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Encounter with a Juvenile Turkey Vulture, 09-23-17

I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve and it was 48º when I got there. Fall has fallen. I love it when it’s like this!

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

Saw some deer right off the bat, and a European Starling poking its head out of its tree-cavity nest. I also got to watch an Acorn Woodpecker trying to pull green acorns off of a tree so he could stash them in his troop’s granary tree (the tree where they keep all of their nuts and acorns and winter food).

They drill new holes into their granary trees only during this time of the year, when the sap in the tree is running low, so they don’t kill the tree. Then they find acorns and other food stuff and shove them into the newly drilled holes for the winter. In the spring and summer, you may see them banging on the trees, too, but they’re not drilling new holes then (except maybe for their nesting space); instead, they are moving those nuts and acorns that have shrunk in size from one hole to another to wedge them in more tightly. They’re such ingenious little birds, and funny too. They’re a hoot to watch.

Among the deer I saw a lot of does, some does with fawns (out of their spots and growing bigger), some bucks with their full racks of antlers (no long covered in velvet) and even a young “spike buck” (only one point; so he was around 2 years old).

The highlight along my walk today, though, was coming across a fledgling Turkey Vulture. It was full size but didn’t have all of its adult feathers in yet, and it couldn’t fly very well. It’s face was still grey (not red yet) and its beak was still metallic black (instead of bone white). I spotted it first in the low branches of a tree, and tried to get photos of it through the branches. It worked its way up to a slightly high branch, flew clumsily over my head and landed on a dead skag-tree. It then walked up the naked branches of that, and parked itself on the top of the tree. I got several photos of it and then realized an adult Turkey Vulture was flying in low circles around the skag.

As I watched, the adult flew into the upper branches of a nearby tree, and the youngster flew to it, kind of crashing into a branch just below the adult. The adult then fed the youngster and flew off again. So cool! At one point while I was taking photos of the juvenile, several people came up and looked on. I explained to them that they were seeing a juvenile and what differences to look for between adults and their babies. They all pulled out their cell phones to take photos. A teaching moment. It was fun.

You can see the video here.

On the way out of the preserve, I stopped at the frog pond… and two other “old women” with cameras came up to join me in finding and taking photos of the bullfrogs there. It was obvious that the pond had recently been cleaned out: it was easier to see the bottom of it today than it has been for a long time; most of the cattails were gone; and the pond had been scraped free of a lot of duckweed. All of the full grown, large-as-your-hand bullfrogs were also gone. But the pond was full of minnows, tadpoles and small bullfrogs, so there was still a lot to look at (and all of the remaining frogs seemed to be females).

It eventually became a kind of jovial contest between us old ladies over who could find the best angle on the loveliest frog. Hah! We had more fun there than the kids who passed by did. (This is why I’d rather host nature outings for adults than for kids.)

I walked for almost four hours (phew!) and then headed home.

Mostly Webs at the Cosumnes Preserve, 11-05-16

I got up around 7:15 this morning, and it was foggy and around 48° outside.  I headed over to the Cosumnes River Preserve around 8:00 am to walk their “river trail” and see if there ant neat-looking ‘shrooms out there yet.  I didn’t see of those, but because of the fog all of the spider webs in the trees, thickets and tules were all decorated with dew, and as the sun came up, they really showed off.  I took waaaaay too many photos of webs.

CLICK HERE to see the whole album of photos.

I’d see one web and thing, Oooo, that’s neat-looking.  Snap.  Then I’d see another one and like it better.  Snap.  Then I’d see two together.  Snap…  Photo after photo of nothing but webs.  Hah!

In the fog, I also saw a Gull dragging around what looked like the carcass of an American Coot in the shallow water.  You can see the video here.  I also got photos of a couple of Spotted Towhees, and some of a little Cottontail Rabbit that hopped out of the underbrush onto the trail in front of me… In the leaf litter was an old wasp gall rotted and broken in half, but you could see all of the individual larval chambers inside of it… and the poison oak was showing off a little bit, rosy in part with new and lengthening growth. As the hours went by, the fog lifted and the sun came out… but it was still cool (in the 60’s); nice weather for a stroll.

As I was walking, I could hear my “nemesis bird” (called that because I seldom if ever am able to get even a half-way descent photo of one), the Belted Kingfisher, nattering away along the banks of the river, and when I finally saw it, it was on the opposite bank.  It was sitting out on a small branch, but there was a lot of tangled growth behind it, and it was so far away, I wasn’t sure the camera would be able to focus on it, but I aimed my lens at it and starting taking some photos and video anyway.  None of them were very good, but you can see in the video the Kingfisher – a female – beating a little fish she’d caught against the branch until she got it into a position where she could swallow it whole. You can see the video here.

I had a similar photographing problem with a late-in-the-season female Green Darner Dragonfly.  I saw it flying through the air in front of me,,, and watched it as it flew around looking for a sunny spot to settle onto… and when it settled, it was up in a tree over my head.  I just aimed the camera at the area where I thought it was – a green dragonfly among the green leaves — and shot some photos.  I never know, when I to stuff like that, if the camera is actually going to focus on what I want.  But I managed to get a few semi-clear photos of it.  A few seconds later a male Green Darner flew by, harassed the female for a little bit, and then hung himself between the leaves of a wild grapevine.  He was a little closer to me than the female was, so I got a few better photos of him.

I walked around the preserve for about 3 hours and then headed back to the car which was parked by the visitor’s center.  As I got closer to the center, I could hear it’s alarm going off.  A group of bicyclists in all their fancy expensive gear and thousands-of-dollars bikes were collected outside the building.  One of them wanted to use the restroom on the outside of the building, and when he couldn’t get in, he tried to force the building’s front door and the alarm went off.  They were all standing out there, talking and laughing about it.  Unbelievable.  What jerks!

After I got to my car, I then took a short drive along Desmond Road  before getting on the freeway and heading back home. The only “cooperative” bird along the road was a young Western Meadowlark who popped up along the edge of a gully and gave me front and back views of its feathers.  Hah!