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Poults and a Snake, 07-04-19

Happy 4th of July.  Up at 5:30 am, and out the door before 6:00 to go to the American River Bend Park for a walk.  It was about 59°when I got there with a slight breeze blowing, so it was nice.  I was expecting the place to be crawling with people for the holiday, but nope. I had the trails almost to myself all the while I was out there. 

The very first thing I saw when I drove in was a doe crossing the road in front of me.  She stopped and looked behind her, and then I saw her fawn come out after her and scurry across the road, too.  I tried to get photos, but I had to shoot through the windshield so… nuthin’.  Dang it!  But the park was otherwise pretty kind, giving me two other surprises with better photo ops.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

The first of those two was getting the chance to see some Rio Grande Wild Turkey poults (Meleagris gallopavo intermedia). I hardly ever get to see them because the moms are so good at keeping them hidden. This was a group of three adults and five poults. The poults were all fledged in their first feathers but still too small to fly.  Among the adults was the leucistic (black and white) female I see often in the park. She was following after the other two, so I inferred that she was “learning” from them. She mimicked a lot of what they did, and also seemed to be helping out with protecting the babies.

At one point, one of the adults jumped up into an elderberry bush and started pulling berries off and dropping them to the ground so the babies could get them. A few seconds later, one of the poults got up into the bush, as well, but couldn’t reach the berries and jumped down again. So cute.  I think that little guy was blind on one side. It kept on eye shut all the time, and the lid looked “flat” in the socket (instead of rounded out by an eyeball).

I walked with the small flock for a while, but the adults were really good about keeping the kids out of the sunlight, for the most part, and keeping themselves between the babies and me. Who says turkeys are stupid?

The second surprise came when I walked down near the shore of the American River because there was a Buttonbush down there in full bloom and I think the flowers are so cool-looking. Anyway, while I was taking pictures of the flowers, I caught a glimpse of something moving past my foot and going behind me, so I turned around and saw a spotted snaky form slipping through the rocks.  At first I thought it was a gopher snake because they’re really common in the park, but then I caught a glimpse of the head. Not a gopher snake.

It was a young RATTLESNAKE. It was about as long as my forearm, so not too-too big, but still large enough to pack a good supply of venom. What was weird was: when I first saw it, it was in diffused light so all of the light parts on it looked pale blue and all of the spots on it looked kind of orangey. Very odd.

Pacific Rattlesnake among the rocks on the shore of the American River.

I followed after it a little bit to try to get more photos — which is hard for me on the shore because it’s all rocks there and my feet don’t work well on unstable cobbly ground.  I stopped when the snake got pissed off at me and wound itself into a striking position. Uh, yikes! I took just a few more photos and then let it be.

I also came across a small family of crows: a parent and two fledglings, I think. I saw the parent hand off a rock to the kids – which they weren’t interested in — and then pick up some seeds from along the shore.  The fledglings were very loud and fussy, demanding that mom feed them (even though they were large enough to fly and forage by themselves.) Huge mouths!  They cracked me up.            

Walking through the rocks on the shore, and then having to climb back up an incline to get to the trail pretty much did me in, though. The bones in my feet are “welding together” like Mom’s did from arthritis, so my feet don’t bend and flex like they should, which is why walking on uneven ground is hard for me these days.  Still, I was able to walk for about three hours total before heading back to the house.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
  2. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens,
  3. Black Nightshade, Solanum nigrum,
  4. Black Walnut, Juglans nigra,
  5. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea,
  6. Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis,
  7. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta,
  8. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica,
  9. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
  10. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica,
  11. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
  12. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos,
  13. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea,
  14. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser,
  15. Doveweed, Turkey Mullein, Croton setigerus,
  16. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare,
  17. Flowering Tobacco, Nicotiana alata,
  18. Giant Mullein, Verbascum thapsus,
  19. Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina,
  20. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias,
  21. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata,
  22. Horsetail, Rough Horsetail, Equisetum hyemale,
  23. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
  24. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus,
  25. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 2nd Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis,
  26. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos,
  27. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
  28. Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, Crotalus oreganus oreganus,
  29. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii,
  30. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus,
  31. Red Swamp Crayfish, Crawfish, Crawdad, Procambarus clarkia,
  32. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus,
  33. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
  34. Rusty Tussock Moth, Orgyia antiqua,
  35. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus,
  36. Tarweed, Common Madia, Madia elegans,
  37. Tree Tobacco, Nicotiana glauca,
  38. Treehopper, Oak Treehopper, Platycotis vittata,
  39. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana,
  40. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis,

