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Lots of Deer but No Fawns Yet on 06-13-19

I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve this morning and got there around 6:00 am and it was about 63° then. I was joined by “The Other Mary”, Mary Messenger, and we walked for about 4 hours.  We saw lots of deer today, mostly does with their older yearlings. Some of the gals were very “round” with their pregnancies. When the new fawns arrive, some does chase off the older kids… but others let them hang around for a couple of years. We didn’t see any fawns, but that’s to be expected. The does keep them well-hidden when they’re new. 

Along the shore of the river, we came across the mama Common Merganser and her three red-headed ducklings again. They were hanging around a pair of female Wood Ducks who had one slightly older duckling with them. We couldn’t get too close, so we had to be satisfied with long-distance photos.

We saw several Turkey Vultures, Cathartes aura, including one bird sitting in a tree and one sitting on a stump on the bank of the American River. The one on the bank turned toward us and lifted its wings in the “heraldic pose” so we could see its white under-wing feathers.  This pose, in which the Turkey Vulture turns its back toward the sun and opens its wings, is used by the birds when they want to warm themselves up quickly. 

The legs and some of the feathers of the vulture sitting in the tree were covered in dried feces (making them look white-washed). When it’s really hot, the Turkey Vultures will defecate their mostly white, watery feces on their legs and feet and then allow evaporation to help cool them off. As gross as this may sound, keep in mind that the vulture’s digestive system is so aggressive and their immune system is so high, that their feces come out virtually bacteria free and actually acts like a kind of natural sanitizer. Cool, huh? I wrote an article about the vultures in 2015. You can read it HERE.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

We also stopped under the Red-Shouldered Hawk’s nest along the Pond Trail and saw one fledgling sitting in it. Where the nest is placed, it’s hard to get a good angle on it for photographs, so all we saw was the tippy top of the fledgling’s head.  Near the pond itself, we saw another fledgling, and near the nature center we saw an adult… So got a few photo ops on the hawks today.

This is the time of year when there are a lot of Western Fence Lizards scurrying all over the place, ad we were able to see quite a few of them, including a pair on a log. The stubby-tailed male was trying to court a female, but she just wasn’t that into him.  Hah!

We walked for about 4 hours and then headed back to our respective homes.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
2. American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus,
3. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii,
4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
5. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus,
6. Bull Thistle, Cirsium vulgare,
7. Bur Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis,
8. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus,
9. California Bumblebee, Bombus californicus,
10. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
11. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana,
12. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
13. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis,
14. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
15. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser,
16. Coyote Mint, Monardella villosa,
17. Coyote, Canis latrans,
18. Dallisgrass, Sticky-Heads, Paspalum dilatatum,
19. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auritus,
20. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger,
21. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris,
22. Giant Sunflower, Helianthus giganteus,
23. Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum,
24. Himalayan Blackberry, Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus,
25. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
26. Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Lords and Ladies, Arum maculatum,
27. Monarch Butterfly, Danaus plexippus,
28. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
29. Northern Bluet Damselfly, Enallagma cyathigerum,
30. Northern Bush Katydid, Scudderia pistillata,
31. Northern Yellow Sac Spider, Cheiracanthium mildei,
32. Pearly Everlasting, Anaphalis margaritacea,
33. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum,
34. Prickly Sowthistle, Sonchus asper,
35. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus,
36. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
37. Rusty Tussock Moth, Orgyia antiqua,
38. Santa Barbara Sedge, Carex barbarae,
39. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa,
40. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus,
41. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura,
42. Wavy Leaf Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum,
43. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
44. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus,
45. Wild Carrot, Daucus carota,
46. Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa,
47. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa,
48. Yellow Jacket, German Wasp, Vespula germanica,
49. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis,
50. Yellow-Faced Bumblebee, Bombus vosnesenskii,

 

Lots of Springtime Insects, 04-20-19

I got up around 6:30 this morning and headed out to the American River Bend Park. It was overcast and in the 50’s when I went out, but by the time I got back home, around noon, the clouds were breaking up, and it was sunny and breezy for the rest of the day. Just lovely.

