Tag Archives: horehound

Deer and Tongue Galls, 09-08-18

Up at 6:00 am with the alarm and headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve.

Within the first few minutes at the preserve, I came across a doe and her late-season new fawn. I got the impression that the doe was a young one, and maybe this was her first baby. It stuck by her but was clearly interested in me and kept watching me as I walked by and took some photos.

CLICK HERE for the album.

A little further down the trail, I saw a hawk land on the ground, but by the time I was able to approach a spot where I could see it better, it had flown up onto the dead part of a tree. I was able to get a couple of shots of it before it took off again. It led me to a spot where a Turkey Vulture was preening, so I was able to get some photos of that, too.

At the little pond, I found quite a few really good examples of the Alder Tongue Galls on the female pseudocones of a white alder tree. I also got to see about five young Bullfrogs in the water, and they were nice to see. Let’s see if the preserve allows them to mature to adults.

I walked for 3 ½ hours and then went back to the car.

Deer, Goslings and Acorn Woodpeckers, 05-16-17

DAY 11 OF MY VACATION. I got up around 5:30 this morning and headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve… It was cool and overcast all day today, and never got over 65º outside.  All of this beautiful weather we’ve been having is on its way out, though. When I got back to work next week, it’s supposed to be over 100º every day… Pleh!

I was hoping to see the baby hawks again today at the preserve, but it was dark and chilly outside, and they weren’t awake yet.  I got a tiny bit of video of one of them rustling around the nest, but no good shots.  I could hear their mom and dad screeching at one another across the preserve, but didn’t see either of them go to the nest… I did get to see quite a few deer, and lots of geese and their goslings, though.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos and videos.

The first deer I saw was a female – who looked very pregnant – standing in the overgrown native flowers bed near the nature center building. She was eating all the tender leaves on the plants, and some of the flower heads.  Surprisingly, she let me get quite close to her – maybe within 8 feet– and never startled.  She was so calm, I watched her graze for several minutes before moving on.  All of the other deer I saw were also casually grazing… and I saw one buck in his velvet hobbling though the long grass.  It looked like he was favoring his right front leg, but I couldn’t tell what was wrong because the grass came up almost to his shoulders.  I couldn’t see any swelling in the joints that I could see; and nothing looked broken.  Maybe he has an injury to his hoof…

I found some areas where the thistles were thick… and many of them had Painted Lady Butterfly caterpillars stretched out along them, covered with a thin web of silk (which they spin while they’re feeding)… It’s hard to get photos of them when they’re in their webs because the camera keeps trying to focus on the webbing instead of the caterpillars, and the prickles on the thistles stab me in the hands.  I got a few, though.

I also came across a small flock of female Wild Turkeys, and next to them was a group of males, all showing off, fanning their tails, dropping their wings, and snorting through their snoods.  The gals were not impressed and didn’t even look at the guys. I got some video of one of the gobblers and in it you can his snood contract and expand on his face.  On the video you can hear me “chew!”-ing at him, mimicking the noise the male turkeys made when they snort out blasts of air from under their snood.  It made the male turn and look at me, so I could get some good head-on footage of him…

Just seconds after I left the group of turkeys behind to get some shots of another doe in a nearby field, I heard the turkeys all scrambling and gobbling and shrieking frantically, I looked back to see a coyote chasing one of them down.  I ran – Yeah, me, running. Try not to laugh out loud. – after the coyote but lost it in the over-growth.  I couldn’t tell if it got a turkey or not, but as I turned back to the trail, I saw a second coyote running up from the riverside.  He must’ve heard the breakfast call.  It all happened so fast all I got through the camera was a few-second glimpse of the second coyote as it ran through the overgrowth. Got my heart going, I can tell you.

After that I headed to the river bank to see how far up the water was there.  It was up higher than it normally is, but wasn’t “flooding” like it had been earlier. There were quite a few pairs of Canada Geese close to the water, and each pair had a handful of goslings.  It seemed like each group had babies of different ages, from little golden fuzzies to gray-and-black ones that were just starting to fledge.

Now, a lot of times several groups of dominant parents will work collectively to oversee, feed and protect a large crèche of babies, but these pairs weren’t intermingling, and sometimes showed aggression toward one another.  So I was surprised by how close the parents let me get to their kids; some came to within about a foot of me – and the parents didn’t attack or hiss at me.  I was the only person on the shore, so maybe they didn’t think I was much of a threat… One of the parents, though, got mad at another parent’s fledgling that got too close to its fuzzies, and it bit the fledging in the butt and chased it into the water. For the rest of the time I was there, that one fledgling stayed in the water, whining for its parents to come get it… Poor baby. When his mom finally came back to him, he fussed and fussed at her, as though scolding her for leaving him behind.  Hah!

