Tag Archives: fall

A Melanistic Squirrel on Turkey-Eve, 11-22-17

Around 7 o’clock I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk. It was about 46º and foggy when I went out, but turned somewhat sunny and got up to 61º by the time I headed back home.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

A lot of the usual suspects at the preserve this morning, but there were a few interesting moments including being able to watch a flock of Wild Turkeys chasing each other in circles; and watching a California Scrub Jay pose nicely for me so I could get photos of it, and then seeing it jump down onto the ground and then flit back up into view with a big, fat Jerusalem Cricket in its beak. But the coolest sighting today was of a melanistic tree squirrel: all pitchy black. It was in one of the granary trees used by the Acorn Woodpeckers to stash their acorns and nuts, and was ripping off the bark from the branches to it could steal their stock from them. The birds were freaking out, buzz-bombing the squirrel, but it was bold and took the harassment (including be struck in the head several times by the birds) for quite a while. I’d never seen a squirrel like that before, and took lots of photos and video snippets of it.

“…Melanistic animals actually are somewhat common in nature, with some species even passing on the trait as a genetic adaptation. Black skin and fur assist in nighttime camouflage, and melanism can also help animals deal with extended periods in direct sunlight…”

I walked for about 3½ hours and then headed home. It was so nice outside when I got home that I opened up the whole house to let the fresh air in. (It was a little chilly, but lovely.)

Vacation Day #10: Birds, Bucks and a Bambi

DAY TEN OF MY FALL VACATION… I slept in until about 6:00 am and immediately headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve again.  It was 43º at the river when I got there; there was also low fog on the ground for a while. By the time I left it was in the low 60’s…

At the refuge, I was surprised to see two pairs of Red Shouldered Hawks building up their nests; it seemed like kind of a weird part of the year for them to be doing that.  One was the pair that regularly keeps a nest right beside the nature center; and the other nest was located along the Pond Trail at the #48 water spigot, right across from where the bee hive was. (The queen and her troop have moved on and are no longer nesting in the tree.) I got to see both pairs of birds going back and forth, collecting grass and twigs for the nests and building them up. Red-Shouldered Hawks usually start breeding when they’re 2 years old, and pairs stay together for life.  Both males and females are involved in nest construction, and the process can take up to 5 weeks. Everything I’ve read say the hawks only have one clutch per year – and they usually have them in the spring at the preserve… That’s why I think it’s so odd to see them building their nests now, in October.

I was hoping to be able to see some of the Mule Deer bucks at the preserve. This time of year, they’re in rut and have their full racks of antlers.  Well I kind of hit the jackpot at one spot along the trail. I found one two-pointer buck standing in the tall grass and browsing, and as I watched him, I realized that there were two larger bucks sitting down in the grass near him.  I could see their antlers, but it was difficult to see their heads or any other part of their bodies; there was one two-pointer and one three-pointer.  As I was watching them, the guy who does the regular deer-count at the preserve came by.  I pointed out the bucks to him and he was very appreciative; he would’ve walked right past them if I hadn’t told him where they were.

Later on, I also came across a young doe and her new fawn. The little guy was still in his spots. He was pretty good at keeping himself at a distance from me and ducking for cover, but his mom didn’t seem very attentive. I worry that the little guy will get taken by coyotes because his mom isn’t keeping a good eye on him. There was an older fawn that was hanging around the mom and her baby, too, but I don’t know if he belonged to the same family or not. The mom wouldn’t let him get close enough to her to nurse, but otherwise didn’t seem interested in him…

Along with the regular contingency of Acorn Woodpeckers at the preserve, I also got to see Hairy Woodpeckers and a Nutthall’s Woodpecker today. The male Phainopepla was also hanging around, so I got to see him for a little bit, too. Oher birds seen today included Mourning Doves, European Starlings, California Scrub Jays, California Towhees, a Mockingbird, some American Robins, Northern Flickers, and a small contingency of Lesser Goldfinches drinking from a water fountain…

Here are some pix and videos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhnaturalist/albums/72157689533852116

 I walked around for about 3 hours and then headed back home

“A Study in Red-Tailed Hawks” on Sunday

I got up around 7:00 this morning and was out the door with the dog by about 7:30 am.  We headed out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Preserve.  Usually, I like to this trip on a Saturday because it’s a lot of in-the-car time for both me and the dog, but my Saturday was sort of messed up, so…  Here we are. 

Red-Tailed Hawk just about to take off. Copyright © 2015, Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.
Red-Tailed Hawk just about to take off. Copyright © 2015, Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.

 Lots and lots of Red-Tailed Hawks out today, including a couple of mated pairs, and quite a few ground squirrels.  I also saw the normal contingent of ducks and geese, and an occasional egret.  No super-stand outs today, but I did get a few nice close-ups of critters, so I figured it was worth the drive.

CLICK HERE for more pix.

A Cool Katydid and some Fall Color

Katydid. Copyright © 2015, Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.
Katydid. Copyright © 2015, Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.

Before going home, I took the dog over to the William Land Park for a short walk.  Not a lot to see today but we did meet a katydid and saw the Green Heron there today; and there were a few trees showing off some fall coloring, so it was nice.

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