Tag Archives: cottonwood tree

Turkeys in Trees and Lots of Deer Everywhere, 11-26-18

Around 7:15 am I went over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve again for a walk. When I first walked in, I saw a small group of deer collected behind the classroom facility across from the nature center. There was one of the 3-pointer bucks back there, rubbing his head against some of the scrub brush (to transfer his scent) and showing off to the couple of does that were near him. I would have missed him completely if he hadn’t made such a fuss over the bushes, rattling and shaking them with his rubbing.  I climbed up onto the stone bench next to the building to look over the plants around there and see him.  He lifted his head up high a couple of times to check me out but otherwise ignored me. He was more focused on trying to impress the gals.

One of the does had a springtime fawn with her, so she wasn’t interested in the buck, and kept moving around to keep him away from her baby. The other doe didn’t seem overly impressed with him either. She walked through a garden to nature center, lifted some of the tomato cages they have around young plants there (to protect them from the deer), and ate the no-longer-protected plants. Hah!  What a brat!

Further along the trail, I came across another buck that was sitting on the side of the trail. He looked pretty good but had a rosy spot on the tip of his nose that he might’ve gotten from jousting.  He just sat there in the grass and let me get pretty close to him to take photos. He stayed where he was until a pair of does came down the trail and caught his eye.  He got to his feet as soon as they sauntered by, and just when he was approaching them, the big 4-pointer buck came across the field and ran the other buck off.  So, the younger buck’s wait was for naught.

On a different part of the trail, I found the buck with the damaged antler. He was standing amid some fallen logs and scrabbly brush… and it took me a while before I realized there was a doe sitting in the grass on the other side of the log. When I went to get some photos of her, the buck poked his head under the log to keep his eye on me.  On the other side of the trail, I also noticed a young spike buck who was sitting in the tall weeds where the larger buck couldn’t see him. When the doe decided to get up and walk away, the older buck followed her… and the spike buck followed him. Stalker.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The Wild Turkeys were out in force again. The males are all in strut, showing off to one another and the ladies. Although most of the time they were just posturing at or bluffing one another, I saw a couple of short fights break out among them. They chase one another around, jump up and use the heavy spurs on the sides of their legs to whack one another. You can hear the “crack!” when they make contact all over the preserve; it’s actually louder than the sound made by the deer when they joust.

I was surprised, though, to see about a half dozen of the turkeys way up in the trees over the trail. They were complaining to one another, so I assumed there was something on the ground (a cat or coyote) that was distressing them. After about 15 minutes, I saw them all fly down, crossing over the tops of other trees and landing in a shallow field. They’re big birds and tend to glide rather than flap-and-fly, so they don’t make a whole lot of noise until they get close to the ground, set their feet down and run to a stop.

About halfway through my walk, I was irritated by the fact that the continuous-mode setting on my camera (that takes photos in a burst of 5 shots) decided to stop working. It would take a burst of photos and then stall – the whole camera would freeze up and I couldn’t get it to release unless I took the battery out of it to make it stop.  After quite a while of this nonsense, I set the camera to single-shot, but I hate taking photos like that because there’s a second or two between each photo that you have to wait until the camera resets itself and is ready for the next shot. It’s apparently a problem for my type of camera when I take a lot of photos. The scan disk card isn’t “fast” enough to handle all of the data and the buffer fills up and makes the camera crash. So, I need to get a faster card.

I was in single-shot mode when I came across an Acorn Woodpecker that I wanted to get photos of. As I finished with those shots, I saw that on another branch on the same tree there was a Red-Shouldered Hawk. The bird was polite enough to sit for me and I was able to get quite a few good shots of him.  When nature sits still, single-shot mode works pretty well. Hah!

I walked for about 3½ hours.

Wildflower Hunting, 04-15-17

On saturday I was up at 6:15 am and out the door by 6:30.  The weather was gorgeous today; sunny and cool (49º when I headed out for my hillside trek and 68º when I got back home.)  I headed out looking for wildflower displays today, taking I5 to the spot where Highways 20 and 16 meet.  There are a lot of ranches around there, as well as some protected areas, and there are usually pretty displays.

