Tag Archives: hermit thrush

Many, Many, Many Deer… and a Swarm of Bees, 03-26-19

I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.  It was about 51° and drizzly when I left the house around 7:30. Although I carried my umbrella throughout my walk, I didn’t need it. As soon as I got to the preserve, the rain stopped. And by the time I left there, around 11:30 am, the sun had come out and it was about 63° outside. A very nice morning for a walk.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

Lots and lots and lots of deer were out today, including some boys who have antler-bumps, and some exceeding pregnant females.  I also came across one doe with a yearling, and the yearling had a bad cough.  I always worry about these little guys. I could see this one’s rib cage starting to show; he might not make it.

I got glimpses of some otters in the river. They were rolling over one another as they went upstream, barking and chirping at one another.  Uhhh… I think they were mating.  “Mating may take place on land but is more likely to occur in the water.” I was worried they were going to drown one another! Hah!

And speaking of drowning: on the Pond Trail, I came across a male Mallard trying to kick the snot out of another male who go to close to “his” female. Mallards aren’t particularly monogamous, but occasionally I’ll see a male who’s very protective of his mate and won’t let anyone else near her. The fight today took place almost a few years to the date of the last time I saw this behavior at the same pond. I wonder if it was the same pair pf ducks.  Rival-guy hightailed it out of the pond after macho-guy tried to drown him and bit him repeatedly on the back and butt. Wow!

The coolest thing I saw on my walk, though, was something I didn’t recognize at first. I saw it from a distance on the Meadow Trail and thought it might have been a nest (like a magpie’s nest), but it was on a weird part of the branches and too odd a shape for it to be a bird’s nest. I zoomed my camera in on it, and realized the whole thing was “moving”, sort of undulating all over its surface. Zooming in further, I realized I was looking at a swarm of bees! It didn’t look like they were building anything’ more like the swarm was gathered around their queen to protect her and keep her warm until she was ready to move on again.

I walked for about 3 ½ hours.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata
3. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
4. Brown Jelly Fungus, Jelly Leaf, Tremella foliacea
5. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
6. Bullfrog, American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus
7. Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons
8. Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
10. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
11. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, battus philenor hirsuta
12. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
13. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
14. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
15. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
16. Chanterelle, Cantharellus californicus
17. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Mule deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
18. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
19. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii
20. Dog Vomit Slime Mold, Fuligo septica
21. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
22. European Honey Bee, Apis mellifera
23. False Turkey Tail Fungus, Stereum hirsutum
24. Giraffe’s Head Henbit, Henbit Deathnettle, Lamium amplexicaule
25. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
26. Hermit Thrush, Catharus guttatus
27. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
28. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
29. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
30. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
31. North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
32. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
33. Nutthall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
34. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui
35. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
36. Rio Grande Turkey, Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
37. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
38. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
39. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
40. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

Lots of Deer and a Squirrel Stuffing Her Face, 11-17-18

After giving the dog his breakfast, I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk. The air quality has been so bad that the zoo and other recreation places in Sacramento have all shut down for the day. The nature center at Effie Yeaw was also closed, but the trails were still open.

It was about 38° at the river, so I could see my breath in the cold air; and it got up to about 60° by the afternoon. I don’t know how much the smoke is affecting the local temperatures, but I’m sure it’s contributing to the lows.

The first thing I saw when I went into the preserve was the big 4-pointer buck (now working on 5 points) with his harem of does.  In my head, I refer to him as “Big Boy” because of the size of his rack.  He was hanging out in the meadow right next to the picnic area, so I was able to get quite a few photos of him.  As I watched him, a spike buck (1-point) approached, following after a doe who had a fawn with her.  The fawn was pretty good-sized and out of its spot, but still considerably smaller than its mom.  The doe headed deeper into the meadow and the spike buck followed her but was cut off by Big Boy who then tried to get the doe into his own harem. The fawn got spooked and ran toward the harem while its mom was being pursued. She wasn’t receptive to either one of the boys and pretty much ignored them. I didn’t hang around there long enough to see when she reunited with her fawn.

