Tag Archives: Peregrine Falcon

Summer 2019 CalNat Class #6, 07-12-19

Around 11 o’clock, my co-instructor Bill Grabert and I took all of our stuff over to the library to set up for the Certified California Naturalist class, and our guest speaker arrived around the same time: Jenny Papka of Native Bird Connections.  She’d done a lecture for our winter class earlier this year so she kind of knew the drill. She set up her bird stuff while we finished setting up the classroom.

Jenny brought a Peregrine Falcon, a Swainson’s Hawk and her Eurasian Eagle Owl with her this time. Since she was ready to go when the students arrived, we just let her go first and did our announcements when she was finished. We also to a break when she was done, so the students could get photos of the owl and the props Jenny had brought with her.

 About halfway through Jenny’s presentation, our volunteer Roxanne Moger arrived with a box of bird’s nests she’d gotten from a retired teacher, and a HUGE live sphinx moth caterpillar in a jar. She’d been cutting down some grape vines for her neighbor and found the caterpillar on them.  Super cool.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

It kind of looked like a tomato hornworm, but was gray instead of green and had a eye-spot on its rump. I’m not sure but I think it’s the caterpillar of an Achemon Sphinx Moth (Eumorpha achemon).  They’re the kind of caterpillar that pupates underground, though, so Roxanne will have to put a couple of inches of dirt in the bottom of the jar, so the caterpillar can bury itself when it’s ready.  It might overwinter under the dirt, so we may not be able to see it until next year…            

After the break, Bill did the chapter on forest management, and I did a module on bird species identification.

Many Wrens and “Blue Bellies”, 03-30-19

I got up at 6:30 this morning and had some breakfast before heading out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve again.

It was a gorgeous day weatherwise – sunny, cool in the morning and warm in the afternoon — so much so that we were actually able to keep the house open for most of the day.  It was about 43° when I got to the preserve and about 65° when I left.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

At the preserve, I didn’t walk the route that would have taken me by the spot where I spotted the hive last week; I checked out different trails.  There were no special stand outs during this walk, but there were House Wrens everywhere, singing their little hearts out.  I saw two males fighting over the same perches on which to sing; they must have had territories that overlapped or something. For such tiny guys, I’m surprised by how ferocious they can be.  I also saw Acorn Woodpeckers and European Starlings fighting over nest cavities. The Starlings are invasive, and the woodpeckers and other cavity-nesting birds lose breeding spots because of them.

I saw a few female Starlings doing their “baby bird begging” thing to try to get males to feed them. They sit out in open on conspicuous branches and flap their wings against their sides, gaping and calling out. So funny to watch.

Lots and lots of Audubon’s Warblers… I don’t remember ever seeing this many around here before. (They’re a kind of Yellow-rumped Warbler, differentiated from the others by their field markings.  They’re also affectionately referred to as “Butter Butts” for the bright yellow splotch on their rump where the tail attaches to the body.)

On a different part of the trail, I heard a California Ground Squirrel giving out a repeated alarm call, so I tracked it down, and found it in the field right across form the nature center. I was astonished by the fact that it had a gash in its nose and blood on the fur around its mouth and face!  The mamas can be incredibly brave and aggressive when it comes to protecting their burrows and babies, I know, but I’d never seen one in this condition before. There was also a bite mark on the ruff around its neck.  It was roughed up!

The squirrels are supposed to have different calls for land-based predators and air-based predators (like chickens do), but I don’t know their calls well enough to distinguish one from the other. I imagine it had fought a domestic cat (they hunt in the preserve) or something like that, and had to give it props for its tenacity, to keep on kicking and having the wherewithal to alert its fellow ground squirrels of danger nearby.

I saw lots of Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies throughout the preserve. This is their time of year.  I was hoping to see some eggs but didn’t find any on this trip.  Maybe next time.

There’s lots of tall-tall grasses and sedges out right now, and all of the trees are budding their new leaves so the whole place is green-green-green.  I love this time of year!

I’ve been sort of dissatisfied with the macro photos I’ve been getting out of my camera, though, so I pulled out my cell phone to take some of the super close-up shots I wanted of plants and stuff.  The phone takes excellent close-ups, but it’s sometimes hard to manage holding that and my camera at the same time.  What we do for photos!