Tuleyome had led a wildflower tour last weekend, but pickings were slim, and they couldn’t get down Bear Valley Road to Wilbur Springs because that road is all dirt – and with the recent rains it was basically a 15-mile mud hole.  I didn’t go down there today, and instead stuck to the highways and the turnouts along them.  As I went along, it occurred to me that I actually think we’re still too early for the full wildflower bloom. I think the rain and cooler temperatures have kept the wildflowers from showing off.  The poppies and most of the lupine aren’t awake yet, the onions aren’t opened up yet, and the Blow Wives are just now starting to “blow”.

CLICK HERE to see the entire album of photos.

CLICK HERE if you’d like directions to a self-guided wildflower tour along Bear Valley Road. Before you head out, though, check to make sure the road isn’t really muddy.

Still, I did get to see quite a few different species – about 3o or so – including Tidy Tips, Pepperweed, different kinds of lupine, tiny Owl’s Clover, that super-interesting looking Sack Clover, Big-Headed Clover, Navarretia, Soft Blow Wives, Silverpuffs, Blue Dicks, Bush Mallow, Death Camas, Ithuriel’s Spears, some tiny Blue-Eyed Mary, California Poppies, Goldfields, Fiddleneck, Buck Brush, Larkspur, Bush Monkey Flowers, Indian Paintbrush, Tule Peas, Chinese Houses, and Old Men’s Bear (a kind of clematis).

Driving along Highway 16 was a little bit scary. There had been huge mud and rock slides there, and the road was opened again just recently. As you drive along, you can see massive bald spots where the faces of the hillsides became too saturated during the heavy rains and just slide off.  There  were three places where I could see that the highway had been recently patched and in other places there were huge piles of boulders and mud that had been bulldozed off the road.  But my drive was unimpeded, and nothing fell on my car in the “falling rocks” areas.

Because it was so sunny, I had to contend with stark shadows and sun-glare when I was taking pictures.  If I was able to, I blocked the flowers with my body and took the pictures, but that wasn’t always an option. It’s easier to take photos when it’s a little overcast…

The Tamarisk trees were in bloom all along the waterways.  They’re gorgeous, but they’re totally invasive. Also called “salt cedars” they dump tons of salt into the rivers and streams and kill off a lot of native plant and animals species that can’t tolerate the high salt content. Red-Winged Blackbirds were using some of them as display stages, sitting in the top branches, singing away.

At one spot along Highway 20 and Bear Valley Road, there’s a bridge that goes over Bear Creek, and under the bride were swarms of Cliff Swallows building and tending to their mud nests.  I was surprised to see birds sitting in the unfinished nests – seemingly saving their spot — as their mates flew back and forth with daubs of mud to complete them.  I got some photos and video snippets of that process.

I also saw quite a few Western Fence Lizards, a male Lesser Goldfinch hunkered down in the flowers eating seeds, some katydid nymphs, Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies, Boxelder Beetles, and… eew… ticks.  There were ticks everywhere.  As I was heading back home, I found three of them crawling around the car, and one tiny one on my neck.  Eew, eew, eew!

Because the weather was so lovely, I actually drove around with the car windows open.  It made for a nice weekend drive. I was back home around 2:00 pm.

A Couple of Surprises

I went out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge again for a drive.  I got there around 8:30 am. It was sunny and cool (around 68º) with big sofa clouds everywhere…

There were a lot of the usual suspects out there: jackrabbits, Coots, blackbirds, wrens, etc. Among the jackrabbits, I saw one that kept “pedaling” with is front paws. I think it got a burr or something in its foot and was trying to shake it out. It also chewed on its foot a little bit. Poor little thing…

CLICK HERE to see the entire album.  I’ll be adding a few more videos later.

I came across a juvenile Great Blue Heron who was fishing in a shallow pond.  As I watched it, it caught and ate a little fish and three big crayfish.  One of the crayfish pinched the bird’s face and tongue with its claws, and the heron shook its head, flipping the crayfish across the pond. The heron chased the crayfish down, stabbed it, crushed it in its beak and ate it.  Major repercussions… As the young heron was fishing, and doing really well, an adult Great Blue Heron further away wasn’t fairing so well.  And then a Great Egret, seeing how well the youngster was doing, sidled up next to it to try to steal its fishing spot, but the juvenile heron just stared it down until it walked away.  Hah!

