Tag Archives: mushrooms

The Springtime Birds are Moving In, 03-07-19

I headed out to the American River Bend Park around 7:00 am.  It was mostly cloudy when I got there, around 49°, but the rain moved in while I was walking.  Not a lot of rain, but enough so that I needed my umbrella.

The first things I saw were a handful of deer, does, and some Eastern Fox Squirrels including one that was chomping on a black walnut.  I’d gone, especially, to see if the Red-Shouldered Hawk I’d spotted last week was still sitting on the nest near the lawn turn out… and she was there. Yay!  Because of the angle at which I can vie the nest, it’s hard to see the mama, but she’s in there. I could see the top of her head, heard her calling, and saw her rearranging some of the nesting materials. I’m assuming she’s sitting on eggs now.

As I walked along, I saw a lot of Western Bluebirds and Audubon Warblers all over the place. I think everyone’s pairing off now and looking for nesting sites.  I also saw some Tree Swallows and Lesser Goldfinches… along with a small flock of Northern Flickers and, of course, loads of Starlings and Acorn Woodpeckers.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I was really surprised by the number and size of the Elfin Saddle fungi around the park. I’ve never seen so many around there that were so large. And another nice surprise: I saw a male Belted Kingfisher flying back and forth along the side of the river, and I got a few photos of him when he rested for a brief time in a tree. But he was pretty far away, so the photos aren’t great. Kingfishers are like my “nemesis birds”; I can very seldom get a descent shot of one of them.  They’re so fast and so shy.

I walked for a little over three hours and then headed home.

Species List: 

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata
3. Barometer Earthstar Fungus, Astraeus hygrometricus
4. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
5. Bird’s Nest Fungus, Cyathus stercoreus
6. Black Jelly Roll Fungus, Exidia glandulosa
7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
8. Black Walnut, California Walnut, Juglans californica
9. Brown Jelly Fungus, Jelly Leaf, Tremella foliacea
10. California Manroot, Marah fabaceus
11. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica
12. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
13. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
14. Destroying Angel, Western North American Destroying Angel, Amanita ocreata
15. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
16. Elfin Saddle Fungus, False Morel, Helvella lacunosa
17. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
18. False Turkey Tail Fungus, Stereum hirsutum
19. Gallium, Velcro-Grass, Bedstraw, Galium aparine
20. Gem-Studded Puff Ball, Lycoperdon perlatum
21. Gnorimoschema baccharisella moth stem gall
22. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
23. Haymaker Mushrooms, Panaeolus foenisecii
24. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
25. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
26. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
27. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
28. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
29. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
30. Palomino Cup Fungus, Peziza repanda
31. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
32. Red-Tread Mushroom, Marasmius plicatulus
33. Rust fungus, Puccinia evadens
34. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans
35. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
36. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
37. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
38. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
39. Wild Turkey, Rio Grande Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
40. Witch’s Butter, Jelly Fungus, Tremella mesenterica
41. Wood Blewit, Purple Core, Clitocybe nuda

Watching a Hawk Eat His Breakfast, 03-04-19

I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk today.  It was about 46° at the river, and while I was walking the clouds parted, leaving things partly sunny and quite lovely outside. I walked for a little over 3 hours and covered about 2½ miles.

One of the first things I saw was a small group of male Western Bluebirds. They’re small birds, but so brilliantly colored it’s hard to miss them even at a distance.  Around that same area, I watched as an Eastern Fox Squirrel added foliage to a drey she was building inside and around a mound of mistletoe. Smart squirrel. It’s really hard for predators to see the drey from above or below. Now I know where two dreys are in the preserve; I’ll have to keep an eye on them to see if I can spot any babies (once they’re old enough to emerge).

All of the plants and critters are getting ready for spring. The poison oak is starting to leaf out everywhere, their new reddish leaves vibrant in the morning light. And manroot and pipevine are showing up all over the landscape.  In one spot, I found the native manroot intertwining with invasive Periwinkle vines.  Elsewhere, the invasive European Starlings are in a battle with native Acorn Woodpeckers for nesting sites. The Starlings can’t drill their own nesting cavities, so they steal from the woodpeckers whenever they can.

