Tag Archives: feathers

Lots and Lots and Lots of Deer, 09-15-18

OMG it was soooo beautiful outside today I could hardly believe it: around 53º when I got up around 6:30 am, and never made it past 77º by the afternoon. Breezy, sunny… just gorgeous! It had even rained a little bit during the night, so everything had that wonderful earthy smell to it… There were a lot of nimbus clouds in the sky, but they disbursed by the end of the day.

I went to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my walk and was surprised to find the ambient nature sounds disrupted by the noise of some kind construction (or gravel work) being done further up river. The grinding, crunching, scraping noise lasted for about 90-minutes, and was replaced by the noise of a soccer game or something taking place on the lawn near the entrance to the preserve: men shouting “That’s mine! That’s mine!”, “To me! To Me!” and “Keep it moving!” Guh! So much for a quiet nature walk.  It also didn’t help that the loud, obnoxious group of trail-walkers came up behind me on one of the trails, and the leader yelled to the others, “We found the lone hiker!”  That group has no sense of respect for the place, the animals or the other people on the trails. When you’re out in nature BE QUIET, people!

Despite the noise and interruptions, I did get to see a LOT of deer, including some bachelor groups of bucks and a group of does with a fawn. Another doe on a different part of the trail also had a fawn with her. The baby was still in his spots, but it looked like he might’ve been attacked by something. Most of the hair around his neck was gone (leaving just crusty-looking skin) and he had a gash down his throat. It wasn’t deep but was very red and sore-looking. I wonder if one of the young coyotes had tried to get a hold of him.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos:

Among the bucks, one was still in his velvet and hanging out with the does. I guess I couldn’t hang with the guys until his antlers were more presentable. Hah!

As far as the birds went, I got photos of Lesser Goldfinches, Acorn Woodpeckers, a White-Breasted Nuthatch, a Black Phoebe eating a Jerusalem Cricket (those bugs are HUGE; it made for a good breakfast for the little bird), and Wild Turkeys. There was one spot along the trail where there was a huge mess of turkey feathers everywhere. A fox or coyote must’ve ambushed one of the turkeys – an early Thanksgiving dinner. I could hear the California Quails shouting out their “chi-ca-go!” call but couldn’t see any of them. I did get some photos of California Scrub Jays, though.

I watched (and videoed) an Eastern Fox Squirrel as it ran with big fat acorn and then buried it in the ground. Stocking up for winter (such as it is here).

You can see the video here: https://youtu.be/EJFjrlyiNmo

I also got to see a few specimens of the first Sulphur Shelf Fungus of the season. They don’t like it when it gets really wet outside, so they usually show up a month or two before the other fungi.

At the little pond in the front of the preserve, I noticed that all of the branches on the alder tree that had been sporting the Alder Tongue Galls I photographed earlier in the month, had all been cut off the tree. So, it was looking pretty barren and wretched around the bottom. I get that the groundskeepers probably don’t want the fungus up so close to the nature center but… it isn’t a “preserve” if all of the elements of the nature area aren’t allowed to do what they normally do – including the Alder Tongue Gall fungus.

I walked for a little over 3 hours and then headed home.

Fawns!

I got up at 5:00 again this morning,  It was about 10º cooler outside this morning than it was yesterday at the same time, so maybe we’ll get a little relief today…  I headed out about 5:30 am to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve.  I knew that this time of year a lot of the female deer are having their babies, the male deer are starting to go into their “velvet”, and the Monarch Butterflies are laying eggs… and I was hoping to see at least ONE of those things.

You can see an album of today’s photos at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhnaturalist/albums/72157683338248433

As soon as I drove into the parking lot at the preserve I saw a buck in his velvet walking along the fence line between the preserve and the houses next door to it. So, I quick parked the car and hurried out to see if I could get some photos of him.
By the time I reached another spot where I could see him, he was up an embankment, but my new Nikon didn’t disappoint me.  I was able to grab quite a few shots of him.  What was even more awesome was that he led me right to a female deer with her new fawn, a little baby still in its spots.

At first they were in a weird spot at the top of the embankment and backlit by the sky, so at first I was just getting a lot of really badly lit shots – even ones of the baby nursing for a little bit, dang it!  Then the mama caught sight of me and she bounded off with the baby scrambling behind her.

I followed them around the nature center buildings, and saw mom jump the fence at the low deer-crossing point, but the baby couldn’t make the jump, so it ran off along one side of the fence crying for mom who was on the side.  The mom came to a standstill under the branches of an elderberry bush, and I was able to get some really good close-ups of her.  But the baby was still on the other side.

I saw him run to another slightly older fawn that was with its mom – which meant even more mama-and-baby photos opportunities.  The second mama sniffed at the baby fawn but offered its no solace, and when the baby realized she wasn’t HIS mom, he kept crying and crying.  It wasn’t a bleating sound like a goat might make, it was more like a high pitched meow-like sound (but only one syllable, if that make any senses to you). Like, MEW-MEW-MEW…

Its noise attracted the attention of several other female deer in the vicinity who came out of the woods onto the trail to see what the fuss was about. It took him about 15 minutes, but the baby finally figured out where his own mother was and waited for her to jump back over the deer-crossing to reunite with him.  So I got to witness a kind of Sunday morning mini-drama… And all of it happening within the first few minutes of my getting to the preserve.

