Tag Archives: female

A Walk with My Naturalist Students, 02-18-19

Date: Monday, February 18, 2019
Time: 7:30 am to 11:30 am
Temperature: 31° to 53°
Weather: Sunny, clear, breezy, cool
Location: Effie Yeaw Nature Center, 2850 San Lorenzo Way, Carmichael, CA 95608
Lat/Log: 38.6174656, -121.3115716

Narrative:  This walk was an impromptu walk for the Tuleyome CalNat course which I led.  We had 16 people, along with my co-worker Nate, Eric Ross (a former Tuleyome naturalist graduate, who’s now working to become a docent at Effie Yeaw), Mary Messenger (a volunteer “trail walker” at Effie Yeaw) and about a dozen students. One of the students also brought along a friend to participate in the walk. It was good group.

The first thing we saw when we entered the preserve was a trio of Eastern Fox Squirrels doing a ménage à trois thing right out there in front of God and everybody. Everyone joked that during the walk we witnessed instances of fornication, urination, evacuation, and mastication. Hah!

We saw lots of different fungi, identified quite a few plants and trees, saw several species of birds, and saw a lot of Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, including does and several bucks (including a spike buck, split-prong buck with only one antler, and some 4- and 5-pointer bucks. We got to see one of the larger bucks performing the “Flehmen Sniff” while he followed after a female. CLICK HERE for an article I wrote about the bucks and the sniff. CLICK HERE for the full album of the photos I took today. (When I’m leading a hike, I take far fewer photos than when I’m walking alone, but I get more”people” shots in the mix.)

We walked for about 4 hours and covered about 2½ miles.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Audubon’s Warbler, Setophaga auduboni auduboni, Yellow-rumped Warbler, “Butter Butt”
  3. Barometer Earthstar fungus, Astraeus hygrometricus
  4. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  5. Black Jelly Roll fungus, Exidia glandulosa
  6. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea
  7. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  8. Brown Jelly Fungus, Tremella sp.
  9. California King Snake, Lampropeltis getula californiae
  10. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  11. Canada Geese, Branta canadensis
  12. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  13. Common Jelly Spot fungus, Dacrymyces stillatus
  14. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser, female
  15. Coyote, Canis latrans
  16. Crust fungus, Phlebia sp., Stereum sp.
  17. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  18. Dark-Eyed Junco (Oregon morph), Junco hyemalis
  19. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  20. Elfin Saddle, False Morel, Helvella lacunosa
  21. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  22. False Turkey Tail fungus, Stereum ostrea
  23. Gall of the California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  24. Gall of the Live Oak Wasp/Gallfly, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
  25. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix sp.
  26. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  27. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  28. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  29. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii, California state lichen
  30. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  31. London Planetree, Platanus × acerifolia
  32. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
  33. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  34. Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris
  35. Nutthall’s Woodpecker (sound only), Picoides nuttallii
  36. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  37. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
  38. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  39. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  40. Rock Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia sp.
  41. Spider, unidentified
  42. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  43. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria sp.
  44. Turkey Tail fungus, Trametes versicolor
  45. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  46. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  47. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  48. Western Sycamore, Platanus racemosa
  49. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  50. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare

Mostly Fungi on 01-18-19

Around 8:30 I headed over to the American River Bend Park for a fungus walk. With all of the rain we’ve been having, I thought there would be a good sampling out there – and I wasn’t disappointed. I walked for about 2 ½ hours and covered about 2 miles. S-L-O-W walker. A fungus walk requires me to move really slowly and bend over a lot to get closer photos of whatever it is I’m seeing, so my core got a little bit of a workout today. Bend over, straighten up, bend over, straighten up. We’ll see, tomorrow, if my Wilson site was okay with all that movement.

I saw a variety of mushrooms including Woodland Blewits, Honey Mushrooms, Yellow Field Caps, Deer Shield Mushrooms, Ink Cap mushrooms, Sweetbread Mushrooms, Splitgill fungus, Red Threads, etc. I also saw three kinds of jelly fungus, Rust Fungus, some cup fungus, puffball fungi, Polypore fungi, birds nest fungus, Barometer Earthstars, and even some Insect Egg Slime Mold. I didn’t find any coral fungus, which was one I was hoping to see, but I felt I saw a good selection in such a small area.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I walked for about 2 1/2 hours and headed home.

National Public Lands Day, 09-30-17

It’s National Public Lands Day! And by coincidence, I got my lifetime “Senior Pass” to all of the national monuments and public lands in the mail today.  The passes are going up in cost to about $80… but I ordered mine before the price hike so it only cost me $10.  Such a deal!

I slept in a tiny bit and got up around 6:30 am, then headed out the door to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The first thing I saw when I went into the preserve was a small flock of female wild Turkeys chowing down in the grass… and then I could hear a Red-Shouldered Hawk screeling in a tree nearby, so I went to see if I could find it.  It was up pretty high in the branches of a tree, but I got a few photos of it.  I was so focused on keeping an eye on the hawk as I was walking that I went right past a mother Mule Deer and her fawn, and didn’t notice them until I turned around on the trail and started walking back up it again. D’oh!

