Tag Archives: Mourning Doves

Cool Tracks and a Coyote, 09-22-18

Happy Autumnal Equinox and Happy National Public Lands Day.

I got up around 6:30 and headed over to the American River Bend Park for a walk. I wasn’t expecting to see a lot there because we’re kind of in between seasons right now – and I didn’t see much. But the exercise was good for me. It would have been a perfectly lovely morning walk had it not been for a large family group who’d been camping there overnight. When they got up, just as I arrived at the park, one of the kids started scream-“singing” at the top of its lungs and wouldn’t stop. No respect for the space or other visitors. The noise didn’t abate until its parents fed it breakfast.

Most of the photos I took on my walk were of scenery – everything kind of rusty looking as we head into fall and winter. In the dusty dirt along the side of the trails, I was able to make out some animal tracks, including those made by deer, raccoon, Wild Turkeys… and Western Fence Lizards: tiny footprints on either side of the long center drag-mark left by their tails.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

At several spots along the trail, I saw a big coyote. It kept itself just out of clear view – so taking photos of it was difficult – but I got it a few times staring right me through the scrub. I also found a couple of places where it had stopped to relieve itself and was kind of surprised to see its poop filled with acorns and wild grapes. Based on its size and how healthy it looked, I thought there would be more animal traces in its scat. Maybe it was a vegan coyote. Hah!

Along the river I saw Canada Geese, a tiny Spotted Sandpiper (without its spots), a Western Gull and a Great Egret. I also saw some House Wrens checking out a possible nesting cavity in the side of a Valley Oak tree.

Oh, and I saw a small flock of Sandhills Cranes flying overhead, clattering to one another. In another month, lots of migrating birds should be flooding into the region.

I headed home after about 2 hours.

Mostly Wrens and Squirrels, 05-16-18

I was up around 6:00 am and took the dog with me over to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. I encountered clouds along the way, but none of them amounted to anything where I was traveling. Back in Sacramento, however, they apparently got really organized and the city had rain, thunder and over 100 lightning strikes in the morning (just after I left). Wow!

At the refuge: because the big pond in the permanent wetland area is drained, there isn’t really a lot of anything to see there right now. Usually, there are frogs and snakes and all manner of birds around the pond, dragonflies and damselflies, a multitude of spiders, otters and muskrats…

Right now, the pond is like a PRAIRIE. Dried up with short vegetation sprouting throughout it and little mud holes here and there. It’s hard to get wetland wildlife photos when there’s no water! The geese were actually GRAZING where the pond should have been. *Sigh*

Still, I managed to get photos of some cottontails and California Ground Squirrels, and Marsh Wrens at their nests. I sat parked along the auto tour at one point for about 30 minutes, just watching a pair of the wrens. The male was out singing away, while the female flew beak-fulls of dried grass to the nest she’d chosen and arranged it inside. Once, while I watched, the male went up to the next and stuck his head, checking out the female’s work. When she came back with a mouth full of twiglets, he flew off singing again. The opening to the nest was turned away from the car, so I couldn’t see in to see what she was doing. Danged smart little birds.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The California Ground Squirrels seemed to be everywhere. They should have lots of babies to feed this time of year. As an aside, did you know that in 1918 California launched a campaign to eradicate these native squirrels and even had posters and pamphlets printed encouraging children to join the “army against the squirrels”? “Children, we must kill the squirrels to save food,” a woman on the pamphlet says as she’s smiling. “But use poisons carefully.” The pamphlet included a recipe for strychnine-laced grain as well as suggestions for other extermination methods, such as shooting, drowning, and poison gas. Horrifying (and stupid). The campaign, sanctioned by the state government, actually came from the beef industry which claimed the squirrels were eating all of the grain on which the cattle fed.

I also came across a large creche of Canada Geese (parents, fuzzy goslings and fledglings); about 30 babies altogether(!). This is typical for Canada Geese. One set of adults watches over the group while the other parents feed, and the babies are kept in a group with the youngest in the center and the older ones on the outside. The behavior provides safety in numbers, and also teaches the young ones the concepts of following the leaders and working together – which they’ll need during migration.