I also spotted a tiny female Anna’s Hummingbird plucking the fluff off of the top of dead Yellow Star Thistle blossoms and flying off with it. They use it to line their nests.

I saw a few Red-Shouldered Hawks today, including one that flew over my head with something in its talons. I tried following it, even though it was moving really quickly, and my legs are really short. Then I could hear it calling from somewhere close, and I jokingly said to myself, “Y’know, it would be really nice if you landed on the bat box over there so I could actually get some picture of you.”

And when I finally found it, it had landed on the bat box! Yay!

It stayed there, letting me take photos of it until it had finished it breakfast and flew off again. Awesome. And in many of the photos, you can see that it had a little dark vole. In some of the photos, you can clearly see the vole’s eyes and face.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

The biggest surprise of the day was hearing the gravelly call of Sandhill Cranes from overhead. The sound can travel for over a mile, so sometimes they’re REALLY hard to spot, but I managed to see the flock, flying waaaaaaaaay overhead among the clouds. ((Later, when I got home, my sister Melissa and I were able to spot another flock flying overhead.))

I love this time of year.

Species List: 

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  4. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata
  5. Black Jelly Roll Fungus, Exidia glandulosa
  6. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  7. Blessed Milkthistle, Silybum marianum
  8. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea
  9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  10. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  11. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  12. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  13. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  14. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  15. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  16. False Turkey Tail fungus, Stereum hirsutum
  17. Giraffe’s Head Henbit, Henbit Deadnettle, Lamium amplexicaule
  18. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  19. Haymaker Mushroom, Panaeolus foenisecii
  20. Manroot, California Manroot, Bigroot Vine, Wild Cucumber, Marah fabaceus
  21. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
  22. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  23. Nutthall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  24. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  25. Periwinkle, Vinca major
  26. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  27. Raccoon, Procyon lotor
  28. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  29. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  30. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  31. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  32. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  33. Wild Turkey, Rio Grande Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  34. Yellow Field Mushrooms, Agaricus campestris
  35. Yellow Star-Thistle, Centaurea solstitialis

A Frosty Morning Walk, 02-06-19

Around 7:30 am I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.  It was a very chilly 31°when I got there, and there were some areas where everything was covered with a heavy frost.  I was glad my heavier coat was in the back seat of the car! There were only a few people on the trails as I was walking, including a small group of birders with binoculars and a spotting scope. I tried to avoid them as much as I could so I wouldn’t interfere with whatever it was they were trying to view.

Early along on my walk, I watched a pair of loudly honking Canada Geese fly over my head, circle around, and then land in two different trees along the trail. I’d never seen the geese perch in trees before, so I tried to get a closer look at them.  I think they were maybe an adult and a juvenile, and the juvenile had gotten tired of flying and couldn’t fly anymore.  He was on the tree closest to me; I could see that his face-patches, which are bright white on the adults, was sort of light gray (which is why I assumed he was a juvenile), and he seemed exhausted. Geese aren’t really made to perch in trees, and he was fumbling around a bit on the stump he’d chosen to land on.  The other goose was higher up in another tree across from him.  They honked at each other, back and forth, for several minutes. Then they took off in tandem and flew over to the river side where they landed once more on the rocky shore. I’m hoping these are resident geese that can go live on the lawns of the golf course and aren’t migrating anywhere. They younger goose couldn’t manage any kind of long-time flying…

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos.

I also watched a young Eastern Fox Squirrel running around on a cottonwood tree. At several points, the squirrel stopped, held onto the bark with its hind legs, and extended its front legs out in front of it away from the tree.  It looked like he was doing an augmented form of “planking”, using gravity to stretch his back out. I’d never seen that behavior before either, so that was two “firsts” for the day.

Further along the trail, I crossed paths with the birding group, and they pointed out a male Downy Woodpecker to me that I would have missed if they hadn’t shown it to me.  So, thanks for that.