On my way out the preserve, I came across a male Mourning Dove doing his coo-ing thing from a tree branch. I love the way their whole chest and neck swell up with their song.  That cooing is most often sung by the male birds (not the females) and is used to “woo” the females.  Cooo-oooo-woo-woo-woo.

Because it was warming up outside, the Western Fence Lizards were out in force in some places.  (They’re also called Blue Bellies” for the bright blue underbellies of the males.)  Saw a lot of the boy doing “push-ups” and challenging rivals on different logs.

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

Species List: 

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
3. Audubon’s Warbler, Setophaga auduboni auduboni
4. Bedstraw, Velcro-Grass, Sticky Willy, Galium aparine
5. Black-Headed Grosbeak, Pheucticus melanocephalus
6. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
7. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
8. Bullfrog, American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus
9. Burr Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
10. Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
11. California Geranium, Geranium californicum
12. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
13. California King Snake, Lampropeltis getula californiae
14. California Manroot, Marah fabaceus
15. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
16. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica
17. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
18. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
19. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
20. Common Pepper Grass, Pepperweed, Lepidium densiflorum
21. Dog Vomit Slime Mold, Fuligo septica
22. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
23. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
24. Foxtail Barley, Hordeum murinum
25. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
26. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
27. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
28. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
29. Little Plantain, Plantago pusilla
30. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
31. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
32. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
33. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
34. Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, Crotalus oreganus
35. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
36. Pacific Gopher Snake, Pituophis catenifer catenifer
37. Peregrine Falcon, Wek-Wek, Falco peregrinus
38. Pleated Ink Cap, Parasola plicatilis
39. Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
40. Puffball Fungus, Bovista dermoxantha
41. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
42. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
43. Rock Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia lavicola
44. Saw-Whet Owl, Sophia, Aegolius acadicus
45. Shepherd’s Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
46. Soap Plant, Wavy Leafed Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
47. Spotted Sandpiper, Actitis macularius
48. Stork’s Bill, Big Heron Bill, Erodium botrys
49. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
50. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
51. Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
52. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
53. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
54. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
55. Western Tanager, Piranga ludoviciana
56. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

Naturalist Class #3, 02-22-19

The Certified California Naturalist class that I teach for Tuleyome in Woodland, CA was jam-packed with things today. First we had a great presentation by Jenny Papka and her crew from Native Bird Connections. They came in from the Bay area to do the presentation for us which included live birds: a Peregrine Falcon, a Swainson’s Hawk and a Eurasian Eagle Owl. The talk was punctuated with interesting and informative stories and lots of props such as sample wings, eggs, pellets and other materials.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

Then we had a break during which the students wrote down some of the species they aw during the field trips and shared their field journals.  Our super volunteer, Roxanne, had purchased cookies to share with the class so those were gobbled up during the breaks.

After the break our co-instructor Nate did a presentation on how to enter observations into iNaturalist online, and I did a short presentation on how to enter hours into the University’s volunteer portal. Then co-instructor Bill went over Chapter 2 (geology), and I did a short half-hour of species identification with the class.  That’s a lot to cram into 4 hours! I was hoping, again, to get an all-class photo taken, but there just wasn’t time for it. I think I’m going to have to do that at the very beginning of the next class while we still have all of the students “captive” for a while. Hah!

I have to say, I’m loving how helpful and supportive Bill, Nate and Roxanne are being with the class. They provide so much valuable input for the students. It’s a great collaborative effort.

Lots of Deer and a Squirrel Stuffing Her Face, 11-17-18

After giving the dog his breakfast, I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk. The air quality has been so bad that the zoo and other recreation places in Sacramento have all shut down for the day. The nature center at Effie Yeaw was also closed, but the trails were still open.

It was about 38° at the river, so I could see my breath in the cold air; and it got up to about 60° by the afternoon. I don’t know how much the smoke is affecting the local temperatures, but I’m sure it’s contributing to the lows.

