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An Overcast Day at the Preserve, 02-28-19

Date: Thursday, 02-28-19
Time: 7:30 am to 10:30 am
Location: Effie Yeaw Nature Center, 2850 San Lorenzo Way, Carmichael, CA 95608
Habitat: Oak Woodland and riparian boundary
Weather: Overcast, 43° to 46°

Narrative: I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my trail walking right after I fed the dog his breakfast. I arrived about 7:30 am and it was 43° at the river. The first thing I saw when I got into the preserve was a Red-Shouldered Hawk just sitting on the lawn. It hadn’t caught anything (that I could see) and stood there, looking around for a short while, so I was able to get some photos and a video snippet of it before it flew off into the trees.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

After going down the wooden steps onto the Bluff Trail, I caught sight of a Western Gray Squirrel running along the trail with a mouth full of grass and twigs, so I followed it… and found where it was constructing its “drey” (squirrel nest). Dreys are different from other squirrel nests because they’re formed on the outside of a tree or cavity and built where several branches come together. ((If the squirrel’s nest is inside a tree or cavity, it’s called a “den”.)) If it continues to build there, walkers should be able to get some good views of the squirrel and its babies.

Lots of deer were out, including several small herds of does and their yearling fawns. I hung around one group for a while just watching a doe grooming her fawn. They’re so tender with their babies; it’s so relaxing to watch them. I also came across a couple of bucks, into two younger ones who were sparring for a little while. One or two of the does seem to be showing their pregnancies already. ((The gestation period is 7 months long so around 203 days.))

At one point along the trail, I saw two odd shapes in the top of a bare-branched tree. Because the sky was overcast, looking up into the branches everything was backlit, so it took a while for me to figure out what I was looking at: a pair of Wood Ducks (a male and female) looking for a place to nest.

I also came across more fungi today than I did on my walk with my naturalist student the other day. Puffball fungus, mushrooms, Elfin Saddles, and three different kinds of jelly fungus, including the nicest specimen of Witches Butter I’ve ever seen. I found a nice specimen of Trametes betulina, a kind of fungus that looks like Turkey Tail fungus (Trametes versicolor), but it has gills! It’s sometimes called the Multicolored Gilled Polypore or Mazegill. This is the first time I’ve seen it live and in such wonderful color. (I usually see it in its later stages when it’s just a bunch of hard weird gills.) Very cool.

Because it was early and overcast and a weekday, I didn’t see a lot of people, but had short interactions with those I did see: got to talk to one lady about Black-Tailed Jackrabbits and another about jelly fungi.

I walked for about 3 hours and headed back home.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
3. Black Jelly Roll fungus, Exidia glandulosa
4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
5. Brown Jelly Fungus, Tremella foliacea
6. California Buckeye, Aesculus californica
7. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
8. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
9. California Sycamore, Platanus racemosa
10. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
11. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
12. Deer Shield Mushroom, Pluteus cervinus
13. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
14. Elfin Saddle, Helvella lacunosa
15. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
16. False Turkey Tail, Stereum ostrea
17. Gilled Polypore, Mazegill, Trametes betulina
18. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
19. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
20. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
21. Lords and Ladies, Naked Boys, Arum italicum
22. Nutthall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii (heard only)
23. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
24. Puffball fungus, Paltry Puffball, Bovista plumbea
25. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
26. Rio Grande Turkey, Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
27. Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia lavicola
28. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus, (heard only)
29. Turkey Tail fungus, Trametes versicolor
30. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
31. Wavy Leaf Soap Plant, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
32. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
33. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
34. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
35. Witches Butter, Golden Jelly Fungus, Tremella mesenterica
36. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
37. Yellow Field Mushroom, Egg Yolk Fungus, Bolbitius vitellinus
38.
Russet Toughshank mushroom, Oak Lover mushroom, Gymnopus dryophilus

First Flame Skimmer of the Season, 05-12-18

I was out the door and off to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve once more to check on the development of the Monarch Butterfly caterpillars – and get some fresh air and exercise in, of course.