Monarch Monitoring, Day #1, 07-02-19

I got up around 5:30 this morning so I could get over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve and begin my monitoring of my milkweed plot there for evidence of Monarch Butterflies.

  I got there around 6:30 am and was pleased to see fellow volunteer and Certified California Naturalist, Roxanne Moger, there, too, ready and anxious to help with this first day at “my” plot.  The first thing we saw when we walked in was a lovely doe sitting on the side of the hill right next to the plot.  She let us get some photos of her before she got up and moved along.  There was a narrow game trail right through the plot that the deer had made.

A female Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
The doe is to the left in this photo, and the plot to the right (at the end of the stone wall).

We divvied the plot up and started by counting all of the plants – over 40 just in our section! – and then we went plant-by plant, looking at every leaf for any evidence of Monarch eggs or larvae.  I wasn’t expecting to see any, and we didn’t. The Monarchs didn’t show up last year until the fall, so I didn’t think there would be any in the plot today.  But we were still very vigilant about checking every plant and every leaf.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

 Part of the plot sits at a slight angle and is cluttered with other plants like a large coyote brush bush, a couple of wild rose bushes and some bay, and Roxanne was wonderful about monitoring that part, so I didn’t have to climb under branches or get snagged by thorns.  I thought that was so sweet of her!  I had a special magnifier to check for eggs, but for most of the time I just used my cell phone as a magnifying glass and took photos if I found anything that looked interesting or unusual.  We came across several different kinds of spiders including Yellow Sac Spiders, Trashline Orb Weavers and Jumping Spiders; some Oleander Aphids, Common Green Lacewing eggs, Red Mites, the larvae of Green Stink Bugs and the Twenty-spotted Lady Beetle, some leafhoppers and some spittle bugs.

 We were out at the plot for about 2 hours.  Later in the day, after I got home, I loaded our findings onto the MLMP website.  It took me a little bit to figure out what went where, but I think I get everything in there all right.

Species List:

  1. Asian Ladybeetle, Harmonia axyridis,
  2. California Bay, Umbellularia californica,
  3. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana,
  4. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
  5. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea,
  6. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis,
  7. European Praying Mantis, Mantis religiosa,
  8. Green Leafhopper, Empoasca sp.,
  9. Green Stink Bug, Chinavia hilaris,
  10. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
  11. Jumping Spider, Hentzia sp.,
  12. Meadow Spittlebug, Philaenus spumarius,
  13. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii,
  14. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus,
  15. Red Mite, Spider Mite, Tetranychus urticae,
  16. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa,
  17. Spotted Lady’s Thumb, Persicaria maculosa,
  18. Trashline Orb Weaver Spider, Cyclosa conica,
  19. Twenty-spotted Lady Beetle, Psyllobora vigintimaculata,
  20. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,
  21. Yellow Sac Spider, Cheiracanthium mildei,

My First Glimpse of Fawns This Year, 07-02-19

I got up around 5:30 this morning so I could get over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve and begin my monitoring of my milkweed plot there for evidence of Monarch Butterflies. I finished that (with the help of my friend and co-naturalist Roxanne Moger) around 8:30.

It was still relatively cool outside, so Roxanne and I decided to put our tools back into our car and walk for a little while.  We came across some cooperative squirrels and a Desert Cottontail rabbit, and also checked out the tree where I’d seen the feral beehive earlier.  There were about three times as many bees at the spot, so I’m assuming the queen has decided to set up shop there.

 The surprise sighting was coming across another doe – with twin fawns!  She was keeping them well-hidden in the shade and tall grass, but we were able to catch glimpses of them. And we couldn’t help but chuckle when the babies went stotting through the grass with mom chasing after them.  They’re so tiny but soooo active! They’re the first fawns I’ve seen this year and that’s always exciting.

