Tag Archives: pipevine

Cool Tracks and a Coyote, 09-22-18

Happy Autumnal Equinox and Happy National Public Lands Day.

I got up around 6:30 and headed over to the American River Bend Park for a walk. I wasn’t expecting to see a lot there because we’re kind of in between seasons right now – and I didn’t see much. But the exercise was good for me. It would have been a perfectly lovely morning walk had it not been for a large family group who’d been camping there overnight. When they got up, just as I arrived at the park, one of the kids started scream-“singing” at the top of its lungs and wouldn’t stop. No respect for the space or other visitors. The noise didn’t abate until its parents fed it breakfast.

Most of the photos I took on my walk were of scenery – everything kind of rusty looking as we head into fall and winter. In the dusty dirt along the side of the trails, I was able to make out some animal tracks, including those made by deer, raccoon, Wild Turkeys… and Western Fence Lizards: tiny footprints on either side of the long center drag-mark left by their tails.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

At several spots along the trail, I saw a big coyote. It kept itself just out of clear view – so taking photos of it was difficult – but I got it a few times staring right me through the scrub. I also found a couple of places where it had stopped to relieve itself and was kind of surprised to see its poop filled with acorns and wild grapes. Based on its size and how healthy it looked, I thought there would be more animal traces in its scat. Maybe it was a vegan coyote. Hah!

Along the river I saw Canada Geese, a tiny Spotted Sandpiper (without its spots), a Western Gull and a Great Egret. I also saw some House Wrens checking out a possible nesting cavity in the side of a Valley Oak tree.

Oh, and I saw a small flock of Sandhills Cranes flying overhead, clattering to one another. In another month, lots of migrating birds should be flooding into the region.

I headed home after about 2 hours.

Many Babies at the River Bend Park, 05-28-18

Memorial Day. I knew it was going to be hot today – a high of 97º — but I was surprised by how fast the morning heated up. I barely got in 2 ½ hours of walking before I had to call it quits. The shorter walk meant fewer photos, too; only about 300+ instead of my usual 1000+. Most of those are “burst” photos, of course, when the camera takes a burst of 5 shots at time, but still…

I went to the American River Bend Park, and the first thing I encountered there was a mama Wild Turkey and her brood of about 6 poults. She kept the babies in the tall grass (which is golden now) so they were pretty obscured, but it was still neat to be able to see them. You don’t get to see turkey babies very often.

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos.

Then I saw the trio of Great Horned Owl owlets. They’re almost fully fledged now, and only have a little bit of their baby fluff poking out here and there. Their mom wasn’t with them, although I’m sure she was nearby hunting. She might continue feeding the owlets until September or October when they’ll be old enough to go out on their own. The owlets were up in a tree alongside an offshoot trail, but you could see them from the road that takes you into the camping part of the park. They let me get pretty close to take photos of them before flying off on strong, totally silent wings. They’re so cool.

Other babies I saw today were Canada Geese goslings, floating in the river between their parents and guardians and hopping up on the shore to peck at the greenery there. I also saw a pair of Mallards and their ducklings.

I was watching them on the river, and when they came close to shore, something large charged at them from under the low-hanging bows of a tree growing on the river bank. Mama Mallard charged back, flapping her wings and quacking ferociously, and it wasn’t until the attacker retreated that I was able to see clearly what it was: a young coyote. Pretty smart of her to stay hidden in the greenery. But she wasn’t fast enough or adept enough to get past mama Mallard and snatch one of her kids. The coyote needs to work on that technique.

The Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars are just starting to get fat enough and big enough to form their chrysalises. I saw a couple of them attached to trees but not out of their skin yet. And in another location, I found two chrysalises near to one another. They looked like they’d recently formed and were still a little “gooey”. One of them still had the sloughed off skin of the caterpillar attached to the bottom of it. You could see the caterpillar’s shed face among the leavings..

Lots of Cavity Nesting Birds, 05-19-18

I got up around 6:00 am and was out the door by 6:30 to go over to the American River Bend Park. I was sure the Great Horned Owl owlets were fully fledged by now and off hunting, so I didn’t expect to see them. I wanted to go out there, though, to see if the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars were mature enough yet to start making their chrysalises. It’s apparently still too early for that around here, but I still got to see a lot birds and bugs and other things.

