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Lots of Critters… and a Beaver, 06-20-19

Up at 5:00 am again. I let the dog out to go potty and fed him his breakfast then headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my weekly volunteer Trail-Walking gig.  It was a gorgeous 58° when I got to the preserve and was overcast, so it never got over about 68° while I was there.  Perfect walking weather.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

One of the first things I saw was a Red-Shouldered Hawk carrying nesting materials. First she flew over my head, then she landed on a tree to get a better grip on the grasses she was holding before taking off again. These hawks only have one brood a year, but often work on the nest throughout the year to keep it clean.  It’s no uncommon for them to use the same nest over several season if the first nest is successful.  Later in my walk, I went by where I knew one of the hawks’ nest was and found a juvenile (fledgling) sitting out beside it squawking for its parents to come feed it. It was capable of feeding itself, but some of these young’uns milk the I’m-just-a-baby thing for quite a while. While it was near the nest, it was hard to get photos of it because it was backlit, but later it flew out and I was able to get a few better photos of it when it landed in a nearby tree.

There were a lot of deer out today, but I didn’t see any fawns. I DID see a couple of bucks, though, both of them still in their velvet, a 2-pointer and one with wonky antlers (one super-long one and one stumpy one). The 2-pointer was walking with a doe, and when I stood on the trail to take photos of them, he decided he didn’t like that.  He stepped right out toward me with a very determined look on his face. (Bucks can get real possessive of “their” does.) I knew he wouldn’t rush me and try to gore me because he was still in his velvet.  In that state, the antlers are super-sensitive to touch, and if he rammed me, he’d actually hurt himself.  But, he could still outrun me mash me with his hooves if he had a mind to, so I put my head down and back away.  That seemed to be enough of a submissive posture to him, and he returned to his doe.  As beautiful as the deer are, I have to remind myself that they’re still wild animals and will do whatever their instincts tell them to do – even in a nature park.

I heard and caught glimpses of several Nuttall’s Woodpeckers on my walk, but never got enough of a look at one to take its picture. Those birds enjoy teasing people, I swear. They’re really loud about announcing themselves in flight, but then hide from you once they land.

The wild plum and elderberry bushes are all getting their ripened fruit now. I saw birds eating some of the berries and came across an Eastern Fox Squirrel breakfasting on the plums.

Along the river, there was a small flock of Canada Geese feeding (bottoms-up in the shallow water) with a female Common Merganser fishing among them. They eat different things, so the geese were stirring up the water plants and the Merganser would grab any small fish that appeared. Unintentional mutualism.  While I was watching them, I saw something else in the water, swimming against the current and realized it was a beaver! 

I went down as close to the shore as I could – (It’s hard for me to clamber over the rocks.) – and tried to get some photos of it. Photo-taking was difficult because the beaver stayed close to shore and was obscured by the tules and other riverside plants and scrubby trees. When it got into less cluttered spots, in was in the shade, and my camera had trouble focusing between the dark and the reflections on the water.  So, I walked ahead of where I thought the beaver was heading to a sunnier spot and waited for it… and waited for it… and then I heard a splash and realized it had swum under the water right past me and came up in the river behind me.  Hah!  Sneaky Pete!  

I walked for about 4 hours and then headed back home.

Species List:

  1. American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus,
  2. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii,
  3. Black Harvester Ant, Messor pergandei,
  4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
  5. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii,
  6. Bush Katydid nymph, Scudderia pistillata,
  7. California Black Walnut, Juglans californica,
  8. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana,
  9. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
  10. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
  11. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis,
  12. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica,
  13. California Wild Plum, Prunus subcordata,
  14. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis,
  15. Chinese Privet, Ligustrum sinense,
  16. Coffeeberry, California Buckthorn, Frangula californica,
  17. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
  18. Coyote Mint, Monardella villosa,
  19. Coyote, Canis latrans,
  20. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii,
  21. Doveweed, Turkey Mullein, Croton setigerus,
  22. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger,
  23. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata,
  24. English Plantain, Ribwort, Plantago lanceolata,
  25. European Praying Mantis, Mantis religiosa,
  26. Evening Primrose, Oenothera biennis,
  27. Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum,
  28. Greater Periwinkle, Vinca major,
  29. Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea,
  30. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
  31. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus,
  32. Leafhopper Assassin Bug, Zelus renardii,
  33. Moth Mullein, Verbascum blattaria,
  34. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
  35. North American Beaver, Castor canadensis,
  36. Northern Yellow Sac Spider, Cheiracanthium mildei,
  37. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii,
  38. Pink Grass, Windmill Pink, Petrorhagia dubia,
  39. Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum,
  40. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus,
  41. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
  42. Rock Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia sp.,
  43. Rusty Tussock Moth, Orgyia antiqua,
  44. Saw-whet Owl, Sophia, Aegolius acadicus,
  45. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa,
  46. Spanish Clover, Acmispon americanus,
  47. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus,
  48. Sudden Oak Death pathogen, Phytophthora ramorum,
  49. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura,
  50. Western Drywood Termite, Incisitermes minor,
  51. Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa,
  52. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa,
  53. Wooly Mullein, Great Mullein, Verbascum thapsus,
  54. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,
  55. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis

