Tag Archives: bullfrogs

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.

Kind of All Over the Place, 04-07-18

It was raining and overcast when I got up, and rained on and off for most of the day. I eased into my morning with some coffee, and did some journaling. We had to be out of the house between 1:00 and 4:00 pm because the realtor-people wanted to do an Open House today. *Sigh*

The dog and I went to Woodland first. I wanted to see if I could find the Burrowing Owls along Road 104… only to find that you can’t get there from Woodland (even though the maps say you can) because the Conaway Ranch blocks the way. *Sigh* Driving around, though, looking for a different route of access to Road 104, I came across the Egret and Heron rookery along Road 103.

There’s a stand of eucalyptus trees in someone’s front yard, and the trees are full of nests. I didn’t go onto the property, but parked across the road and got a few photos. The white Great Egrets are so white that when I tried to get a photo of the nests underneath them, the birds blended in with the “white” sky. I’ll have to go back there and try other settings some other day. I saw Great Egrets and a pair of Black-Crowned Night Herons. It looks like they’re just starting their nests. I saw some egrets in a nearby field, picking up sticks as building materials. the nests look so “small” in comparison to the size of the birds, but I guess they know what they’re doing. Hah!

Then I headed back toward Sacramento and stopped at William Land Park to see the big pond there. It had been closed “forever” while it was refurbished and cleaned out, and I hadn’t been there since they opened it up again last month. It looks very much like it did before, only a little tidier.

Because the water is so “clean” right now, there are no fish, crustaceans or waterborne insects for the birds to eat, so there weren’t a lot of birds hanging around; mostly just ducks and geese. One mama Mallard had a troupe of ducklings already (one of them very “blonde”). I’m assuming she’s a new mom, though, because her kids runs all over the place and she doesn’t supervise them well. Hah! Sergeant Margie liked the walk around the pond.

I was irritated to see a couple walking a large dog that was obviously a wolf-hybrid (which are illegal to own in California)… and they were walking it without a leash. The woman had the leash in her hand but not on the dog. That dog was big enough to take down a CAR. Where are these humans’ brains?!

Then I went over to the Cosumnes River Preserve to see if I could find the Virginia Rail that has been hanging out by the boardwalk. (She’s there almost every year and usually has a clutch of 3 or 4 chicks.) No rail – but I think she was hiding because there were a bunch of single parents there with their screaming kids. I saw one kid trying to chase down and stomp on a sparrow, and I wanted to smack him. Hateful little bastard. I just don’t understand what motivates that kind of behavior.

I did get some photos of Tree Swallows, Marsh Wren nests, and some bullfrogs. I tried to get some photos of a young garter snake slithering through the water, but it moved too quickly, so I only go the center portion of it. No one else could tell it was snake in the water, I guess, I know what it is. Hah!

By the time I was done there it was almost 4:00 pm, so I headed back to the house and thankfully the realtor people were gone.

Muskrat vs. Snake, and an Eagle, 06-03-17

The dog woke me up a little bit before 5:00 am, and once I’m up it’s almost impossible for me to go back to sleep, so… I just stayed up and then headed out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  It got up to about 80º today, but was overcast all day as well. Weird.  I like the overcast though; it makes outdoor picture-taking a lot easier. You don’t have to fight against glare and harsh shadows.  It also confuses the wildlife a little bit (they think it’s earlier in the morning than it really is, so they’re active a little while longer than they normally would be.)

CLICK HERE for the complete album with videos.

The drive to the place was uneventful, and I got there a little before 7:00 am.  When I stopped at the first park-and-stretch area, I was taking some video of a little Marsh Wren at its nest and could hear the woop-woop-woop calls of Pied-Billed Grebe and the deep cello-call of bullfrogs all around me.  For a long time, I was the only person on the trail, so it was just me and critters…

There  were lots of jackrabbits and cottontail rabbits everywhere. At one point along the auto-tour there were about 10 of them running helter-skelter all over the road and into-and-out-of the tall grass.  I got a video snippet of some their antics.  It just made me smile to watch them having so much fun… I came across one little Cottontail that had both of ears “cropped”; the tips were totally gone.  I’ve seen some rabbits with one damaged area, but never one with two.  It looked like something had bitten them off… and in another spot, at the park-and-stretch area near the viewing platform, I found a Cottontail who didn’t seem too concerned about my walking around it. It even stretched out on the gravel to warm its belly.  (Well, it WAS the park-and-stretch area afterall. Hah!)