Around the same area, I saw a Red-Tailed Hawk that was first sitting on the top of a tree and then joining the Turkey Vultures in their winding “kettle” flight up along the warm air drafts.  Below them, in another tree, was a Red-Shouldered Hawk.  At first I thought it was blind in one eye or missing eye. Closer inspection of the photos I took of it proved, though, that its right eye was just surrounded by gunk. So, it might have had an infection, but it still had its eye.

I saw a lot of deer again today, small herds of about 10 to 12 deer each in different parts of the preserve.  The adult males are still sporting their antlers, and I saw quite a few 3- and 4-pointers out there.  I also saw a young male that just had little nubbies where his first-year antlers had been’ one of the pedicles looks raw, so I assumed that he’d probably had his antlers knocked off very recently. He also had an oddly formed face, like his nose had been broken at one point or something. He had a visible underbite; his bottom jaw and teeth protruding beyond his upper row of teeth. A very distinctive-looking boy.

Even though it was chilly outside, I really enjoyed the fresh air and the movement. The only thing that was temporarily was aggravating was the fact that my camera stalled out and wouldn’t take multiple shots in a burst after about an hour or so.  That usually happens when the data card is too full to process anymore incoming information. So, I had to replace the original data card with a back-up one I had in my bag. My back up card was still in its packaging, though, so I had to struggle opening it up – with cold fingers, and the tiny knife on my keychain. Ugh!  Once I got the cards switched out, I was able to continue to take photos without interruption.

As I was going out of the park, there were truckloads of kids around the nature center, some of them screaming and running around. I heard two of their chaperones yell, “Leave the turkeys alone!!” and could hear the Wild Turkeys gobbling excitedly.  I went closer to where the turkeys were – intending to protect them from the children – just as the chaperones got their heinous charges under control and were walking away from where three gobblers were standing.  Once the kids were gone – out through the front of the preserve and across the road to an open field – the turkeys settled down and walked up to the doors of the learning center where they (once more) started strutting and posturing to their reflections in the glass doors.

After a few minutes, a small group of seniors came up and stood behind me to watch the birds. One of them said, “Oh, look. They’re looking for food.”  I explained that, no, they’re “in strut”, and then explained how the males posture, fan their tails, drop their wing feathers to the ground… what the snood on the face was… why their faces looked blue/white and their caruncles were bright red… A teaching moment. The seniors all got their phones out and started taking photos of the birds. All the while, the turkeys moved in and out of bright sunlight, making the feathers on their bodies gleam with copper, orange and green iridescence. They’re really quite beautiful.

All in all, I walked for about 3 hours before heading home.

Eagles, Ravens and More, 01-28-19

I wanted to get up a little early today so I could head out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge… The drive to the refuge is a long one: 2 hours there, 2 hours back, and about 4 hours of driving around the auto tour route. That’s a LOT of car time, sitting in a folded-up position. I haven’t done it since just before my surgery and didn’t know if my core could handle that yet. Well, I found out. It can’t right now.

I was okay on the drive there, but halfway through the auto tour route, I started to ache, and by the time I got back to the house I was in pain. Dang it! I thought I was doing so well. Gotta work more on the exercise and core stuff I guess.

Anyway, after putting gas in the car and stopping to pick up something for my own breakfast, the dog and I got to the refuge around 7:00 am. The sun was just coming up, so I got some red-sky photos. Because the light was so “low” and there was some cloud cover, the camera gave me fits all day. The cloud-glare bounced off the water and played havoc with the light meter/auto focus dealie, and I struggled to get the photos I wanted, sometimes failing miserably which was very frustrating. So, rather than relaxing me, I was kind of stressed out periodically throughout the drive.

Still, I did manage to get SOME halfway decent images. CLICK HERE to see the full album.

The standouts for the day were the Bald Eagles and Ravens. I saw about 5 eagles, including a bonded pair and a juvenile (maybe 2 or 2 ½ years old). One of the eagles was sitting what I generally call “the eagle tree” because you can often find one sitting in it.

