Tag Archives: poppies

Found a Robin’s Nest at William Land Park, 06-23-18

I headed out with the dog to the William Land Park for a short walk. And I mean short. We were only out there for about 90-minutes. It was 73º already when we left the house at 5:30 am! and 80º when we got back home.

On our way to the park, I came across a mother Wild Turkey and her NINE poults. They were by an open field right near a bus stop. Mom was on one side of a rickety chain link fence, and the babies, who were on the sidewalk, couldn’t figure out how to get through the fence to meet up with her.  So, they were running back and forth, peeping loudly. Mom finally walked up to where there was a gap in the fence and stayed there until the kids could join her.

In the WPA Rock Garden, there were different species of Mullein in bloom all over garden, yellow and white. Just some fun facts about mullein: it’s a biennial plant; the word mullein, comes from the German language, meaning “king’s candle” because of its scepter-like, candle-straight growth in its second year; the leaves and flowers are edible and make a nice tea. Most of the mullein we see are non-natives and the Woolly species is considered an invasive in California even though it’s not really that aggressive.

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

I also saw signs that the Leaf-Cutter Bees had been busy at work in the garden. They cut out perfect little half-circles in the soft leaves of the Redbud trees to line their nests. I also saw a lot of the ubiquitous European Honey Bees, some Yellow-Faced Bumblebees, some Long-Horned Bees just waking up from their overnight torpor, and a small group of bright red Assassin Bug nymphs on the stems of some Red Poppies of Flanders.

I also found what I thought was a collection of tiny, black shiny insect eggs. I took photos of them and when I blew the images up I realized that the little black things were actually bug nymphs (Pittosporum shield bug, Monteithiella humeralis, I think) just hatching out of their white eggs. Cool!

At the pond, there was a Mallard mama out with her seven ducklings, and also a mama Swedish Blue/Mallard hybrid with her three ducklings. One of her ducklings looked like a Mallard baby, but the other two were black and yellow with light colored bibs like the Swedish Blues. One of those babies also had black feet with yellow toes. So cute!

There was also a lone Wood Duck (a little female who didn’t take any guff from the larger Mallards), a Crested Duck, a pair of Peking Ducks, and some Indian Runner Ducks. No geese, though, which I thought was kind of odd.

High in a tree on one side of the pond, I could see a nest and something moving around in it. The nest was made of twigs and grass, and also had some white ribbon hanging from the bottom of it (which made it easy to spot). For I while I couldn’t tell what kind of bird was moving around it, so I tried looking at it from different angles and different distances from the tree. I then I realized it was Robin’s nest. Mama Robin came by to check on the kids – there were actually three of them in there. I think she’d brought them something to eat, but I couldn’t tell what it was. Papa Robin showed up a few seconds later, and then both parents flew off again to find more breakfast.

Oh, one thing I noticed that I’d never seen before: a mosquito drinking nectar from a flower. I knew the females drank blood, but for some reason it never occurred to me that they (and the males) drink nectar, too.

As I said, we only walked for about 90 minutes and then headed back home because it was already getting too warm outside. It got up to 102 today.

Deer, Goslings and Acorn Woodpeckers, 05-16-17

DAY 11 OF MY VACATION. I got up around 5:30 this morning and headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve… It was cool and overcast all day today, and never got over 65º outside.  All of this beautiful weather we’ve been having is on its way out, though. When I got back to work next week, it’s supposed to be over 100º every day… Pleh!

I was hoping to see the baby hawks again today at the preserve, but it was dark and chilly outside, and they weren’t awake yet.  I got a tiny bit of video of one of them rustling around the nest, but no good shots.  I could hear their mom and dad screeching at one another across the preserve, but didn’t see either of them go to the nest… I did get to see quite a few deer, and lots of geese and their goslings, though.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos and videos.

The first deer I saw was a female – who looked very pregnant – standing in the overgrown native flowers bed near the nature center building. She was eating all the tender leaves on the plants, and some of the flower heads.  Surprisingly, she let me get quite close to her – maybe within 8 feet– and never startled.  She was so calm, I watched her graze for several minutes before moving on.  All of the other deer I saw were also casually grazing… and I saw one buck in his velvet hobbling though the long grass.  It looked like he was favoring his right front leg, but I couldn’t tell what was wrong because the grass came up almost to his shoulders.  I couldn’t see any swelling in the joints that I could see; and nothing looked broken.  Maybe he has an injury to his hoof…

I found some areas where the thistles were thick… and many of them had Painted Lady Butterfly caterpillars stretched out along them, covered with a thin web of silk (which they spin while they’re feeding)… It’s hard to get photos of them when they’re in their webs because the camera keeps trying to focus on the webbing instead of the caterpillars, and the prickles on the thistles stab me in the hands.  I got a few, though.

