Tag Archives: Red Cone galls

Lots and Lots and Lots of Deer, 09-15-18

OMG it was soooo beautiful outside today I could hardly believe it: around 53º when I got up around 6:30 am, and never made it past 77º by the afternoon. Breezy, sunny… just gorgeous! It had even rained a little bit during the night, so everything had that wonderful earthy smell to it… There were a lot of nimbus clouds in the sky, but they disbursed by the end of the day.

I went to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my walk and was surprised to find the ambient nature sounds disrupted by the noise of some kind construction (or gravel work) being done further up river. The grinding, crunching, scraping noise lasted for about 90-minutes, and was replaced by the noise of a soccer game or something taking place on the lawn near the entrance to the preserve: men shouting “That’s mine! That’s mine!”, “To me! To Me!” and “Keep it moving!” Guh! So much for a quiet nature walk.  It also didn’t help that the loud, obnoxious group of trail-walkers came up behind me on one of the trails, and the leader yelled to the others, “We found the lone hiker!”  That group has no sense of respect for the place, the animals or the other people on the trails. When you’re out in nature BE QUIET, people!

Despite the noise and interruptions, I did get to see a LOT of deer, including some bachelor groups of bucks and a group of does with a fawn. Another doe on a different part of the trail also had a fawn with her. The baby was still in his spots, but it looked like he might’ve been attacked by something. Most of the hair around his neck was gone (leaving just crusty-looking skin) and he had a gash down his throat. It wasn’t deep but was very red and sore-looking. I wonder if one of the young coyotes had tried to get a hold of him.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos:

Among the bucks, one was still in his velvet and hanging out with the does. I guess I couldn’t hang with the guys until his antlers were more presentable. Hah!

As far as the birds went, I got photos of Lesser Goldfinches, Acorn Woodpeckers, a White-Breasted Nuthatch, a Black Phoebe eating a Jerusalem Cricket (those bugs are HUGE; it made for a good breakfast for the little bird), and Wild Turkeys. There was one spot along the trail where there was a huge mess of turkey feathers everywhere. A fox or coyote must’ve ambushed one of the turkeys – an early Thanksgiving dinner. I could hear the California Quails shouting out their “chi-ca-go!” call but couldn’t see any of them. I did get some photos of California Scrub Jays, though.

I watched (and videoed) an Eastern Fox Squirrel as it ran with big fat acorn and then buried it in the ground. Stocking up for winter (such as it is here).

You can see the video here: https://youtu.be/EJFjrlyiNmo

I also got to see a few specimens of the first Sulphur Shelf Fungus of the season. They don’t like it when it gets really wet outside, so they usually show up a month or two before the other fungi.

At the little pond in the front of the preserve, I noticed that all of the branches on the alder tree that had been sporting the Alder Tongue Galls I photographed earlier in the month, had all been cut off the tree. So, it was looking pretty barren and wretched around the bottom. I get that the groundskeepers probably don’t want the fungus up so close to the nature center but… it isn’t a “preserve” if all of the elements of the nature area aren’t allowed to do what they normally do – including the Alder Tongue Gall fungus.

I walked for a little over 3 hours and then headed home.

Nature Walk on a Lovely Day, 09-14-18

I went on a photo walk with my coworker, Nate, and one of Tuleyome’s donors/volunteers, Sami, to Lake Solano Park this morning.

The weather was extraordinarily lovely today. It was in the 50’s at the park and got up to about 75º by the late afternoon. There was slight breeze and the sky was filled with cirrus clouds. Gorgeous.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

Sami is an avid birder – she logged 300 species last year! – and she was able to point out birds to us that we might have otherwise missed. Many of them – including a juvenile Golden Eagle – were on the fly and moving fast so I wasn’t able to get photos of them. But it was still cool to see them.

And Nate is a total nature nerd, like me, so it’s always fun to go out into the field with him. We get excited by things like bugs and fungus and otter scat… so, we enjoyed locating and identifying galls on the trees in the park, hah! We even found a gall I had never seen before. (Or at least didn’t recognize. It turned out to be an early stage of the Round Gall.)

The stand outs for the day for me, though, besides the lovely scenery at the park (which sits right along Putah Creek), were the peahens and their babies, a sleepy Western Screech Owl, a juvenile Great Blue Heron (who startled us by “appearing” on the shore right next to the path we were walking on), and an American White Pelican who was sitting in the middle of the creek, preening, sunning, and doing a little fishing.

We walked for about 3 hours, and then headed our separate ways.

Saw a Coyote Family Playing in a Meadow, 08-11-18

Got up around 6:00 am after a good night’s sleep. I head over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve and it was already 68º outside (with a “real feel” of 73º according to the weather app on my phone.)

