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
38. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
39. Wild Turkey, Rio Grande Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
40. Witch’s Butter, Jelly Fungus, Tremella mesenterica
41. Wood Blewit, Purple Core, Clitocybe nuda

An Overcast Day at the Preserve, 02-28-19

Date: Thursday, 02-28-19
Time: 7:30 am to 10:30 am
Location: Effie Yeaw Nature Center, 2850 San Lorenzo Way, Carmichael, CA 95608
Habitat: Oak Woodland and riparian boundary
Weather: Overcast, 43° to 46°

Narrative: I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my trail walking right after I fed the dog his breakfast. I arrived about 7:30 am and it was 43° at the river. The first thing I saw when I got into the preserve was a Red-Shouldered Hawk just sitting on the lawn. It hadn’t caught anything (that I could see) and stood there, looking around for a short while, so I was able to get some photos and a video snippet of it before it flew off into the trees.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

After going down the wooden steps onto the Bluff Trail, I caught sight of a Western Gray Squirrel running along the trail with a mouth full of grass and twigs, so I followed it… and found where it was constructing its “drey” (squirrel nest). Dreys are different from other squirrel nests because they’re formed on the outside of a tree or cavity and built where several branches come together. ((If the squirrel’s nest is inside a tree or cavity, it’s called a “den”.)) If it continues to build there, walkers should be able to get some good views of the squirrel and its babies.

Lots of deer were out, including several small herds of does and their yearling fawns. I hung around one group for a while just watching a doe grooming her fawn. They’re so tender with their babies; it’s so relaxing to watch them. I also came across a couple of bucks, into two younger ones who were sparring for a little while. One or two of the does seem to be showing their pregnancies already. ((The gestation period is 7 months long so around 203 days.))

At one point along the trail, I saw two odd shapes in the top of a bare-branched tree. Because the sky was overcast, looking up into the branches everything was backlit, so it took a while for me to figure out what I was looking at: a pair of Wood Ducks (a male and female) looking for a place to nest.

I also came across more fungi today than I did on my walk with my naturalist student the other day. Puffball fungus, mushrooms, Elfin Saddles, and three different kinds of jelly fungus, including the nicest specimen of Witches Butter I’ve ever seen. I found a nice specimen of Trametes betulina, a kind of fungus that looks like Turkey Tail fungus (Trametes versicolor), but it has gills! It’s sometimes called the Multicolored Gilled Polypore or Mazegill. This is the first time I’ve seen it live and in such wonderful color. (I usually see it in its later stages when it’s just a bunch of hard weird gills.) Very cool.

Because it was early and overcast and a weekday, I didn’t see a lot of people, but had short interactions with those I did see: got to talk to one lady about Black-Tailed Jackrabbits and another about jelly fungi.

I walked for about 3 hours and headed back home.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
3. Black Jelly Roll fungus, Exidia glandulosa
4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
5. Brown Jelly Fungus, Tremella foliacea
6. California Buckeye, Aesculus californica
7. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
8. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
9. California Sycamore, Platanus racemosa
10. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
11. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
12. Deer Shield Mushroom, Pluteus cervinus
13. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
14. Elfin Saddle, Helvella lacunosa
15. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
16. False Turkey Tail, Stereum ostrea
17. Gilled Polypore, Mazegill, Trametes betulina
18. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
19. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
20. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
21. Lords and Ladies, Naked Boys, Arum italicum
22. Nutthall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii (heard only)
23. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
24. Puffball fungus, Paltry Puffball, Bovista plumbea
25. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
26. Rio Grande Turkey, Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
27. Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia lavicola
28. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus, (heard only)
29. Turkey Tail fungus, Trametes versicolor
30. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
31. Wavy Leaf Soap Plant, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
32. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
33. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
34. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
35. Witches Butter, Golden Jelly Fungus, Tremella mesenterica
36. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
37. Yellow Field Mushroom, Egg Yolk Fungus, Bolbitius vitellinus
38.
Russet Toughshank mushroom, Oak Lover mushroom, Gymnopus dryophilus

The Water is Filling in at the Cosumnes Preserve, 11-12-17

Around 7:00 am, I headed out to the Cosumnes River Preserve. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular; I just wanted to see how far along they were with getting their wetland areas flooded. It’s maybe a little over half of its water capacity right now. Another few weeks and it should be pretty full.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos and video snippets.

I was surprised, when I got there, to see the gate opened early and the parking lot by the boardwalk almost completely full of cars. LOTS of photographers were out there, some watching the fly in o the Canada and Greater White-Fronted Geese. Another surprise was seeing quite a few Blue-Winged Teals in the pond right by the parking lot. I hardly ever get to see those guys, so it’s always a treat when I do. The males are recognizable by the large, white quarter moon crescent on their face.  In the same area were a few Green-Winged Teals, Northern Shovelers, Pintails, and Coots.

I walked along the board walk to the viewing platform. Because the wetland area isn’t completely flooded yet, there wasn’t a lot to see; mostly sparrows and Red-Winged Blackbirds. But I got another surprise when some Sandhill Cranes circled overhead and couple of them landed in one of the fields nearby. They were too far away to get any close-ups, but I was able to get a few pictures of them – and a video snippet of their crackling calls…

I was only there for about 2 ½ hours before heading back home.