Tag Archives: honey bee

A Gorgeous Coyote, 07-27-18

I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk. It was about 61º when I left the house and got up to 103º by the late afternoon. The air throughout Sacramento County is dense and hazy with the smoke from the 45,000-acre Carr Fire (more on that later) even though the fire is about 180 miles away.

At the preserve, I was at first kind of disappointed that I wasn’t seeing very much, but then Nature “opened the doors”, and I got good shots of a Red-Shouldered Hawk, a mama deer and her twin babies, dragonflies, and a mama coyote and glimpses of two of her pups.

I saw the young coyotes first. They were “hunting” along the trail in the tall grass. They’re so cute when they do that: standing still with their ears pricked forward and then play-pouncing on whatever they found in the grass. I was only able to get some very short video snippets of them; when they saw me, they took off. Then a little further down the trail, the mama coyote came out and crossed the trail right in front of me. I was able to get quite a few still shots of her as she paused periodically on her way across a meadow to look at me. She was soooo beautiful.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

When I saw the mother deer and her babies, I again saw the babies first. They came bounding out from behind a tall brush pile of downed trees and twigs, feeling their oats and playing, and mom followed after them. The fawns came running out toward me, but then when they realized I was another animal, they went bouncing back to mom. Made me smile.

I didn’t see the fawn that had the cough today, although I did see his mom browsing in her favorite spot. I worry that he didn’t make it… but the preserve is about 100 acres wide, so maybe I just missed him today…

I walked for about three hours and headed back home.

Yellow-Billed Magpies and Other Critters, 06-24-18

I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. It was 68º when I left the house, and 75º when I got back home a little after 9:00 am.

The first thing I saw when I got to the preserve was a huge flock of Yellow-Billed Magpies foraging for bugs and seeds on the lawns near the payment kiosk. I parked in the little parking lot there and took a lot of photos. The magpies hardly ever sit still, so it’s always neat when I can get some decent shots of them. Most of them seemed to have yellow patches around their eyes. That’s not uncommon, especially if they’re molting.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

There were more deer out this time than there were the past several times I’d gone to the preserve. Mamas are now showing up with their babies. I saw one doe with a fawn that was maybe four to six months old; out of its spots but still snack-sized.

And in another spot, I saw a mom with a newborn, but she was hiding him really well and I couldn’t get any good photos of him. She was down in a shallow gully between two hills and in the shade. Smart mama.

There were lots of California Ground Squirrels out and about. I saw one, though, who looked like it had a broken left rear leg… and whatever injury there was, was being harassed by flies. I couldn’t tell for sure, but it looked like part of the bone was poking through the skin, and the leg and foot were badly swollen. There were other wounds on its body; spots where the fur had been rubbed off or torn out. I wonder if it had been grabbed by hawk or Coyote and then freed itself – at the cost of its leg. I could tell it was in pain by the way it moved, but it was very stoic – no squeaking or crying. Poor squirrel; I wish I could have caught it and taken it to a vet or something.

I could hear the Red-Shouldered Hawks in the preserve screaming at each other, but only caught glimpses of them in flight. No photos of those guys today.

I came across a very small Velvet Ant, all fuzzy and golden. There are hundreds of species of Velvet Ants, so identifying them can be hard. Although they’re called “ants”, they’re actually a kind of wingless wasp – and they carry a very painful sting. According to one article: “In some areas, velvet ants are known colloquially as ‘cow killers’ because their venom packs a painful punch. In addition, their ‘sting’ – the scientific term for what many of us refer to as a ‘stinger’ – is agile and half as long as the wasp itself. This enables the insect to inject venom into a predator from varied angles and free itself.” So, look but don’t touch.

There were also signs along the trails warning hikers about the high-danger of rattlesnakes this time of year, and also a spot where some Yellow-Jacket Wasps had built a nest in the ground. Nature can be tough in the summer!

As I was leaving the preserve, I saw an Acorn Woodpecker drinking out of the water fountain by the nature center. Hah! Smart bird!

As an aside: I read a blog by Ron Dudley every day. He’s a fantastic nature photographer. His most recent post included information about a long-term Citizen Science project headed by Doug Tallamy, PhD, of the University of Delaware that’s been going on since about 2013. He’s trying to determine what birds eat, most specifically what invertebrates they eat, so he’s asking for people to send him photos of birds with insects and other such critters in their beaks. I’d recently taken quite a few of those — including one today of a Spotted Towhee — so I sent them off to him and also gave him a link to my Flickr account, saying he could use any of the photos there in his study if he wanted to. Citizen collect the data (in this case, the photos and forward it on to the scientist for study… that’s what Citizen Science is all about. (http://www.whatdobirdseat.com/)

Mostly Butterflies at the Refuge, 06-07-18

I headed out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge to check out the insects there before it got too hot this month. I want to take the Summer naturalist class out there next year. I was hoping to see a lot of dragonflies, but without the large pond, there were only a handful out flitting around. Next year, the pond should be refilled so with a bit of luck the insect populations should be better then.