In different spots along the route, I was able get good photos of a Red-Eared Slider Turtle and a large Pacific Pond Turtle, so that was nice. For all of my “bitching” about the lack of the big ponds, I did manage to see and count about 43 different species (plants and animals), so the trip wasn’t a waste… And it got me outside, into the fresh air, and focused on something other than my grief over the death of my brother Michael and his wife Sharyi…

On my way out of the refuge, I found a pair of Mourning Doves sitting in a tree, a male and female cooing at each other. They immediately brought Mike and Sharyi to mind, and even as lovely as they were, they brought a tear to my eye…

When I got back to the house it was around 2:00 pm. After a late lunch, I walked around the yard with the dogs and took photos of stuff like the Yellow-Billed Magpies in distant trees, a very fat American Robin (it made me chuckle, it was soooo chubby), and the Genista Broom Moth caterpillars that are currently multitudinous on the broom plant in the corner of the yard. They’re generally yellow-orange caterpillars with clusters of black and white spots on them and long sparse white hairs poking out all over. When the light hits them just right, they look like tubes of orange glass…

When mama moth lays her eggs on the plant, she lays them in clusters, one row overlapping the other, like fish scales. The caterpillars only eat broom, so they’re not a danger to the other plants in the yard. They’re also able to “jump” from one branch to another to escape predators.

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.

Mama Owl and More at the River Bend Park, 03-10-18

I got up around 6:30 this morning. Even though rain was predicted for the day, I headed over to the American River Bend park for my walk. It was 48º there and totally overcast.

The manroot and pipevine at the river isn’t as “awake” as it is already at Lake Solano. We’re a little more inland here. It looks like the plants are about a month behind the ones at the lake… The Interior Live Oak trees were just starting to bud, sprouting out new leaves and catkins. Spring is coming.

One of the first things I went looking for when I got there was the Great Horned Owl’s nest. I wanted to see if mama was still there. She was! And she was sitting up in the nest, so I got to see more than just her plumicorns. While I was looking at her, a ranger came buy and asked if I’d seen the other owl, too. I didn’t know there was another one nesting around there! He said the second owl was off to the east about 100 yards away, along the bike trail, near the area where there are some bluebird boxes and where they’re doing a lot of restoration work. I didn’t over there to see it today, but I will be looking for it the next time out there!

I also got to see Wild Turkeys -– bachelor groups with the males trying to out-macho one another – a very cooperative Nutthall’s Woodpecker who let me take lots of photos of him, Mourning Doves, Acorn Woodpeckers, European Starlings, California Scrub Jays and Northern Flickers, and several Oak Titmice. I also was successful in getting several photos of some White-Breasted Nuthatches that were out and about, and lots of Western Bluebirds. Everyone seemed to be scoping out potential nesting cavities around the picnic area.

My walk was cut short when, what would’ve been halfway through, I got back to the car to find the rear passenger window smashed in. Cripes. That had never happened before in all of the years I’ve had the car and have been coming to the park. It looks like the vandal-guy tried to get in through the little passenger side side-window first (probably because the door lock is right there) and then smashed the larger window with a rock. Not a fun thing to come back to after my pleasant walk.

I checked through the car and it doesn’t look like anything was taken except for a jacket that was right by the door. I don’t know if the vandal was just really cold, or if someone else interrupted the guy before he could steal anything more. I don’t have anything really valuable in the car, but still… sheesh!!

And I cut my hands up on the shards of glass that were “hiding” everywhere in the backseat area, so now I have owies all over the place. And my blood usually gushes no matter how minor the cut, so there’s now blood all over the inside of the car, too. *Pouty face*

Rather than continuing on with my walk, I went back home.

Lots of Deer and Some Red-Shouldered Hawks, 12-03-17

Around 7:00 am, I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. I saw a LOT of deer today.  The bucks are still chasing the does around, and the does with fawns were all hanging out in another part of the preserve waiting for the boys to calm down. Hah!

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

There must’ve been a lot of testosterone in the air, because I saw one of the little fawns trying to mount his mom!  Hah!  She just shrugged him off… I also saw one deer with that looked like a REALLY bad case of mange; it looked scabby and sore all over. Poor thing.

