I got out of bed around 7:30 am and headed over to the American River Bend Park for a walk, I’d gone mainly to see if there were any signs of fungi out yet – and there were a few – but mostly I got photos of Turkey vultures who all decided to sit up in the trees over the trail and “vulch” at people. Hah! The coyote brush is still in bloom all along the river trail, and I also found several snowberry plants with their fat white berries just waiting for the birds to eat them.
Among the fungi I found Deer Shield, Inky Cap, Haymaker and Veined Parasol mushrooms, and both yellow and brown jelly fungus, among others. It needs to get a lot wetter before we really see a profusion of ‘shrooms here.
Along the way, I saw some Golden-Crowned Sparrows trying to eat the see clusters off of the old start thistle, but the stems were water-logged and wouldn’t support the birds’ weight. So the birds would fly up the side of the plant, and the plant would bend over to the ground, and they’d eat the seeds off the ground. Smart little things.
I also saw a Great Blue Heron steal something that looked like a salmon skeleton from a Turkey Vulture on the bank across the river from where I was standing. I tried to get some video, but I can’t control the iris on this camera when it’s recording – it picks a setting by itself – so the heron was “washed out”… but the Vulture turned out fine. Weird. And frustrating.
On the river I saw several Common Mergansers (all females), a female Goldeneye, some Mallards, and a few pairs of Bufflehead ducks. They’re very shy, though, and wouldn’t let me get too close. I also saw a Double-Crested Cormorant sharing his rock with a couple of Ring-Billed Gulls.
I walked for about 3 ½ hours and then headed home, stopping at BelAir along the way to get some chili for lunch. It just sounded good…
Up at about 6:00 am and out the door by 6:30 with Sergeant Margie to go over to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. I got there right around 8:00 o’clock and had the whole place to myself for a couple of hours before anyone else showed up. Like the Colusa preserve, some of the wetland areas in this larger preserve are also drained and dried out already, but they have a loop open that lets you drive around some of their permanent wetland area, so although you don’t get to see a ton of birds, you do get to see some… and a few of them are ones that I can’t see along the American River.
The drive started off with good views of Killdeer and some American Avocets (which I think are such pretty birds), Greater Yellowlegs and Red-Winged and Brewer’s Blackbirds. There were lots of jackrabbits along the auto-tour route along with some chubby little Cottontails (which look like babies next to the big jacks.) And lots of ground squirrels. I didn’t see any raccoons this time out, but I did see a few deer. Oh, and I saw some pond turtles and Western Fence Lizards.
There are still a lot of wildflowers in bloom – mostly Goldfields and Fiddleneck – and the Poison Hemlock is starting to rise along with the Milk Thistle and other weeds.
Marsh Wrens were everywhere in the tules, chattering away and tucking in the loose ends of their nest construction. Between them, the blackbirds, and the Meadowlarks, some spots were really NOISY! There were quite a few Ring-Necked Pheasants out and about adding their loud rusty-hinge croaks to the cacophony, and in some places the Double-Crested Cormorants were grunting like pigs. I’ve gotten so I can tell some of the birds by their sound without seeing them… Speaking of the cormorants: a lot of the breeding adults have their “double-crests” showing now and it makes the birds look like they have really fluffy eyebrows (or very long eyelashes). Hah!
There were, of course, American Coots all over the place and many White-Faced Ibises among the other ducks: Northern Shovelers, Cinnamon and Green-Winged Teals, a few Buffleheads and a solitary female Goldeneye, and some Ruddy Ducks. I did see another American Bittern today… and heard another one doing its pumper-lunk call in the reeds… but I couldn’t see that one. Toward the end of the drive, I came across some American White Pelicans. But the stand-out sighting for the day (for me anyway) was getting to see a pair of Clark’s Grebes do part of their courtship ritual where they bob their heads at on another then get up and run across the top of the water in tandem. I’d seen photos and video of that before, but had never witnessed it myself. I only got a few seconds of it on video but it made my day. I’ll have to get back there in the next few weeks to see if I can see any more courtship behavior. There were also some Western Grebes and Pied-Billed Grebes out on the water, too. Most of them were too far away to get any really good shots of them, but it’s still always fun to see them. It’s sometimes difficult for me to tell the Clark’s Grebes from the Western Grebes because they look almost identical. The only real difference is that on the Clark’s Grebe the eyes are surrounded by white and on the Western Grebe the eyes are surrounded by black.