This year, I’m hoping the other wetland areas will churn out more dragonflies and damselflies later in the season. I did get to see quite a few butterfly species, though.

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos.

A Few Surprises at William Land Park, 03-25-18

At the William Land Park, I walked the dog through the WPA Rock Garden and around the middle pond. At the pond, I saw a woman walking with a stroller, and I was astonished to discover that she wasn’t walking with a baby in the stroller. She was walking with a large, brown Flop-Eared Rabbit!  It was soooo adorable!

Other surprises around the pond were Cackling Geese in among the Canada Geese, and a Crested Duck. Cackling Geese are nearly identical to Canada Geese but they’re much smaller in size. The joke is that they look like Canada Geese who were “left in the dryer too long” and shrunk. Hah! I’d never seen them at the park before.  The Crested Duck, which looks like a duck with a powder-puff glued to the top of its head, was a first for me, too. I’d seen photos of them, but never saw a live one before.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

The poofy top-knot is specially bred into this species. As cute as it may appear, it’s actually a genetic defect (and covers a soft spot on the skull). Most Crested ducklings die before they hatch because their brains form outside of their skulls. In this instance, “beauty” can literally be lethal.

I saw several Mallard ducks in the midst of mating stuff. Two of the males that I saw were being mounted by other males (one by a Mallard/Swedish Blue hybrid and one by a larger Peking Duck) – to each their own. I worry about the duck at the bottom of the process because they’re often shoved under the surface of the water while the other duck treads on them.  It was horrific to see, then, a female Mallard shoved under the surface by a frantic male, and held down there until she drown. Even after she was dead, the male kept trying to mount her and pull at her.  It wasn’t until she rolled over onto her back and floated there unmoving that he backed off.  When he tried to get near her again, another male Mallard chased him off.  It was too little, too late, of course.  So sad.

I spent about 2 hours at the park, and then headed home.

Mostly Lots of Deer and Bucks with Wonky Antlers, 11-18-17

I wanted to sleep in a little bit today, but my dog Sergeant Margie wanted to get up to pee at 5:30 am. So, I let him out and went back to bed. Then he sat on the bed staring at me: he also wanted his breakfast. Hah! It’s a good thing he’s so cute…

I got up again and fed him.  And then since I was up anyway, I got dressed and headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.  It was 39º at the house when I left, and 37º at the preserve when I arrived.  As the sun came up, it stirred up some ground fog and mist; I stopped several time just to watch the steam rising from the bark of trees and stumps.

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos and video snippets.

I saw a lot of deer today, including a spike buck (one-pronged antler), a buck with a broken antler (The rut was apparently pretty rough on some of the boys this year.), 2 bucks with oddly matched antlers, and a handsome 3-pointer who was nosing around a receptive doe.  I followed that pair for a while – making sure I never got between the buck and the doe – but they wandered off into the thicket and I eventually lost sight of them.

There was one spot where I came across some does sitting out in the grass in the morning sun. I was  able to get within just a few feet of them. And I noticed that one of them had stashed a fawn in the higher glass to my right. As I was taking photos of them, a third doe appeared, followed closed by one of the bucks with and odd set of antlers.  One antler was full-size but was “swooping” and spoon-shaped at the end, and the other was completely stunted. At first I thought maybe it was broken, but the terminal end of it was too smooth… This buck also walked with a distinctive limp.

Antler abnormalities are somewhat common, but because they’re all so different, it’s hard for scientists to determine the exact cause of them. Some antlers can come out misshapen if the pedicle (the point where the antler fits onto the head) is damaged or just grows in a weird shape. Others can look odd if damage is done to the antlers when they’re in the velvet stage (as they’re forming), and for some reason, misshapen antlers is also often associated with damage to the buck’s hind leg. In the same area as the limping buck, I saw another one with a mismatches pair of antlers: one had four points and the other only had two… [[As an interesting aside, I also read that hunters had come across what they thought were female deer with antlers… but genetic testing on the deer showed that although the deer had external female parts, they were actually genetically males.  Transgender deer.  Who knew?!]]