There were also Red-Tailed Hawks all over the preserve this morning. I think all of the springtime babies are now learning how to fly and hunt.  It seemed like there was hawk-screeching from every part of the trail I was walking.

I also got to see a Wild Turkey sitting up in a tree over my head. He was upset about something and I assumed the coyotes were out and about beneath him somewhere.  I caught a fast glimpse of a coyote, but only got photos of its back and rear end as it moved quickly through the tall grass. Right after the coyote ran off, a jackrabbit came racing out from under a blackberry thicket that was just inches from where the coyote had been.  Lucky “bunny”! I walked for about 2 ½ hours and then headed back home.  I didn’t see any Monarchs or their caterpillars, but I still enjoyed what I DID see during my walk.

One sad sight on the road: just as I came out of the backside of the preserve, I saw a dead buck (in its velvet) lying next to someone’s driveway. It was hard to tell how long it had been there.  The carcass stank to high heaven, and the part of the belly that was lying closest to the pavement was thick with flies and maggots… But the eyes were still there (and those are one of the things the carrion eaters go for first.)  You’d think the people who lived there would call Animal Control and have the body taken away… Maybe they’re on vacation, though, and don’t know it’s there…

One happy sight on the road: As I was driving down Howe Avenue near the American River, I saw a female Wild Turkey walking along the greenbelt with six poults!  I hardly ever get to see the poults, so that was a fun sighting. I wish I could’ve stopped the car to get some photos, but there was too much traffic.

I’m still learning the basic functions of the new camera, and have realized I need to (1) stop forcing the focus and pull back from the subject to make sure the camera can do its thing, and (2) I need a faster memory card.  The one I have is about a 4 or 6, and I need a 10 – and 64 MB instead of 32.  There are a whole slew of special settings, including one that’s specifically for birding, I’ll need a WEEK just to sample them all!

Vacation Day 1: Cache Creek Conservancy Nature Preserve

DAY 1 OF MY VACATION. Around 8:00 am I headed out to the Cache Creek Conservancy’s nature preserve.

They only open up the preserve on a weekend about once a quarter, so when it opens up, I try to get over there. I got there just as they were opening the gates, so I got first pick of a parking space in the very-limited-parking lot adjacent to the walking trails.  I don’t usually see a whole lot when I’m there. Their riparian area is pretty small and is mostly willows and cottonwood trees (with only a few scattered oaks). I knew they were working on expanding their trail system, though, so I thought I’d check it out.

CLICK HERE for an album of photos.

In and around the small wetlands area, I saw Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons along with a few Pied-Billed Grebes and lots of blackbirds, some Northern Flickers, and White-Crowned Sparrows.  I got a little video snippet of a young grebe trying to eat a crawfish.

At one point along the trail I saw a big Red-Tailed Hawk strafe and knock down a Cottontail rabbit.  It hit the rabbit so hard it broke its neck.  By the time I got close enough to it to take photos, the hawk flew off into the nearby trees, but left his meal behind.  I checked out the rabbit to make sure it was suffering and, nope, it was dead.  Eyes still open.  It only had a few bites taken out of it from the hawk – which I’m sure went back to the rabbit as soon as I was away from there.

I also saw a Northern Pike in the wetlands area.  It was moving around in a shallow pond, so I could see the water being slowly agitated but at first I couldn’t see clearly what was causing the agitation.  I took a few videos and watched them all in slow motion when I got home.  The dorsal part of the fish would come to the top of the water – a slightly humped back and sort of yellowish-olive patterned body — then I’d see the tip of its tail fin poke out above the surface.  The fish must have been 2 feet long, easily.  Those guys are super-efficient predators that eat just about anything.  I wonder if the conservancy knows they’re in the pond.

It’s just about the end of the gall season, but there were still some clinging to the leaves of trees and scattered on the ground.  There were two I hadn’t seen or photographed before, so that was cool.  The little round ones were called – duh — Round Galls (Besbicus conspicuous), and the other one I saw was along the edges of the leaves of the Cottonwood Trees.  Now, I’d seen the Petiole galls before (lots of them) that form at the base of the leave and are caused by a species of aphid (Pemphigus populicaulis), but I’d never seen the ones that formed along the edges.  I took a bunch of photos and when I got home, I looked them up in my trusty galls books and I actually had some trouble finding it.  It’s a kind of “leaf curl” gall also caused by an aphid (Pemphigus sp.) but the exact species wasn’t specified.  I’ll have to do more research. There were also a lot of Jumping Galls (Neuroterus saltatorius ) still clinging to the leaves of some of the oaks.  Along with the willows, cottonwood trees and Valley Oaks, I also came across some very late-blooming Rock Phacelia (Phacelia egena), Vinegarweed (Trichostema lanceolatum), Cocklebur, Chicory and Tree Tobacco (Nicotiana glauca) – an invasive species.

I got to see a pair of mule deer, but couldn’t get very close to them before they were off, dashing toward the river side…  I walked for about three hours and then headed back to the car.