Also saw some Great Egrets and Snow Egrets. And as I was heading out the refuge, I came across a large hawk sitting on a stump – apparently just waiting there to have her picture taken. Hah! – and a Common Gallinule, an adult one sporting a red shield on the front of its face. The red of the shield was so intense that my camera freaked out over it, so all of the face-on shots took on a kind of “glowing” effect. By that time, too, the sun had been up for a while and things were getting warm, so the camera had to fight through distortions caused by heat waves. When conditions get like that, it’s time to go home…
I got back to the house around 2:30 pm, cooked up some chicken thighs and an ear of corn for supper, and collapsed with the dogs.
Around 7:00 I headed over to the American River Bend Park. Rain is predicted here in the afternoon, so I figured I could get a few hours of walking in before the storm arrived.
As I drove into the park the first thing I saw was a male mule deer (who had apparently recently lost his antlers) at the large Redbud Tree, snacking on the pink blossoms. So pretty. I got photos and a video snippet of him. Further along the trail, I came across a pair of Mallard (a male and a female) waddling through the tall grass. They came right toward me and when they stepped out onto the path, the female walked up to me and checked me out. I think she was intrigued by my umbrella. When I started walking, she followed after me for several feet…
When I got closer to the part of the trail that runs on a shallow cliff above the river I was surprised to see how full the river was and how fast it was flowing. I knew that Folsom Dam had opened its gates, I’d still never seen the American River up this high before. Much of the shoreline below the nature trail was under water, as ne one of the smaller islands in the middle of the river.
As I continued my walk, I came across lots and lots of Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies. Because it was still chilly outside (about 47°) they were all torpid, and clinging to plants and trees, waiting for the sun to come out and warm them up. As I was getting some photos of some of the butterflies in a Redbud tree, a Red-Shouldered Hawk flew up into a tree over my head. I got some photos of it… and photos of a House Wren, some Western Bluebirds, Wild Turkeys, a Nutthall’s Woodpecker, and a Robin (that was taking a bath in a puddle). Spring is pushing its way through the cold: the wildflowers are starting to rise up from the ground, the birds are starting to pair up, and the trees are sprouting new leaves… Another week or two – even with the rain – there should be really great photo ops every few minutes. Today was pretty good, but I’m really looking forward to some super pictures in the next several weeks…
I walked for about 3 hours, then headed home, stopping at Togo’s to pick up some sammiches and soup for lunch.
I slept in a little bit and got up about 7:15 am. I put a load of laundry into the washer and then got myself ready to head out to the American River Bend Park to look for fungus. I was nice outside: in the 50’s (my favorite temperature to walk in).
As I was driving in to find a parking spot that was close to the nature trails, the first thing I see is two huge mule deer bucks standing between the trees, preening and doing their morning stretches. One was a 3-pointer and the other was a 4-pointer. I was the only person in that part of the park at the moment, so I stopped on the side of the paved path and watched them for about 10 minutes. Such gorgeous boys! I saw other younger bucks and some does further along my walk.
Where the trail goes along the river I was disgusted to see a lot of trash dumped around the rocks where I usually see birds resting in the river. No birds were on the rocks today, but there was a round cooler, bottles and garbage everywhere. Some humans are such pigs… I took photos and sent them to the rangers at the park.
I did see birds elsewhere along the trail, of course, including some Turkey Vultures, Western Bluebirds, and a handsome Red-Shouldered Hawk.