I later saw the heron catch a crayfish, and fly off with it… and later also saw an American Coot catch and eat one. I know the Coots aren’t strictly vegetarians, but it still always surprises me when I see them eating meat.

Two other “oddities” I saw today included an Eared Grebe in its breeding plumage and a Tundra Swan. I see Eared Grebes when they’re not breeding a lot, but this was only the second time I saw one in its breeding plumage. It was pretty far away so I didn’t get a detailed photo of it, but it was cool to see it.  The swan was a big surprise. I’d never seen one at the refuge before…

I drove around for about 4 hours and went back home.

Egrets, Beaver Sign and a Deer with One Antler

It rained overnight and was mostly cloudy and drizzly on and off all day today.  I got up a little after 6:00 am and headed over to the American River Bend Park to see how the water levels are looking there.  I took an umbrella but only had to use it for a little while. And it’s on its last legs so it kept turning inside out all by itself, without any wind prompting it.  Time to get a new one…

Because it was chilly (about 45°) and mizzling, I didn’t get to see a lot of critters, but I did see more beaver-sign along the river – which has receded considerably.  In some places there is now the long swath of gravel before you get to the water. But in that swath is a lot of sand that got churned up and deposited when the river was raging, and a lot of debris: tree limbs, flotsam, garbage…

Anyway, back to the beaver stuff.  I found old scat, and another tree that had been gnawed almost all the way through.  What was weird was that under the spot where the beavers had been chewing the trunk was covered with white, frothy, almost rubbery stuff that looked like latex.  But cottonwoods don’t product latex.  So what was the stuff?  When I got home, I did some research and I think the beaver-wounded tree was suffering from “Alcohol Flux Syndrome” a bacterial infection that was probably living in the tree well before the beaver got to it.  One of the symptoms is white frothy foam that exudes from the bark and smells like fermentation…  This stuff actually had a faint odor to it but it was more like the smell of Elmer’s glue than fermentation…  When I touched it, it felt like rubber, and when I pulled a section away from the bark, you could see froth left behind on the tree…  Weird.

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

The manroot vines and pipevines are all going great guns and should be ready for the butterflies and caterpillars when they emerge (probably sometime later this month).  And there was one spot along the muddy bank where I thought I found bobcat tracks.  I was trying to get a photo of them, but the ground under my feet there was so slippery with muck that I couldn’t keep my balance.  I got a couple of shots, but you can’t really tell much from them.

At another spot, I came across a Great Egret and a Snowy Egret fishing in a still pond that had been left behind when the river receded.  Lots of tiny fish must’ve been trapped in the pool because I got video of the Snowy Egret catching about a dozen fish in less than two minutes.  I don’t know if the Great Egret was just super-picky about wat he’d eat or if he just sucked at fishing; I didn’t see him catch anything.  Both egrets were coming into their breeding plumage: long trailing and curling feathers down their back and over their tail.  So pretty.

I also came across a small herd of mule deer which included a buck that had lost one of his antlers. (They shed them this time of year.) The lack of symmetry didn’t seem to bother him or interfere with his ability to walk or graze, but it sure looked funny.

I walked for about 2 hours and then headed back home.

A Day of Nature for Me and the Dog, Saturday 05-07-16

Male Ruddy Duck. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Male Ruddy Duck. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

I turned off my phone and computer today, and headed out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge for a “nature day” –  just me and the dog.  It was totally overcast and drizzling on and off all day, but I didn’t care.  I just needed to unplug with Sergeant Margie.

I got to the refuge around 7:30 am and because it was overcast and rather “dark” a lot of the critters were tricked into thinking it was a lot earlier than it really was, so I got to see the Black Crowned Night Herons flying off to their daytime roosts (but no good photos, sadly), and caught a raccoon heading off to its den. Because of the inclement weather there were no other guests at the refuge all the while I was there (or at least I didn’t see anyone else), so I felt like I had the whole place to myself.  I could drive down the auto tour route as slowly as I wanted to without be hurried or interfered with by other drivers.  That’s always soooo nice.