After a short while, all of the deer in that area startled. I knew they weren’t responding to me because they could all see me and had allowed me to get close, so I looked around to see what might have set them off.  And then I saw a thick-coated coyote chasing after a jackrabbit. His rushing path took him right past the deer.  The females all jumped up onto their feet and ran to where the fawn was sitting in the grass and surrounded him until the coyote was out of sight.  I wish I had been able to get that on video…

It’s interesting to me how different deer react differently to my presence. Some ignore me or let me come within touching-distance of them; others run away stotting as they go; and other try to “hide” between trees or clumps of grass while all the while keeping an eye on me.  Makes for some thought-provoking photo ops.

At another spot along the trail, I came to the tree that had held the wild bee hive for a few weeks (before the queen took off to find another spot). The opening in the tree is still surrounded by the bees’ “propolis” (hardened wax and plant resin the bees chew and then build up around the exterior of the hive to stave off bacteria) and I could see insects flying into and out of the hole… not as many as when the bees were there, but still a presence.  I walked up to the tree to check it out and found a lot of black ants crawling around the opening.  They were joined by several Yellow Jackets.  Having been stung already this year by the wasps, I kept back away from the tree, but took some photos and a little bit of video.  The wasps were obviously checking the spot out (if they hadn’t already moved in.) Nice of the honey bees to make the place inviting to them.

I also saw quite a few Wild Turkeys today, along with Acorn Woodpeckers, California Scrub Jays, a male quail, Dark-Eyed Juncos and a few other birds. The surprise for me today, was seeing some male Goldeneyes in the river, diving and fishing around one another.  They were too far away for me to get any really good photos of them, but it was nice to see them… It means all of the migrating waterfowl are moving into the region.

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed back to the house.

Testing Out My New Camera, 07-08-17

Around 5:30 this morning, I headed out to the William Land Park to try to get a walk in before it got too warm outside… but it was almost too late to avoid the heat. When I got into the car the outside temperature was already at 77º! There was also a little bit of an overcast, so it was humid, too. (It’s supposed to get up to 106º today. Climate Change sucks the big one.)

I’d gotten a new camera (a Nikon one that’s about half the price of my beloved-and-now-deceased Fujifilm camera) and I was anxious to check it out. All of the buttons are in different places than they were on my Fujifilm but the functionality is about the same. The focal depth for macro (super close up) shots is a little better on the Nikon than it was on my other camera, so I’m actually able to get in closer than I could before, but I need to work on just HOW close “closer” can be. [Some of the close-ups turned out awesome; some were fuzzy because I was “too close”.]

I also have to learn all over again, how to get the camera to focus on what I WANT it to focus on (and not on what the camera wants to focus on itself.)

The WPA Rock Garden at the park is a good place to work on stuff like that, because it offers a wide range of close up and distant photo opportunities.

You can see the album of photos here:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhnaturalist/albums/72157683856518290 

I got some awesome “bug” photos of a Yellow-Faced Bumblebee, Praying Mantis, a Longhorn Bee sleeping on the face of a sunflower, and a Wolf Spider whose eggs were hatching (and the hatched-out little spiderlings were clinging to mama’s butt.) I also came across a large Bold Jumping Spider, and wanted to see if I could get a photo of its iridescent blue-green fangs – and I did, but the focus wasn’t right, so I ended up with the petals of the flower in focus, and the spider in a soft blur on top of them. Gotta work on that.

The telephoto capability of the Nikon is slightly better than my old Fujifilm camera, too. (It’s a 60x, and the Fujifilm was a 50x.) The Nikon is a little “sluggish”, though, in moving the lens to the correct position, so if the subject isn’t sitting still, the camera has trouble tracking it and adjusting the focus. Practice will help me figure that out, though, I think. I tried “chasing” several hummingbirds around… That was humorous. Blurry fuzzballs everywhere.

There was a young Anna’s Hummingbird that was testing out its wings and trying to drink water from the leaves in the garden (which must’ve been watered overnight; the paths were totally muddy). When it sat down on a branch, I was able to get some pretty good shots of it (at about 20 feet away), along with a video snippet of it preening itself. I didn’t know how to set the speed for the video capture, though, so it came out in slow-motion. I’ll have to read up more on that…

I checked out the garden’s milkweed plants – they have Narrowleaf and Showy Milkweed growing in there – but didn’t see any signs of Monarch eggs or caterpillars. Maybe in another week or so…

I also came across some Wood Ducks with babies, a gaggle of Canada Geese that included some fledglings who were half-in and half-out of their baby fuzz, and a Green Heron that was fishing along the edge of the small pond. The heron wasn’t using lures, but it was using a great “stealth” technique (getting down almost on its belly along the edge of the pond to sneak up on tiny fish). It was pretty successful; caught at least three fish and a tadpole while I was watching it… And, of course, there were the ubiquitous Black Phoebes everywhere, and an American Robin with a beak full of bugs for her babies…

I’m so glad to have a camera again!

I walked for about 2 hours and then headed home.