I also came across a small flock of female Wild Turkeys, and next to them was a group of males, all showing off, fanning their tails, dropping their wings, and snorting through their snoods.  The gals were not impressed and didn’t even look at the guys. I got some video of one of the gobblers and in it you can his snood contract and expand on his face.  On the video you can hear me “chew!”-ing at him, mimicking the noise the male turkeys made when they snort out blasts of air from under their snood.  It made the male turn and look at me, so I could get some good head-on footage of him…

Just seconds after I left the group of turkeys behind to get some shots of another doe in a nearby field, I heard the turkeys all scrambling and gobbling and shrieking frantically, I looked back to see a coyote chasing one of them down.  I ran – Yeah, me, running. Try not to laugh out loud. – after the coyote but lost it in the over-growth.  I couldn’t tell if it got a turkey or not, but as I turned back to the trail, I saw a second coyote running up from the riverside.  He must’ve heard the breakfast call.  It all happened so fast all I got through the camera was a few-second glimpse of the second coyote as it ran through the overgrowth. Got my heart going, I can tell you.

After that I headed to the river bank to see how far up the water was there.  It was up higher than it normally is, but wasn’t “flooding” like it had been earlier. There were quite a few pairs of Canada Geese close to the water, and each pair had a handful of goslings.  It seemed like each group had babies of different ages, from little golden fuzzies to gray-and-black ones that were just starting to fledge.

Now, a lot of times several groups of dominant parents will work collectively to oversee, feed and protect a large crèche of babies, but these pairs weren’t intermingling, and sometimes showed aggression toward one another.  So I was surprised by how close the parents let me get to their kids; some came to within about a foot of me – and the parents didn’t attack or hiss at me.  I was the only person on the shore, so maybe they didn’t think I was much of a threat… One of the parents, though, got mad at another parent’s fledgling that got too close to its fuzzies, and it bit the fledging in the butt and chased it into the water. For the rest of the time I was there, that one fledgling stayed in the water, whining for its parents to come get it… Poor baby. When his mom finally came back to him, he fussed and fussed at her, as though scolding her for leaving him behind.  Hah!

I also saw a lot of Acorn Woodpeckers who were out and about, squawking and “ratchet-ing!” at each other. One pair was in the process of excavating a new nesting cavity in the side of a dead tree near the nature center that had been denuded of limbs and topped off (so it wouldn’t fall on anyone). It amazed me how perfectly round the cavity’s doorway was; like they had used a drill or a awl or something rather than their face.  Amazing.

I walked for about 4 ½ hours, and then headed home. On the way there, I stopped to get the few groceries I had forgotten to put on the list for delivery this afternoon, and got back to the house around 11:30 am. My ankles were killing me, but I think the exercise is good for me…

I relaxed with the dogs for a few hours, and then Safeway delivered the rest of the groceries to the house.  I unpacked those, and then crashed for the rest of the day.

Two Gardens in One Sunday

Bear's Breeches. ©2016 Copyright Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.
Bear’s Breeches. ©2016 Copyright Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.

I got up around 6:00 this morning and headed over to the William Land Park and the WPA Rock Garden.  It was only about 49° outside this morning, and got up to a high around 70°, so it was a lovely day weatherwise.

When I got to the park, the first thing I saw was a group of Mallard fledglings.  I think was the same orphaned group I saw several weeks ago when they were just fuzzy babies.  They were traveling without a mom.  If it was the same group, they’ve developed well.  Their mama must’ve died AFTER she was able to teach them enough to keep them alive.  I’m kind of proud of the little things.  They had a really rough start, but are doing very well… I also came across a couple of pairs of Wood Ducks…  In the rock garden, I saw a lot of beautiful flowers, but no really neat bugs – although an Assassin Bug nymph did land on my arm and walk around for a while.  Hah!  I wanted to go over to the larger pond in the park, but that whole section was closed off for some kind of special event. Grrrr.