Further along the trail, I could hear a California Ground Squirrel giving out one of its loud “Chip! Chip! Chip!” alarm calls, and although I couldn’t see the one shouting the alarm, I did see other ground squirrels around stop moving or stand up to try to figure out what was going on.  One of them stopped right on a length of an old, dried up, felled tree and sort of posed for me…

Along the river side, I could hear Spotted Towhees, California Quail, Killdeer, and a Belted Kingfisher, but never caught sight of them. Dang it!  What I did catch sight of, though,  was something I’d never expected to see there: a male Phainopepla (pronounced fain-oh-PEP-la.) They’re about the length of a jaw, but super thin and svelte-looking. The males are shiny blue-black with deep red eyes and they have a crest on the top of their head.  (Females look almost the same except that they’re a shiny ash-brown in color.)  It was sitting up on the top of an Interior Live Oak tree and was pretty far away, but with the “birding” setting on my camera I was able to get some fairly good shots of him.

The oak woodland/riparian habitat at the preserve is actually kind of perfect for it, but I’ve never seen one of them at the river before, so it was a nice surprise. Phainopeplas are kind of unique in that they breed twice a year in two different places: scrubby deserts/chaparral and woodlands. When they’re breeding in desert areas where food can be scarce they’re very territorial, but when the birds breed in woodland areas they’re “colonial” and often share nesting trees with others of their species.  They eat mostly berries, and love mistletoe berries…

I also saw some of the Turkey Vultures around: one adult standing in its “heraldic pose” in a tree, warming itself in the sun; and the juvenile I’d seen last week.  He was sitting in a different tree and pretty far away, but I recognized him by his gray head. I wonder if he’s flying better now that he was a week ago… The adult vulture kept its eye on me as I walked past it, and eventually folded its wings shut and turned around to face me as I got nearer to it.  Despite their size, Turkey Vultures are pretty much “harmless” birds, and don’t have the talons other raptors have that can rip your eyes out. Still, I gave this one a wide berth so I wouldn’t freak it out too much.

Along another loop of the trail I found a queen Yellow Jacket looking for a spot to overwinter… and I found the hive of bees again that’s I’d seen about a month or so. Apparently, they’re going to stay there, at least over the winter months. I could see that the grass from the trail to the tree was tamped down, which I assume was done by the rangers and docents at the preserve (walking back and forth as they kept an eye on the developing hive). I hope they leave it alone; it’s be a great teaching tool – and they’ll get some honey out of it.  I usually keep firmly to the trails in this preserve (because it’s kind of small and going off-trail can really impact the wildlife here), but because the ground was already tamped down near the bee-tree, I stepped in a little closer to it.  I’m assuming these are European Honey Bees and not Africanized Bees. As long as I kept my distance, they didn’t seem to mind my being there and just went on with their “terraforming” duties.  It would be neat to get an x-ray or sonograph of the inside of the tree: I wonder if there’s a long tunnel through it that leads to an underground chamber, or if the bees are actually filling up the entire tree with their hive… Where is my money from Publishers Clearing House?! I have scientific studies I want to do! Hah!

Near where the Yellow Jacket was I found the first outcropping of Sulphur Shelf fungus this season. This is a kind of fungi that doesn’t like real wet weather, so it shows up before the winter rains start.

I saw a lot of turkey and raccoon tracks along the trails…and lots of fresh coyote scat. Those guys were pooping everywhere!

As I was heading out of the preserve, I came across two young bucks play-sparring with one another. By their antlers, I’d guess they were both about 2½ or 3 years old. They’d graze for a while, then joust a little bit, then go back to eating, then joust a little bit. They were behind a thick tangle of vines and shrubs so I couldn’t get any really decent photos of them, but they were fun to watch. This is the start of the rutting season for these guys, so I should be seeing a lot more of the larger males out here soon.  As I was watching the boys joust, several female Wild Turkeys tip-toed by and then hurried down the trail in front of me. They’re such funny things… big as trucks, but so shy.

I also stopped at the pond on my way to the parking lot, and found a bunch of bullfrogs. One of them was actually sitting on top of a big leaf in the water, posing for everyone. Others were more difficult to spot: hiding under umbrellas of grass or blending in with the green of the water foliage… I walked for about 3 hours at the preserve.

Looking for Grebes; Found Just About Anything But

I was out the door with Sergeant Margie by about 4:00 am, and drove out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge by way of the gas station and Jack’s.

I got to the refuge just as the sun was coming up, and as I got out of the car Great Blue Herons lurched out from the tops of the surrounding trees where they’d roosted for the night and flew off over my head… and one small bat came flitting around me to check me out. I didn’t get pictures of them, of course, because it was too dark and they moved too fast… As the sub came up, so did the temperatures and by 9:00 am it was already in the 80’. The car did NOT like the heat, and neither did I…

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos from today.

