Tag Archives: foggy

A Foggy Day at the Effie Yeaw Preserve, 01-31-19

I skipped breakfast and went out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk. It was foggy at the river, too, but not as bad as it was by the house. And by the time I left the preserve, the sun was trying to shine through the haze.  Along the usual suspects, I spotted 25 deer at the preserve today. I think that’s the most I’ve ever seen in one outing.  Mostly small herds of females and a couple of fawns, but I also saw about 5 bucks from spike-bucks to 4-pointers. I also saw a pair of the bucks jousting, but they moved down a hill and into a shallow gully so I could only see the tops of their heads.

Oh, and another neat find was seeing one of the Red-Shouldered Hawks working on her nest above the 4B water post marker on the Pond Trail. The nest was built about a year ago, and the hawks didn’t use it, but they might this year. Because of where the nest is placed, it’s almost impossible to see anything inside of it. I could hear the female calling from it and saw her head over the edge of the nest as she moved twigs around.  But if the hawks use that nest and have babies there, there should be some great photo ops are the parents bring food to the kids…and as the kid grow and fledge and learn to fly. Lots of bare branches in the trees around the nest-site for them to light on. I’ll have to keep my eye on that spot…

One funny moment was when I spotted two Wild Turkeys by the nature center posturing and strutting to their reflections in the glass doors.  One of the turkeys kept trying to peck his reflection in the face, to no avail. I couldn’t help but chuckle at them.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I walked for about 3 hours and headed home.

A Short Fungus Walk in the Fog, 01-07-18

I went out to the American River Bend Park hoping to find some fungi coming out for the season.  I didn’t get to see a lot of anything, though.  There weren’t many different kinds of mushrooms out yet, and the fog was keeping all of the birds and critters in bed. I didn’t hear or see many birds at all; I was really surprised.  I did get to see quite a few spider webs along the way, and there were a few nice-looking barometer earthstars sitting out where I could see them. Because of the fog and chill in the air, and the fact that my shoes and the cuffs of my pants got wet from walking through the wet grass I only walked for around 3 hours today (rather than my normal 3 ½ or 4 hours).

Here is the album of photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhnaturalist/albums/72157691364632514

Mostly Starlings and Goldeneyes, 12-26-17

I headed over to the American River Bend Park for a walk. It was 34º when I got there, and got up to about 53º when I headed back home.

I wasn’t expecting to see a lot – we’re kind of “between seasons” at the river; all of the birds haven’t migrated in yet and it hasn’t rained enough for the fungi to come out – but the walks themselves always do me good. When I first got there, a light fog was still hanging over the river, so I went to the shore first to try to get some photos of that. Since the flooding earlier this year, the water had receded enough so that the riverside trail was passable again. (At the height of the flood, the river was right up to the trailhead, and beaver had floated up to chew on trees that normally wouldn’t have access to.)

Here is the album of photos and video snippets.

The flood has left its mark, though, with toppled down trees, scraggly flotsam high in the scrub brush and branches of still-standing trees, and rearranged rocks and sandbars. Still, the path was recognizable and I was able to make it through without incident. In places along the way, I could see the tracks of others who had walked along it: humans, dogs, deer, and what might have been a bobcat – fat rounded “fingers” with no toenails.

The trail let out close to what’s now the riverside, but I had to walk over tons of river rocks to get to the water. The rocks are all smooth and beautiful, but are a pain for me to walk across. My arthritis is welding all the bones in my feet together, so my feet don’t bend like they normally should anymore. Traversing uneven ground is a misery for me, but the few photos I got of the fog and a few birds were worth it.

The first creature I saw was a young Herring Gull, preening at the very end of a sandbar. He looked cold and sleepy, waiting for the morning sun to burn through the fog some more so he could warm up. Further up the shore was a Great Blue Heron, puffed up and hunkered down against the chill in the air, but still keeping an eye on the water in case breakfast swam by.

A little further up was a female Common Merganser floating on the water. And then I saw the Goldeneye ducks: mostly females, but several males, too.

Along with the Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula), I also caught sight of a Barrow’s Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica), distinguishable by the shape of the blotch on the face of the male. On the Common goldeneye, the blotch is round, and on the Barrow’s it’s like a paint-stroke. The Barrow’s also has “blocks” of white along the wing-line. We don’t get to see Barrow’s Goldeneyes around here much, so it’s always a treat when they show up. I was hoping the boys would do their flip-head dance for the girls, but they were all more interested in eating than in displaying. I got photos (and a little video) of all of them through the haze of the fog.

The other bird species I saw a lot of today were the European Starlings. In several spots, I saw them checking out nesting cavities in trees, going in and out, and talking to each other. I also saw quite a few California Scrub Jays, and one of them posed nicely for me on the humped back of a curved branch. In another park of the park,

I came across an area where smaller birds were trying to get to the last seeds on the now-dead star thistle: Spotted and California Towhees, Dark-Eyed Juncos, Golden-Crowned Sparrows and Lesser Goldfinches. What was surprising was that I didn’t see a lot of Acorn Woodpeckers or Canada Geese. They’re kind of ubiquitous, so to NOT see them is unusual.

