Tag Archives: elfin saddles

Lots of Beaver Sign at the American River

I got up around 6:30 this morning and headed over to the American River Bend Park to see how things were there… The river was actually higher than it was the last time I was there.

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

When I went into the park, I saw something bright in a distant tree that I thought might be an owl or other large bird, so I stopped off in the turn-around the fishermen usually use to get a better view.  It was just a bent branch with dead leaves on it (a veritable “stick-bird” sighting), but since I’d parked and gotten out of the car anyway, I decided to walk down the trail there to the river to see how high the water was.  It was so high that 90% of the trail was under water!  Wow!  I took a little bit of video, and then went to check out what looked like beaver sign to me…

Sure enough, an old cottonwood tree on the now-riverside-bank of the river had been chewed up by beavers. You could see all the spat-out chunks around the tree, and the beavers’ teeth marks in the wood.  I was able to get right next to the tree, so I could get some good shots of the wood… and I also found beaver scat, which I had never seen “live” before.  It looks like little round balls of chunky sawdust.  When the river was at its drought-stage, the beavers never came up this close to the parking areas.  But now that the river is so high, they’re right up close.  I didn’t get to see any today  — I need to get out there a lot earlier – but it was cool to see the chewed up bits and the scat anyway.

The pipevines and Manroot vines are all starting to grow throughout the park, and I came across one lonely female Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, but she was pretty wet and cold (it was about 43° at the river), so I don’t know if she’ll make it.  I pulled her out of the wet grass and propped her up in the crook of a tree to dry off and warm up in the rising sun.  (Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies are toxic to birds, so there was no danger in putting her out where birds could spot her.)  I saw quite a bit of Henbit out there in the tall grass, along with stinging nettle, mugwort, horehound, and miner’s lettuce.  All of those plants will really assert themselves over the next month…

At one point on my walk, I accidentally flushed out a large covey of quails.  One of the females stopped for a moment, so I was able to get a few quick shots of her.  They’re such pretty, funny-looking birds; they always make me smile.  I also saw a female Common Merganser, some California Towhees, European Starlings, Acorn Woodpeckers, California Scrub Jays, Tree Swallows and Wild Turkeys.   I also came across quite a few mule deer (singles or in small family groups)… Not too much in the way of fungi today, but I did come across some brown jelly fungus, Haymaker and Deershield mushrooms, and some Elfin Saddles. Then I found a big swath of Ink Cap Mushrooms and got some photos and video of them.

I walked around for about 3 hours and then headed home. On my way out of the park, I came across some mules deer who were walking past some dozing Wild Turkeys, and while I was getting a little video of them, a tree squirrel stopped in the shot – and the deer started too poop… so there was a little bit of nature-overload in that moment.  Hah

Fungi, Frost and a Few Birds

I’m on a holiday break until January 2, 2017.  Today, I was up  at around 7:00 am.  It was 32° outside, and there was a heavy frost on the rental car; ice was even keeping the door shut.  I had a splitting headache but was getting a bit stir crazy, so I went over to the American River Bend Park to see what the river was looking like (in its high-water state) and to look for birds and fungi…  I got to see a little bit of everything, and walked for almost 4 hours.

CLICK HERE to see the photos.

When I got there, there was icy fog and frost still lingering around, and it was pretty frigid.  But as I walked, things warmed up and it was about 56° when I left the park.  Saw the usual mushrooms and jelly fungi, and a couple of nice-looking barometer earthstar (that “puffed” for me when I pinched it).

The water level in the river was still quite high; the “islands” I usually see on my walks there were completely submerged, and water had obliterated whatever shoreline there was.  The trail I walk is about 10 feet above the river, and usually I can see gravel, boulders and trees between the trail and the waterline.  Today, the water was right up against the wall of the shallow cliff the trail sits on top of…  The water was moving really quickly, too, which meant there weren’t many ducks or other birds trying to maneuver in it.  I did get to see some Common Goldeneye ducks diving in the shallows, but no birds out in the main part of the river.  I DID see a huge branch go floating by, though.

Among the other birds I saw were Acorn Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, some Bewick’s Wrens, Scrub Jays, a male Belted Kingfisher, Black Phoebes, a few Yellow-Rumped Warblers, a tiny Hermit Thrush, and a very cooperative female Nutthall’s Woodpecker who let me take photos of her for about 5 minutes.

I still had the headache throughout the walk and by the end of it was actually feeling a little nauseated, so I quit and headed back home, getting there a little after 11:30 am.

Everything is Getting Ready for Spring in the Forest

Elfin Saddle, Helvella ephippium. Copyright ©2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Elfin Saddle, Helvella ephippium. Copyright ©2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

I got up around 6:30 again this morning and headed over to the American River Bend Park for a walk.  It was in the high 40’s and hazy while I was there, but warmed up to almost 70° by the afternoon.

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, just wanted a nature walk, and I actually saw quite a bit to photograph.  A lot of the seasonal vines are growing already, the pipe vines and manroot vines mainly.  I also saw a lot of different kinds of Helvella fungus (elfin saddles), the knobby wrinkly kind (Helvella lacunose) and the kind that look like inverted tacos on a stick (Helvella ephippium) and a few other mushrooms.  Along the river, I saw a Great Egret, a Snowy Egret, and several ducks including Hooded and Common Mergansers.  Oh, and I also saw the first Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly of the season.  It had just come out of its chrysalis and was pumping up it wings.  The forewings were all stretch out but the hind wings were still a little crumpled.

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I walked for about 3 hours and as I was heading back to the car, I came across a Red-Breasted Sap Sucker and some Western Bluebirds – those little guys are all pairing up for the spring now. They’re a little ahead of schedule…

Mostly Deer on my Nature Walk on Tuesday

Black-Tailed Mule Deer. © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Black-Tailed Mule Deer. © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

Still sick, I was feeling a bit stir crazy again after all day Monday in my jim-jams, so I went over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve and took a shot walk in the misting rain.  I kept my pace slow and didn’t walk for too long.  There were deer all over the place today, and some of them in fairly large groups, so I got a lot of photos of them.  When I came across a mama doe and one of her yearlings, I was surprised when the yearling started to walked quickly right at me. I had my bright pink umbrella up and maybe it was curious about it, but it was kind of a shock to see it coming toward me.  Mama stepped out a bit, figured I wasn’t a threat to her baby and ambled off.  The yearling kept looking at me, but when it saw its mother move off, it eventually took off after her.  On the trail, I also saw some wild turkeys, a Great Blue Heron, a Great Egret and some smaller birds, like Robins and pretty little Lark Sparrows.

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As I said, I didn’t walk for very long and headed home afterwards.  I took a hot shower and then relaxed with the dogs for the rest of the day.