There were lots and lots of Jackrabbits and cottontails everywhere, and I got to see some mule deer, too.  Kingbirds also seemed to be all over the place today, and often landed in the tules or overgrowth alongside the auto tour route to “pose”.  Most of the time they just flit away when they see people but today they were very cooperative…  Some of my videoing and photo-taking throughout the day was impeded by rain and thick blinds of tules (the camera doesn’t know what to focus on, so I get a lot of blurring going on.)  I’m no “National Geographic” photographer or videographer to be sure, but I was pleased with what I got…

From the auto tour route, I could see a nest way off in the distance and I thought I could see birds in it, so I snapped some photos (even though I knew they’d be crappy) just to see if I could get a better look at the occupants.  As far as I could tell it was a hawk’s nest, and a fuzzy white fledgling hawk was looking out from one side of it, and the adult was looking out the other side.  Cool!  I also checked out the nest of the Great Horned Owl that I’d seen the last time I was at the refuge.  At first mama was absent but there were TWO huge fat owlets sitting in the nest.  When I went by the nest again later in the morning, Mom had come back later to sit with the babies… I have no idea how they all fit into that nest!

I saw a lot of Bitterns in flight, mostly in pairs, but didn’t get any good shots of them because they flushed so fast and flew so quickly.  In one spot, a flock of American White Pelicans was paddling through an area where the Bitterns were trying to feed, and rousted them out.  Feathers everywhere…

Later along the auto tour route I came across a “cooperative” of Canada Geese (a huge contingent of goslings overseen by several adult birds). They were on the road in front of me, and took off running.  The adults could’ve flown off the road into the water if they’d wants to, but they didn’t want to abandon the goslings, so they ran and ran and ran until the found a place where the goslings could safely to the water.  I worried about the babies running so hard for what seemed like “forever” (it was actually only a minute, but it seemed to take longer).  When they got to the water, all the adults regrouped and got all the kids together again…

Here’s a short video of the run.  Please excuse the blurred quality.  The geese were running slightly uphill in front of the car and the video was taken through the windshield.

When I drove by the permanent wetlands area, I got to see a lot of courtship displays among the different birds.  Some of the male Ruddy Ducks were in their full regalia – rust-red feathers and blue beaks – and were thrumming their beaks against their chests to make the water bubble and swirl around them.  (I got photos and a little video of that.) Here’s a video of the Ruddys.

I also got a little video of the Clark’s Grebes doing their courtship run across the top of the water, and the males offering eelgrass to the females for their floating nests. Here’s a video of a male Grebe presenting grass and here’s a video of the Grebes courtship run. Again, these aren’t high-quality but you’ll get the gist of things.

Then I saw some black s-shaped things in a tree nearby, and turned to focus on them.  They were male Great-Tailed Grackles doing displays for the females, elongating their necks and vocalizing (with a wide variety of sounds). They left the tree and flew into the tules to sing some more, then they flew down onto the ground and tried dancing around a female who was gathering grasses for her nest. Here’s a video snippet of a pair of males singing.  Turn the volume up as high as you can.  They were pretty far away, so they’re kind of hard to hear.

I felt kind of bad for some of the male birds.  Female birds can be so particular about who they choose as their mates, and the males try soooo hard to impress them – often to be rejected or simply ignored.  There was one male Gadwall who was head-bobbing to a female, and all she wanted to do was preen.  Hah!

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Oh, and here is a video snippet of some Snowy Egrets.  You get to see one them lift its long breeding plumage at another one who gets too close it.

I figured I saw over 35 species of plants and animals today.  It was a long leisurely drive with my dog and nature… just what I needed after a stressful week.

 

Vacation Day 12: SNWR Part 1

Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

Vacation Day 12. I had stayed up late Wednesday night to watch “The Night Manager” on AMC (with Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston), and was going to play today by ear, but I woke up around 5:00 am. I was feeling oddly energetic – considering that I’d stayed up until 11:15 pm last night – so I packed an overnight bag, got the dog into the car, and headed off to Willows to spend the day at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. I got there around 7:30 am and didn’t leave until 2:30 pm, just driving around the auto tour and walking some of the trails.

