Tag Archives: mating

At the Ibis Rookery Again, 06-26-19

It was kind of a whirlwind trip today: left the house at 9:15 am, got to Woodland around 10:15, went to the White-Faced Ibis rookery at 10:30, and left the rookery around 12:30 pm.  Phew!  The weather did cooperate. There’s no shade at the rookery and I was worried it would be too hot there, but it was in the 70’s with a stiff breeze blowing, so temperature-wise it was nice.  The wind kind of played havoc with my birding scope, though, and threatened to knock it over a few times, so I had to put it back into the car.

 I was joined at the rookery by my naturalist graduates Karlyn, Kristie and her husband Joe (and their son-in-law Zak) and three of my current students Alison, Linda and Gina. They had never been there before and were surprised by the number of birds they were seeing right there in the middle of town.

The water in the pond where the ibises were actually seemed HIGHER today than it was the last time I was there and some of the established nests were already underwater.  You’d think the people who control the pond would take that into consideration. I saw several eggs abandoned and floating in the water. So sad.

Along with the large gathering of ibises – talking to each other, gathering nesting material, sitting on their nests, flying back and forth – we also saw a few American Coots (one sitting on a nest and a few with babies), some Killdeer, a female Great-Tailed Grackle, some turtles (but we couldn’t tell if they were the native species or not), Black Saddlebags and Variegated Meadowhawk dragonflies and Familiar Bluet damselflies, including a pair “in wheel” (mating).

Watching the ibises pull nesting material from the bank I was surprised to see that they didn’t go for the dried grass. Instead, they drew up soggy grass from under the water at the edge of the pond and yanked it out by the beakful.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

Video of Ibis Pair on the Nest: https://youtu.be/463dIw919Qs.  At the end of the video you see the male handing the female a stick.
Video of Coot Mama Feeding her Babies: https://youtu.be/h6ayF3sNIJI
Video of a Coot Carrying a Stick to its Nesting Site: https://youtu.be/VM8Ucg-DCp0

At the rookery, we also talked a little bit about the floating nests made by the ibises, grebes and American Coots. According to The Earthlife Web: “Coots build nests which though surrounded by water have a foundation of vegetation, which reaches the ground below. Interestingly the Horned Coot, Fulica cornuta, which breeds on mountain lakes in the Andes where water weed is scarce, build a foundation of stones nearly to water level before building the actual nest. More adventurous are various grebes. Grebes build the nests in shallow water, and though they are often anchored at one or two points they are basically floating on the water. This is necessary because grebes which are primarily water birds are very clumsy on land and find life works better if they can swim right onto the nest.”

I really suspect that the Coot there had actually commandeered the ibises’ nests rather than building their own. Hah!

The students all seemed to enjoy themselves. One of them, Alison, actually did some quick watercolor paintings of the birds while we were there.  A couple of the students also complimented me on the classes and said I was “a natural teacher”.  It was such a nice outing.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana,
  2. Familiar Bluet, Enallagma civile,
  3. Heliotrope, Heliotropium curassavicum var. oculatum,
  4. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos,
  5. Tules, Schoenoplectus acutus,
  6. Variegated Meadowhawk, Sympetrum corruptum,
  7. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi,

Lots of Springtime Insects, 04-20-19

I got up around 6:30 this morning and headed out to the American River Bend Park. It was overcast and in the 50’s when I went out, but by the time I got back home, around noon, the clouds were breaking up, and it was sunny and breezy for the rest of the day. Just lovely.

I wanted to see if I could find butterfly eggs at the park, and I was able to find some, but only on my way out. So, it was a long wait for the pay off, but I found a pipevine with several groupings of eggs on it. Actually, my photos turned into a kind of unintentional “study of pipevines” with pictures of the leaves, twining vines, seed pods, etc. It’s such a cool-looking plant.  In Victorian Era gardens it was all the rage; now people don’t plant it much anymore – and I think that’s partly because everything but the vines themselves die off each year, so it just looks “ropey” for half of the year.  It’s a boon to the Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies, though, who literally can’t live without it.

CLICK HERE for today’s photos.