Along my walk I also came across some Gouty Stem Galls, the leftover cocoon of a Tussock Moth caterpillar, the chrysalis of a Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, and a few Deer Shield mushrooms. I walked for about 3 hours and then headed home .

Bitterns and Otters Made My #OptOutside Day, 11-24-17

I got up with the dog around 5:30 am and we immediately headed out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  This is #OptOutside day; rather than doing Black Friday shopping, I’m spending the day outdoors. It was around 50º when we left the house and 61º when we got back home in the afternoon.

It was super-foggy on the way to the refuge, and the fog lingered to some extent for most of the day… which made photo-taking a challenge at times. There were a lot of the usual suspects at the Sacramento refuge: Killdeer, Golden-Crowned Sparrows, White-Crowned Sparrows, Turkey Vultures, House Sparrows, a Peregrine Falcon, Northern Shovelers, Greater White-Fronted Geese, Gadwalls, Northern Pintails, Mallards, Western Meadowlarks, Northern Harriers, Red-Winged Blackbirds, American Coots, Snow Geese, Ross’s Geese, Black Phoebes, Red-Tailed Hawks, Great Egrets… There were two standouts for the day though, and they were within a few feet of one another.

I stopped at a spot where two sloughs intersect, near the gate for the extended loop section of the auto tour route. I found an American Bittern in one of the sloughs, treading on the aquatic vegetation, looking for fish and crayfish. As I was photographing it and taking some videos, I could hear something gurgling in the water to my right. I looked over and could see the vegetation moving; something was underneath it. I focused the camera on that spot and saw a River Otter poke its head up to look around!  It ignored the Bittern – who in turn ignored the otter – and ducked back under the plants again.  A few seconds later, two otter heads popped up… and then three!

The otters all swam down the slough and climbed up onto the side of it. And then a fourth otter appeared! A whole family. They posed on the bank for a little while, and then disappeared into another section of wetland.  I looked back behind me, and the Bittern was still there, fishing away. It was completely oblivious to the otters. Hah!  I saw another Bittern further along the auto-tour route, in among the tules, but didn’t see the otters again.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos and video snippets.

I finished the route early (around 10 o’clock), so I decided to go over to the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge to check things out there. That refuge is much smaller than the Sacramento one, and usually not as interesting, but there are some birds that I see there that I don’t see at the Sacramento refuge (like Wigeons and Gallinules). The Colusa refuge isn’t full of water yet, and there weren’t many birds at the viewing platform there, so it wasn’t as “fun” a diversion as the Sacramento refuge was. I was through the Colusa refuge within about 90 minutes, and headed straight home from there.

A Thanksgiving River Otter, 11-23-17

Around 7:00 am I headed out to the Cosumnes River Preserve for a walk. It was super foggy all the way to the preserve. In some places, the fog was so thick I could only see a car length or two in front of me. When I got to the preserve, the fog had lifted up a little bit, but was still hovering near the ground.  I wasn’t expecting to see a lot in this kind of weather. The dark skies fool the birds into thinking it’s earlier in the day than it really is, so they sleep in a little bit. One good thing about fog, though, is that is sometimes clings to the spiders’ webs, and you can get some interesting shot of those (if the light hits them just right.)

CLICK HERE for the album of photos and video snippets.

I drove down Bruceville Road before going to the preserve’s boardwalk parking lot to see if there was anything interesting out there. I stopped at one place to get web photos and came across a very-late-in-the-season praying mantis, a pregnant female who was probably looking for somewhere to lay her eggs.  It was chilly and wet out there, around 49º, so she didn’t really want to move to do anything, but she posed for me for a little while and climbed up onto the sleeve of my jacket (mostly for the warmth, I think.)

At the preserve itself, there wasn’t a whole lot to see: mostly the little shorebirds and some Northern Pintails and Green-Winged Teals. There were quite a few American Pipits and lots and lots of sparrows.  I walked the length of the boardwalk and back and then decided to walk up the road a bit to see if there was anything interesting along the sloughs that run parallel to the road. There were two guys fishing in one of the ponds near the parking lot (which I think is illegal) and I saw something in the water across from them. At first I thought maybe they had snagged their lines on some crud on the bottom of the pond and were dragging it through the water.  But when I looked back at their fishing poles, I could see that the lines were “soft” and they had bobbers floating on the surface.  So, I looked at the disturbance in the water again, and saw what I thought might have been a snout poking up… But it was gone again before I could see for certain.  Then it reappeared further down the length of the pond and into the spot where the pond narrowed into the slough. So I figured since I was walking that way anyway, I’d try to keep an eye out for whatever it was.

After walking about 20 feet, I saw something dark on the opposite side of the slough, so I moved slowly and quietly between the oak trees on my side to see if I could get a better look at whatever it was. And…

SCORE!

It was a river otter!

It was grooming itself and rolling in a patch of high grass it had squished down. It stayed there for about 5 minutes which allowed me to get lots of photos and some video snippets of it before it went back in the water again.  Coolness! That made my morning! …And no one else saw it but me, so I feel kind of “privileged”.

I walked around a bit more, and then drove the loop around Bruceville Road once more before heading home. On Bruceville, I saw a pair of Sandhill Cranes grazing in the short grass and got some video of them before leaving the area and getting back on the freeway.  Altogether, I was at and around the preserve for about 2½ hours.

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.)