I wanted to see if I could find butterfly eggs at the park, and I was able to find some, but only on my way out. So, it was a long wait for the pay off, but I found a pipevine with several groupings of eggs on it. Actually, my photos turned into a kind of unintentional “study of pipevines” with pictures of the leaves, twining vines, seed pods, etc. It’s such a cool-looking plant.  In Victorian Era gardens it was all the rage; now people don’t plant it much anymore – and I think that’s partly because everything but the vines themselves die off each year, so it just looks “ropey” for half of the year.  It’s a boon to the Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies, though, who literally can’t live without it.

CLICK HERE for today’s photos.

While I was there, I saw a European Starling come out of her nesting cavity, so I waited by the tree to see if I could get a photo of her when she came back. Smart bird, though, she flew in behind me, making me turn as she went by, and went back into her cavity with an angry grumble.

I also saw some Wild Turkeys, including a leucistic female, and while I was watching them a bonded pair of Mallards came flying in and landed right near my feet. There was also a bonded pair of Common Mergansers on the bank of the river. These ducks are sometimes referred to as “Sawbills” because their bills have a serrated edge, which helps them hold onto the fish they catch. (They’re fish-eating diving ducks, as opposed to filter-feeding dabbling ducks like the Mallards.)

Saw lots of Craneflies (Mosquito Hawks) all over the place and Elder Moth caterpillars in the elderberry leaves. There were also a lot of Tussock Moth caterpillars, little nests of earwigs, some micromoths, and a mayfly that had just shed and was hanging next to its exuvia. This time of the year is soooooooooooooo interesting! I was surprised to see the earwigs snuggled in the tops of mugwort plants. I thought mugwort was a kind of natural insect repellent. I guess no one told the earwigs.

There were a lot of still-green Oak Apple galls in the trees, but I was really happy to come across some second-generation galls from the Live Oak Gall Wasp.  The first-generation galls are really obvious and visible: round balls covered in spines.  The second-generation galls are tiny and sit on the back of the leaves; they look like upside down volcanoes. Finding them is difficult, so I’m always excited when I get to see them.  The first generation of this wasp is comprised of all females that reproduce asexually, and the second generation is comprised of males and females that reproduce sexually. Cool, huh?

And while I was watching a male House Wren, I saw him look down below him. There was female down there with a feather in her beak. I’m assuming they had a nesting cavity near there somewhere and she was literally feathering her nest. Awwww!

I overdid it again today – because there’s so frigging much to see – and didn’t get back home until around 11:30. Four-and-a-half hours of walking; my body was really mad at me for the rest of the day.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
2. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
3. Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
4. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
5. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea
6. California Buckeye, Aesculus californica
7. California Manroot, Marah fabaceus
8. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
9. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
10. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
11. Click Beetle, Conoderus exsul
12. Common Earwig, Forficula auricularia
13. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
14. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
15. Elder Moth caterpillar, Zotheca tranquilla
16. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
17. Flatheaded Mayfly, family Heptageniidae
18. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
19. Hoptree,Common Hoptree, Ptelea trifoliata
20. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
21. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
22. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus
23. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii
24. Ladybeetle, Convergent Ladybug, Hippodamia convergens
25. Ladybeetle, Multicolored Asian Ladybug, Harmonia axyridis
26. Large Cranefly, family Tipulidae
27. Little Robin Geranium, Herb Robert, Geranium purpureum
28. Live Oak Gall Wasp gall, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis, 2nd generation
29. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
30. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia parviflora
31. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
32. Oak Apple Gall Wasp gall, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
33. Pink Grass, Windmill Pink, Petrorhagia dubia
34. Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
35. Puffball Fugus, Bovista dermoxantha
36. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
37. Rusty Tussock Moth caterpillar, Orgyia antiqua
38. Santa Barbara Sedge, Carex barbarae
39. Scarab Hunter Wasp, Dielis tolteca
40. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
41. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
42. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
43. Twirler Moth, Mompha sp.
44. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
45. Vetch, American Vetch, Vicia americana
46. Vetch, Winter Vetch, Hairy Vetch, Vicia villosa ssp. villosa
47. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
48. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare

A Very Hairy Butterfly Encounter, 04-06-19

I led some of my Certified California Naturalist students on a walk around the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve.