Wren Housekeeping and Slime Molds, 05-21-19

I got up a little before 6:00 am and headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my regular Tuesday trail-walking gig.  It was cool and rain threatened, but it didn’t actually start raining until I got back into the car to head home, so that was nice.  I was joined on the walk by Mary Messenger (The Other Mary), and we took the trails in a counterclockwise fashion just to mix things up a little bit. I was hoping to see the young coyote again, but I didn’t.  Later, Rachel (the volunteer coordinator) told us that she’d spotted it in the company of a larger coyote in the big field right before the turn off to the nature center.  She suspected it was too-lean female, but I think it’s a juvenile.  Hard to tell, though, unless we can get a really good look at it.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I did get to see couple of slime molds, which was cool, and also got to watch House Wrens doing their daily chores: bringing twigs and feathers to line their nesting cavity; bringing breakfast to the kids; and taking out the trash (taking the babies’ fecal sacs out of the nest).  We also got photos of a cooperative Desert Cottontail rabbit who was eating clover along the edge of the trail.  So cute.

We walked for about 3 ½ hours and then head back home.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
  2. American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus,
  3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna,
  4. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens,
  5. Black Jelly Roll fungus, Exidia glandulosa,
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
  7. Black Walnut, Juglans nigra,
  8. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum,
  9. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea,
  10. Bryum Moss, Bryum capillare,
  11. Bush Katydid, Scudderia furcata,
  12. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
  13. California Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor hirsuta,
  14. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica,
  15. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
  16. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis,
  17. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica,
  18. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis,
  19. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
  20. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii,
  21. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger,
  22. Eastern Phoebe, Sayornis phoebe,
  23. English Walnut, Juglans regia,
  24. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris,
  25. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris,
  26. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata,
  27. Hammond’s Flycatcher, Empidonax hammondii
  28. Honey Fungus, Ringless Honey Fungus, Armarilla tabescens,
  29. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
  30. Jelly Spot Jelly Fungus, Dacrymyces chrysospermus,
  31. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos,
  32. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor,
  33. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
  34. Mower’s Mushroom, Haymaker Mushroom, Panaeolus foenisecii,
  35. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii,
  36. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
  37. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum,
  38. Rock Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia conspersa,
  39. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciose,
  40. Split Gill Fungus, Schizophyllum sp.
  41. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor,
  42. White Finger Slime Mold, Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa,
  43. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare,
  44. Witches Butter Jelly Fungus, Tremella mesenterica,
  45. Wolf’s Milk Slime Mold, Lycogala epidendrum,
  46. Wrinkled Crust Fungus, Phlebia radiata

A Little Bit of Everything, 04-24-19

I got up around 5:30 this morning because the dog needed to get outside. Since I was up, I decided to stay up, and after giving the dog his breakfast, I got dressed and went out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my walk. I was sunny and already about 53° when I left the house. When I got back home around 11:00 am it was 78°.

During my walk I saw but couldn’t get photos of a couple of Bullock’s Orioles, a male Rubyspot damselfly, and several White-Lined Sphinx Moths. The Rubyspot was a bright red male, and I was so bummed that I wasn’t able to get a photo of it. The Orioles and Sphinx moths were whizzing around, so I couldn’t get my camera to focus on them. Gotta be fast when you’re photographing nature!

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I was able to get photos of other critters including an Oak Titmouse with a small caterpillar in its beak, a Turkey Vulture sunning himself on the top of a tree, and several Western Fence Lizards including a male courting a female, and another female who looked really gravid (pregnant, full of eggs).

