Tag Archives: otter

A Few Birds on a Brief Visit, 01-24-19

Around 9:00 am I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve to meet with their volunteer coordinator, Rachel. They needed someone to help out at the preserve. I’d gotten my Certified California Naturalist certificate through Effie Yeaw, so I thought that by volunteering there, I’d have the opportunity to give them back a little something.

I got to the preserve a little bit before my appointment time, so I walked around for a while and took some photos.

CLICK HERE to see them.

A New Gall (for Me) at the Preserve, 07-14-18

Around 5:30 am I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. Even that early in the morning, it was already 67º degrees outside. It got up to 93º but felt a lot hotter because of the humidity in the air. Pleh!

At the preserve, there weren’t as many deer out this time as there were last time, but I still got to see a few of my favorites. The little fawn that I’d seen before that had the bad cough is over its cough now, but it still looks badly underweight. I could see all of its ribs. So, I don’t know if it’s going to make it or not. Its mom is always nearby, but I don’t know if she’s still feeding him; she’s not a very attentive mother…

I also came across the doe I’d seen before that had one newborn fawn. Well, I actually saw the fawn first; mom was dozing in the tall grass. I wasn’t able to get close to them – she’s very protective of him. – but I did get a few photos.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I came across a gall I’d never seen before, and that’s always fun. It was an Alder Tongue Gall caused by a fungus called Taphrina alni. The galls start out green but turn red as they get older and look like tongues poking out from the female catkin (or pseudocone). When the growth is fully mature, it goes to spore. Cool!

I also came across a pair of Northern Flickers, a male and a female, but I got the impression that maybe the male was the female’s son. He wasn’t in his full breeding colors, and he followed her around begging for attention like a fledgling. It was neat to see the two of them so close together.

I walked around for about 3 hours, and by then it was almost too hot to do much of anything, so I headed back home.

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.

At the Sacramento Preserve on 04-02-17

I headed out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge to see if there was anything interesting to see.  It was all the usual suspects at the refuge, but I did get to see a Blue-Winged Teal.  I hardly ever get to spot one of those, so that was a nice treat.  Because of the wing there was a lot of “chop” on the water which limited the number of birds swimming in it to just the stronger swimmers. The wind was also knocking butterflies around, and could be heard on the videos I shot.  Not insurmountable, just kind of disruptive.  Still, I saw about 25 different species of birds, which is pretty good for a three-hour viewing session.

Some of the wildflowers are coming out all over the refuge, too, including thick swaths of Goldfields and Fiddleneck, and the pink-headed Squirrel-Tail Barley.  That made for some pretty photos…

CLICK HERE to see the photos and video snippets.

Lots of Critters at the Refuge

I was supposed to go to a dragonfly course over this weekend, but just couldn’t face other people as I deal with my grief (over the death of my brother Mark Jr., aka “Beaky”).  My hotel was already paid for, though, so I got up at 5:00 am and headed up north anyway with the dog.

I stopped at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge and went through the driving tour route there.  I was the only person out there; had the place all to myself.  Among the things I was able to photograph at the park included: Killdeer, Mourning Doves, dragonflies and damselflies, butterflies, Jackrabbits and Cottontail rabbits, a big-ass snake, mule deer, Egrets, Great Blue Herons, some Western Grebes sitting on and building their nests in the middle of the water, many-many spiders (including one building its web), Pelicans on three of the “islands”, a Bald Eagle who only sat still long enough for me to get on or two not-so-good shots of it, a mother Raccoon and her five babies (including a “blond” one), Flycatchers, and an otter…  Cool.

There was one Killdeer that “paced” my car for several hundred feet.  I could see it out the driver’s side window, running right along the edge of the trail.  It tilted its head up to look at me now and then.  When I accelerated, so did the bird.  When I stopped, so did the bird.  Goofy thing.  I wonder what it thought it was “challenging”.

And the snake I saw was something of a surprise.  Oh, there are always snakes around and this one was just a Gopher Snake, but it was pretty long – and healthy looking.  It must eat well.  What’s the average distance between the two front tires of a car?  The snake was longer than that.  He came up beside the car, tongue flicking.  The heat of the tires must’ve set him off.  I backed away (so as not to run over him) and took a different route so he could sunbathe at his leisure.

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I finished the tour by about noon, and headed in to the hotel.

Here’s a video of the snake: https://youtu.be/-I6EKdsw3H4

Western Grebes building their nest: https://youtu.be/Jvhe8bX3GI8

Raccoon mama and babies: https://youtu.be/-frsgGx-ZPY

Big-a$$ spider: https://youtu.be/CLWnsRRQ8g4

I’ve decided to try going up to Mount Lassen tomorrow.  When I lived in Old Shasta, Beaky and I climbed to the summit of that mountain (about 11,000 feet).  It took me forever to get up there, but he was patient and stayed with me, even though I was sure he could have made it to the top and back down again before I made it up there; hah!  I remember us watching chipmunks running around with long flags of toilet paper that they’d stolen out of one of the porta-potties on the trail, and taking pictures of what we called the “Belly-Button Rock” and “Velcro Rocks” on the side of the mountain.  And when we got to the summit, Beaky walked out to the skinny, craggy, tippy-top point – despite the hard winds that threatened to knock us down the mountainside — to sign his name in the book there.  When he came back to where I was, we hunkered down among some boulders and ate PB&J sammiches for lunch – which tiny Golden-Mantled attack-squirrels tried to steal right out of our hands.  One of the squirrels got on a boulder above me, and dive-bombed right into my lap to try to grab my sandwich.  Hah-ha-ha-ha-ha. That day is one of my favorite memories of Beaky.  I’ll say goodbye to him up there tomorrow…