My coworker Bill Grabert and our volunteer Roxanne Moger joined me. There were about 10 of us altogether. Because the nature center was hosting a donor event today, we stayed out of the parking lot and parked along the road that leads out of the preserve. It was about 52° when we got there, and it made it up to a mostly cloudy and overcast 68° by the afternoon.

A female coyote surprised us by stepping out into the parking lot and trotting down the road – too fast to get any photos of her. But otherwise, we saw mostly the usual suspects during the walk, but there were some deer that were being very cooperative, some of the wildflowers were showing up, and we saw quite a few nests and nesting cavities, including the Mourning Doves’ nest, a Red-Shouldered Hawk nest and several Bushtit nests.

Students also learned how to identify some of the local birds by their calls and saw their first pair of Common Mergansers – which was kind of a big deal to them because the males and females look so totally different from one another. Most of them recognized the female (with her reddish head and topknot), but the male (with his bright white breast, iridescent blue-green head and orange bill) was a big surprise to them.

The leucistic male turkey was also a first for many of the students, so that was fun to see.

The funniest thing that happened on the walk was when a female Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly flew into the hair of one of the students, Sue. Then Roxanne found a cooperative male butterfly and put him into Sue’s hair so everyone could see how to distinguish the males from the females (by the amount of blue on their hind wings). Sue was very patient and stayed still as everyone talked about the butterflies and took photos. Hah!

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

The subspecies of Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor hirsuta, we see around here is endemic to the Central Valley of California and is found nowhere else on Earth.  And the word “hirsuta” refers to the “hairy” body this subspecies… so it was a very Hairy Butterfly Encounter.  Coolness.

We walked for almost 4 hours before heading out and going back to our respective homes. I’ll be doing another walk on Tuesday next week for any students who still need to add a field trip to their course requirements.

Species List:

1. Bedstraw, Cleavers, Galium aparine
2. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
3. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
4. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
5. Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons
6. Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
7. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
8. California Manroot, Marah fabaceus
9. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica
10. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
11. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
12. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
13. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
14. Destroying Angel Mushroom, Amanita verna
15. Dog Vomit Slime Mold, Fuligo septica
16. Douglas Iris, Iris douglasiana
17. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
18. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
19. False Turkey Tail Fungus, Stereum hirsutum
20. Fringepod, Thysanocarpus curvipes ssp. curvipes
21. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
22. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
23. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
24. Hoary Lichen, Rosette Lichen, Physcia aipolia
25. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
26. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
27. Mazegill Fungus, Daedalea quercina
28. Meadow Mushroom, Agaricus campestris
29. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
30. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
31. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
32. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
33. Painted Lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui
34. Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
35. Pleated Ink Cap, Parasol Ink Cap, Parasola plicatilis
36. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
37. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
38. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
39. Rock Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia conspersa
40. Santa Barbara Sedge, Carex barbarae
41. Saw-Whet Owl, Sophia, Aegolius acadicus
42. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
43. Storksbill, Longstalk Crane Bill, Geranium columbinum
44. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans
45. Swainson’s Hawk, Orion, Buteo swainsoni
46. Tan Stink Bug, Euschistus tristigmus
47. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
48. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
49. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
50. Valley Tassels, Narrow-leaved Owl’s Clover, Castilleja attenuate
51. Wavy-Leaf Soap Plant, Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
52. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
53. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis
54. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
55. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
56. Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa

Lots of Birds Nesting, 03-31-19

Around 7:00 am I headed over to the American River Bend Park for walk. It was about 44° at the river when I got there and was heading toward 70° by the time I left.