While I was there, I saw a European Starling come out of her nesting cavity, so I waited by the tree to see if I could get a photo of her when she came back. Smart bird, though, she flew in behind me, making me turn as she went by, and went back into her cavity with an angry grumble.

I also saw some Wild Turkeys, including a leucistic female, and while I was watching them a bonded pair of Mallards came flying in and landed right near my feet. There was also a bonded pair of Common Mergansers on the bank of the river. These ducks are sometimes referred to as “Sawbills” because their bills have a serrated edge, which helps them hold onto the fish they catch. (They’re fish-eating diving ducks, as opposed to filter-feeding dabbling ducks like the Mallards.)

Saw lots of Craneflies (Mosquito Hawks) all over the place and Elder Moth caterpillars in the elderberry leaves. There were also a lot of Tussock Moth caterpillars, little nests of earwigs, some micromoths, and a mayfly that had just shed and was hanging next to its exuvia. This time of the year is soooooooooooooo interesting! I was surprised to see the earwigs snuggled in the tops of mugwort plants. I thought mugwort was a kind of natural insect repellent. I guess no one told the earwigs.

There were a lot of still-green Oak Apple galls in the trees, but I was really happy to come across some second-generation galls from the Live Oak Gall Wasp.  The first-generation galls are really obvious and visible: round balls covered in spines.  The second-generation galls are tiny and sit on the back of the leaves; they look like upside down volcanoes. Finding them is difficult, so I’m always excited when I get to see them.  The first generation of this wasp is comprised of all females that reproduce asexually, and the second generation is comprised of males and females that reproduce sexually. Cool, huh?

And while I was watching a male House Wren, I saw him look down below him. There was female down there with a feather in her beak. I’m assuming they had a nesting cavity near there somewhere and she was literally feathering her nest. Awwww!

I overdid it again today – because there’s so frigging much to see – and didn’t get back home until around 11:30. Four-and-a-half hours of walking; my body was really mad at me for the rest of the day.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
2. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
3. Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
4. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
5. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea
6. California Buckeye, Aesculus californica
7. California Manroot, Marah fabaceus
8. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
9. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
10. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
11. Click Beetle, Conoderus exsul
12. Common Earwig, Forficula auricularia
13. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
14. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
15. Elder Moth caterpillar, Zotheca tranquilla
16. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
17. Flatheaded Mayfly, family Heptageniidae
18. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
19. Hoptree,Common Hoptree, Ptelea trifoliata
20. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
21. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
22. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus
23. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii
24. Ladybeetle, Convergent Ladybug, Hippodamia convergens
25. Ladybeetle, Multicolored Asian Ladybug, Harmonia axyridis
26. Large Cranefly, family Tipulidae
27. Little Robin Geranium, Herb Robert, Geranium purpureum
28. Live Oak Gall Wasp gall, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis, 2nd generation
29. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
30. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia parviflora
31. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
32. Oak Apple Gall Wasp gall, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
33. Pink Grass, Windmill Pink, Petrorhagia dubia
34. Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
35. Puffball Fugus, Bovista dermoxantha
36. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
37. Rusty Tussock Moth caterpillar, Orgyia antiqua
38. Santa Barbara Sedge, Carex barbarae
39. Scarab Hunter Wasp, Dielis tolteca
40. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
41. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
42. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
43. Twirler Moth, Mompha sp.
44. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
45. Vetch, American Vetch, Vicia americana
46. Vetch, Winter Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa
47. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
48. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare

Deer Jousting and Turkeys Mating Today, 03-12-19

I went out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve and got there around 8:00 am. I was joined there by fellow volunteer trail-walker, Mary M. (The-Other-Mary), and we walked for a little over 3 hours. It was a very interesting walk!

Very early into the walk, we came across a Red-Shouldered Hawk who then joined another one… flew into a nearby tree and did their mating thing right in front of us. Around that same area, I could see a European Starling flitting and hopping through the branches of another tree with a large feather in its beak. It was a gift intended for a female Starling, but the male fumbled with the feather, it fell out of his beak and floated to the ground. D’oh! I kind of felt sorry for the little guy. He was trying so hard to make a big impression and failed epically.