I also saw a lot of Acorn Woodpeckers who were out and about, squawking and “ratchet-ing!” at each other. One pair was in the process of excavating a new nesting cavity in the side of a dead tree near the nature center that had been denuded of limbs and topped off (so it wouldn’t fall on anyone). It amazed me how perfectly round the cavity’s doorway was; like they had used a drill or a awl or something rather than their face.  Amazing.

I walked for about 4 ½ hours, and then headed home. On the way there, I stopped to get the few groceries I had forgotten to put on the list for delivery this afternoon, and got back to the house around 11:30 am. My ankles were killing me, but I think the exercise is good for me…

I relaxed with the dogs for a few hours, and then Safeway delivered the rest of the groceries to the house.  I unpacked those, and then crashed for the rest of the day.

A Baby Hawk! And Other Stuff, 05-11-17

DAY 6 OF MY VACATION. I got up around 6:30 this morning and headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my walk.  It was another gorgeous day, weatherwise – I’m lucking out so far on this vacation with great weather – 55º when I headed out, and up to 70º by the late afternoon.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos and video snippets.

The first thing I saw when I went into the preserve was a Yellow-Billed Magpie bopping along a lawn area. They’re endemic to the Central Valley (found here and nowhere else on Earth), so it’s always fun to see one… Then I saw a mama mule deer with a yearling, a little boy just starting to get his antlers.  He was very skittish, and ran off behind some brush, but mom was calm and just stood her ground while I walked past her.  She looked pregnant  — it’s that time of year.

I came across several House Wren nests, and watched as one pair of parents double-teamed to get their babies fed. Dad would bring them bugs then fly off, mom would bring them bugs then fly off, dad would sing in a nearby tree and the babies would answer him with creaky little croaking calls, mom would bring them more bugs, dad would fly into the nest to grab the fecal sacs and dump them outside the nest…  I think I stood there for almost 20 minutes just watching the parents fly back and forth…

At another nest, the Wren parents were having a fit because a Fox Squirrel had figured out which tree cavity their nest was in, and was trying to rip into it to get to the eggs.  The entrance to the next was on the underside of a branch that was hanging low near the ground.  I tried to get video of it, but there were weeds in the way, so it’s hard to see anything.  The squirrel wasn’t successful in getting at the eggs – at least nit while I was watching it… You normally think of squirrels as nut- or seed-eaters, but their diet is very varied and often includes birds’ eggs, fruit, and insects…

The one thing I was hoping to see at the preserve was the Red-Shouldered Hawks who have a nest near the nature center there, but when I started out on my walk, I couldn’t see the birds (or the babies I was hoping they had).  Last year, they had two babies.  On my way out of the preserve, though, I looked up and could see the fluffy white head of a baby poking up from the edge of the nest.

I walked around until I could get a better view of the nest, and was awarded with a view of the baby – starting to fledge – as it stood up and walked across the nest.  Then mama flew in to check on him… and I could hear papa screeching from somewhere nearby.  As I continued to watch the nest, I realized there were TWO chicks in the nest not just one… So the parents had twins again!  That was a nice way to end the walk!

Well, that Baby Rattlesnake was a Surprise, 05-10-17

I got up early this morning, and headed out to the American River Bend Park around 6:30 am for a walk. It was gorgeous outside today; 53º when I headed out, and high of 69º all day with a slight breeze…

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos and videos.

At the River Bend Park, I was looking for Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, and they were in abundance. I think they’ll start going into their chrysalises in another week or so; they’re getting so big and fat.

The wild grasses throughout the park are waist high in most places, and there were lots and lots of Dog-Tail Grass and Rattlesnake (Big Quaking) Grass everywhere; more than I had ever seen there before. (And that, I’m assuming is because of all of the rain we had earlier in the year.) I was surprised to see Miniature Lupine, Tule Peas, Elegant Clarkia and Bush Monkey Flowers still in bloom in some places, along with all of the common vetch and the Woodland Stars…

I found a pair of House Wrens tending to their babies and bringing them all sorts of bugs.  Once I figured out where the nest was (in a tree cavity) I stood next to the tree for a little while – and I could actually hear the babies making their raspy “feed me” noises inside the tree.  Hah!