A lot of the usual suspects were out – Wild Turkeys, Starlings, Tree Swallows, Mourning Doves, House Wrens – and I was able to get photos of some of the cavity nesting birds in and around their nests. One pair of wrens was just starting to work on their nest, bringing sticks and soft stuff to line it with; another pair of wrens had babies and were flying food to them every few minutes. Standing nest tot heir tree, I was able to hear the bay birds inside cheeping away. I need to get a camera with a stretchy arm that can reach up and look down into the cavities…

The neat find of the day – even though I didn’t get many good photos because of the lighting and where the birds were – was a Western Bluebird nesting cavity. Both the male and female were feeding their nestlings (which, like the wren babies, I could hear from inside of the tree). Western Bluebirds are shy, though, and move really quickly, especially if they think you’re looking at them. (As brightly colored as the males are, it always surprises me how easily they can disappear into the shadows.) Still, I managed to get some photos of both the mom and the dad and they flew back and forth and brought bugs for their babies. At one point, the papa Bluebird figured I was getting too close to the nesting cavity, and he flew right at me, beak open. I got a few shaky photos of that before I backed off from the tree. I’m there to observe, not interfere…

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I also found a male hummingbird high up in a tree, and tried to get photos of him, but I couldn’t tell if he was an Anna’s or a Black-Chinned.

I saw some Scarab Hunter Wasps hovering close to the ground, looking for grubs to infest, and some other wasp-like insects that I haven’t been able to identify yet. There are sooooooo many insects with superfamilies, families, and tribes to go through before you ever get down to the genus and species level… They’re really difficult for me to identify properly. I really admire entomologists and their bug and insect proficiency.

One of the odd-ball insects I found was a small wasp-like thing with an iridescent blue thorax, red-orange abdomen, and somewhat clear wings. I was thinking maybe it was a kind of “Digger Wasp”, but I couldn’t find one on Bugguide.net with the right color legs. Maybe a “sawfly”?  I also found a golden fly-like thing with red eyes and an iridescent green thing I think is some kind of cuckoo wasp. I’m not sure. I’ll have to continue the search for the IDs.

I also came across quite a few Tussock Moth caterpillar cocoons. Most of them were already spent (with an opening at one end through which the mature moth emerged), but one was completely intact and had a layer of hard white “fluff” over the top of it. I’d never seen one like that, so I took photos and then did some more research when I got home.

I knew that the female moths (which are wingless) laid their eggs on their old cocoons and then covered the eggs with a layer of hair and foamy secretions from their bodies (which hardens to protect the eggs as they overwinter), and that could have been the case with the cocoon I found, but it seemed at first glance that the pupal casing was still inside the cocoon, which meant the moth hadn’t emerged yet.  A puzzle.

My research indicated that sometimes parasitic wasps will lay their eggs on top of the cocoons and as the larvae emerge they build a tight white webbing around them to protect themselves while they feast on the moth pupa inside the cocoon. I wasn’t sure which scenario I was looking at, so, I opened up the cocoon to see if there was anything inside of it.  Although the cocoon itself was intact (no emergence hole in the end of it), the pupal casing inside of it was empty.  I’m still not absolutely positive about what I was seeing, but I’m assuming the white fluff was made by a wasp, not by the female moth, and the pupa was devoured before the moth had a chance to develop. Nature is so fascinating.

The buckeye trees are all in bloom right now; so pretty. And some of the black walnut trees are already sporting new walnuts. I was surprised to see that many of the Hop Trees around had already lost most of their seeds. Lots of hungry birds out there, I guess.  Along the river, I found a lot of Elegant Clarkia in bloom as well as Bush Monkey Flowers. I would have gone further along that part of the trail but by that time I had already been on m feet for over three hours, and I needed to get back to the car.

All in all, I ended up walking for about 4 hours.

Needing Some “Get Outside” Time, 05-02-18

I needed to “get outside” of myself, so I took the dog over to the American River Bend Park.

Sergeant Margie can’t do long walks anymore, so he spent the majority of the time in the backseat of the car. I parked in the shade and left the windows about 1/3 of the way down, then walked in wide circles, keeping the car in sight all of the time. That meant I couldn’t do much investigating and I couldn’t spend a lot of time at the park, but the fresh air was good for me… and I got to see some birds, a pair of coyotes, and some other critters while I was there.

Nature heals.  CLICK HERE to see the photo album.

Oh, and mama Great Horned Owl and her three owlets weren’t in their nest, but I found them in a tree across a field from the nest. All of the owlets are still sporting a lot of baby fluff, but their primary feathers are in, so they can fly for short distances. Mom remains nearby to make sure they’re safe, but they’re getting more and more independent.

I was only out for about 2 ½ hours, but it was just what I needed.