I was hoping the Clark’s and Western Grebes would be doing some courtship stuff, but they were uncooperative. I saw the Great Horned Owls, but they were sitting on top of a distant fence with their backs to me. (So rude! Hah!) And I came across a huge gathering of Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets, but they were behind thick blinds of tules, and I couldn’t get the camera to see through and past the tules to the birds… So that was frustrating…

At one old scraggly tree I came across a bunch of young Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows jousting with each other. They were out catching the early morning bugs over the water and would go to the tree to rest… and argue with one another over who go what branch. This extended into a nearby willow tree where the scuffling continued… While I was watching them I caught sight of a young male Hairy Woodpecker who was testing out his navigation skills. He was pretty scruffy-looking, but seemed to be able to get around okay…

There were dragonflies, damselflies and big orb-weaver spiders everywhere, which is typical for this time of year, but among them I was surprised to get my very first photo of a Twelve Spotted Skimmer dragonfly. I’d seen Eight Spotted Skimmers before, but not a Twelve Spotted one… and I’d never seen any of the spotted skimmers at the refuge before. Usually, I only see them around Lake Solano. They usually seem to be in constant motion, which makes getting a photos of them hard for me. This Twelve Spotted one was parked on the top of a tule among a “flock” of Variegated Meadowhawks, so I quickly got as many picture of it as I could.

Among the birds out there today, I was also surprised to get my first still shot close-up of a Common Tern. (I think it was a Common one; I’m not very good at telling some of them apart.) I got a few good photos of a young Black-Crowned Night Heron who was fishing among the cattails and reeds, some late-in-the-season Snow Geese drifting on the water (juvenile and an adult), and a very cooperative juvenile Mourning Dove. She was sitting in the shade on a ranch near the viewing platform, and stayed right where she was while I got some close-ups of her. The doves have such lovely faces…

I also got some photos of a Great Egret sitting on top of a dead tree. It gaped while I was watching it so I got some photos of its tongue. Heron tongues are so weird-looking. Toward the back, where they attach in the throat, they’re flat, but near the front are arrowhead-like projections which help hold prey in the mouth and allow the birds to use the arrowhead like mini-trowels and shove the prey back from the front of the beak into the gullet…

I headed out of the preserve by about 10 o’clock and was back to the house by noon.

More Spider Photos Than You Need… and some other critters, too.

It was supposed to get over 100º today, but I wanted to get over to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge to test out my new camera there so… I got up at 4:00 am.  Yeah, I know. Four-fricking-A.M.  It eventually made it to 102º

I took the dog with me and we got to the refuge around a quarter of six, just as the sun was coming up.  Usually, this time of year, there aren’t a whole lot of birds at the refuge, but there are resident ones around the permanent wetlands area.  That’s also the best place to spot lots of dragonflies, damselflies and spiders… So, most of my photos from today were of those guys.

Right off the bat, I spotted some Great Horned Owls: two fledglings and their mother.  They were across a field and in the shade of some trees, so from where I was, they just looked like dark blobs.  (When you do a little birding you get so you can tell which blobs are “important” and which ones aren’t.) I aimed the new camera at the blobs and got some so-so photos of the owls.  They would have been better if I hadn’t been so excited and “greedy” and zoomed in on them so much.  At that distance, the lens needs time to adjust itself so it can focus properly, but I was pushing it; “Get closer! Get closer!”

I learned today that I need to pull back more, and let the camera do its thing rather than trying to force it.  Still, I got some photos of the owls that I wouldn’t have gotten at all if I didn’t have the new camera, so even though they’re not great, they’re still “something”… I’ll get better with more practice and more patience.

There were LOTS of jackrabbits and cottontails around, and TONS of orb weaver spiders and Variegate Meadowhawk dragonflies. They were everywhere!  I tried doing some super-close ups of the insects and some of them turned out pretty good.  I got a video snippet of one of the dragonflies cleaning off its eyeballs and trying to get spider web out of its “teeth”. Hah!  There were also quite a few white Crab Spiders (Mecaphesa sp.), Cabbage White butterflies, some Buckeye butterflies and a lot of Skippers flitting around in the heat.

At one point, I saw the silhouette of a female Ring-Necked Pheasant standing up in a tree… and then I saw her poults running back and forth across the road in front of me.  They moved really fast, so I didn’t get many photos of them, but it was still cool to see the little guys.  Like Turkey poults, I hardly ever get to see pheasant poults…

In another spot, I saw a bunch of Barn Swallows sitting on the road, eating the early morning bugs. And in a nearby tree, Tree Swallows were teaching their kids how to fly and catch stuff.  The youngsters kept going back to the tree-cavity nest and looking into it as though they wanted to get back in there and just watch TV or something.  Hah-2!

Here are some pix and video snippets: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhnaturalist/albums/72157683669582143

Some misses: I saw a gorgeous male Yellow-Headed Blackbird standing up in the tules, but he flew off before I could get a photo of him.  I also saw a pair of Clark’s Grebes doing their courtship dash across the top of the water (!), but I was struggling to get the camera from still shot mode into video mode, and only got the last second or two, just as they finished running and flopped down into the water.  Dang it!  I need to be faster than that!

I was through the auto tour at the refuge by about 10:30 am and it was already 93º there, so I headed back home and made it to the house around noon.  I ordered some sushi lunch (there’s finally a place that delivers out here in “the hood”) and then the dog and I just crashed for the rest of the day.

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