Tag Archives: bones

Scouting Out Spots for Trail Cameras, 10-04-18

My Tuleyome coworkers Nate, Eric “Bam Bam”, Kristie and I were all scheduled to head over to the Lake County to scout out places to put the trail cameras today. We left the office at 8:00 am. The trip to the ranch, which is Lake County, took about 90 minutes (one way) and Nate did the driving, hauling all of us up there in his SUV.

It was overcast, around 63º, with some clouds dragging their bellies across the tops of the hills, but the rain held off until just before we were ready to leave.

Bam Bam had never been to the property before, and Nate and I hadn’t been there since the Pawnee Fire burned through it.  I was kind of shocked by how much surface damage the wildfire had done.  I need to find the “before” photos so you can see the change from when I first saw the place and what it looks like now. Even without the comparison, you’ll be able to see just how burned “BURNED!” is.  In some spots, the fire burned so hot and lingered so long that it burned down into the root ball of trees, and when the trees fell over the fire burned them down into the ground until there was nothing left but white and orange ash “skeletons” on the ground.  Bam Bam, who used to be a volunteer firefighter, said that when the mop up crews from the fire brigade come into a wildfire area after a fire, the first thing they look for are the root holes. They make sure that all of the roots are gone and that there’s nothing left smoldering in the holes that might re-ignite and start another fire.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Nate had made maps that noted some areas where he thought would make good placements for the cameras, and he used that as a guide, but once we got to the site, we chose spots based on where we saw scat, tracks or game trails; where we could see where the water from the season creek would flow; and where there were open spaces flanked by areas where we figure vegetation would sprout in the spring. We’d originally thought we’d put out about 5 cameras, but we ended up finding about 9 spots where we want cameras to go.

One of “good” things about the wildfire was that it revealed all of the parts of the landscape that had been covered up by overgrown grasses and other vegetation.  We could clearly see the path of the seasonal creek – including a large pond – which helped us decide where to put cameras to capture images of river otters and other critters that might visit the creek once the water is flowing.  In the pond area, there was a stand of tules and cattails that were mostly dried out, and in among them Nate and Kristie found about 5 nests, most likely made by Red-Winged Blackbirds, woven into and around the tules. Nate cut out one of them, so we could use it as a display piece for our Certified California Naturalist class.

While we were scouting the area, we found evidence of deer, elk, bobcats, a black bear, jackrabbits, and coyotes… including some large elk bones (mostly ribs and vertebrae.) So, we know there are critters out there. The question will be: will they return as the landscape revives from the fire.

I documented some plant life but need to do more of that next time we’re out there. Along with the Blue Oak trees and Ponderosa Pines, there were also lots of manzanita trees and toyon bushes, mugwort, heliotrope, and doveweed… and some Yellow Star Thistle which needs to be pulled out.  I also found some fungi, including Barometer Earthstars.

The funniest part of the day was when Nate set off the sound box of a toy quail on the property — and live quails answered it. A couple of male quails jumped up into the branches of a dead tree trying to see who the intruder was. Hah!

The rain was polite and waited until just before we were ready to leave before it started. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed themselves. It was a fun and productive day.

Funding for this project was paid in part by the Sacramento Zoo, Project #18-022.

Saw My “Nemesis Bird”, 07-04-18

Happy Fourth.  I went out to the Cosumnes River Preserve for a walk and was disappointed to see most of the water now gone from the slough by the boardwalk paring lot. That was the only “wet” left in the wetlands area – and animals that depend on that water don’t have ready access to it anywhere else.

Anyway, I hung around the slough for a while to look for early summer galls and insects, and while I waited I did get to see a few birds.  Belted Kingfishers are like my “nemesis” birds. I’ve spent YEARS trying to get a halfway decent photo of one of them. They’re super-fast and super shy… So, I was overjoyed when this female stopped on a tree across the slough from me and posed for a while.  I also saw a Green Heron who was “caw-honking” to another one across the road from it: call and response. I’d never heard that from this species before, although I’m sure they do it all the time, so that was cool, too.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

Bushtits, several Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets, Killdeer, and some Tree Swallows were among the other birds that came by.  I also saw the head of a Red-Eared Slider Turtle and a Western Pond Turtle poke up from the shallow water at different intervals.

As for the galls, I saw some Oak Apple wasp galls, Ash Flower galls, Spiny Turbans and a few Round Wasp galls. It’s really too early in the season for most of them. Another month and different species should be popping up all over the place.

When I was done walking at the slough, I drove up the road to the nature center and just walked the boat ramp walk there.  Lots of people taking their kayaks down to the river, but not a lot of critters or bugs. I was hoping to see some dragonflies and damselflies, but no such luck. I did get to see a little Trashline Spider, though, and a gorgeous male American Goldfinch.

I was out for about 3 hours and headed back home.

Coyote Dash, Turkey Trot and Others, 01-13-18

Wow, the dog and I slept in nicely this morning. Sergeant Margie didn’t wake up until it was almost 7:00 am. I gave him his breakfast and let him outside to go potty, then I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk. I’m feeling better today than I have in a week. Fingers crossed that I’m done with this stupid flu.

It was totally overcast and foggy all day. Never got over 53º at the house.

At the refuge, this was a day for horribly noisy people – which makes birding and nature-watching really difficult because the inconsiderate LOUD PEOPLE scare off all of the wildlife. Gad, I got as far away from them as I could…

Once again, I saw most of the usual suspects, but I did get a short video snippet of a big, very healthy-looking, coyote as it dashed across a small field – right in front of a deer.

And I also got to see a large band of wild turkeys strutting and showing off to one another on the trail. It looked like there were maybe two different subspecies in the group. Most of them were Rio Grande Wild turkeys (with tan tail tips and coppery-green reflections in their iridescent feathers). But I think there was one or two Merriam’s Wild Turkeys in there, too (with purple/bronze reflections in their feather and light, almost white, tail tips). I’m not positive though.

I walked for almost 4 hours – which was waaay too long — and then went straight home.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of pix and video snippets.

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.