The first thing I saw when I got to the preserve was two coyote pups (teenagers) bouncing through the meadow. I parked the car and got out hurriedly and tried to figure out which way the kids were going. As I entered the grounds, I saw an adult coyote standing next to the nature center. It walked up the side of a hill and then sat down in the tall grass, nearly disappearing as it did so. I continued on down the trail and found the pack in the meadow. It looked like mom and about four pups. They were running around, play-hunting, and jumping up and down. Mom would sit down in the grass, and the pups would run around her and back and forth across the meadow. Then they’d all converge on the mom and pounce on her like she was prey. She’d roll around and nip at them… they were all having such a good time; it was so fun to watch them.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos. And here are some videos from today:

A little further down the same trail, I came across a trio of does. They were standing in the woods, and all of them had their ears cocked, listening to the coyotes in the field nearby. So pretty.

And still further down the trail, near the pond, I saw a doe to my left, and could hear what I first thought was a kitten mewing to my right. I looked around the tules by the pond and found that the “mewing” was actually coming from a fawn. The fawn was still in its spots and looked as though it had injured one side of its mouth. Its bottom lip was swollen in the corner and that tilted the mouth a bit, so it looked like the fawn had a perpetual “resting bitch face” look. Hah!

I’m not sure, but it looked like maybe the fawn had been stung by bees or wasps. The mouth injury didn’t seem to have interfered with the fawn’s ability to eat, though; it looked chubby and healthy. Its coat was a little ratty-looking but that might be because it was shedding its baby coat and making room for its teenager coat.

The wild mugwort is going into bloom everywhere throughout the preserve, and more wasp galls are appearing on the oak trees.

Another treat was being able to see a large flock of Yellow-Billed Magpies on one of the lawns. They were slumming with a smaller flock of European Starlings. It looked like most of the magpies were going through a molt; you could see all the yellow skin around their eyes…

At one point, one of the magpies jumped on top of another. The magpie on the bottom started screaming and struggling to get up. While it screamed, and the other magpies flew in around it. I got the impression that they weren’t ganging up on the one on the ground, so much as they wanted the magpie that was on top to leave the other one alone. The magpie on top moved to one side, and the pinned one flew away. Wow.

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed home. While I was walking, I had the Pokémon Go game running on my phone and walked enough miles to hatch out two eggs. Both of them were Magnemites. For those of you who don’t play the game, you’ll have no idea what that means. Hah-ha-ha!

Lots to See at the Effie Yeaw Preserve

Nature heals.  I went over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve, and it was fortuitous that I did the walk there today.  Tomorrow the place is going to be closed up for an equestrian event of some sort. It was a fortuitous walk, too, in that I was able to see a whole lot of different things…

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

The big news was the number of Monarch Butterfly caterpillars there were in the milkweed garden outside the nature center.  So of the plants were covered with the buggers, the plants chewed down to just sticks… and I found one of the Monarch chrysalises!  They’re such pretty little things, all pale jade green and studded with bright gold dots. I even found of the caterpillars mid-poop.  Their frass (butterfly poop) is tans and rolled up like miniature bales of hay.  Hah!  It’s unusual for the caterpillars to be out en masse so late in the season, but the summer heat must’ve confused them, too… I also saw a late season Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly. They’re supposed to be finished and out of here by May… so that guy was REALLY late.

Saw quite a few birds including the ubiquitous Acorn Woodpeckers, Mourning Doves, California Towhees, House Finches, a Wood Duck, and a Flicker.  I’d stopped at one point so get some photos of a young California Scrub Jay, and while I was doing that, a male California Quail popped up and climbed onto the same fallen branch the jay was sitting on… I also saw some European Starlings and Cedar Waxwings. Near the river bank, I saw quite a few Killdeer scurrying over the rocks.  And in one of the old dead trees on the property, the Turkey Vultures were preening and sunning themselves in the early morning light.

One intense irritation for me was when I came across a whole covey of female Quails on the trail.  I stopped to take some photos of them, and while I was focusing the camera to get a closer shot, these two women walked up behind me, pushed me to one side with a muttered “excuse me” and walked past me right front of my camera. I couldn’t believe it. These women were older than I am; way too old to be playing “mean girls”.

“You totally messed up my shot. Thanks,” I said. And one of the woman turned around and gave me a dirty look, while the other one grinned a stupid grin and said, “Well, it’s the only trail around.” Not true… and even if it WAS true, that didn’t excuse their behavior.

The tree squirrels and California Ground Squirrels were munching on black walnuts all over the preserve.  I was able to get a few photos and a video snippet of one of them.

And, of course, I was able to see quite a few mule deer – including an older fawn who seemed fascinated by my camera. I could tell he REALLY wanted to walk over to see what it was, but he was smart and kept his distance.