I still wanted to do some more walking, so I went over to the Sacramento Old City Cemetery.  When I got there I was all set to park across the street in the big parking lot there but… the parking lot was blocked off because they were repaving it.  Grrrr-2.  So I drove around the block and parked inside the cemetery near the front gate. (You’re not really supposed to, but… the parking lot was inaccessible).  The gardens there are starting to fade already but I still managed to get quite a few photos.  The cemetery seemed full of Mockingbirds this morning; they were singing from everywhere, many standing on the headstones to show off for the girls. I was also surprised to see a young Red-Shouldered Hawk fly in and land on one of the pine trees there.  He didn’t stay long, though, because a pair of Scrub Jays kept harassing him.  Apparently, that was THEIR tree and they didn’t want the hawk loitering around there.  What was funny was: just before the hawk took off, he pooped on the tree.  Take THAT, Scrub Jays.  Hahahahaha!  As I was leaving the cemetery, I saw a male Western Bluebird land on the fingertips of one of the “monumental” size statues…

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I walked around for about 2 hours and then headed out.  I stopped first at Raley’s to get a few things for lunch before going home.

Some Shinrin-yoku after the BIGDOG on Wednesday

Mallard Duckling. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Mallard Duckling. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

Well after the debacle that was this year’s Big Day of Giving (CLICK HERE to read more about it) and my working a 20 hour shift for Tuleyome on Tuesday and a 10 hour shift on Wednesday trying to keep donors engaged and happy, I was exhausted in every aspect of my being, so I shut off the computer and my phone and took a walk in nature for a little while.

Nature heals.  It’s been documented.  The Japanese call it “shinrin-yoku” (forest bathing / walking) and it always seems to work for me.  I couldn’t get out to a forest today, but I did manage to get over to the WPA Rock Garden and duck pond.  Saw lots of beautiful flowers, interesting bugs, and cute ducklings and goslings… got some fresh air… walked around for a little over an hour to get my body moving again after sitting hunched over in front of a computer for 2 days.  Just what I needed.

Here’s a video of some fry in the pond.

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If you want to learn more about the healing effects of nature on the body and mind here are a few articles you can read: 

 

Last Day of Vacation: WPA Rock Garden

Black-Crowned Night Heron. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Black-Crowned Night Heron. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

Last day of vacation.  Both Marty and  I got up around 6:00 this morning, and I headed over to the WPA Rock Garden and the duck ponds at William Land Park for my walk.

The garden is starting to really show off; another week and it should be spectacular.  Lots of flowers and trees in bloom; layer upon layer of color in some places…  LOTS of snails.  I know the gardeners hate them, but I like taking photos of them.  I like the whorl in their shell, their “nubbly” skin and their stalk eyes… I also found a lot of Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, and one young White-lined Sphinx Moth caterpillar.  I was hoping to see some Monarch caterpillars, but… nothing yet.  I did see several Ladybeetle larvae and one of them in its pupal stage.

It was 51° outside, so I was a little surprised to see steam rising off the duck pond behind the garden… I was also surprised – shocked actually – to see a Black-Crowned Night Heron fishing along the edge of the larger pond.  I had NEVER seen one of those in that park, and was surprised to see it in such an open spot, and out that “late” in the morning.  (This is the breeding season, though, and sometimes they’ll hunt during the day when that’s going on.)  This bird was pretty bold, too, and let me get fairy close to it so I could get the photos I wanted.  When someone brought their dog close, though, the heron took off and set itself down on the island in the middle of the pond.  An older couple who were taking pictures with their cellphones saw it when it landed and asked me what it was.  When I told them, they then asked me to identify the other birds they were seeing: Turkey Vultures, Chinese Geese, Canada Geese, Mallards, Cormorants, Wood Ducks…  I got to do my “naturalist” thing. Hah! When I identified “those big brown birds” as Turkey Vultures, the couple were afraid that the vultures would hurt the ducklings in the pond, but they felt better when I assured them that Turkey Vultures don’t generally go for live prey – they’re carrion eaters.  (I didn’t tell the couple that the Night Heron might eat chicks and ducklings, though.)

The Turkey Vultures were hanging around the trees near the edges of the largest pond, and one of them decided it liked a nesting box as a perch.  I don’t know if there was anyone occupying the nest box, but the Turkey Vulture looked so “incongruous” sitting on top of it.  Lots of people stopped to take pictures of it.

