Tag Archives: fish

Meerkats at the Zoo (and Coconut Returns), 11-30-18

Since this is the only day for about a week that is supposed to be without rain, I decided to try taking a walk at the Sacramento Zoo.

It was a perfect day for that. About 56° outside, mostly sunny, hardly any people at the zoo. I really enjoyed it – AND my tumor pain was down to about 2 while I was there. So, it was nice.  Volunteers from The Hilton hanging around everywhere. They were trying to sell gift packages that included admission to the zoo, but also had access to some golf carts. I was able to get a couple of them to drive me short distances around the zoo – playing the “old lady” card sometimes works. Hah!

When I first went in, I came across one of the volunteers holding “Timbuktu” a Mali Spiny-tailed lizard.  The volunteer had put “Tim” on a heating pad to keep him warm, but for some reason didn’t seem to realize that once he was warmed up, Tim would be very active and mobile. The lizard kept trying to climb out of the volunteer’s hands; a real squirmy worm.

I’d gone to the zoo mostly to see their new Meerkats exhibit, but when I first got to the enclosure, the animals were all inside and workmen were setting up heaters for them because it was too chilly for them. “Come back in about 30 minutes,” one of the workmen said. So, I did that, and sure enough, all of the Meerkats were out by then. Some were still dozing inside a little dog-kennel-like thing, but others were busy digging holes everywhere and protecting the perimeter. I was surprised by how small they were; I expected them to be larger. But they were so active and so expressive. Really fun to watch.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

In an enclosure right next to theirs was Padme, the zoo’s resident Aardvark. She was sleeping in the sun in her “cave”. The cave is heated and has windows on the side, so you can see her when she’s in there. Every time I walked by, she was sleeping but in a different position. Apparently, she’s a restless sleeper.

When I first went by the Snow Leopard enclosure, the big male, Blizzard, was out, and I was able to get a few photos of him. The next time I went by, the mom Misha and little Coconut were out instead. On and off, they were rushing around, rolling over one another, and ambushing each other. Mom got little Coconut to run up the faux boulders along all three sides of the enclosure, exercising his muscles and teaching him out track prey at the same time.

At one point, Coconut ran from one end of the enclosure to the other and jumped on his mom, and a group of pre-teen boys standing near me all went, “Oooo, woooow!” really loudly. They were so loud that they startled Coconut and he stopped in his tracks for a moment. Then, brave little thing that he is, he walked right up the front of the enclosure, as close as he could get to the boys, and stood up with his paws against the fence looking at them.  Behind him, his mom, Misha, was starting to curl her lips and show her teeth. She apparently didn’t like her baby interacting with the kids. Eventually, she got Coconut to follow her up onto the boulders again, and they both sat and rested there for a while.

Yesterday’s rain had left puddles all over the zoo, and piles of wet leaves. The Red River Hogs seemed to like having a new “wallow” in their enclosure.

In their habitat in another part of the zoo, the Wolf’s Guenons were out, including a mom, two babies and the dad.  The mom didn’t like the fact that the Mongoose Lemurs had been moved into an enclosure next to hers and she kept “bucking” at them and rushing the fence to drive them away… then one of her babies came up to her begging for food and milk. He’s really too big to nurse, and she kept pushing him away from her breasts with her hands.  Then he sat down next to her and started to groom her, and she sat for that… until he made a grab for her teat again. She used one hand to moosh his face down and then walked over him to get away from him. Hah!  The dad seemed very much on the alert today, and on several occasions put himself between me and the mom and kids, blocking my view of them. So, I took some close-up photos of his face that turned out pretty good.

I thought with the cooler weather, the Red Pandas would be out and about. And they were both out, but they were both napping. In the kangaroo habitat next door to the Red Pandas, there was a male emu showing off for the female. He was strutting around with all of his neck feathers fluffed out – like a model on the runway with a huge feather boa. Among emus, the males build the nests, incubate the eggs and raise the chicks. It’s a little late in the season for the male to be strutting, but it would be neat to see if he builds a nest.

The only disappointment of my visit was when they let all of the chimpanzees out into their habitat. I heard the chimps all hooting, excited, and went over to see them. They were all sitting on the floor, grabbing up treats BUT the glass on the sides of the enclosure were all so fogged with the chimps’ excited breath that I couldn’t take any photos through it. Chimps in the Mist.

Around noon, I stopped to have some lunch before finishing off my zoo visit: chicken stir fry and tea. It wasn’t great, so I didn’t finish it. I understand that a big chunk of the price you pay for food at the zoo actually goes to the animals, so I didn’t feel the purchase was a total waste.