The other highlight of the day was seeing a pair of Red-Shouldered Hawks working on their nest. I watched as one of them flew back and forth with twigs, and then watched the other one rearranging the twigs in the nest.

I walked around for about 3 ½ hours and then headed back home.

Deer, Birds, and Lion’s Mane on a Drizzly Morning, 11-26-17

The dog and I got up around 7:00 and after giving Sergeant Margie his breakfast, I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. The weather forecast called for rain today, but I was hoping to get out before the front settled over this area. I timed it pretty well, too. It didn’t start to rain in earnest (along with some thunder) until just as I was leaving the preserve… It was cloudy all the while I was out there; and in some places the clouds looked really “stirred up”, with “boiling” bottoms. That usually means that on top, the clouds are spiking really high up into the atmosphere. Thunderheads…

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

The first thing I saw when I went into the preserve was a buck with mismatched antlers following after a doe.  I followed them for a while, making sure not to get between the buck and the doe. At one point the buck stepped out, straight toward me, as though warning me off, but otherwise he was pretty blissed out on doe-scent. I watched as the buck went to a small tree and rubbed his head against it. Male mule deer have an extra scent gland there that the females don’t have – and the scent advertises how mature the male is, how healthy he is, and whether or not he’s in rut. I could smell him even from several feet away… that kind of leather, musk and wet-dog smell. I kind of like it, actually.

When the buck stepped away from the tree and in closer to the doe again, I walked up to the tree and stayed there for a while because the spot gave me a good look at both deer.  The doe was confused though, I think, by the mix of my human scent and the buck’s scent on the tree, and she stretched her nose out toward me, with this quizzical “what the hell?” look on her face. Hah! I watched the pair of them until they wandered off into the ticket and out of sight.

I saw quite a few of the bucks out in different parts of the preserve, even a young “spike” buck. They were all looking for girls.  I came across several does, too, and they were all out, away from the bucks, browsing with their this-year’s fawns. One mama also had one of her yearlings with her, along with her twin babies. The babies are all out of their spots now, but are still “snack size”, so their moms keep a close eye on them.  In one spot, I saw a mama park her baby in a tall outcropping of weeds before she trotted off towards the river to get a drink.

There also were quite a few pairs of Red-Shouldered Hawks flying around and screeching to one another. The hawks mate for life, and during this time of year they reinforce the pair-bond by refortifying their nests and participating in light courtship behavior (jumping from branch to branch, sometimes feeding one another).  I came across a volunteer at the preserve, a lady about my age named Elizabeth. She said she and other people had seen a lot of the pair-bonding behavior from the hawks, too. We all wonder if the weird weather this year has thrown off their breeding schedules. (Elizabeth suggested that I sign up to volunteer with the preserve since I know it so well…)

Down by the river, I came across a wake of Turkey Vultures. They were all sitting on a rocky shoal in the water chowing down on salmon and steelhead leftovers that had flowed down stream. Nearby were some Mallards, a male Goldeneye, a couple of pairs of Buffleheads, and some female Common Mergansers. It was kind of “dark” and foggy down by the water, which made picture-taking a little difficult, but it was neat to see so many birds in such a confined area.

Another cool find was when I was heading out the preserve and came across a tree where both a female Northern Flicker and a female Nutthall’s Woodpecker were hanging out, one on one side of the tree, one on the other. Nutthall’s Woodpeckers are pretty small, so I’m not sure the Flicker was even aware it was there, but I was able to get a few photos of both of them.

I also managed – just barely – to get a fleeting image of a male Ruby-Crowned Kinglet showing off his red crown. He was chasing an Oak Titmouse away from “his” tree, chattering, head blazing bright red. What a display!

The neatest find of the day, though, was something I wasn’t expecting to see in this area at all. In a stump very near the nature center building was a large outcropping of Lion’s Mane Fungus (Hericium erinaceus). I’ve seen photos of it before, but have never seen it “in the flesh”. Because it was tucked inside the stump, I extricated a small bit of it so I could get some close-ups of its surface.  It’s supposed to be edible and it a kind of “tooth fungus” with long, white, shaggy “hairs” running down its surface. It looks more like a frozen waterfall to me than a lion’s mane, but… it’s still cool.

Here’s hoping this year brings out a lot of interesting fungi in the region!