Before I left the house, I noticed there were a few Yellow-Billed Magpies out foraging in the neighbor’s yard, so I took some photos of them before they flew off.   When I got to the nature preserve, the first thing I saw was a small flock of male Wild Turkeys. They were parading and strutting around a single female who was more interested in finding breakfast than dealing with the boys. Hah!

I put on insect repellent, but there are these tiny, black, winged no-see-ums that forge through the repellant anyway and bite HARD. I don’t know what the species is, but I really dislike those things. They get all over you… creep me out worse than the ticks.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

In the small pond by the nature center, the Bullfrog tadpoles are starting to change from water-breathers to air-breathers, and they popped up to the surface periodically to gulp in some air before retreating back down into the water. All you can see through the murky water when they come up is their pale belly and their big mouths. So funny.

The Monarch caterpillars grew a lot over the week, so many of them where about as long as my index finger. There were still a lot of babies, though, so the preserve should have a good crop of new butterflies in a couple of weeks.  This is the time of year when birds are making and feeding babies, but they leave the Monarch and Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars alone – because the caterpillars are packed with noxious poisons from the plants they eat. I found one new Pipevine Swallowtail chrysalis on the side of an oak tree already. No sign of the gold-bejeweled Monarch chrysalises yet.

I also got photos of the first Flame Skimmer dragonfly I’d seen this year. They’re such neat looking things. The dragonfly sat long enough and still enough that I was able to get some close-ups of its wing-structure.

I later watched some Harvester Ants bring in new seeds and stuff, and remove old seeds and whatnot from their in-ground bivouac. It seems like they were transferring the old stuff to a different part of the nest through an extra hole in the ground.  Looking more closely I could see that they also removed the dead bodies of some rival ants… And some members of the colony apparently didn’t read their emails because they were bringing the new seeds in through a hole that was “exit only”. It was a crack-up watching them.

There weren’t too many deer out today, but I did see a lone doe, and a young buck who looked like he’d been attacked by wasps. His chin and bottom lip were swollen which made him look kind of goofy. There are ground-dwelling Yellow-Jackets that have hives all over the preserve; maybe this guy was browsing too close to one of those.

Come to think of it, one of the Red-Shouldered Hawks I came across today had a swollen eye – like can be rough out in Nature. The swelling didn’t seem to interfere with the bird’s eyesight or it’s ability to navigate; and it didn’t look like the bird was blind on that side, so maybe it was a temporary impairment.

As I was on my way out of the preserve, I saw some of the docents doing a presentation for a small group of Scouts with their animal ambassador, “Orion” a young Swainson’s Hawk. According to the Effie Yeaw website: “…Orion was dropped off at the UC Davis Raptor Center with a broken wing in 2017. Although his injuries healed partially, there were some lingering issues that would prevent him from completing the long migration down to Argentina. It was also discovered that Orion was an imprint, or lacking a natural fear of humans, and therefore dependent on people for his survival. However, this resulted in an easier transition for Orion to become one of our amazing animal ambassadors…”

I’d walked for about 3 hours, and then headed home for the day.

Coyote Dash, Turkey Trot and Others, 01-13-18

Wow, the dog and I slept in nicely this morning. Sergeant Margie didn’t wake up until it was almost 7:00 am. I gave him his breakfast and let him outside to go potty, then I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk. I’m feeling better today than I have in a week. Fingers crossed that I’m done with this stupid flu.

It was totally overcast and foggy all day. Never got over 53º at the house.

At the refuge, this was a day for horribly noisy people – which makes birding and nature-watching really difficult because the inconsiderate LOUD PEOPLE scare off all of the wildlife. Gad, I got as far away from them as I could…

Once again, I saw most of the usual suspects, but I did get a short video snippet of a big, very healthy-looking, coyote as it dashed across a small field – right in front of a deer.

And I also got to see a large band of wild turkeys strutting and showing off to one another on the trail. It looked like there were maybe two different subspecies in the group. Most of them were Rio Grande Wild turkeys (with tan tail tips and coppery-green reflections in their iridescent feathers). But I think there was one or two Merriam’s Wild Turkeys in there, too (with purple/bronze reflections in their feather and light, almost white, tail tips). I’m not positive though.

I walked for almost 4 hours – which was waaay too long — and then went straight home.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of pix and video snippets.