The Wild Turkeys gave us a lot of photos ops today, too. We saw two leucistic turkeys, one a male and the other a female. I’d seen a couple of the females around before, but I had never seen the male until today.  Leucistic animals have a depletion of melanin that washes out most of their coloring, but they’re not pure white like albinos.  On the female turkey, her leucism made her look black and white; but on the male it made him look blond, light brown and white. I thought they were both soooo interesting looking. I took a lot of photos of them.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

While The-Other-Mary and I were watching one small flock of turkeys, we saw another group running across the lawns straight toward them… and then we saw the coyote running right on their heals! He jumped at a few of them but couldn’t catch any of them. and while this is all going on The-Other-Mary and I are trying to get our cameras to focus on the coyote and follow the action. It was my turn for an epic fail; I didn’t get a single image of the coyote. Dang it!

In another area, we’d stopped to watch some of the male turkeys strutting for a handful of females… and then one of the females approached a male, did a circle dance with him, and eventually let him mount her. The-Other-Mary and I are snapping photos as some other people walked up to see what was going on.  So, I got the chance to do my naturalist thing… I identified the males and females for them, told them about how the males strut, about their snoods, and about what attracts a female to the male. When the female turkey bowed down to the ground, I told them about her posture, how the male will “tread” on her, and how, if she’s aroused, she’ll raise her tail for the male… And while I’m talking, the birds are performing as though on queue.  We actually got to see two matings while we were there. During the second one, an Asian lady came up (who didn’t speak much English) and asked if we could take her photo with the birds in the background.  The-Other-Mary obliged her, but it was right when the male mounted the female, so this poor lady now has a photo of herself with turkeys doing the nasty behind her… It will probably turn into internet gold. Hah!

Further along the trail, we came across a pair of Canada Geese in the tree tops.  I’m not certain, but I think with was the same mama and offspring I’d seen a couple of weeks ago. It looks like the younger one can’t fly very well; only in short bursts.  So, they travel from tree-to-tree, then go down to the river, then go back tree-to-tree into the preserve or onto the lawns.

The other cool thing we got to see was a herd of about 15 or 20 Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, including some bucks that still have their antlers. The big 5-pointer was out there, and he started jousting with another older buck. At one point, when they “locked horns” the younger one pushed hard enough to force the older down to the ground. The older one recovered quickly, but he really had to push back HARD to get himself onto all four feet again.

When we were done with the walk, we went into the nature center to record our hours (we get volunteer hour credit for each hour we’re on the trail), and I got to meet Tova, the gal who oversees The Acorn publication. She thanked me for the article I’d written and sent to her on Red-Shouldered Hawks and appreciated that I was able to include photos I’d taken right there at Effie Yeaw. It’s always nice to put a face to a name…

As The-Other-Mary and I left the building, I had to stop to watch one of their snakes (on display) devouring a mouse. The-Other-Mary didn’t want to see that; and I thought that was funny because she’s ex-military and an avid hunter. Hah! So, we left before the snake finished its meal.

The-Other-Mary was very excited about the walk and said it was “one for the books”. We’re hoping to be able to meet up again soon.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
3. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronate ssp. auduboni
4. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
5. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
6. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
7. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
8. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
9. Golden-Crowned Sparrow,Zonotrichia atricapilla
10. Gopher Snake, Pacific Gopher snake, Pituophis catenifer catenifer
11. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
12. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
13. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
14. Red Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
15. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
16. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
17. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
18. Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni
19. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

Lots of Red-Shouldered Hawks Today, 06-19-18

I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve again for a walk. The weather was lovely all morning, so the walk was a pleasant one. The only thing that kind of messed up my morning was that I was lost in thought while I was driving to the preserve and overshot it by about 10 miles. D’oh!

The Black Phoebes, California Scrub Jays and Red-Shouldered Hawks seemed to be out about everywhere. I think many of them were fledglings just learning how to fly and hunt for themselves – so they were kind of conspicuous.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos and video.