I saw a lot of otters on the road ahead of me, but didn’t get any close-ups of any of them (they move so fast!) And one spot, it looked to me like the otter was rolling in either otter poop or raccoon poop.  To each his own…

One of the big surprises of the morning, though, was coming across a Bald Eagle.  They’re somewhat common at the preserve in the winter, but by the summer they’re usually all a little further north or up in the mountains.  When I first saw it (at a distance) I thought it was just a Turkey Vulture; all I could see were its dark back and shoulders.  But then as I got closer to it, it raised its white head and I could tell it was an eagle.  I took dome distances shots of it, and then moved the car up closer, inch by inch, hoping it wouldn’t fly off before I could get some decent photos of it.  I was lucky.  It sat right where it was for several minutes and let me a bunch of pictures before it got bored with me and flew off.  Later, as I continuing down the auto tour route, a women drover he car up next to mine and said she had spotted the eagle on the little island the cormorants and Pelicans often rest on and was heading up to take pictures of it.  I told her it had already posed for me, but I’d go check out the island, too, when I got closer to it.  The woman drove past me and hurried up the road… but she didn’t stop for very long once she reached the spot she wanted, so I assumed that she didn’t get the photos she was hoping to.

I had stopped my car where I was because I was trying to get photos of some juvenile Widow Skimmer and blue Pondhawk dragonflies that were flying among the weeds and tules along the shore of the permanent wetland pond.  It’s a tiny bit early in the season for them. Over the few months there should be tons of dragonflies and damselflies out there… Among the other insects, I also saw some Yellow-Faced Bumblebees, lots and lots of Painted Lady and West Coast Lady butterflies, Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies, Common Buckeyes, Cabbage Whites, some Sulphur butterflies, White-Lined Sphinx Moths and a tiny Crescent butterfly.  Among a crop of phacelia, I also found a large group of what I think were Salt Mars Caterpillars (which grow into large white moths with black speckles on the wings). It’s so hard to tell, though.  I haven’t found a really good book on caterpillars yet; they are so many species…

By the time I got to the spot where you can see the “Pelican island” it was totally vacant; not a single bird on it.  And that VERY unusual. There are normally lots of birds gathered on it… But if the Bald Eagle had flown over it or actually landed on it (as the woman who’d driven past me had suggested), then I wasn’t entirely surprised by the vacancy.  Most of the birds in the refuge will duck-and-cover if a hawks flies over.  But when the eagles show up, everything scatters…

My other big surprise of the day was when I found a Muskrat swimming in the water, munching on water vegetation.  It was pushing its way into some tules, and in doing so dislodged a small garter snake that had been sunning itself there. The snake fell into the water right in front of the muskrat.  The muskrat startled, but didn’t stop eating and the snake swam away.  It was the second of two snakes I saw today.  Like the otters, though, the snakes move so fast it’s hard for me to get any pictures of them…

It took me about 5 hours to do the 6 mile loop, and then I didn’t get home until around 1:30 pm… During the last hour or so of my drive I could feel my throat getting really and scratchy, and by the time I got the house, I knew cold was coming on.  Dang it!

Mostly Deer at the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve

Labor Day.  I got up around 6:00 am and went over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.  It was 51° when I got to the preserve – my favorite walking temperature – and was only in the 70’s by the time I left.

I came across a couple of Green Darner dragonflies trying to warm themselves up in the early morning light. One was sitting in the grass, and another was sitting up in a tree.  The one in the grass was still torpid from the cool air, so I was able to pick it up and get a little video and a few other photos of it. It was biting at my finger while I was holding it – which is like a sharp little pinch – and arched its tail like it was threatening to sting me even though dragonflies don’t have stingers.  (Some dragonfly species have learned that if they threaten to sting, whatever is holding them will let go in a reflex action to protect themselves from a sting.)

CLICK HERE for the video of the dragonfly.

I saw quite a few Mule Deer, including one two-point buck who was off browsing by himself.  As I was watching one female deer in the distance, I caught sight of a coyote running through the grass.  At one spot, he stopped under the shade of a tree. I aimed the camera at him, but didn’t think I got the shot because it was so dark in the shaded area.  As luck would have it, the camera-gods were with me, and I got a lovely shot of the coyote scratching himself under the tree.

CLICK HERE for the video of the coyote.

I also got to see hummingbirds, Wild Turkeys, some California Towhees, Acorn Woodpeckers. Mourning Doves, Bullfrogs, California Ground Squirrels and a couple of Red-Shouldered Hawks. And I found a Brown Lacewing (Hemerobius spp.) that seemed to be snacking on Crown Whitefly nymphs. Brown Lacewings are a little more rare than Green Lacewings, so that was a neat find…

CLICK HERE for an album of all of the photos from today.

I walked for about three hours and then headed back to the car.