After lunch, I walked around a little bit more and took some more photos of the Meerkats and Snow Leopards and then headed home.

The Bugs Were More Interesting Today, 10-15-18

DAY 10 OF MY VACATION.  I got up around 6:30 this morning, expecting to meet with an on-line friend, Dee, at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery. Dee had to cancel at the last minute because her dog got skunked, but I decided to go to the hatchery for a walk anyway.

There wasn’t much of anything at all to see there.  The migrating waterfowl haven’t arrived yet, and the salmon ladder wasn’t operating.  But I did get to see some of the salmon in the river; their humped backs appearing through the surface of the water here and there. I also got to see a few birds: California Gulls, Herring Gulls, Common Mergansers, and a female Belted Kingfisher rushing back and forth along the riverbank. There was a Great Egret walking along the netting on the top of the fish raceways, trying to find a way in, and it actually made it in somehow for a little while. As soon as the employees realized it was in the raceway, they opened gates and shooed it out again.  I’ve seen Green Herons (who are much smaller and can hide more easily) inside the raceways just gorging on fish.  That Great Egret could’ve taken a lot of the larger fish if it hadn’t been seen as early as it was.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

The fish in the raceways “know” that when a shadow moves along the side of their enclosure, food is probably coming, so they go crazy – jumping and splashing, opening their mouths for fish-food to fall into. There are buckets along the raceways filled with food you can take to the fish, and every now and then, a truck goes by spewing food out of the side of it like a leaf-blower.

In a sort of gully/barrow pit next to the raceway area there were several Mallards, a Great Blue Heron and a Snowy Egret wading through the rocks and water looking for tidbits. I was able to get quite a few photos of the heron, but actually, some of the insects in the area were more interesting. I found a Mayfly, several ladybeetle nymphs and pupa cases, a large gravid praying mantis, and Green Stinkbugs, some of their eggs and several nymphs in different stages of development.

As I was leaving, I got a glimpse of a beaver swimming on the edge of the bank but lost it when it ducked underwater.

The Baby Deer Has a Bad Cough, 06-30-18

I got up around 5:00 am, and headed out to the Effie Yeaw Preserve again before it got too hot outside. It’s supposed to get up to 103º today. It was 61º at the river when I got there, and by the time I left at 8:30 am it was already 78º. Ugh!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

When I drove in, there were Yellow-Billed Magpies and American Robins trying to snatch up early morning bugs near the kiosk.

By the nature center, a male Anna’s Hummingbird posed in a tree long enough for me to get a few photos of him.

I watched as a Wild Turkey went up to a blue elderberry bush and jumped up and down to snag the ripe berries from it and pulled them to the ground. At another spot, I was standing under a wild plum tree, and Scrub Jays were in the branches knocking the plums down. Almost got hit by some of those!

Further along the trail, I got to see a pair of American Kestrels in the top of a tree; a little male and a female. They’re so talkative! I also got to see a Red-Tailed Hawk, and a juvenile Turkey Vulture (along with some adults). You don’t get to see the juveniles very often, so it’s always kind of a treat when they’re out and about.

The young fawn and its mother that I’ve seen on my last few trips to the preserve has come down with a horrible cough. It always looks kind of skinny and scrawny to me, but I’d never heard it cough so much before. I looked up pneumonia in deer and apparently, it’s a thing. It affects Big Horn Sheep and White-Tailed Deer more often, but can affect Black Tailed Deer, especially if they’re living near water in a confined space (as they sort of are at the Effie Yeaw Preserve). I don’t know if the preserve staff can do anything for the baby, but that cough is surely going to make him a target for the local coyotes. It’s loud, and it advertises that the fawn is in poor condition. His mom also looks like she might be pregnant again, so I don’t know how she’ll manage with a newborn and a sick yearling… Poor baby.

In one of the ant colonies I cam across, winged adults were emerging, getting ready to start a new nest somewhere else. They were emerging out into the sun, but when I stepped closer to the ant hill to get some photos, by shadow blocked the entrance – and they all went back inside. When I stepped away again to let the light hit the entrance, they all came back out again. Interesting.

And it seems to me that the oak trees are getting awfully full of acorn buds this year. Maybe we’ll have a mast year this fall?