As we were leaving the preserve, I could hear a Ground Squirrel’s alarm call and looked around to see if I could spot what the trouble might be. I saw movement overhead and spotted an adult Red-Shouldered Hawk fly overhead. It landed in a nearby tree and then sat there for quite a while, so we were able to get quite a few photos of it.  So, even though our walk was only a single loop, we got to see quite a bit… which is always fun.

An adult Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

We walked for about 2 hours before calling it quits and going to breakfast.

Species List:

  1. Asian Ladybeetle, Harmonia axyridis,
  2. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii,
  3. Black Walnut Erineum Mite gall,
  4. California Bay, Umbellularia californica,
  5. California Black Walnut, Juglans californica,
  6. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
  7. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana,
  8. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
  9. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis,
  10. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
  11. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea,
  12. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis,
  13. Coyote Mint, Monardella villosa,
  14. Crown Whitefly, Aleuroplatus coronata,
  15. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii,
  16. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger,
  17. European Honeybee, Apis mellifera,
  18. European Praying Mantis, Mantis religiosa,
  19. Feral Honeybees, Apis mellifera,
  20. Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum,
  21. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus,
  22. Green Leafhopper, Empoasca sp.,
  23. Green Stink Bug, Chinavia hilaris,
  24. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
  25. Jumping Spider, Hentzia sp.,
  26. Lords-And-Ladies, Arum maculatum,
  27. Meadow Spittlebug, Philaenus spumarius,
  28. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus,
  29. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii,
  30. Pumpkin Gall Wasp, Dryocosmus minusculus,
  31. Red Mite, Spider Mite, Tetranychus urticae,
  32. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus,
  33. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
  34. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa,
  35. Spotted Lady’s Thumb, Persicaria maculosa,
  36. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  37. Trashline Orb Weaver Spider, Cyclosa conica,
  38. Twenty-spotted Lady Beetle, Psyllobora vigintimaculata,
  39. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
  40. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,
  41. Yellow Sac Spider, Cheiracanthium mildei,

Lots of Critters… and a Beaver, 06-20-19

Up at 5:00 am again. I let the dog out to go potty and fed him his breakfast then headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my weekly volunteer Trail-Walking gig.  It was a gorgeous 58° when I got to the preserve and was overcast, so it never got over about 68° while I was there.  Perfect walking weather.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

One of the first things I saw was a Red-Shouldered Hawk carrying nesting materials. First she flew over my head, then she landed on a tree to get a better grip on the grasses she was holding before taking off again. These hawks only have one brood a year, but often work on the nest throughout the year to keep it clean.  It’s no uncommon for them to use the same nest over several season if the first nest is successful.  Later in my walk, I went by where I knew one of the hawks’ nest was and found a juvenile (fledgling) sitting out beside it squawking for its parents to come feed it. It was capable of feeding itself, but some of these young’uns milk the I’m-just-a-baby thing for quite a while. While it was near the nest, it was hard to get photos of it because it was backlit, but later it flew out and I was able to get a few better photos of it when it landed in a nearby tree.

There were a lot of deer out today, but I didn’t see any fawns. I DID see a couple of bucks, though, both of them still in their velvet, a 2-pointer and one with wonky antlers (one super-long one and one stumpy one). The 2-pointer was walking with a doe, and when I stood on the trail to take photos of them, he decided he didn’t like that.  He stepped right out toward me with a very determined look on his face. (Bucks can get real possessive of “their” does.) I knew he wouldn’t rush me and try to gore me because he was still in his velvet.  In that state, the antlers are super-sensitive to touch, and if he rammed me, he’d actually hurt himself.  But, he could still outrun me mash me with his hooves if he had a mind to, so I put my head down and back away.  That seemed to be enough of a submissive posture to him, and he returned to his doe.  As beautiful as the deer are, I have to remind myself that they’re still wild animals and will do whatever their instincts tell them to do – even in a nature park.

I heard and caught glimpses of several Nuttall’s Woodpeckers on my walk, but never got enough of a look at one to take its picture. Those birds enjoy teasing people, I swear. They’re really loud about announcing themselves in flight, but then hide from you once they land.