At one other point along the trail I was astonished to see what I first thought were wasps flying in and around a hole in the side of a tree.  I didn’t want to approach the tree to get a closer look, for fear of getting stung, so I used the super-zoom function on my camera and realized the swarm wasn’t wasps, it was Honey Bees.  It couldn’t tell if the swarm was just starting to set up house in the tree, or if they were moving out their queen and relocating… but it was a mass of bees! A hundred or more that I could see… Considering the time of year and the activity at the tree, I’m guessing this swarm was gathered around a new emergent queen and were in the process of establishing a new hive, but I didn’t see the queen.  It seemed obvious, especially in the video snippets I took, that the workers were chewing at the tree back and transforming the resins in it. You can see a distinct color difference between the unworked bark, and the bark on which the bees were focused.

You can see the ring of propolis on the bark that is being worked up by the bees.

I looked up some information on this and learned that “…the tree resin is not used in the hive in its original form when collected by the bees. The bees process the tree resin in their mouths and then, almost magically the tree resin is concentrated into an array of least 180 different compounds which have been identified so far…”

One of those compounds is propolis.

“… Propolis or bee glue is a resinous mixture that honey bees produce by mixing saliva and beeswax with exudate gathered from tree buds, sap flows, or other botanical sources. It is used as a sealant for unwanted open spaces in the hive. Propolis is used for small gaps…”  The propolis makes the hive more structurally sound, protects the hive from the weather, and affords the hive protection from invading insects, molds and bacteria.

Should be interesting to see how this hive does… if the rangers allow it to continue where it is.

On my way out of the preserve, I stopped by their little pond, and got to see quite a few little Bullfrogs in the water, including one that still had some of its tadpole tail.

Lots to see…

Galls, Galls and More Galls 08-20-17

I was out the door by 6:30 to go to the Cosumnes River Preserve.  I was hoping to be able to get photos of dragonflies on their wetland areas… but the whole wetland area was completely dry. There was only a little bit of water in the slough along the road.  That was disappointing.

But I still wanted to walk, so I walked along the boardwalk and behind the slough, taking photos of the different galls I was able to find.  Among the galls, I found on the oak trees examples of Red Cone galls, Spiny Turbans, Spangles. Saucers, Yellow Wigs, Gouty Twig galls, Oak Apples, Rosette galls, and Clubs.  There were also lots of Flat-Topped Honeydew galls, and some of them were exuding so much honeydew that the branches and leaves of the tree were dripping with the stuff.  It made handling things really sticky… I also found some galls on the Ash and Willow trees.

I only saw about 4 birds while I was out there, which is also unusual, and got photos of a Great Egret, a Killdeer and a Black Phoebe.  So, it wasn’t the best day for a variety of photos, but the morning weather was nice, and I was able to walk for about 3 hours so I got some exercise.

Before Work: Deer, a Young Coyote, Squirrels and a Female Quail

I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk. It was 59º when I headed out, and stayed nice all the while I was out there. When I first started out on the trail, I was kind of surprised to see a male Wild Turkey just standing in the middle of the trail looking at me. He actually let me walk up very near to him before he started walking up the trail ahead of me. I eventually passed him, and he didn’t run or fly away – just kept an eye on me. It was kind of cool and kind of creepy at the same time…

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

A few feet further up the trail, I suddenly saw a small head pop up from a small knoll covered with long dried grass and weeds. It was a young coyote! It didn’t see me right away, and I got to see it pounce through the grass after a mouse or vole or something. Then the coyote realized I was there and just stood there for a second trying to decide whether to run or keep hunting. It trotted off down the other side of the knoll, and I saw it circle back to see if I was still around where its would-be meal was. It saw me once more and decided to just split…

There’s one spot on the trail where there are signs warning about a nest of ground-dwelling Yellow Jackets. I always slow down around there to try to listen for the wasps. Today, when I paused there, a mother deer walked out of the woods with her two young fawns and started chewing on the leaves of a black walnut tree right on the trail in front of me. The babies moved in under the tree, in the shade, and tasted some of the leaves, too.

I was actually able to get pretty close to them before mom decided she’d had enough of me encroaching on her breakfast, and walked off quickly with her youngsters behind her. Later on, on a different part of the trail, I was taking some photos of a ground squirrel, and another fawn, out of its spots but still small, came stotting down a hill and toward me on the trail. It was all happy and goofy… and then it saw me, and skidded to a halt. It was only there for a second before it bounded off into the woods. Hah!

The black walnut trees in the woods are heavy with walnuts this time of year… and the Fox Squirrels love them. Everywhere you go in the preserve, you can hear the squirrels stripping the husk off and trying to crack open the nuts. Scritch-scritch-scritch. The noise makes it easy to spot the squirrels to get photos of them…

I also came across a covey of California Quails. I could hear the male, and got a glimpse of him and the other females in his harem, but only one female came out where I could actually get some photos of her. They’re such pretty, funny-looking little birds…

I walked for about 3 ½ hours and then headed back home. Time for work…