At different points along the trail I saw other deer: some lone does, some small herds, and some of the other larger bucks, including a 3-pointer who, oddly enough, seemed to have the center of his back shaved. There was a large spot that was completely hairless, and the margins of the spot were too clean and symmetrical to have been natural (like mange or something). I couldn’t see any suture marks or anything that might have suggested the buck had gotten medical attention, so I wonder what had caused the bald patch. (I guess I’ll have to call him “Baldy” for now.)  The obvious “flaw” in his coat didn’t seem to detract from his attractiveness to the does. He had his own small harem of three or four of them.

When I was walking away from the 3-pointer and his group, a male photographer came up the trail. “He walked right by you, didn’t he?” he said, referring to Baldy.

“Yeah. He’s got some females with him right now.” I said.

The male photographer then joked that the deer weren’t cooperating with him much, but the squirrels were posing for him everywhere he looked. He even struck a couple of squirrelly poses to demonstrate. Hah!  I’d gotten a lot of squirrel photos, too. They were all over the place: California Ground Squirrels, Western Gray Squirrels, Eastern Fox Squirrels… I got photos of some of them chewing on black walnuts, and one female literally stuffing her face with grass and leaves for her winter nest.  So funny.

I also came across solitary deer throughout the forest; some camouflaged so well in the gold-brown grass that I was only able to see them because their silhouettes gave them away. I saw the doe with the peculiarly long, thin face (“Long Face”); she’s very distinctive. At one spot on the trail, I could HEAR the deer before I saw them.  There was a small group of does and fawn that were very loudly crunching on acorns (which are plentiful this time of year). They needed to eat with their mouths shut. Hah! I guess they felt safe enough, though, to make that much noise.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

One of the obvious things all along the trails today was the coyote scat. It seemed to be on every trail; some of it very fresh. I must have just missed seeing some of the coyotes.  I think, though, that a coyote is what caused a flock of Wild Turkeys to take off en masse from the top of a hill and fly down, right over my head, into the woods. Those things are BIG; I was surprised when none of them hit me or crashed into anything.

A neat sighting was a male Western Bluebird sitting on top of a bat box along the Natoma Trail. There are a few bat boxes on posts throughout the preserve, but I don’t think they attract very many bats. The boxes look too “exposed” to me; they get the full sun in the summer months. Bats need darkness and protection to sleep in during the day; I doubt that those sunny “saunas” are attractive to any of them.  I’ve seen lots of different birds use the boxes as perches, though, like the Western Bluebird, so I guess they’re not a complete waste.

On my way out of the preserve, I came across a couple of volunteers who were taking the nature center’s “animal ambassador” bird out for some air.  One was Wak-Wak, a female Peregrine Falcon, and the other was Orion, the Swainson’s Hawk I’d seen the last time I was there. Wak-Wak had been accidentally shot by hunters (who then rescued the bird and brought it in for care), so one of her wings is permanently mangled and she can’t fly.

I walked for about 3½ hours and then headed back home.

 

The Bucks are in Rut at the Effie Yeaw Preserve, 11-10-18

I slept in a tiny bit this morning and got up around 7:00. After giving the dog his breakfast, I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.  It was a chilly 34° at the river!  Got up to about 70° by the afternoon.  The air quality was bad enough today to spark a “Very Unhealthy” purple warning.

At the preserve, the first thing I saw was a small harem of female deer and a couple of fawns, along with a young spike buck.  I got quite a few photos of him doing his “Flehmen Sniff” thing. He closes his nostrils and pulls air in and over the “vomeronasal organ” in the roof of his mouth to pick up on the pheromones of the females around him to learn if they’re in estrus or not. He lifts his top lip because the intake part of the organ is just behind his upper front teeth.

I also saw other deer dotting the preserve here and there including the big 4-pointer (who I think is now a 5-pointer, but I can’t tell for sure from the photos I got of him). He was tucked away on the other side of a field in the shade, so at first, I didn’t see him. When I stepped into the field, though, to get some shots of a Red-Shouldered Hawk (I saw two of them today) he moved, and only then did I realize he was there. It looked like one of the prongs on his rack had been snapped off, but he was still very impressive looking.