The first thing I saw when I went into the preserve was the big 4-pointer buck (now working on 5 points) with his harem of does.  In my head, I refer to him as “Big Boy” because of the size of his rack.  He was hanging out in the meadow right next to the picnic area, so I was able to get quite a few photos of him.  As I watched him, a spike buck (1-point) approached, following after a doe who had a fawn with her.  The fawn was pretty good-sized and out of its spot, but still considerably smaller than its mom.  The doe headed deeper into the meadow and the spike buck followed her but was cut off by Big Boy who then tried to get the doe into his own harem. The fawn got spooked and ran toward the harem while its mom was being pursued. She wasn’t receptive to either one of the boys and pretty much ignored them. I didn’t hang around there long enough to see when she reunited with her fawn.

At different points along the trail I saw other deer: some lone does, some small herds, and some of the other larger bucks, including a 3-pointer who, oddly enough, seemed to have the center of his back shaved. There was a large spot that was completely hairless, and the margins of the spot were too clean and symmetrical to have been natural (like mange or something). I couldn’t see any suture marks or anything that might have suggested the buck had gotten medical attention, so I wonder what had caused the bald patch. (I guess I’ll have to call him “Baldy” for now.)  The obvious “flaw” in his coat didn’t seem to detract from his attractiveness to the does. He had his own small harem of three or four of them.

When I was walking away from the 3-pointer and his group, a male photographer came up the trail. “He walked right by you, didn’t he?” he said, referring to Baldy.

“Yeah. He’s got some females with him right now.” I said.

The male photographer then joked that the deer weren’t cooperating with him much, but the squirrels were posing for him everywhere he looked. He even struck a couple of squirrelly poses to demonstrate. Hah!  I’d gotten a lot of squirrel photos, too. They were all over the place: California Ground Squirrels, Western Gray Squirrels, Eastern Fox Squirrels… I got photos of some of them chewing on black walnuts, and one female literally stuffing her face with grass and leaves for her winter nest.  So funny.

I also came across solitary deer throughout the forest; some camouflaged so well in the gold-brown grass that I was only able to see them because their silhouettes gave them away. I saw the doe with the peculiarly long, thin face (“Long Face”); she’s very distinctive. At one spot on the trail, I could HEAR the deer before I saw them.  There was a small group of does and fawn that were very loudly crunching on acorns (which are plentiful this time of year). They needed to eat with their mouths shut. Hah! I guess they felt safe enough, though, to make that much noise.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

One of the obvious things all along the trails today was the coyote scat. It seemed to be on every trail; some of it very fresh. I must have just missed seeing some of the coyotes.  I think, though, that a coyote is what caused a flock of Wild Turkeys to take off en masse from the top of a hill and fly down, right over my head, into the woods. Those things are BIG; I was surprised when none of them hit me or crashed into anything.

A neat sighting was a male Western Bluebird sitting on top of a bat box along the Natoma Trail. There are a few bat boxes on posts throughout the preserve, but I don’t think they attract very many bats. The boxes look too “exposed” to me; they get the full sun in the summer months. Bats need darkness and protection to sleep in during the day; I doubt that those sunny “saunas” are attractive to any of them.  I’ve seen lots of different birds use the boxes as perches, though, like the Western Bluebird, so I guess they’re not a complete waste.

On my way out of the preserve, I came across a couple of volunteers who were taking the nature center’s “animal ambassador” bird out for some air.  One was Wak-Wak, a female Peregrine Falcon, and the other was Orion, the Swainson’s Hawk I’d seen the last time I was there. Wak-Wak had been accidentally shot by hunters (who then rescued the bird and brought it in for care), so one of her wings is permanently mangled and she can’t fly.

I walked for about 3½ hours and then headed back home.

 

Sometimes Nature Giveth You Eagles, 01-19-18

Day 1 of my 4-day birthday weekend. I was hoping to sleep in a bit, but the dog got me up around 6:00 am. I had originally planned to go to the zoo today, but something at the back of my brain kept nagging me to go to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge instead. With the government shutdown looming, if a budget isn’t agreed upon today, the refuge may be closed down until one is put in place, so this might be the only chance I’ll get this weekend to go out there… So, I got the dog ready and we were on the road before 7:00 am.

It was cold in the morning, around 42º, but got up to about 57º by the afternoon.  The sky was mostly clear, with big sofa clouds clustered around the mountains. A pretty day.

The first thing I saw at the refuge was a Red-Tailed Hawk sitting on the ground by the carcass of something (that I couldn’t see clearly; lots of black feathers, it might have been a Coot). It’s always so weird to see these big bids sitting on the ground.  I saw other Red-Tails throughout my visit, including some pairs. Most of them, though, were deep in the twiggy branches of trees, and I couldn’t get any real clear photos of them.

