Tag Archives: naturalists

Interesting Turkeys on the Naturalist Walk, 04-09-19

Up at 6:00 this morning, and then headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve to do my trail walking thing – along with three of my naturalist students.  The weather was lovely, so the critters were out and moving around, and the wildflowers were really starting to open up.

We got to see a tiny female American Kestrel chase off a large Cooper’s Hawk, saw the young buck with a broken nose browsing with some of the does, and saw a yard-long gopher snake leave the side of the trail and rush through the grass like water.

We also came across a female Wild Turkey sitting on the ground next to a brush pile occupied by some California Ground Squirrels. Everything I’d read about the turkeys indicated that they nested in low branches of trees or ON brush piles, so even though she looked pretty settled on the ground I assumed she was just taking a dirt bath (which the turkeys often do to control mites).  I walked up to her, slowly, and she eventually stood up and walked away from where she’d been sitting: a bare, shallow patch of dirt.

When I got home, I did some more research on the turkey and found this: “…Wild Turkeys nest on the ground in dead leaves at the bases of trees, under brush piles or thick shrubbery, or occasionally in open hayfields. The female scratches a shallow depression in the soil, about 1 inch deep, 8–11 inches wide, and 9–13 inches long…” So, this gal may have been prepping a nest site, not dirt bathing.  I’ll have to check on the spot again the next time I’m out there.

Seeing the turkeys -– including one of the leucistic females who came out of the forest like a ghost – brought on a flurry of “snood” jokes. Four women on the trail talking about the male turkeys’ accouterments. We couldn’t help ourselves. Hahahahaha!

Oh, and I also learned that although the male hierarchy changes a lot as the males challenge, defeat, and retreat from one another, the female turkeys’ hierarchy remains constant from season to season, with a dominant female overseeing all of the ladies.  How cool is that?

We didn’t see the Mourning Doves on or near their nest, and I’m afraid they may have abandoned it.  When we got to the Red-Shouldered Hawk nest on the Pond Trail, however, mama hawk was in the nest and calling out to hubby. We could hear her, but we couldn’t see her. The nest is pretty deep and it’s right over the trail so it’s hard to see into it. Suddenly, mama hawk burst out away from the nest and flew right at and over one of the students! She was able to catch a photo of the hawk as she flew over her head! Awesome!

Among the flowers we saw were Blue Dicks, Bush Lupine, California Poppies, Fringe Pod, Periwinkle, Miniature Lupine, different kinds of plantains, and a variety of tiny yellow flowers that defied identification. On one of the plants was an example of “fasciation”, wherein the flowering heads weld together.  “…Scientists aren’t sure what causes the deformity, but they believe it is probably caused by a hormonal imbalance. This imbalance may be the result of a random mutation, or it can be caused by insects, diseases or physical injury to the plant. Think of it as a random occurrence. It doesn’t spread to other plants or other parts of the same plant…”

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos.

The ladies were wonderful trail walking companions: they were excited about everything, had great questions, and lots of wonderful feedback about the naturalist course. We walked for almost 5 hours (which was way too long for me) before we all headed back home again. Deborah had come all the way from Napa to walk with me, so she had the longest drive back home (over 2 hours).

I totally overdid it and was exhausted and in pain when I got home, but it was worth it to have spent those hours with the ladies’ positive energy.  Even though I practically went back to bed when I got home, I was happy. This is just how I want to spend what time I have left.

It was a good day.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
2. Asian Ladybeetle, Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis,
3. Bay Laurel, Laurus nobilis,
4. Black Walnut, Juglans nigra,
5. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum,
6. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii,
7. Buck Brush, Ceanothus cuneatus,
8. Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons,
9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
10. California Manroot, Marah fabaceus,
11. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius,
12. Black Bean Aphid, Aphis fabae.
13. Boxedler Tree, Boxelder Maple, Acer negundo.
14. Bush Lupine, Lupinus excubitus.
15. California Plantain, Plantago erecta.
16. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta,
17. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica,
18. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
19. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
20. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
21. Cooper’s Hawk, Accipiter cooperii,
22. Coyote Brush Midge (gall), Rhopalomyia californica,
23. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis,
24. Douglas Iris, Iris douglasiana,
25. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger,
26. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris,
27. Fringe Pod, Thysanocarpus curvipes ssp. elegans,
28. Green Shield Lichen,Flavoparmelia caperata,
29. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
30. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
31. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii,
32. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor,
33. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
34. Nutthall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii,
35. Pacific Gopher Snake, Pituophis catenifer,
36. Painted Lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
37. Periwinkle, Vinca major,
38. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus,
39. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis,
40. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
41. Saw-Whet Owl, Aegolius acadicus,
42. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula,
43. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus,
44. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor,
45. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura,
46. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
47. Wavy-Leaf Soap Root, Soap Plant, Chlorogalum pomeridianum,
48. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis,
49. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
50. Yarrow, Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,

Pre-Field Trip Field Trip at Lake Solano, 03-13-19

I got up around 6:00 this morning so I could head out to Lake Solano Park in Winters, CA. This was a recon for the trip we’ll be doing with the whole class on Saturday, and I wanted to check out where plants were growing, if the ferns were out yet, what birds were out there, etc. It was very windy and chilly around 44° when I got there and about 53° when I left.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

At the park, I was joined by my coworker Nate L., some of my naturalist class students, Sharyn L. and Mary S., and two of my naturalist class graduates Elaine and Roxanne.  Sharyn had forgotten her cell phone and was double bummed when she realized the battery in her camera was dead, so she had no way of taking photos. Not having the technology in her hands, though, she said helped her to focus more on what she was hearing rather than what she was seeing, so the experience was a lot different than she thought it might be.