The wild plum and elderberry bushes are all getting their ripened fruit now. I saw birds eating some of the berries and came across an Eastern Fox Squirrel breakfasting on the plums.

Along the river, there was a small flock of Canada Geese feeding (bottoms-up in the shallow water) with a female Common Merganser fishing among them. They eat different things, so the geese were stirring up the water plants and the Merganser would grab any small fish that appeared. Unintentional mutualism.  While I was watching them, I saw something else in the water, swimming against the current and realized it was a beaver! 

I went down as close to the shore as I could – (It’s hard for me to clamber over the rocks.) – and tried to get some photos of it. Photo-taking was difficult because the beaver stayed close to shore and was obscured by the tules and other riverside plants and scrubby trees. When it got into less cluttered spots, in was in the shade, and my camera had trouble focusing between the dark and the reflections on the water.  So, I walked ahead of where I thought the beaver was heading to a sunnier spot and waited for it… and waited for it… and then I heard a splash and realized it had swum under the water right past me and came up in the river behind me.  Hah!  Sneaky Pete!  

I walked for about 4 hours and then headed back home.

Species List:

  1. American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus,
  2. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii,
  3. Black Harvester Ant, Messor pergandei,
  4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
  5. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii,
  6. Bush Katydid nymph, Scudderia pistillata,
  7. California Black Walnut, Juglans californica,
  8. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana,
  9. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
  10. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
  11. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis,
  12. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica,
  13. California Wild Plum, Prunus subcordata,
  14. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis,
  15. Chinese Privet, Ligustrum sinense,
  16. Coffeeberry, California Buckthorn, Frangula californica,
  17. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
  18. Coyote Mint, Monardella villosa,
  19. Coyote, Canis latrans,
  20. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii,
  21. Doveweed, Turkey Mullein, Croton setigerus,
  22. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger,
  23. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata,
  24. English Plantain, Ribwort, Plantago lanceolata,
  25. European Praying Mantis, Mantis religiosa,
  26. Evening Primrose, Oenothera biennis,
  27. Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum,
  28. Greater Periwinkle, Vinca major,
  29. Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea,
  30. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
  31. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus,
  32. Leafhopper Assassin Bug, Zelus renardii,
  33. Moth Mullein, Verbascum blattaria,
  34. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
  35. North American Beaver, Castor canadensis,
  36. Northern Yellow Sac Spider, Cheiracanthium mildei,
  37. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii,
  38. Pink Grass, Windmill Pink, Petrorhagia dubia,
  39. Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum,
  40. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus,
  41. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
  42. Rock Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia sp.,
  43. Rusty Tussock Moth, Orgyia antiqua,
  44. Saw-whet Owl, Sophia, Aegolius acadicus,
  45. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa,
  46. Spanish Clover, Acmispon americanus,
  47. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus,
  48. Sudden Oak Death pathogen, Phytophthora ramorum,
  49. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura,
  50. Western Drywood Termite, Incisitermes minor,
  51. Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa,
  52. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa,
  53. Wooly Mullein, Great Mullein, Verbascum thapsus,
  54. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,
  55. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis

Lots of Caterpillars along the American River, 05-25-19

I got around 6:00 am this morning and headed out to the American River Bend Park for my walk. It was overcast for most of the day, but I was able to do my walk without getting rained on, so that was good.

The first thing I saw when I got there was the leucistic female turkey and another “normal”-colored turkey walking through the tall grass along the side of the road with one small poult following after them. I don’t know which of the gals had the baby, but they both seemed to be taking care of it.  Poults are so hard to photograph most of the time because the moms try to keep them hidden as much as possible. So, I only got a few shots of the baby’s behind.