Mostly Deer and Galls Today, 08-28-16

I got up at :00 this morning, and headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve.  It was another gorgeous day: 56° when I went out to the preserve, and by 10:30 when I was heading home, it was still only 68° outside.  It didn’t get into the high 70’s until the later afternoon…

I was walking for the exercise more than anything else; just open to whatever Nature wanted to show me today.  I saw a lot of mule deer, including some babies just out of their spots and some males sporting new shiny antlers (now that the velvet has all been shed).  There was one grouping of five that stopped right in front of me along the trail near the nature center building, and it was the first time I’d ever heard deer vocalizing at one another.  The group was made up of females and some yearlings, and they made these odd, deep, low-volume “groans” at one another.  Because I’d never heard the deer make so much as a peep before, at first I didn’t believe what I was hearing.  But the sound went on for several minutes, and intensified a little bit when another female joined the group.  I wonder what they were saying to one another…

CLICK HERE for the complete album of photos from today.

All around the preserve I found a lot of galls on the oak trees; nothing new, but a wide variety of them. I also came across a pair of adult female Wild Turkeys.  Each of them had a single surviving poult, one a little older than other.  I got a little video of them walking the trail in front of me pecking at the ground for grit and seeds.

CLICK HERE to see the video.

I also came across one oak tree where some of the acorns had obviously been infested with something and were malformed and “weeping” some kind of fluid.  I know there are wasps, weevils and moths that infest acorns, but didn’t break the acorns open to see what was inside of them… And I got a couple of photos of some katydid nymphs, and the abandoned exoskeleton of a large praying mantis in the brush around the nature center.

At one of the man-made ponds I found some young Bullfrogs loitering on the rocks and fallen tules as I was heading back toward my car.  I found the frogs just as a family was coming up to the pond, so I told them about the frogs and the parents were as excited to see them as the kids were.  The mom told me this was their first time at the preserve and they’d hardly gotten in the front gate and they’d already spotted a small herd of deer and the frogs; they were very happy.

Saturday Morning at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Juvenile Widow Skimmer. ©2016 Copyright Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.
Juvenile Widow Skimmer. ©2016 Copyright Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.

I got up around 5:30 and left the hotel to get over to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  The windy was blowing a gale out there this morning, though, so I wasn’t expecting to see much of anything.  There was no one else at the refuge that time of day, and I actually didn’t see another car until about noon as I was getting ready to leave.

Along the auto-tour route, the jackrabbits were up, and I also came across a couple of Striped Skunks – but those little guys can really MOVE, so all I got was blurry photos of them. At one point, one of them got pissed off because I was “chasing” it with my car, and it stopped an aimed his butt at me to warn me off.  Hah!  I finally did manage to get a short video snippet of it, but that was all.

Along with the usual contingency of ducks and geese, I got to see the American White Pelicans again – most of them napping on a small island in the middle of the permanent wetlands area. And I got some photos of the little red House Finch picking up thistle-seeds from the ground.

The dragonflies surprised me.  Because of the hard wind, I didn’t think I’d see many of them, but they were smart and fly close to the ground on the lee side of the tules to shield themselves from the wind, so I got some more photos of them, including some Widow Skimmer dragonflies, some adults and some juveniles who hadn’t fully developed their deep wing staining yet or gotten the greyish-blue pruinescence on their abdomen (so they were still striking black and yellow)… I saw several of the smaller dragonflies caught up in spider’s webs, and got a little video snippet of a spider racing out to sting and wrap a dragonfly in silk before it could wriggle free.

Among the other insects, I also got some photos of Painted Lady butterflies and a Red Admiral butterfly feeding on the teasel flowers.  And there were Cabbage White butterflies all over the place… On my way out of the refuge later, a tiny Crescent butterfly flew into the car and walked along the dashboard before leaving again…

At the permanent wetlands area, the mother Clark’s Grebe that I’d filmed yesterday moving her eggs around on her floating nest, was off the nest this morning (and I got photos of the eggs).  The winds had kicked up small waves on the water and the waves were wreaking havoc on the floating nest.  Mom and dad worked to try to add more grass to the nest and shore it up a bit, and eventually mom got back onto it, but it looks to me like her weight pushed the eggs under water… so I don’t know if they’re going to make it.  (Other grebes on their mats that I could see dotting the water seemed to be fine.)  I also saw another pair of grebes working on their nest (no eggs yet).  They had a good start on it and were working hard despite the waves.

The abandoned nest I saw yesterday was still there but the eggs were gone.  There was a pair of Pied-Billed Grebes checking the nest out, but I just thing that one’s too close to the road and will remain un-lived-in for the season.

I also saw a large “straw” nest in a tree along the route and was stymied by it for a while.  It was all grasses and small twigs with a hole in the side of it.  After doing some research, I decided it must have been an Oriel’s nest.  Now, usually Oriel’s nests are really easy to distinguish; they hang like purses or socks from branches.  But this one was up against the trunk of the tree – an unusual but not unheard of placement.  According to Cornell’s “All About Birds” site: “… The distinctive nest usually hangs below a branch, but is sometimes anchored along a vertical tree trunk…”

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The dog and I also walked one of the shorter trails at the refuge before heading home.