I was hoping to see some pipevine, manroot and Giant Horsetail, and thankfully they were all present. Those are always great things to show to the students. We also saw over 30 different plant and animal species, including the resident Western Screech Owl, and found a couple of animal skulls. We think one was a coyote skull, and the other (with a fully disarticulated skeleton) was some kind of domesticate dog, based on their teeth.  It’s always great to go out with a group on excursions like this because everyone sees something different, and as a group we’re alerted to more things.

We walked for about 3 ½ hours, and then each went on our way.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. American Mistletoe, Broadleaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
3. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronate ssp. auduboni
4. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
6. Broadleaf Cattail, Typha latifolia
7. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
8. California Manroot Vine, Bigroot, Wild Cucumber, Marah fabaceus
9. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
10. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
11. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
12. Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
13. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
14. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
15. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auritus
16. Echo Azure Butterfly, Celastrina echo
17. Galium, Velcro Grass, Sticky Willy, California Bedstraw, Galium californicum
18. Giant Horsetail, Great Horsetail, Equisetum telmateia
19. Giraffe’s Head Henbit, Lamium amplexicaule
20. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
21. Great Egret, Ardea alba
22. Hooded Merganser, Lophodytes cucullatus
23. Lodgepole Pine, Pinus contorta
24. Mottled Willowfly, Mottled Stonefly, Strophopteryx fasciata
25. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
26. Oyster Mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus
27. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marmorata
28. Peacock, Indian Peafowl, Pavo cristatus
29. Phainopepla, Phainopepla nitens
30. Praying Mantis, California Mantis, Stagmomantis californica
31. Racoon, North American Racoon, Procyon lotor
32. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
33. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
34. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
35. Western Screech Owl, Megascops kennicottii
36. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
37. Willow, Pacific Willow, Salix lasiandra

Naturalists at the Conaway Ranch, 03-10-19

I headed out to Woodland around 8:30 am to help my co-worker Bill with his recon outing at Conaway Ranch.  He has about twenty outings slated for that venue over the next months or two; he takes school children out there to tell them about food chains, rice growing and harvesting, wildlife, etc. There’s a slough that runs through one part of the property and it acts like a mini-riparian habitat that attracts otters, opossums, birds, snakes and small critters.  Today, he just really wanted to look at the state of the property after all of the rains and see what there was around to tell the kids about.

I was expecting some of our current naturalist students to join Bill out there, but instead, we had four of our former students (now certified naturalists themselves) come out –Susan Sallocks, Barbara Meierhenry, Bob Ream and Donna Moyer – all offering to help Bill with his future outings. All of them greeted me, some hugged me or wished me well in my ongoing fight against The Children of Wilson, and a couple of them said how much they had enjoyed the naturalist class and how I’d changed their lives for the better… It was all so unexpected and lovely, it almost made me cry. What a sweet way to begin our day.

We spent about three hours walking along the slough, checking out tracks, trying to identify the birds around and in the air overhead, looking at the different plant species starting to emerge everywhere.

The first thing I saw when I got to the spot was a medium sized garter snake curled up along the side of the road. It was limp and cold, and it wasn’t moving. But I couldn’t tell if it was truly dead or just in a deep torpor because it was so cold outside (in the high 40’s).  Its eyes were still clear, it didn’t look like any part of it had been run over by a car, and it was limp, not stiff with rigor mortis. I took some photos of it and then put it back down the way I’d found it. At the end of our walk, it was still there, so I guess it was dead. It’ll make a good meal for some critter.

Bill showed us some of the props he uses for the outings with the kids including one about the water cycle and how rice grows. Very cool and informative. We didn’t see any live crayfish, but we did find several skeletons and their mud chimneys in the burned rice field.

There was a team from the University out on the property checking on and upgrading the solar-powered electronic boxes on the Wood Duck boxes they have lined up along the slough. They stopped to talk with us for a little bit and then went on ahead of us.

As far as wildlife went, we didn’t see a whole lot, but did get to see crows, bullfrogs and Pacific Tree frogs, flocks of Greater White-Fronted Geese and Sandhill Cranes flying overhead, some Marsh Wrens, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Northern Mockingbirds, a Say’s Phoebe, and a Great-Horned Owl.  We heard a Belted Kingfisher but couldn’t see it. As the weather warms up, there will be a lot more to see there.

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos.

The naturalist graduates were intrigued with the property and said they were hoping to be able to come out to the ranch to help Bill with his group outings throughout the coming months.

Species List:

1. Ant, Velvety Tree Ant, Liometopum occidentale
2. Asian Clam, Freshwater Clam, Corbicula fluminea
3. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
4. Broadleaf Cattail, Typha latifolia
5. Broad-Leaf Lupine, Lupinus latifolius
6. Bullfrog, American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus
7. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
8. Fava Beans, Vicia faba
9. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
10. Great-Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
11. Himalayan blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
12. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
13. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
14. Pacific Tree Frog, Chorus Frog, Pseudacris regilla
15. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
16. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
17. Red Swamp Crayfish, Crawfish, Crawdad, Procambarus clarkii
18. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
19. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
20. Say’s Phoebe, Sayornis saya
21. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
22. Tule Pea, Lathyrus jepsonii
23. Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
24. Valley Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis fitchi
25. Western Pond Turtle, Pacific Pond Turtle, Actinemys marmorata
26. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
27. Yellow Star-Thistle, Centaurea solstitialis