Up at 6:00 am to go over to the William Pond Park on the American River. I went looking for wasp galls and found them, but it seems to me there isn’t the variety there that there normally is. Not a lot of other stuff to see, although I did hear a pack of coyotes, and I saw a covey of quail – but I couldn’t get photos of them. I walked for about 2 ½ hours and then went home.
Up at 5:30 this morning, and headed over to the William Pond Park on the American River. It’s across the river from the River Bend Park, and I don’t go to the William Pond Park because it’s a bit too “manicure” for me: big rolling lawns, picnic tables, etc. There’s one oak tree there, though, that I can usually count on to have a ton of different kinds of galls on it.
As with my luck (or lack thereof) at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, my luck at the William Pond Park wasn’t very good. Apparently, I’m about 2 weeks early for the galls, so there wasn’t any of those to find yet. I DID get to see a covey of California Quail (including males, females, and a few chicks), and a hummingbird feeding at some Evening Primrose… but it was a short photo trek.
I was astonished, though, by the number of acorns on the oak trees in and around the park. Hundreds of them. Are we having a “mast year” this year?!
Happy Fourth. I went out to the Cosumnes River Preserve for a walk and was disappointed to see most of the water now gone from the slough by the boardwalk paring lot. That was the only “wet” left in the wetlands area – and animals that depend on that water don’t have ready access to it anywhere else.
Anyway, I hung around the slough for a while to look for early summer galls and insects, and while I waited I did get to see a few birds. Belted Kingfishers are like my “nemesis” birds. I’ve spent YEARS trying to get a halfway decent photo of one of them. They’re super-fast and super shy… So, I was overjoyed when this female stopped on a tree across the slough from me and posed for a while. I also saw a Green Heron who was “caw-honking” to another one across the road from it: call and response. I’d never heard that from this species before, although I’m sure they do it all the time, so that was cool, too.
CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.
Bushtits, several Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets, Killdeer, and some Tree Swallows were among the other birds that came by. I also saw the head of a Red-Eared Slider Turtle and a Western Pond Turtle poke up from the shallow water at different intervals.
As for the galls, I saw some Oak Apple wasp galls, Ash Flower galls, Spiny Turbans and a few Round Wasp galls. It’s really too early in the season for most of them. Another month and different species should be popping up all over the place.
When I was done walking at the slough, I drove up the road to the nature center and just walked the boat ramp walk there. Lots of people taking their kayaks down to the river, but not a lot of critters or bugs. I was hoping to see some dragonflies and damselflies, but no such luck. I did get to see a little Trashline Spider, though, and a gorgeous male American Goldfinch.
I was out for about 3 hours and headed back home.
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
Gene Trapp and his wife Jo Ellen headed up one of their monthly walks at the West Davis Pond site this morning. He thought it might be good spot to bring the naturalist class, but I wanted to check it out first. (I also thought that after a few visits, I can add this to my own walk list here on this site.) It can be found in the city of Davis, California, off of Covell and Denali, where Isle Royale Land and Bryce Lane merge together. Look for the large white gazebo-like structure and park on the street. (There are no restrooms along the path, but you can find a public restroom in the medical facility across the street from the short end of the trail.) You can see more information at Friends of West Pond on Facebook.
I had never been to the pond before, but was pleased at it was so easy to locate – with a paved trail that was super easy to walk. Our group was unusually large, though (about 27 people) so that was a lot of bodies moving along a tight walkway all at once. I’d take smaller groups if I go with the naturalist students.
Because it was chilly and overcast outside, we didn’t see much of anything. I can tell by looking at the area, however, that in another month or so, when things start to green up and the critters all go into mating mode, it should be a very interesting, very pretty place. Lots of trees (including some gorgeous Cork Oaks, Quercus suber) and pretty shrubbery along the route (including some lovely quince bushes). Most of the stuff is non-native, of course, but Gene and Jo Ellen oversee the construction and maintenance of a large native-plant garden along the path as well as a large butterfly garden. They hold a lot of promise for future photo-taking / naturalist opportunities.
I did see some wildlife: Canada Geese, Mallards, Crows, Black Phoebes, Wood Ducks, Scrub Jays, Mockingbirds, lots of Anna’s Hummingbirds and Fox Squirrels, White-Crowned Sparrows, Golden-Crowned Sparrows, a couple of Spotted Towhees, House Finches, and a very red, very wet Purple Finch… things you’d typically see in an urban wildlife area. The not-too-seeable critters included Nutthall’s Woodpeckers, a Hairy Woodpecker and a Red-Breasted Sap Sucker that teased us with their presence, but made photo-taking difficult because they kept flitting around.
When someone mentioned that are sometimes Wilson’s Snipes along the edges of the ponds, a newbie birder who had brought her Sibley’s guide with her tried to look it up. Oddly, there were no Wilson’s Snipes mentioned in her guide even though they’re fairly common in this area. So I opened up the Merlin app on my phone and showed her a picture of it. That app is one of the easiest birding apps to use, and it’s free!
Gene and Jo Ellen were fun to walk with; they have so much knowledge and so many area contacts. Someone found a skull on the side of the path and Gene identified it as a raccoon skull. Very cool.
The walk was a good one, very informative, and I look forward to visiting the pond again.
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