This time of year, it’s always fun to see all the ducklings and goslings around.  Along with the Canada Geese goslings, I saw Mallard ducklings and Wood Duck ducklings… There are also a lot of very “horny” male ducks – the ones who couldn’t get a female of their own, I think – that were harassing some of the females even if the females had ducklings with them.  There was a Swedish Blue duck that kept trying to get to a female Mallard, and the male Mallards ganged up on him to make him leave her alone.  In the garden, I came across a female Cayuga duck being harassed by a male.  She ran close to where I was standing and the male backed off, waddling away through the plants.  The female hung around me for a few minutes, following me until I went into a part of the garden where she might have felt too “exposed”…

There was one of the big white Chinese Geese pond-side who was harassing people rather than other birds.  Its companion, I noticed, was blind on one side, and the big white was hyper-protective of it.  I saw it bite one woman, and later attack another woman’s Chihuahua.  The Canada Geese hissed at anyone who came near their goslings, but they didn’t “attack” like the Chinese Goose did.  When I walked by the Chinese Goose, I kept my camera bag between the birds and my body, so if it bit at me it would get fabric and not skin.  It lowered its head and ran at me, but pulled up at the last second and walked back to its companion.  Fake out.

There were also lots and lots of squirrels running around.  A few of them were “people-friendly” and ran up to me so I could take their pictures.  I actually ended up taking over 600 photos throughout the walk, and picked about 100 of them that I really liked to share with you.  There are so many that I’m breaking them into two albums (one for flowers and one for birds).

Album #1:

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Album #2:

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

Vacation Day 4: American River Bend Park

Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

Vacation Day Four.  I got up around 6:30 this morning and headed over to the American River Bend Park for a walk..  It was in the 60’s (around 63° by the afternoon) and partly cloudy all day.

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular at the park; just wanted a long nature walk.  But I still ended up taking several hundred photographs.  I found a couple of birds’ nesting cavities including that of a White-Breasted Nuthatch and a House Wren who were both nesting in the same tree, but in different holes in the tree. That was kind of neat.  Along the river I also saw some Common Mergansers, Great Egrets, Canada Geese, Acorn Woodpeckers, and a Great Blue Heron.

I also came across a group of six jackrabbits.  They were cavorting around the picnic tables in the park… so cute.  One of them, though, had a deformity on its cheeks that looked like some big canker busted and then turned all black and leathery.  Eeew.  I did a little research to see if I could find some information about the condition, but I couldn’t find anything… The search will continue.

On the insect front: The Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars are hatching out all over the park, and some of them are fattening up quickly.  I came across one of the caterpillars with something that really surprised me.  I knew that when they’re large enough to pupate, the caterpillars spin a line of silk, attach it to a substrate (like a branch) and wrap it around their shoulders… but this one had spun a mat of silk underneath it. I’d never seen that before, and couldn’t find anything written about it.  It was so odd, I tried getting photos of it, but the caterpillar REALLY didn’t like my putting it on its back to get the photos… At first I thought maybe it was dragging someone else’s silk after it, but when I rolled the caterpillar onto its back, I could see the silk attached to its belly.  The belly area, though, is not where their spinners are so… I’m still very confused about it.  Maybe it blundered onto a super-sticky spider’s web that stuck firmly to it or something.  I don’t know. I’ll have to keep researching.  Speaking of these caterpillars, I found a really neat video of the on YouTube so you can see how they grow and how they spin the silk shoulder-wrap before they form their chrysalis.  I’ve seen them in the torpid state, just after they’ve spun the silk but before the chrysalis is formed.  I would LOVE to watch and film the whole process in the wild sometime.

Anyway, here’s the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2cE86AA1q0.

There were also lots of Ladybug (ladybeetles) and their larvae showing up now, Snakeflies, Crane Flies, all sorts of beetles, and other critters.  I also came across some Scarab-Hunter Wasps.  They’re rather large wasps that are kind of “hairy” all over.  The adults eat pollen and nectar, but they lay their eggs in the beetle larvae and the kids grow up eating the larvae… You find them hovering low over the ground where they “listen” for the sound of the grubs under the surface.  Then they uproot the grubs to lay their eggs in them… So they’re carnivores that grow into vegans as they mature.  Hah! Nature is so weird sometimes. I also found a few spider egg sacs.  I’m not adept enough, though, to tell what species of spider left what sac…

The wildflowers are also blooming along the river, mostly Miniature Lupine, Monkey Flowers, Poppies, Vetch, Pink Grass, and Stork’s Bill.  So, there was something interesting or pretty to see no matter you looked.

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I walked for about 3½ hours and then headed back to the house. I picked up a few groceries at the store on the way, unpacked stuff when I got home, and put in load of laundry before crashing with the dogs.