This is the time of year for caterpillars at the park and you could see Pipevine Swallowtail and Rusty Tussock Moth caterpillars almost everywhere you looked.  When I was videoing some of the Pipevine Swallowtail guys eating pipevine a woman and two of her friends came up. The woman plucked a caterpillar from the ground to show it to their friends, and when she came back to set it back onto a pipevine plant, I asked her if she’d seem the Tussocks.  She said, no, so I showed her where some of them were and gave her and her friends a mini lesson on the species.  Naturalist thing: check.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

The pipevine plants were abundant: on the ground, over logs, up into the trees and shrubbery. Some of them were super-thick.  The wild grape vines were also everywhere. They seem larger than I’ve seen them in years – but that’s because of the rains, I’m sure. We were living with drought with so long that we don’t recognize the landscapes with water anymore…  The Elegant Clarkia was in bloom all over the place; patches of pink – and some white – all along the river trail. So pretty.

Lots of House Wrens around singing today. I saw one male go over to a slit-like cavity in the side of a tree and look in, then he flew up into a nearby tree advertising his find.  But the cavity was already taken by a pair of Oak Titmice. The mom came up with a beak full of bugs and started fussing at the Wren. She flew at him a couple of times to drive him off, but he was pretty persistent. When both of them were away from the cavity, I walked up to the tree to see if I could hear any babies inside. When I tapped on the tree, I could hear a hiss from inside. Sometimes, baby birds hiss to make themselves sound like snakes, so predators won’t bother to come inside the nesting cavity – and it also deters human from trying to get a better look inside. Hah!

I walked for about 4 hours and then headed back home.

Species List:

  1. American Bumblebee, Bombus pennsylvanicus,
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna,
  3. Bedstraw, Cleavers, Galium aparine,
  4. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea,
  5. Bush Monkey Flower, Mimulus aurantiacus,
  6. California Buckeye Chestnut, Aesculus californica,
  7. California Hairstreak Butterfly, Satyrium californica,
  8. California Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor hirsuta,
  9. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica,
  10. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica,
  11. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis,
  12. Common Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea,
  13. Common Hoptree, Ptelea trifoliata,
  14. Cranefly, Tipula spp.,
  15. Creek Clematis, Clematis ligusticifolia,
  16. Destroying Angel Mushroom, Amanita ocreata,
  17. Dog Vomit Slime Mold, Fuligo septica,
  18. Dogtail Grass, Cynosurus echinatus,
  19. Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis,
  20. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata,
  21. European Praying Mantis, Mantis religiosa,
  22. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris,
  23. Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum,
  24. Gouty Stem Gall, Callirhytis quercussuttoni,
  25. Great Egret, Ardea alba,
  26. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata,
  27. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
  28. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
  29. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus,
  30. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii,
  31. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria,
  32. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis,
  33. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 2nd Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis,
  34. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
  35. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii,
  36. Oak Leaf-Roller Moth, Archips semiferanus,
  37. Oak Moss Lichen, Evernia prunastri,
  38. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus,
  39. Oak Treehopper, Platycotis vittata,
  40. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia,
  41. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
  42. Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum,
  43. Rattlesnake Grass, Big Quaking Grass, Briza maxima,
  44. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
  45. Rusty Tussock Moth, Orgyia antiqua,
  46. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus,
  47. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans,
  48. Sweet Broom, Cytisus racemosus,
  49. Toothed Crust Fungus, Basidioradulum radula,
  50. Trashline Spider, Cyclosa turbinata,
  51. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor,
  52. Tule Pea, Lathyrus jepsonii,
  53. Turkey Tail Fugus, Trametes versicolor,
  54. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
  55. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana,
  56. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis,
  57. Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa,
  58. Yellow-Faced Bumblebee, Bombus vosnesenskii

Interesting Turkeys on the Naturalist Walk, 04-09-19

Up at 6:00 this morning, and then headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve to do my trail walking thing – along with three of my naturalist students.  The weather was lovely, so the critters were out and moving around, and the wildflowers were really starting to open up.

We got to see a tiny female American Kestrel chase off a large Cooper’s Hawk, saw the young buck with a broken nose browsing with some of the does, and saw a yard-long gopher snake leave the side of the trail and rush through the grass like water.

We also came across a female Wild Turkey sitting on the ground next to a brush pile occupied by some California Ground Squirrels. Everything I’d read about the turkeys indicated that they nested in low branches of trees or ON brush piles, so even though she looked pretty settled on the ground I assumed she was just taking a dirt bath (which the turkeys often do to control mites).  I walked up to her, slowly, and she eventually stood up and walked away from where she’d been sitting: a bare, shallow patch of dirt.

