Tag Archives: cold

The Bucks are in Rut at the Effie Yeaw Preserve, 11-10-18

I slept in a tiny bit this morning and got up around 7:00. After giving the dog his breakfast, I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.  It was a chilly 34° at the river!  Got up to about 70° by the afternoon.  The air quality was bad enough today to spark a “Very Unhealthy” purple warning.

At the preserve, the first thing I saw was a small harem of female deer and a couple of fawns, along with a young spike buck.  I got quite a few photos of him doing his “Flehmen Sniff” thing. He closes his nostrils and pulls air in and over the “vomeronasal organ” in the roof of his mouth to pick up on the pheromones of the females around him to learn if they’re in estrus or not. He lifts his top lip because the intake part of the organ is just behind his upper front teeth.

I also saw other deer dotting the preserve here and there including the big 4-pointer (who I think is now a 5-pointer, but I can’t tell for sure from the photos I got of him). He was tucked away on the other side of a field in the shade, so at first, I didn’t see him. When I stepped into the field, though, to get some shots of a Red-Shouldered Hawk (I saw two of them today) he moved, and only then did I realize he was there. It looked like one of the prongs on his rack had been snapped off, but he was still very impressive looking.

I found another older buck in a different part of the preserve, but his rack was really wonky.  On one side, he only had on long prong, and on the other side, he had a 3-point antler with a gnarly-looking eye guard. The doe he was pursuing, though, didn’t seem to mind too much that he was “uneven”…  Several different things can make the antlers messed up like that: the pedicle on the head from which the antlers grow may have been damaged somehow; or the antlers themselves might have been damaged while they were still in their velvet stage and growing; or the buck may have nerve damage in the hind leg opposite from the malformed antler.

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos.

You may also notice in the photos that the mature bucks’ necks swell during the rut. Although I couldn’t find any scientific studies about this phenomenon, the consensus seems to be that the swelling is caused by a dramatic increase in testosterone during the rut which affects the blood vessels and muscles in the neck (along with other parts of the body; hah!). The thick neck is apparently attractive to the females, and also helps to cushion the head and body when the bucks joust, absorbing some of the shock when the bucks butt heads. Interesting!

As I mentioned, I saw two Red-Shouldered Hawks in different parts of the preserve today, and I also saw a Red-Tailed Hawk, but that one flew off before I could get any good shots of it.  Inside the nature center at the preserve, I also got to see Orion, the preserve’s Swainson’s Hawk. He’s still a youngster, so doesn’t have his adult coloring yet, but he’s a handsome bird.

Along the usual suspects like Wild Turkeys, California Scrub Jays, Northern Flickers, Spotted Towhees and Acorn Woodpeckers, I got to see a tiny Hermit Thrush in the scrubby brush on the side of the trail. I hardly ever get to see those little guys, so it’s always kind of a treat when I can get pictures of one of them.

There were lots of California Ground Squirrels and Eastern Fox Squirrels around.  The squirrels can have a second breeding season in the fall, and I saw one of them carrying a big mouthful of grass to its nest.  The cool thing was being able to spot the melanistic squirrel (all black) again.  I hadn’t seen that guy for a year.  The last time I saw him was actually on November 22nd last year.  Maybe he only comes out once a year. Hah! (You can see last year’s photos HERE.)

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed back o the car. On my way out of the preserve, I stopped in at the nature center (which is when I saw Orion) and picked up several copies of “The Acorn” magazine published by the American River Natural History Association. My lichen photo is featured on the cover.  Super cool!

 

Mostly Starlings and Goldeneyes, 12-26-17

I headed over to the American River Bend Park for a walk. It was 34º when I got there, and got up to about 53º when I headed back home.

I wasn’t expecting to see a lot – we’re kind of “between seasons” at the river; all of the birds haven’t migrated in yet and it hasn’t rained enough for the fungi to come out – but the walks themselves always do me good. When I first got there, a light fog was still hanging over the river, so I went to the shore first to try to get some photos of that. Since the flooding earlier this year, the water had receded enough so that the riverside trail was passable again. (At the height of the flood, the river was right up to the trailhead, and beaver had floated up to chew on trees that normally wouldn’t have access to.)

Here is the album of photos and video snippets.

The flood has left its mark, though, with toppled down trees, scraggly flotsam high in the scrub brush and branches of still-standing trees, and rearranged rocks and sandbars. Still, the path was recognizable and I was able to make it through without incident. In places along the way, I could see the tracks of others who had walked along it: humans, dogs, deer, and what might have been a bobcat – fat rounded “fingers” with no toenails.

The trail let out close to what’s now the riverside, but I had to walk over tons of river rocks to get to the water. The rocks are all smooth and beautiful, but are a pain for me to walk across. My arthritis is welding all the bones in my feet together, so my feet don’t bend like they normally should anymore. Traversing uneven ground is a misery for me, but the few photos I got of the fog and a few birds were worth it.

