Tag Archives: Lesser Goldfinches

Vacation Day #10: Birds, Bucks and a Bambi

DAY TEN OF MY FALL VACATION… I slept in until about 6:00 am and immediately headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve again.  It was 43º at the river when I got there; there was also low fog on the ground for a while. By the time I left it was in the low 60’s…

At the refuge, I was surprised to see two pairs of Red Shouldered Hawks building up their nests; it seemed like kind of a weird part of the year for them to be doing that.  One was the pair that regularly keeps a nest right beside the nature center; and the other nest was located along the Pond Trail at the #48 water spigot, right across from where the bee hive was. (The queen and her troop have moved on and are no longer nesting in the tree.) I got to see both pairs of birds going back and forth, collecting grass and twigs for the nests and building them up. Red-Shouldered Hawks usually start breeding when they’re 2 years old, and pairs stay together for life.  Both males and females are involved in nest construction, and the process can take up to 5 weeks. Everything I’ve read say the hawks only have one clutch per year – and they usually have them in the spring at the preserve… That’s why I think it’s so odd to see them building their nests now, in October.

I was hoping to be able to see some of the Mule Deer bucks at the preserve. This time of year, they’re in rut and have their full racks of antlers.  Well I kind of hit the jackpot at one spot along the trail. I found one two-pointer buck standing in the tall grass and browsing, and as I watched him, I realized that there were two larger bucks sitting down in the grass near him.  I could see their antlers, but it was difficult to see their heads or any other part of their bodies; there was one two-pointer and one three-pointer.  As I was watching them, the guy who does the regular deer-count at the preserve came by.  I pointed out the bucks to him and he was very appreciative; he would’ve walked right past them if I hadn’t told him where they were.

Later on, I also came across a young doe and her new fawn. The little guy was still in his spots. He was pretty good at keeping himself at a distance from me and ducking for cover, but his mom didn’t seem very attentive. I worry that the little guy will get taken by coyotes because his mom isn’t keeping a good eye on him. There was an older fawn that was hanging around the mom and her baby, too, but I don’t know if he belonged to the same family or not. The mom wouldn’t let him get close enough to her to nurse, but otherwise didn’t seem interested in him…

Along with the regular contingency of Acorn Woodpeckers at the preserve, I also got to see Hairy Woodpeckers and a Nutthall’s Woodpecker today. The male Phainopepla was also hanging around, so I got to see him for a little bit, too. Oher birds seen today included Mourning Doves, European Starlings, California Scrub Jays, California Towhees, a Mockingbird, some American Robins, Northern Flickers, and a small contingency of Lesser Goldfinches drinking from a water fountain…

Here are some pix and videos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhnaturalist/albums/72157689533852116

 I walked around for about 3 hours and then headed back home

Mostly Pix of a Great Blue Heron on the River

Great Blue Heron. Copyright © 2015 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Great Blue Heron. Copyright © 2015 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

I went out to the American River Bend Park around 9:00 am, and it was still cold (about 35°).  The sun was out for a little bit, but then a thick overcast rolled in and covered it up.  I had gone on my walk with no real agenda in mind; just wanted the exercise and to see whatever Nature wanted to show me today.  Two people with dogs passed me on the trail and both of them remarked that there was a pair of coyotes behind them on the trail, stalking them, and that nothing seemed to intimidate them.  One guy described the pair as “brazen”.  Being the idiot that I am, I immediately turned around and went back along the trail to find the coyotes.  I never did find them, but I did get to see a lot of birds along the river’s edge, and also came across a large Mule Deer buck napping in among the trees.

Among the birds I saw were Bufflehead and Goldeneye Ducks, Great Blue Herons, seagulls, Snowy Egrets, Mallards, Lesser Goldfinches, a Spotted Sandpiper, a Belted Kingfisher, Oak Titmice, and lots of Turkey Vultures.  Some of the Vultures were sitting up in the trees, and  actually had frost clinging to some of their feathers.  Other vultures I saw were standing on the rocks in the river eating fish leftovers. One of the Great Blue Herons was also eating fish leftovers – including big segments of bones — from the rocks and stood and posed for me for almost 20 minutes.  Got LOTS of photos of that guy.

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In the non-animal realm, I also got some photos of rust fungus (Puccinia baccharis?) erupting out of the stems of a coyote brush.  I’d seen stem galls created by midges, wasps, and mites, but had never seen ones created by fungus before.  They were kind of cool: swellings in the stem filled with rust-colored spores that were erupting out through gaps in the wood…  Nature is so… variable.

I walked for about 2 ½  hours and by the time I headed back home it was in the 40’s.

Galls, Birds and Bugs

I slept in a tiny bit this morning and got up around 6:00 am.  I was out the door in about 15 minutes and headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve in search of wasp galls.

When I first drove into the reserve, a saw a flock of a dozen or so large birds in the field next to the entrance kiosk, so I pulled into the parking lot near there and drove slowly through it.  The large birds were Yellow Billed Magpies.  They’re fairly common around here, but I hadn’t gotten any photos of them before – they’re usually in the fields along Highway 16, that I only catch glimpses of as I drive by — so I thought it was neat that they were actually in a place where I could sit and view them.  These Magpies are endemic to California and found only in the Central Valley (in a region that’s about 500 miles north-to-south and only about 150 miles wide).  Another fun fact: they usually only build their nests on top of clumps of mistletoe.  One of the birds I was watching, was half bald, but I don’t know if it had mange or if it had been plucked.  While I was taking photos of the Magpies, I also got shots of some bright red House Finches and a bird with blue wings… I thought at first it was a female Western Bluebird, but the chest was striped and didn’t have the peach-colored wash on it, so I’m supposing it was a juvenile.  In the early morning light, the blue wings seemed to “light up”.

I did come across lots of wasp galls, including the galls of the Red-Cone, Yellow Wig, Spiny Turban, Crystalline, Pumpkin and Saucer Gall wasps, so I was satisfied in that department.  I also came across a baby Praying Mantis and some of those Bordered Plant Bugs we had a lot in Shasta – the ones where the nymphs are iridescent blue with a red dot on the back.  I accidentally flushed two hawks: a Red-Tail and a Cooper’s.  I didn’t see them until they flew out at me from the cover of the scrubby trees they were in.  I also started a young coyote who was taking a drink at the riverbank.  He took off like a shot, so I only got video of him dashing away…

I also came across an old walnut tree that was oozing sap.  It must’ve been hot enough to force it to bleed out.  Some of the sap was is long “worms” and some of it was in crystal-looking bubbles.  (Did you know that you milk walnut trees of their sap and make syrup out of it?  I just learned that today…)

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Got to see other birds, too: Titmice, Acorn Woodpeckers, hummingbirds, some female Mallards, Spotted Towhees, and Lesser Goldfinches… There were also a lot of Wild Turkeys around, including a small flock of females, and a solitary male who jumped up onto a railing and posed for me.  I walked for about three hours and then headed back to the car.  As I was exiting the preserve, I came across some mule deer, including a young buck still in his velvet and got a few shots of him before I left.

At the WPA Rock Garden, 03-18-15

After work, I took the dog over to the WPA Rock Garden and we walked around for about an hour. More stuff is starting to bloom, and there were a bunch of Goldfinches there fighting over seeds that had collected in the top of one of the sprinkler units. It was about 76º outside, which is on the edge of “too hot” for the dog.  His tongue was hanging out after only about 45 minutes, so we headed back to the car – and he sat in the front seat with the air conditioner blowing on him until we got home.

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