Some interesting/weird/neat things along the walk included being able to see green bunny poop for the first time.  Rabbits and hares usually poop twice. The first time they do it, the pellets are green… and then the rabbit or hare eats the pellets and puts them through their digestive system a second time to make sure they get all of the nutrients out of them. When the animal poops a second time, the pellets are brown. (I must’ve scared the rabbit off before it had a chance to re-eat it droppings) … I’d never seen the green version before, so I thought that was neat. I know, I know… it takes a “naturalist” to get excited about bunny poop.  Hah-2!

The second odd thing was a female Mallard sitting in a tree. Mallards usually nest on the ground and sometimes on floating mats near the water, but this one was checking out a spot in a tree near the riverside. Flood waters early in the year, had brought grassy debris into the branches about halfway up the tree, and when the waters retreated, the grassy mass was left behind.  The mama Mallard was checking it out… poking around in the mass, pushing on spots, settling down and then standing again, like she was testing to see if it would work for her.  Papa Mallard was in the water below the branches, fussing and splashing around, like he did want her in the tree.  Eventually, she left the site and went down to meet the male in the water.  They swam off together, and then I saw mama flying off across the river. They must’ve had a fight about it.  Hah-3!

The third thing was a real surprise. I was looking over a tree that had been felled by a beaver, when I saw a “thin black thing” flicking out from under the dislocated shaggy bark on the side of the tree.  At first I thought it was an earwig’s butt… but it was moving too fast. So I looked closer and realized it was forked tongue! Then I could see the snake’s face but not its body, so at first I didn’t know what kind of snake it was. Good thing I didn’t reach for it! I knew the rattlers were emerging and having babies this time of year, so I got a stick and lifted the bark over the tree… and there was a baby rattlesnake!  He was so young he only had one button on his tail… and he wasn’t rattling at me… Baby rattlers are usually born in groups, so I figured where there was one, there might be more, so I backed away from the tree and headed back to the car.  I actually walked for about 3 ½ hours up to that point, so I’d gotten a lot of good exercise in already.

Lots of Beaver Sign at the American River

I got up around 6:30 this morning and headed over to the American River Bend Park to see how things were there… The river was actually higher than it was the last time I was there.

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

When I went into the park, I saw something bright in a distant tree that I thought might be an owl or other large bird, so I stopped off in the turn-around the fishermen usually use to get a better view.  It was just a bent branch with dead leaves on it (a veritable “stick-bird” sighting), but since I’d parked and gotten out of the car anyway, I decided to walk down the trail there to the river to see how high the water was.  It was so high that 90% of the trail was under water!  Wow!  I took a little bit of video, and then went to check out what looked like beaver sign to me…

Sure enough, an old cottonwood tree on the now-riverside-bank of the river had been chewed up by beavers. You could see all the spat-out chunks around the tree, and the beavers’ teeth marks in the wood.  I was able to get right next to the tree, so I could get some good shots of the wood… and I also found beaver scat, which I had never seen “live” before.  It looks like little round balls of chunky sawdust.  When the river was at its drought-stage, the beavers never came up this close to the parking areas.  But now that the river is so high, they’re right up close.  I didn’t get to see any today  — I need to get out there a lot earlier – but it was cool to see the chewed up bits and the scat anyway.

The pipevines and Manroot vines are all starting to grow throughout the park, and I came across one lonely female Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, but she was pretty wet and cold (it was about 43° at the river), so I don’t know if she’ll make it.  I pulled her out of the wet grass and propped her up in the crook of a tree to dry off and warm up in the rising sun.  (Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies are toxic to birds, so there was no danger in putting her out where birds could spot her.)  I saw quite a bit of Henbit out there in the tall grass, along with stinging nettle, mugwort, horehound, and miner’s lettuce.  All of those plants will really assert themselves over the next month…

At one point on my walk, I accidentally flushed out a large covey of quails.  One of the females stopped for a moment, so I was able to get a few quick shots of her.  They’re such pretty, funny-looking birds; they always make me smile.  I also saw a female Common Merganser, some California Towhees, European Starlings, Acorn Woodpeckers, California Scrub Jays, Tree Swallows and Wild Turkeys.   I also came across quite a few mule deer (singles or in small family groups)… Not too much in the way of fungi today, but I did come across some brown jelly fungus, Haymaker and Deershield mushrooms, and some Elfin Saddles. Then I found a big swath of Ink Cap Mushrooms and got some photos and video of them.

I walked around for about 3 hours and then headed home. On my way out of the park, I came across some mules deer who were walking past some dozing Wild Turkeys, and while I was getting a little video of them, a tree squirrel stopped in the shot – and the deer started too poop… so there was a little bit of nature-overload in that moment.  Hah