The first creature I saw was a young Herring Gull, preening at the very end of a sandbar. He looked cold and sleepy, waiting for the morning sun to burn through the fog some more so he could warm up. Further up the shore was a Great Blue Heron, puffed up and hunkered down against the chill in the air, but still keeping an eye on the water in case breakfast swam by.

A little further up was a female Common Merganser floating on the water. And then I saw the Goldeneye ducks: mostly females, but several males, too.

Along with the Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula), I also caught sight of a Barrow’s Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica), distinguishable by the shape of the blotch on the face of the male. On the Common goldeneye, the blotch is round, and on the Barrow’s it’s like a paint-stroke. The Barrow’s also has “blocks” of white along the wing-line. We don’t get to see Barrow’s Goldeneyes around here much, so it’s always a treat when they show up. I was hoping the boys would do their flip-head dance for the girls, but they were all more interested in eating than in displaying. I got photos (and a little video) of all of them through the haze of the fog.

The other bird species I saw a lot of today were the European Starlings. In several spots, I saw them checking out nesting cavities in trees, going in and out, and talking to each other. I also saw quite a few California Scrub Jays, and one of them posed nicely for me on the humped back of a curved branch. In another park of the park,

I came across an area where smaller birds were trying to get to the last seeds on the now-dead star thistle: Spotted and California Towhees, Dark-Eyed Juncos, Golden-Crowned Sparrows and Lesser Goldfinches. What was surprising was that I didn’t see a lot of Acorn Woodpeckers or Canada Geese. They’re kind of ubiquitous, so to NOT see them is unusual.

Along my walk I also came across some Gouty Stem Galls, the leftover cocoon of a Tussock Moth caterpillar, the chrysalis of a Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, and a few Deer Shield mushrooms. I walked for about 3 hours and then headed home .

Mostly Snipes on Christmas Eve

I did some journaling and checked my email before heading over to the Cosumnes River Preserve

The temperature gauge said it was 38º at the preserve, but it felt much colder than that. My fingers were “freezing” every time I took some photos, and I had to stop now and then to plunge my hands into my pockets until they thawed out again. Brrr!  It remained overcast for the whole day and never got above 50º (lingering around 45º for quite a while).

I walked around the main wetland area near the boardwalk, then crossed the street, and took the wetland path down to the nature center, then back up to the boardwalk area again.  There didn’t seem to be very many birds out, but considering the chill, I wasn’t really surprised.

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos and video snippets.

I did get to see a LOT of Wilson’s Snipes; they seemed to be everywhere. And I also got to see some Ring-Necked Ducks which I think are so handsome. The males have an iridescent brown ring around their neck, but you can’t see it unless the duck lifts up its head and stretched its neck (usually to show off to the females). They’re always a treat to see because they’re only in this area for a short time each winter.

There  were also a couple of Turkey Vultures who had found dead stuff to snack on. One looked like it was working on the carcass of a Coot, but the other one looked like it had a goose. The thing was too big for the vulture to lift or move…

On the wetland trail I found some earthball fungus commonly called “Dead Man’s Foot” because it looks kind of like a rotting toe-less foot sticking up out of the ground. The things are gross, but they’re interesting at the same time. As they mature and ripen, the whole thing turns into a huge lump of brown spores…  I also found some mistletoe (how appropriate) that was full of berries, so I pulled down a sprig to get some photos of it… and then left it for the birds and squirrels who love those things.

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed back to the house.

Lots of Critters Around on Sunday, 12-17-17

Sergeant Margie wanted to get up at 4:30, but I made him stay in bed until 6:00.  It’s SUNDAY, little dude… I got my laundry done, rebooted the dishwasher, and took out the trash before heading out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.

It was 33º at the river when I got there, and about 54º when I left. When I rounded the corner to go into the drive of the preserve, there were about 20 female Wild Turkeys and their immature (teenager) poults hanging out in the middle of the road.  Most of them scurried to get out of my way, but a couple of the older ones m-o-v-e-d  r-e-a-l-l-y  s-l-o-o-o-o-o-w-l-y. I didn’t want to hit any of them, so I just inched the car forward until I was sure everyone was out of the way and not near the tires.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos and videos.

Once inside the preserve, I saw some European Starlings standing on rocks along the side of the little pond, so I got some photos of them.  Then I heard a snort, and looked around to find the big 4-pointer mule deer buck sitting nearby in the grass with some does around him.  I could see his hot breath streaming out of his nostrils.  I was able to get pretty close to him, but he sat where he was and didn’t startle…

I saw other groups of deer, and some more bucks (some of the banging their heads together). At one point, I spotted one group of does coming toward me through the forest, so I just stayed where I was and videod their arrival.  They were moving pretty fast and “stotting”, so I assumed they were fleeing from something – most likely a pack of coyotes. When the deer got near to me, they all came to a stop, and then tip-toed past me. Hah!

Speaking of coyotes. When I came across a bachelor group of Wild Turkeys on the trail, they and I both stopped moving and perked up our ears when we could hear two packs of coyotes yip-yowling at one another. One pack sounded pretty close to me, to my left; the other one sounded like it was closer to the river. They talked back and forth for a few minutes, and then everything was silent again. It was kind of eerie.

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