At one tree, a young hawk flew up into the bare branches right next to a European Starlings nesting cavity nest. The parent birds, seeing the hawk, flew into the tree next door – their beaks full of worms and bugs for their babies – and just stood there waiting for the hawk to move on. I could hear the fledglings in the nest – who could see their parents – clamoring to be fed.

At another part of the trail, I saw a Red-Shouldered Hawk fly low across the floor of the forest with something in its talons, and then perch up in a tree right across a clearing from where I was walking. It looked like the bird had gotten a fat crayfish, and it spent several minutes ripping the thing apart and devouring it before it flew off again with a series of loud shrieks. I was able to get still shots and video of the bird while it was feeding.

I could also hear lots of Nutthall’s Woodpeckers around, but even though they’re noisy and announce themselves when they fly, they’re fast and it’s hard to get any good shots of them. I only got one in the camera’s eye and only got a few photos before it took off again.

The other critters that were out en masse were the ticks. I used repellant spray before I went out, but I still got attacked, and ended up taking six home with me – that I later found attached to my clothes and torso. Eeew! I know they have their place in the ecosystem, but I hate those things.

Photo Tour #1 with the Naturalist Class Graduates

I got up around 6:00 am and was out the door a little after 7:00 to go to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve.  I’m leading a photography walk with some of my naturalist class graduates today. From the Nona Way house, it takes about 45 minutes to get there. From the Hollygrove house today, it still took 45 minutes because Friday morning traffic on Watt was horrible.  It took me 10 minutes just to get through one intersection. Yikes!

The weather was beyond gorgeous today: sunny, breezy and in the low 70’s. Lissa remarked that it could stay like this for the rest of the year if it wanted too. That wouldn’t make for much plant and animal diversity, but sure would be nice for us humans. Hah!

When I got to the preserve, three of the graduates were there and two more joined us later so that was nice.  There was a lot to see out there today, but we needed to finish by noon, so we didn’t get very far through the preserve.  Even with the abbreviated route, we saw lots of wildflowers, deer, insects, birds and even some raccoon tracks in the mud around a small pond.

While we walked, I showed the group how change the lighting to get better shots, how to use a macro lens to focus on the small stuff – and how to get the automatic cameras to focus on what YOU want it to focus on, and how to frame the subject(s) in a photo BEFORE you take it so you don’t have to crop it so much afterwards.  The stars of the day, as far as subject matter goes, were the insects. We found some really unusual-looking guys including a species of long-horned beetle, a pink and white moth, and a semi-iridescent beetle we couldn’t readily identify. Because there are literally millions of insects, getting a proper ID is a daunting task even for the experts.

We also got to watch a pair of Black Phoebes bring insects to their nest full of fledglings. Mom and dad took turns flying back and forth to feed the kids. I saw one of the parents m with a large hoverfly, and another one with a large bright green worm. Those kids get fed well!  Because we were standing near the where the next was, the parents would stop and sit for a little while before transporting the food directly to the kids. This gave us the opportunity to gets some good close-ups and still shots of them.  We could also see the babies in the nest – almost fully fledged already, they looked too big to still be hand-fed by their folks. This particular pair of Phoebes have been nesting under the eaves of the nature center at the preserve for years. They come back season after season.  Their nests are mud cups filled with grasses and other soft plant fibers.

We found the Red-Shouldered Hawk’s nest on the Pond Trail. We could hear mama calling from the nest but couldn’t get an angle on the structure that allowed us to see her. she must be sitting eggs at the moment.  And we found several tree cavity nests of wrens, Starlings, and Acorn Woodpeckers (some of them in or near the same tree).

We also got to see some Ash-throated Flycatchers. Besides being pretty birds, these guys are kind of special because they don’t drink water. They get what fluid they need from the stuff they eat.

Among the deer we saw, I believe one of them was very pregnant and may have been experiencing some early contractions. She’d walk along and life her tail like she wanted to defecate, but nothing came out.  Might be seeing some fawns in the next month or so!