It’s sometimes hard to get photos of the birds in that tree because it’s a tall one that sits on the right-hand side of the road. You either have to lay down in the front seat and shoot out the passenger-side window or turn the car at an angle that puts your driver’s-side window to the tree (and blocks the whole road). There were no other cars on the road at the time, so I chose to block it. (Didn’t think my core could handle my lying down in the seat and twisting to shoot out and up into the tree.) I was surprised to find that in that tree, on a few branches below the eagle, there was also a Cooper’s Hawk. You don’t really realize just how truly big the eagles are until you see one beside a hawk. Wow!

The rest of the eagles were near the end of the auto-tour route. The bonded pair were in a distant tree, sitting near the top of it, near the last park-and-stretch area. Because they were so far away it was hard to get any good close-ups of them with my camera. And because of the cloud-glare, their white heads tended to vanish against the white sky, so finessing the camera’s iris was tricky. I liked watching the pair, though. They sat side by side, surveying the surrounding wetlands, periodically touched beaks like they were kissing and groomed one another.

The last two eagles, an adult and the juvenile, were sitting up in the eucalyptus trees along the exit route. The juvenile, which was much more visible than the adult because it was sitting out near the end of some branches, at first looked like a mottled shadow against the twiggy branches, but then seemed to reveal itself as I got closer to it. So cool!

I also got to see three ravens. Two were of a pair that landed together in a tree near the end of the auto tour route. One was kind of bedraggled-looking; some of its feathers were on inside out. And the other flew up with it, offering it a treat I couldn’t quite make out. The treat-bearing one flew off again, and the bedraggled-looking one stayed behind, cawing loudly in the direction in which the other had left.

Even though I wrestled with the camera all day, I was still able to see over 30 different species of birds and animals while I was out there, so I still chalk it up as a “good” viewing day.

And Whose Teeth Are These? 01-26-18

Around 7:30 am I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my walk. It was about 37° at the river when I got there and warmed up to the 50’s by the time I got back home.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The cold seemed to keep a lot of the critters in seclusion, so there didn’t seem to be a whole lot to see but I still got photos of the usual suspects: sparrows, Wild Turkeys, Spotted Towhees, deer, Turkey Vultures, squirrels, Acorn Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, European Starlings, California Scrub Jays, etc.  The only surprise of the day was a large coyote. I spotted him only for a second and wasn’t able to get any good photos of him before he disappeared into the brush.  Oh, and I found part of the carcass of a salmon along the trail. It must’ve been dropped there by the Turkey vultures… So many ferocious-looking teeth on that thing!

I walked for about 3 hours and covered a little over 2 ¼ miles.

Mostly Bucks and Gobblers, 12-05-18

It was chilly and overcast for most of the day, but not much in the way of rain.

I got up around 7:00 am, right around the same time Lissa got up and let her dogs out for their morning potty. I got Sergeant Margie outside and fed him his breakfast. I had a small bite of food, so I could take a pain pill and then headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk even though I was in some pain (around a 6 or 7). I didn’t cover as much ground as I normally would have, but still got in about a three-hour walk.

The place seemed dominated by the “boys” today: small bachelor groups of Wild Turkeys, and the bucks in rut. I saw bucks from young spike-bucks up to the big 4-pointers. One of the larger bucks was chasing the other ones all over the place, challenging them, no matter their age, and making everyone scatter. There was a 2-point buck about 8 to 10 feet from me beside the trail at one point who was nursing a sore leg. Another 2-pointer walked up, charged the wounded one, and the wounded one rushed away – right toward me! Yikes! He pivoted to one side before hitting me, but that was close!

The turkeys were far more cooperative and mellow. Many of them were just sitting around showing off their snoods to one another.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I also saw the melanistic squirrel again. This time I was able to get a few halfway decent photos of him before he ran off into the high grass.

Some fungi are just starting to show up. I got photos of a really beautiful specimen of Oyster Mushrooms growing near the base of a tree. One of the caps was about a foot wide. I think they’re so lovely; they bend up and back to reveal their gills. Kind of look like off-white wings.

I got home by about 11:30 and had some lunch.