It was nice to see that the dirt road to the camping area and nature trails was cleaned up and smoothed out. No more car-swallowing potholes!  I saw some deer and a jackrabbit right when I was heading in, so I felt that was a good portend.

The Black Walnut trees are starting to leaf out and drop their catkins, and the California Buckeye trees are just beginning to squeeze out their panicles of flowers. Redbud trees are flowering, and the Santa Barbara Sedge is starting to show off. I checked out various stands of Pipevine but still don’t see any evidence of butterfly eggs yet… I was happy to see small stands of stinging nettle in the picnic area. Let’s see how long it’s allowed to remain there.  It’s a host plant for Red Admiral butterflies, and when the park eradicates the nettles, they eradicate the butterflies as well.  You’d think they’d figure that out.  It would be a lot easier and cheaper to post a sign about the nettles and have people avoid them, than to kill all of the plants.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I spent almost 20 minutes watching a female Western Bluebird deciding whether she wanted to commit to a nesting cavity or not. She flew up to the opening several times, poked her head in and looked around, but then would back off again. I didn’t understand what her hesitation was and wondered if maybe the hole was already occupied by something. Then it occurred to me that she might not be committing to the spot because I was there watching her, so I walked off a bit, then a bit more. I still didn’t see her go all the way in, but her hubby was sitting in the tree nearby patiently waiting for her to make a decision.

I also came across a House Wren taking twigs to her nesting cavity, and a European Starling poking her head out of her nest.  She’d chased off a Tree Swallow that wanted the same spot.  Lots of cool photo ops today!

I got to see a very large Red-Tailed Hawk in a tree (but she had her face turned away from me, so I didn’t get any good shots of that).  She was so big, I thought at first that she might have been an owl.  As soon as she left, I saw a Red-Shouldered Hawk near the same tree.  As I was leaving the park, I also saw a Cooper’s Hawk chattering in a tree alongside the road.

I walked for a little over 3 ½ hours before heading back home.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga auduboni auduboni
3. Black Walnut Tree, Juglans nigra
4. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
5. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
6. Burr Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
7. California Buckeye, Aesculus californica
8. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
9. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
10. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
11. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
12. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
13. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
14. Common Ink Cap Mushroom, Coprinopsis atramentaria
15. Cooper’s Hawk, Accipiter cooperii
16. Cranefly, Mosquito Hawk, Tipula dietziana
17. Destroying Angel Mushroom, Amanita ocreata
18. Dog Vomit Slime Mold, Fuligo septica
19. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
20. Giraffe’s Head Henbit, Henbit Deathnettle,
21. Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina
22. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
23. Haymaker Mushroom, Panaeolus foenisecii
24. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
25. Hop Tree, Ptelea trifoliata
26. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
27. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
28. Longstalk Cranesbill, Geranium columbinum
29. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
30. Nutthall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
31. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
32. Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys sp.
33. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
34. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
35. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
36. Santa Barbara Sedge, Valley Sedge, Carex barbarae
37. Shepherd’s Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
38. Speedwell, Bird’s Eye Speedwell, Veronica persica
39. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
40. Stinging Nettle, Annual Stinging Nettle, Urtica urens
41. Stork’s Bill, Big Heron Bill, Erodium botrys
42. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria sp.
43. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
44. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
45. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
46. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
47. Winter Vetch, Smooth Vetch, Vicia villosa

Butterflies, Wrens and Some Leucistic Wild Turkeys, 03-18-18

I went to the American River Park, and I was having some trepidation about that, since the last time I went there my window got smashed.  But I wanted to check on the Great Horned Owl I’d seen there, and I wanted to see if the manroot vines and pipevines were out in force yet.  It was a cold 36º outside I had to wait for the frost on my car to melt before I could head out. It was bright all day but with that kind of high overcast that makes everything look “glary”.