At the Nimbus Fish Hatchery, 02-27-18

Around 7:30 I headed over to the Nimbus Fish Hatchery. This was going to be the last day they were going to do the Steelhead spawning, and I wanted to film some of that process for the naturalist students. When I got to the hatchery, nothing was open yet, so I walked the ground for a little while. It was 37º there, but the wind coming off the American River made it feel like 32º. Brrrr!

The visitor’s center opened up at 8:00, which is when the Steelhead spawning was advertised to start… But I was told that it was going to be delayed for an hour or so, so the process could be simulcast to grade schools in the area.

I didn’t want to just stand around for an hour and half, so I decided to brave the cold again and walk part of the trail instead. If nothing else, I could take some photos of that to share with my naturalist class.

Right around the visitor’s center there were lots of Brewer’s Blackbirds, and I also saw some Lesser Goldfinch, a House Finch, lots of House Sparrows and Golden-Crowned Sparrows, and several hummingbirds (Anna’s, I think).

On the river I saw lots of Common Goldeneye Ducks, Common Mergansers (more females than males), Canada Geese, a single Grayleg Goose, Herring Gulls, Ring-Billed Gulls, and California Gulls.

The best find by the river was being able to see gulls and Double-Crested Cormorants lining up on a wire that goes from one side of the river to another. I’m not sure what it’s used for, but the winch-end of the wire is on the hatchery’s side. The cormorants get their “nuptial crests” – that stand out like bushy eyebrows over their eyes — during the breeding season, and we’re right at the beginning of that now. Most of the crests you see are black (which generally means that the cormorant is a resident of California), but occasionally you’ll see one with white crests which generally means they’re migrating down into our area from more northerly regions, like Alaska. I saw one with white crests today. That was a first for me.

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos.

The salmon raceways were empty, even the water had been drained out; but on the trout side of the facility, there were Rainbow Trout in various stages of development in every raceway.

Caught inside the structure, too, were a couple of Black-Crowned Night Herons. They must’ve gotten in when someone opened and the forgot to shut the entrance gate – and then got trapped in there when the place was locked up again. They were looking pretty panicked. The only way to get them out would be to open the gates again and shoo them toward the open door. But opening the gates means other fish-eating birds can get into the raceways, too… A conundrum.

By the time I got back to the visitors center, they were halfway through the filming of the Steelhead spawning, and I didn’t want to interrupt that, so I left.

On my way home, I passed right by the American River Bend Park, so I stopped there for a few minutes just to see if I could spot the Great Horned Owl on her nest that I saw the last time I was there. Yep. She was there, sitting on her nest, dozing away. Because the nest is so high and the lighting around it is so bad, I can’t get very good photos of it, but I took a few anyway.

In the same area, I also saw a mule deer in the distance, several Mourning Doves, a few Northern Flickers, Spotted Towhees, Oak Titmice, and an Audubon’s Warbler. It looks like stands of Stinging Nettles are starting to come again – which may be a bad thing for hikers and campers, but is a good thing for Red Admiral butterflies who lay their eggs on the plants, and whose caterpillars depend on them for food and protection. I only stayed at the park for about 30 minutes and didn’t walk any of the trails.

Vacation Day #13: Nimbus Fish Hatchery

DAY THIRTEEN OF MY FALL VACATION… I got up a little before 7:00 am and headed out to the Nimbus Fish Hatchery. I knew they had the salmon gate open, so I wanted to see if I could spot any of them; and I wanted to see if the migrating birds were around there yet. The weatherpeople forecast clouds and rain for today, but when I went out it was mostly sunny and around 53º… and it stayed nice all the while I was outside.

At the hatchery, there weren’t hardly any waterfowl.  I saw some Mallards, a couple of Great Blue Herons and some Great Egrets, along with several Double Crested Cormorants but no other ducks or geese. There were a lot of different kinds of sparrows out there, though, and I saw House Sparrows, White-Crowned Sparrows, and Golden-Crowned Sparrows. There were also Acorn Woodpeckers around and lots of Starlings. I saw one Starling poking its head out of its nesting cavity… which was too near the Acorn Woodpeckers, and they were fussing about it. The big surprise was seeing a small flock of Cedar Waxwings.

A one place along the trail there was a huge fig tree, and the leaves were dotted with clusters of Assassin Bug egg cases. Yikes!  The fig was just starting to get fruit on it. Coffeeberry trees along the route were burgeoning with berries, though, just in time for the Waxwings (who eat berries almost exclusively).