On our way out of the preserve, one of the graduates and I loitered around the small pond again and tried to get photos of the Bullfrog tadpoles and crawfish under the water.  Getting the camera to focus past the surface of the water is always an interesting trial… and I can never really tell if I got the shots I want until after I get the photos home and download them, so I can see them better.

We finished up our walk around noon. #CalNat

A Partially Blind Deer at the Preserve, 04-12-18

I had to get another nature fix today before finishing off all of the packing and taking stuff to the thrift store for them to recycle, so I went over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, just open to whatever Nature wanted to show me today.

In front of the nature center building, the native plants garden was in full bloom: redbud, bush lupine, seep monkey flowers, California poppies, Buckbrush. Very pretty. And the air was filled with birdsong: sparrows, hawks, woodpeckers, wrens, nuthatches, finches… and the gobble of Wild Turkeys. Such a nice springtime morning! I really needed that.

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

The mule deer were out and about, and the bucks are already sprouting their new set of antlers. Some of them just had little nubbins, but on others you could already see the velvet growing. One of the deer I saw was blind on one side, but that didn’t seem to hamper its ability to get around.

I was alerted by the soft cries of a female American Kestrel to her perch on a high branch of tree, and realized she was calling to her mate. The little male flew up to her, they mated for a while, and then both sat for a bit. The male then kept flying back and forth between the tree where the female was and another tree nearby. I don’t know if it wanted the female to follow it or if he’d found a good nesting for her and wanted her to check it out, but she wasn’t budging. She kept “whining”, like a baby bird asking for food. It’s not unusual for a male to offer food to a female during the courting season. While I was watching and photographing the kestrels, some of the Wild Turkeys decided to take that moment to fly down from their night roosts in the trees to the ground… and several of them whizzed right by me. I don’t get to see the turkeys in flight very often, so that was neat to see – even though I was worried that some of them might crash right into me. They’re big birds!

I was surprised by the number of wildflowers throughout the preserve. I’ve never seen so many there. There was one shallow field that was filled with miniature lupine. I waited for the deer to find it so I could get some photos of them grazing there: all that pretty dark blue around them…

The Red-Shouldered Hawks that usually have a nest right next to the nature center have seemingly opted out of that one for this year. They’d been using that one for several years straight, and it might be overrun with mites and crud right now. I had seen them during the fall working on another nest near the water-post 4B on the Pond Trail, so I checked over there, and sure enough, a mama was occupying that nest.

Unlike the nest near the nature center, however, the one on the Pond Trail is very hard to see. I only saw the very top of the mama’s head poking up above the rim of the nest and could hear her screeching to her mate… When they occupied the nest near the nature center, you could get a good view of it and see a good deal of the mom and babies. Their current nest is going to make that kind of viewing almost impossible. Still, I’m glad they’re there.

I also came across a pair of young Cooper’s Hawks. I don’t know if they were courting or what, but they seemed to stick close to one another.

Further along the trail, I found the nesting cavity of a pair of Oak Titmice and a House Wren. The wren was still adding nesting materials to the inside of the cavity, so I got some photos of it with twigs in its beak.

I saw a lot of Fox Squirrels (Tree Squirrels) running around and stuffing their faces with food, but didn’t see much of the California Ground Squirrels today. There were Western Fence Lizards (Blue Bellies) all over the place doing their push-ups, but it seemed like every time I was able to focus the camera on them to get some footages of their exercises, they stopped moving. Hah!

I DID catch a glimpse of a coyote, though, a skinny female who – by the look of her teaties may have recently given birth. I saw her head moving through the tall grass, and trained my camera on a spot where I thought she might emerge and take to the trail in front of me. She did! And I was able to get a little video snippet of her before she caught sight of me and disappeared again. I had a similar experience with a Black-Tailed Jackrabbit: he came running through the grass, saw me, and then high-tailed it back the way he’d come. Hah-2!

The only disturbance while I was out on the preserve was the sound of screaming children. Apparently, the nature center was holding some events there and there were groups of kids all around it – some of them brandishing Native American weapons as part of a learning exercise. (Yikes!) After encountering one group of the kids, I left the preserve. They were scaring off all the wildlife – and me.