When I got home, I did some more research on the turkey and found this: “…Wild Turkeys nest on the ground in dead leaves at the bases of trees, under brush piles or thick shrubbery, or occasionally in open hayfields. The female scratches a shallow depression in the soil, about 1 inch deep, 8–11 inches wide, and 9–13 inches long…” So, this gal may have been prepping a nest site, not dirt bathing.  I’ll have to check on the spot again the next time I’m out there.

Seeing the turkeys -– including one of the leucistic females who came out of the forest like a ghost – brought on a flurry of “snood” jokes. Four women on the trail talking about the male turkeys’ accouterments. We couldn’t help ourselves. Hahahahaha!

Oh, and I also learned that although the male hierarchy changes a lot as the males challenge, defeat, and retreat from one another, the female turkeys’ hierarchy remains constant from season to season, with a dominant female overseeing all of the ladies.  How cool is that?

We didn’t see the Mourning Doves on or near their nest, and I’m afraid they may have abandoned it.  When we got to the Red-Shouldered Hawk nest on the Pond Trail, however, mama hawk was in the nest and calling out to hubby. We could hear her, but we couldn’t see her. The nest is pretty deep and it’s right over the trail so it’s hard to see into it. Suddenly, mama hawk burst out away from the nest and flew right at and over one of the students! She was able to catch a photo of the hawk as she flew over her head! Awesome!

Among the flowers we saw were Blue Dicks, Bush Lupine, California Poppies, Fringe Pod, Periwinkle, Miniature Lupine, different kinds of plantains, and a variety of tiny yellow flowers that defied identification. On one of the plants was an example of “fasciation”, wherein the flowering heads weld together.  “…Scientists aren’t sure what causes the deformity, but they believe it is probably caused by a hormonal imbalance. This imbalance may be the result of a random mutation, or it can be caused by insects, diseases or physical injury to the plant. Think of it as a random occurrence. It doesn’t spread to other plants or other parts of the same plant…”

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos.

The ladies were wonderful trail walking companions: they were excited about everything, had great questions, and lots of wonderful feedback about the naturalist course. We walked for almost 5 hours (which was way too long for me) before we all headed back home again. Deborah had come all the way from Napa to walk with me, so she had the longest drive back home (over 2 hours).

I totally overdid it and was exhausted and in pain when I got home, but it was worth it to have spent those hours with the ladies’ positive energy.  Even though I practically went back to bed when I got home, I was happy. This is just how I want to spend what time I have left.

It was a good day.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
2. Asian Ladybeetle, Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis,
3. Bay Laurel, Laurus nobilis,
4. Black Walnut, Juglans nigra,
5. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum,
6. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii,
7. Buck Brush, Ceanothus cuneatus,
8. Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons,
9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
10. California Manroot, Marah fabaceus,
11. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius,
12. Black Bean Aphid, Aphis fabae.
13. Boxedler Tree, Boxelder Maple, Acer negundo.
14. Bush Lupine, Lupinus excubitus.
15. California Plantain, Plantago erecta.
16. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta,
17. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica,
18. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
19. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
20. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
21. Cooper’s Hawk, Accipiter cooperii,
22. Coyote Brush Midge (gall), Rhopalomyia californica,
23. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis,
24. Douglas Iris, Iris douglasiana,
25. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger,
26. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris,
27. Fringe Pod, Thysanocarpus curvipes ssp. elegans,
28. Green Shield Lichen,Flavoparmelia caperata,
29. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
30. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
31. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii,
32. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor,
33. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
34. Nutthall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii,
35. Pacific Gopher Snake, Pituophis catenifer,
36. Painted Lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
37. Periwinkle, Vinca major,
38. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus,
39. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis,
40. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
41. Saw-Whet Owl, Aegolius acadicus,
42. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula,
43. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus,
44. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor,
45. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura,
46. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
47. Wavy-Leaf Soap Root, Soap Plant, Chlorogalum pomeridianum,
48. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis,
49. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
50. Yarrow, Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,