The raceways were full of trout and salmon. When I was walking around the trout raceways, one of the rangers came up to me and handed me a big (16 oz) cup filled with fish food so I could feed the fry.  “You’re the first kid we’ve had through here today,” he said as he handed me the cup.  Hah! He said there were currently over 3-million trout in the raceways (everything from fingerlings to adults), and in another month or so they’d be pulling them all out and depositing them in tanker trucks to take to the lakes and ponds all over the area. None of the trout form there go into the rivers.

The fish are used to being fed by hand (or by another truck that goes between the raceways and blows food at them like a huge leaf-blower). Whenever I leaned in over the side of the raceways to look at them, they’d all rush to the edge and splash around expecting food. When you toss food to them they all attack it at the same time and it’s gone within seconds.

Also in the raceways were about four Green Herons. The raceways are completely surrounded and covered by chain link fencing, but someone must’ve left a door open and the smart herons rushed in.  Once they’re in there it’s hard to get them out, but there are literally millions of fish for them to eat, so it’s not like they’d starve.

When I went over to the salmon side of the hatchery, I was surprised to find that they were actually collecting and “spawning” the Chinook Salmon that were coming up the ladder. I didn’t think they were doing that until December, so it was a treat to be able to see it so early in the season.

Here are some pix: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhnaturalist/albums/72157686356492352

Video #1: https://youtu.be/6gf0-kdqX-w

Video #2: https://youtu.be/92TwnHBQsgU

When they bring the salmon up to take the eggs, they kill them (because they’re at the end of their life cycle anyway).  There was one hug female in the mix –- she must’ve weighed 40 to 50 pounds – and the rangers said she probably had 10,000 eggs in her belly. (A normal take is about 5,000 per female.) The bodies of the fish that are killed, are tagged and sent to Washington state where they’re used in dog food and made into fertilizer, so they’re “recycled” and not wasted.

I walked around the hatchery grounds and trails for about 3 ½ hours and then headed home.

After Work at the WPA Rock Garden, 09-14-17

After work, it was still relatively nice outside, so I went over to the WPA Rock Garden and duck pond for a short walk.

I came across the caterpillar of a Redhumped Caterpillar Moth on one of the Redbud Trees there.  They’re considered a pest species because they can have three generations in a single year and skeletonize the leaves of a lot of different kinds of trees.  There was only one that I saw, and it was big enough to start working on its chrysalis, so I don’t think it was much of a threat to the tree at this point.  The caterpillars burrow underground to form their chrysalis and overwinter in it.  Lots of little Skippers and some Hairstreak Butterflies around.  Among the common Fiery Skippers were some darker Woodland Skippers to break up the monotony… I also got some photos of a Flame Skimmer dragonfly and a Variegated Meadowhawk . Their regular mating season is almost over now…

CLICK HERE to see the whole album of photos and videos.

While I was taking photos of the insects, there was a professional photographer taking photos of a little boy, a toddler with thick black curly hair.  His mother made loud squeaking noises at him to make him laugh… and every time she did that, a homeless guy who was squatting in the park shouted at the top of his lungs, “Goddamn it! It is so noisy here!  Shut Up!  I’m trying to sleep!  This is the noisiest place I have ever lived in!”

Someone yelled back at him, “You don’t live here, man. This is a public park. If you don’t like the noise, get out!”

Then the homeless guy started screaming like a chimpanzee – “Oooh! Ooh!  Eee!  Eee!” — as he gathered up all of his stuff.  As he was leaving the garden area, he started yell-singing at the top of his lungs, “What do you get when you fall in love?!  You get enough germs to catch pneumonia!  After you do, he’ll never phone ya! I’ll never fall in love again!”  He kind of mixed up the lyrics and apparently these were the only lines he knew he knew, because he repeated them over and over and over again… I could hear him even when he was halfway out to the golf course. *Sigh*

I watched some hummingbirds chase each other around the garden and I think one pair of them were Rufous Hummingbirds, the ones with the rusty coloring on them. The male never sat still long enough for me to get any decent photos of him, but I got quite a lot of the female.  It seems awfully late in the year for them to be so “horny” but maybe the hurricanes and Climate Change have confused them…

There was a Green Heron running back and forth along the edges of the pond, picking off little minnows when they came up to munch on algae. I followed him around for a little while and got quite a few photos of him. I saw him catch several fish, but he always had his back to me when he did it, and I couldn’t get any good “capture” shots.

I finished off the walk taking photos of the ducks before heading back the car. On my way out of the garden I came across a male Praying Mantis, and snapped a few shots of him before I left.