A one point along the trail I found a nesting cavity in the side of a tree and saw Tree Swallows, an Acorn Woodpecker, and a House Wren all seemingly fighting for it. The Tree Swallows out-numbered the other two species at the tree, so I’m assuming they’re taking that spot.

I also found a couple of squirrel dreys (nests), including one near the Maidu Village near the nature center. The squirrels there had pulled tules out of the tule hut on display and used them in their nest. Hah! And I found a Bushtit nest in a spot where it was surrounded by Pipevine.

The Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies were flittering all over the place. At on spot, I came across a vine where the caterpillars hat just hatched from their eggs and were busy eating the shells. Another cool sighting was a Snakefly. I found a female (obviously by her long dagger-like ovipositor) sitting on a leaf and got a photo and video snippet of her before she rushed away.

So, it was a good walk.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
2. American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus,
3. American Robin, Turdus migratorius,
4. American Rubyspot Damselfly, Hetaerina americana,
5. Ant, Little Black Ant, Monomorium minimum
6. Aphids, superfamily Aphidoidea,
7. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens,
8. Bedstraw, Cleavers, Galium aparine,
9. Black Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus,
10. Black Walnut Erineum Mite galls, Eriophyes erinea,
11. Black Walnut, Juglans nigra,
12. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii,
13. Blue Penstemon, Penstemon azureus,
14. Bullock’s Oriole, Icterus bullockii,
15. Bush Sunflower, Encelia californica,
16. Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus,
17. California Buckeye, Aesculus californica,
18. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
19. Groundsel, Senecio sp.,
20. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus,
21. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta,
22. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica,
23. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
24. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
25. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis,
26. Clover, Strawberry Clover, Trifolium fragiferum,
27. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
28. Common Catchfly, Silene gallica,
29. Common Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes,
30. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii,
31. Dogtail Grass, Cynosurus echinatus,
32. Douglas Iris, Iris douglasiana,
33. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger,
34. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla,
35. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus,
36. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
37. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
38. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus,
39. Leaf Miner, Cameraria sp.,
40. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
41. Live Oak Gall Wasp gall, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
42. Live Oak Gall Wasp gall, 2nd Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
43. Long-Jawed Orb Weaver Spider, Tetragnatha sp.,
44. Lupine, Lupinus sp.,
45. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos,
46. Mayfly, possibly Hexagenia limbate,
47. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor,
48. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
49. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii,
50. Oak Apple Gall Wasp gall, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
51. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus,
52. Pacific Rattlesnake, Crotalus oreganus,
53. Pink Grass, Windmill Pink, Petrorhagia dubia,
54. Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum,
55. Q-Tips, Slender Cottonweed, Micropus californicus var. californicus,
56. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula,
57. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciose,
58. Snakefly, Agulla sp.,
59. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus,
60. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor,
61. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura,
62. Valley Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa varipuncta,
63. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
64. Valley Tassels, Castilleja attenuate,
65. Vetch, Vicia sp.,
66. Wavy-Leaf Soap Plant, Chlorogalum pomeridianum,
67. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
68. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis,
69. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare,
70. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis,
71. White-Lined Sphynx Moth, Hyles lineata,
72. Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa,
73. Yellow-Faced Bumblebee, Bombus vosnesenskii,

European Starling Fledglings in Their Nesting Cavity, 06-02-18

I was up around 5:30 this morning and headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk before it got too hot outside.  It was about 61º when I got to the preserve, and it got up to 90º by the afternoon.

Because my walk was somewhat abbreviated, I didn’t get very far, even though I walked for about 3 hours.  A lot of time was spent below a tree where a pair of European Starlings had a nest. There were two young fledglings, almost full grown but without their adult coloring, poking their heads out f the hole in the front of their nesting cavity. As I watched, the parents took turns bringing food to the kids: beetles, water bugs and earthworms (from what I could tell).