That seemed to be true a lot today: Western Meadowlark, blocked by twigs, Peregrine Falcon, blocked by twigs, Northern Shrike, blocked by twigs… There was also a flock of Turkey Vultures on the ground, fighting over something, but all of the tall grass blocked most of what they were doing. It got really frustrating at times.  To kind of counteract that “jinx”, I actually went through the auto-tour route TWICE to get a second look at things when I could.  Doing that I was able to get some fairly good photos of Bald Eagles (adults and a juvenile), a Cooper’s Hawk, Snow Geese, a Western Pond Turtle, some Great Egrets and White-Faced Ibis, and other critters, so I was pleased with that.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

At one point, I could hear the weird crackle-warbling of Ravens, and looked around for them. They were way over my head, flying around a Red-Tailed Hawk. I didn’t know if the Ravens were chasing it off, or if they were just cruising on the air currents with it. I tried to get video of that, but the birds were so far away that the camera didn’t know what to focus on. *Sigh*.

On the I-got-the-good-side-of-that-deal front: I had pulled off to the side of the road to get some photos of a Great Egret, and while I was doing that, two White-Faced Ibis and a Snowy Egret flew right into view and landed within a few feet of the car. I also got some cute photos of a number of California Ground Squirrels. So, sometimes Nature giveth… Hah!

On my way out of the refuge, I saw another bunch of Turkey Vultures flying into a tree along the side of the road. I turned the car around and headed back to where they were, and when I got there, several of the vultures raised their wings in the “heraldic pose”, warming themselves in the sun. Other drivers caught sight of them, too, so about five or six of us ended up parking on the shoulder with our cameras and cell phones taking photos of them. A flock of humans snapping pix of a flock of vultures.

Bitterns and Otters Made My #OptOutside Day, 11-24-17

I got up with the dog around 5:30 am and we immediately headed out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  This is #OptOutside day; rather than doing Black Friday shopping, I’m spending the day outdoors. It was around 50º when we left the house and 61º when we got back home in the afternoon.

It was super-foggy on the way to the refuge, and the fog lingered to some extent for most of the day… which made photo-taking a challenge at times. There were a lot of the usual suspects at the Sacramento refuge: Killdeer, Golden-Crowned Sparrows, White-Crowned Sparrows, Turkey Vultures, House Sparrows, a Peregrine Falcon, Northern Shovelers, Greater White-Fronted Geese, Gadwalls, Northern Pintails, Mallards, Western Meadowlarks, Northern Harriers, Red-Winged Blackbirds, American Coots, Snow Geese, Ross’s Geese, Black Phoebes, Red-Tailed Hawks, Great Egrets… There were two standouts for the day though, and they were within a few feet of one another.

I stopped at a spot where two sloughs intersect, near the gate for the extended loop section of the auto tour route. I found an American Bittern in one of the sloughs, treading on the aquatic vegetation, looking for fish and crayfish. As I was photographing it and taking some videos, I could hear something gurgling in the water to my right. I looked over and could see the vegetation moving; something was underneath it. I focused the camera on that spot and saw a River Otter poke its head up to look around!  It ignored the Bittern – who in turn ignored the otter – and ducked back under the plants again.  A few seconds later, two otter heads popped up… and then three!

The otters all swam down the slough and climbed up onto the side of it. And then a fourth otter appeared! A whole family. They posed on the bank for a little while, and then disappeared into another section of wetland.  I looked back behind me, and the Bittern was still there, fishing away. It was completely oblivious to the otters. Hah!  I saw another Bittern further along the auto-tour route, in among the tules, but didn’t see the otters again.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos and video snippets.

I finished the route early (around 10 o’clock), so I decided to go over to the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge to check things out there. That refuge is much smaller than the Sacramento one, and usually not as interesting, but there are some birds that I see there that I don’t see at the Sacramento refuge (like Wigeons and Gallinules). The Colusa refuge isn’t full of water yet, and there weren’t many birds at the viewing platform there, so it wasn’t as “fun” a diversion as the Sacramento refuge was. I was through the Colusa refuge within about 90 minutes, and headed straight home from there.