I also found some buckeye chestnuts that were starting to plant themselves in the ground and already had their first set of new leaves staring to show. When the trees are “newborn”, then stems and leaves pink and reddish-purple… and it’s at this stage that they’re the most poisonous. Even though the mule deer have something of a natural immunity to the poison in the chestnuts, they don’t eat them when they’re at this stage.
Along the way, I found quite a few different kinds of mushrooms and fungi: Haymaker, Purple Core, Ink Cap, Sweetbread and Red Thread mushrooms; black, yellow and brown jelly fungi; some small samples of slime molds; False Turkey Tail, Polypore, and Split Gill fungi; and some young puffball fungi. The biggest surprise though was coming across an area where there were literally thousands of large Palomino Cup fungi littering the ground. These kind of fungi usually don’t wake up until there’s a hard frost and then they show themselves for a short while. I’d found one or two in previous years, so this huge crop was kind of startling. Some of the cups were bigger than my fist. They start out in a tight cup shape and then expand and flatten out as they age. Some were rich blonde color, and others (younger ones) were pale peachy-blond. The majority of them were still as the “cupped” stage and filled with rain water… so there were gnats and other small insects milling around them, especially when the clouds broke up and the sunlight was reaching the forest floor. I took loads of photos of them, and a short video showing how many there were in that one area. I always wonder, when I come across stuff like this, if other people had found the same thing and found it as fascinating as I did (or did they even know what they were looking at)…
I left the house around 9:30 am to go walking at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery, and Marty left just a little bit after I did to attend a New Year’s party in Vallejo with friends. There was very little traffic this New Year’s morning, so I got to the hatchery in no time. There were some obnoxious people along the trail by the hatchery, but thankfully not too many. There was one kid who had his dog on a leash; he was on one side of the trail and the dog was on the other so the leash was blocking the trail and no one could get past him. I told him he’d better pick one side or the other because I wasn’t stopping… and he pouted but moved anyway. Some people’s kids. Sheesh! Then I came across a small family group that had walked down to the water’s edge to watch the guys fishing along the bank, and instead of being considerate, they starting yelling and throwing rocks into the water to scare the fish off. The fisherman just stared them down until they stopped. I swear, some people leave their brains at home when they go outdoors…
Because there were so many fishermen around, there weren’t a great many birds in the area (except for the ubiquitous gulls who come to the waters outside the hatchery this time of year to eat all the dead salmon.) One guy asked a ranger if he could down and take some of the dead salmon from the water, and the ranger told him, no; the dead fish were part of the ecosystem and helped to feed everything from mammals to invertebrates. “I’m a mammal,” the guy complained. “You don’t count,” the ranger said. Hah! Take that guy to the burn unit.
There were no fish in the fish ladders (which were running anyway). The Steelhead will be coming up them in the next week or so, though. I got photos of the gulls, some Buffleheads, Goldeneyes, Cormorants and Mergansers, then as I was walking out I noticed two egrets near the observation platform just above the gates in the river: a Great Egret and a Snow Egret. I think I stood there or about 20 minutes just getting photos of them. I had to shoot through TWO fences to get the shots, but thankfully a few of them turned out well.
I got up around 7:00 this morning and was out the door with the dog in about 15 minutes. We headed off to the American River Bend Park. It as overcast and chilly all morning, so a lot of the critters slept in. I did get to see some Scrub Jays, Starlings, woodpeckers, and gulls and geese. And while I was walking along that part of the trail that abuts the river, I came across a large flock of vultures. They were in an old scag of a tree, above my head, and I didn’t realize they were there until some of them took off suddenly, breaking twigs and showering me with leaves as they left. Startled the crap out of me! Some of them hung around a while, and I got some photos of them. Some of them were sopping wet, and must’ve been grabbing dead fish off the riverbank or something. They sat with their wings out, trying to dry themselves off. The river was slow-moving and like glass in some spots. Further on the trail, I found some more vultures sitting on the banks, saw a crow hopping on rocks along the water ay, and later came across a small band of bachelor turkeys. They’re such pretty birds, all coppery and dark iridescent green and purple… The dog and I walked for about 3 hours and then headed back to the car.