I only saw a few deer, including what I thought might be a pregnant female.  And there were a lot of Spotted Towhees out, singing from tree tops and the ground.  The brodiaea were in bloom along several stretches of the trail, along with Elegant Clarkia, and it looked like the Soaproot plants are just getting ready to bloom now, too.  Otherwise, I just saw the usual suspects during my walk.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

More Photos from the Effie Yeaw Preserve

I was able to see several deer, including a pair that were foraging along the banks of the river.  There were also a lot of Red-Shouldered Hawks flying around: parents teaching their kids how to hunt.  And I also came across a mama California Ground Squirrel who gave out a sharp alarm call when I got too close to her burrow.  I was sure there were babies around there, but I didn’t see any of them…

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

About halfway through my walk I remembered that a Facebook friend of mine, Charlotte G., said she had a Nikon camera like mine and suggested I try the “birdwatching” setting for some great photos.  My  camera is so new I hadn’t gotten around to trying the special settings yet, but I tested out the “birdwatching” setting and was REALLY impressed by it.  (Thanks for the tip, Charlotte!)  It goes beyond the regular telephoto settings of the camera, makes the focal point tight, and lets you “ratchet” in to get closer and closer and closer to your subject.  For example, using the regular telephoto setting I could get the whole body of a Mourning Dove in a tree about 100 feet away into the viewfinder and focus on it.  With the “birdwatching” setting, I could get the camera to tighten up the image even more until only the bird’s head was showing in the viewfinder but still entirely in focus.  So cool!  It’s like getting a telephoto boost.  (And, of course, it works on other critters, too, not just birds.)

On my way out of the preserve I came across a male Wild Turkey that was standing in the sun, chin down on its chest, like it was sleeping.  As I got closer to it I realized the posture may have meant the bird was in a lot of pain.  Its whole face was swollen, and the eye on one side was damaged.  There were signs around some of the trail warning everyone about ground-dwelling Yellow Jackets in the preserve. It looked to me like this turkey may have blundered too close to one of those nests and the wasps attacked its face.  I felt so bad for it; it must have been in soooo much pain. (When I got back home, I emailed photos of the bird to the preserve to see if their rangers could help it.)

There is a disease called mycoplasma which can affect turkeys and cause swelling of the face, but its associated with the sinuses. This looked more “hot” and painful than that…

 

 

 

 

 

Got My Garden Plot… Then Took a Walk

I got a lot of small projects done at the office, and then headed out around 2:30 pm to go over to the Hanna & Herbert Bauer Memorial Garden, right next door to the Yolo County Mental Health Department building, a community garden.  I met with a gal named Rebecca there and put a deposit down on a plot that looks to my eye to be about 10 feet wide by 8 feet deep.  I’m planning to get back over to it sometime this weekend to measure it out and get it ready for my seedlings.  The plot I chose (#3) backs up against a fence, so I can use that as a trellis for beans and other vines.  And the plot was the only “abandoned” one from last year that had been cleared out by the previous owners.  Some of the other old plots were covered with dead matter and weeds.  To have a plot in the garden you have to promise to keep your plot growing and keep it from encroaching on other people’s stuff, AND you’re supposed to help keep the common area and pathways clear.  Well, obviously that didn’t happen last year, because much of the space is a ghastly mess. The garden supplies all of the tools, and an on-hand gardener who will answer all your planting questions… should be fun!  I’ll set up a page for the garden and take photos of it periodically, so you can see how it’s progressing.  Here’s what it looks like now:

my plot

After I’d signed up for my plot, I headed home, but stopped briefly at William Land Park and the middle-sized pond for a short walk.  Little-by-little the flowers are starting to open up in the surrounding gardens… but their beauty was kind of shattered by the fact that some nincompoops were playing their twangy electric guitars – and not well – from the hatchback of their car in the parking lot.  The noise permeated everything.  Gad.  I go out into nature for QUIET, not to listen to some grating guitar noise.  People must’ve complained because the park rangers came by and told them to turn off their amps…

I watched a little male Anna’s Hummingbird fly back and forth and “chortle” to another hummer.  He’d sit on one branch, make his angry kissy sounds, then fly across the path to another branch, and do the same thing there.  Back and forth, back and forth… until the other bird got tired of his chattering and left.  I also got to see an egret, the Green Heron (which is kind of a “resident” there now), the ubiquitous ducks, geese, and crows, a Northern Flicker, a Yellow Rumped Warbler, some Mourning Doves, and some Robins.  Clouds were piling up over the eastern horizon, and Marty said that as he was heading home from work in Folsom there were some loud claps of thunder and a little smooshy hail… I think the clouds are awesome and got a bunch of photos of them.

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After just an hour or so, I headed back to the car and went on home… to crash for the day.