Sergeant Margie doesn’t mind the car ride (since he gets extra treats and fancy food for being a good boy in the car), but he’s showing hi age on the walking trails. He can barely keep up with me, and at one point I was seriously considering picking him up and carrying him the rest of the way to the car. He was a trooper, though, and made it back under his own power – if very slowly.

What I didn’t like about the trails was that there were a grillion ticks everywhere. Every time Sergeant Margie stopped to pee, I had to stop and pull about 6 ticks off of his face and ears. I never see that many ticks at any of the other places where I go walking. It was GROSS!

Lots of Jackrabbits and a few Cottontails were scrambling around. For so many critters, I’m surprised I don’t see more babies – especially the jacks. Their babies, called leverets, are born above ground, fully furred, and ready to go within a few hours of birth. (Unlike baby rabbits, called bunnies, that are born underground, almost furless, and unable to see or hear for about 3 weeks.)

The big show of the day, though, was the Killdeer. They’re starting to build their gravel nests and lay their eggs, and I came across several mamas doing their “broken wing act” to try to distract me from where their nests were. They fly a few feet away from the nest, lay on their side on the ground, and flap around as though they’re injured. Once they feel their nest is safe, they jump up, fly off, and then circle around back to the nest to make sure the eggs are okay. One of them had built her stone nest right next to the pull-off area beside a large viewing platform. Almost within reach, but far enough behind a fence to keep law-abiding humans away from her. She didn’t mind when I walked up to the fence, but she wasn’t thrilled with Sergeant Margie. She flew off and rolled on ground, crying, pretending to be wounded… and then didn’t really know what to do when I didn’t fall for her act. She got up, walked off a bit more, fell back on the ground, stood up, walked away, fell over on the ground… As silly as she looked, I had to give her props for her persistence, and for the fact that her walk-and-fall routine circled the area where her nest was so it was always within her sight.

After I put the dog back in the car, she flew back to her nest and its tiny eggs that look like stone. I stepped up onto the viewing platform to get photos of her from another angle, and while I was up there, a male Killdeer came by. The female ran out to him for an on-the-gravel quickie, and then went back to her nest. Hah! Wutta slut!
I also watched a group of Kingbirds cavorting around. Some of what I saw I’m sure was courtship behavior males flying up and down, zig-zagging through the air while they chattered. I think the other behavior I saw was territorial: several bird fighting back and forth between adjacent trees where each had a nest.

I saw four Bitterns during the day (which is the most I’ve ever seen there). Three actually flew across the hiking trail in front of me and disappeared into the grass on the opposite side of it. The fourth one was trying to hide in some tules along the auto tour route, stretching itself up to try to mimic the reeds… but it’s belly was too fat, so it was easy to spot despite its efforts. Hah!

I was hoping to see some Grebes in the permanent wetland area, but they weren’t around today.

I did get to see a lot of other critters, though, including American Avocets, Meadowlarks, Dunlin, Mule Deer, Red-Winged Blackbirds, American White Pelicans, Double-Crested Cormorants, Turkey Vultures, White-Front Geese, Snow Geese and Canada Geese, some Ring-Necked Pheasants, quite a few dragonflies, and more and more and more. Lots of photos… I also caught a glimpse of raccoons in my side mirror, but by the time I maneuvered the car around to get a better shot they were gone. Waah!

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As I said, I stayed at the refuge until about 2:30 pm, and by then I was exhausted so I drove another 15 minutes or so into the town of Willows and spent the night at the Holiday Inn Express there.

I don’t know why, really, but the place was full! They only had two rooms left: a large suite and a small first floor room. I certainly didn’t need a suite, so I took the small room… and found it was all ADA compliant with a push-button to open the door after you unlocked it, a low-profile bath tub with a seat in it, and a high-rise toilet. This old woman scored! I had tuna fish and crackers with fruit for supper and then hit the hay.