I found another older buck in a different part of the preserve, but his rack was really wonky.  On one side, he only had on long prong, and on the other side, he had a 3-point antler with a gnarly-looking eye guard. The doe he was pursuing, though, didn’t seem to mind too much that he was “uneven”…  Several different things can make the antlers messed up like that: the pedicle on the head from which the antlers grow may have been damaged somehow; or the antlers themselves might have been damaged while they were still in their velvet stage and growing; or the buck may have nerve damage in the hind leg opposite from the malformed antler.

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos.

You may also notice in the photos that the mature bucks’ necks swell during the rut. Although I couldn’t find any scientific studies about this phenomenon, the consensus seems to be that the swelling is caused by a dramatic increase in testosterone during the rut which affects the blood vessels and muscles in the neck (along with other parts of the body; hah!). The thick neck is apparently attractive to the females, and also helps to cushion the head and body when the bucks joust, absorbing some of the shock when the bucks butt heads. Interesting!

As I mentioned, I saw two Red-Shouldered Hawks in different parts of the preserve today, and I also saw a Red-Tailed Hawk, but that one flew off before I could get any good shots of it.  Inside the nature center at the preserve, I also got to see Orion, the preserve’s Swainson’s Hawk. He’s still a youngster, so doesn’t have his adult coloring yet, but he’s a handsome bird.

Along the usual suspects like Wild Turkeys, California Scrub Jays, Northern Flickers, Spotted Towhees and Acorn Woodpeckers, I got to see a tiny Hermit Thrush in the scrubby brush on the side of the trail. I hardly ever get to see those little guys, so it’s always kind of a treat when I can get pictures of one of them.

There were lots of California Ground Squirrels and Eastern Fox Squirrels around.  The squirrels can have a second breeding season in the fall, and I saw one of them carrying a big mouthful of grass to its nest.  The cool thing was being able to spot the melanistic squirrel (all black) again.  I hadn’t seen that guy for a year.  The last time I saw him was actually on November 22nd last year.  Maybe he only comes out once a year. Hah! (You can see last year’s photos HERE.)

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed back o the car. On my way out of the preserve, I stopped in at the nature center (which is when I saw Orion) and picked up several copies of “The Acorn” magazine published by the American River Natural History Association. My lichen photo is featured on the cover.  Super cool!

 

Fungi, Frost and a Few Birds

I’m on a holiday break until January 2, 2017.  Today, I was up  at around 7:00 am.  It was 32° outside, and there was a heavy frost on the rental car; ice was even keeping the door shut.  I had a splitting headache but was getting a bit stir crazy, so I went over to the American River Bend Park to see what the river was looking like (in its high-water state) and to look for birds and fungi…  I got to see a little bit of everything, and walked for almost 4 hours.

CLICK HERE to see the photos.

When I got there, there was icy fog and frost still lingering around, and it was pretty frigid.  But as I walked, things warmed up and it was about 56° when I left the park.  Saw the usual mushrooms and jelly fungi, and a couple of nice-looking barometer earthstar (that “puffed” for me when I pinched it).

The water level in the river was still quite high; the “islands” I usually see on my walks there were completely submerged, and water had obliterated whatever shoreline there was.  The trail I walk is about 10 feet above the river, and usually I can see gravel, boulders and trees between the trail and the waterline.  Today, the water was right up against the wall of the shallow cliff the trail sits on top of…  The water was moving really quickly, too, which meant there weren’t many ducks or other birds trying to maneuver in it.  I did get to see some Common Goldeneye ducks diving in the shallows, but no birds out in the main part of the river.  I DID see a huge branch go floating by, though.

Among the other birds I saw were Acorn Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, some Bewick’s Wrens, Scrub Jays, a male Belted Kingfisher, Black Phoebes, a few Yellow-Rumped Warblers, a tiny Hermit Thrush, and a very cooperative female Nutthall’s Woodpecker who let me take photos of her for about 5 minutes.

I still had the headache throughout the walk and by the end of it was actually feeling a little nauseated, so I quit and headed back home, getting there a little after 11:30 am.