The very first thing I saw when I got into the park was the mama Great Horned Owl sitting on her nest – and white-fluff owlet sitting up against her belly! The nest is pretty high up, and there are only a few places where you can get any kind of an unobstructed view of it, so my photos aren’t very good (in fact, some are crappy).  The baby kept lying down and moving around; and because he’s so short, it’s hard to see him over the rim of the nest.  There might have been 2 babies in the nest, which is typical for this species of owl, but I can’t be certain.  One, for sure, though.  I got a (crappy) video snippet of the mom ripping stuff off some dead thing in the nest and feeding it to the baby, and some still shots of the mom with a bit of fluff sitting next to her. In a few of the photos you can just make out the owlet’s eye…

As the sun came up further in the sky, you could see steam rising from the cold forest floor… kind of spooky-looking.  As it got brighter, all the birds starting singing from everywhere: wrens, woodpeckers, hawks, mourning doves… everyone adding their sound to the jazz ensemble…  It was the day for House Wrens, that’s for sure. They were all over the place, singing and buzzing away.  Those tiny birds sure make a lot of LOUD noise. There were also a lot of Tree Swallows around, too. I think they were vying for who got what tree, and it seemed like a lot of aerial fights were taking place.

The Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies are finally waking up along the river.  Some were flitting around, some were sitting in the grass waiting to warm up, and a few of them looked like they’d just emerged from their chrysalises.  Their wings weren’t fully straightened out yet… At one point, I was mobbed by three of them. Two landed on the front of my coat and one, I was informed by a passerby, landed on the back of my coat. I think they liked that it was both green and warm.  I got the two in front to climb down onto my hand so I could get photos of them. I don’t know what happened to the guy riding in the back. Hah!

Among the Wild Turkeys I saw today, with all the males strutting around, I saw two leucistic ones.  Not true albinos, they still lack most of their pigment, and come out black and white.   I also saw Western Bluebirds, Scrub Jays, Gold Finches, some Audubon’s Warblers, a Dark-Eyed Junco, a Nutthall’s Woodpecker, Acorn Woodpeckers, and Northern Flickers. Oh, and I got a photo of a Brown Creeper today. I think it’s the first decent photo I ever got of one, so that was a plus.

CLICK HERE for an album of photos.

At another point along the trail, I came across an Anna’s Hummingbird. She was flying among a stand of dead star thistle, pulling the fluff off of the old flowering heads. She then flew waaaaay up into a tree to my left, and pushed the fluff into a tiny nest she was building. It was so far up, I couldn’t get a photos of it. But for the next few minutes I watched her return two more times to the thistle to grab fluff. Then she flew into the branches of a tree over my head, and starting plucking off bits of spider webs and lichen. With one mouthful of spider web, she also got a tiny spider and didn’t seem to quite know what to do with it. She couldn’t eat it because then she’d have to eat the web from which it was trailing. Eventually, she just flew off with the spider in tow. Hah!

Along the river I spotted some Snowy Egrets, a pair of Belted Kingfishers, a Spotted Sandpiper (who didn’t have his spots yet), several Goldeneye ducks, Common Mergansers, Mallards, and some Double-Crested Cormorants (one had crests, the other didn’t).

I also saw a few mule deer, two sitting in the grass and one standing up. Seems like all of the deer are across the river at the Effie Yeaw preserve these days. I hardly see any of them at the River Bend Park anymore.

The manroot vines were in full blossom, and the pipevine vines are starting to branch out. The redbud trees are also starting to open their blossoms; in another week or so they should be spectacular.

I walked for about 4 ½ hours, which is really too long for me. By the time I left the park it was 58º.

A Western Tanager and Others, 04-30-17

I got up around 6:15 and was out the door by 6:30 to head over to the American River Bend Park for a walk.  It got up to 82º today.

At the River bend Park, the elderberry bushes are getting their flowers on them, and the buds on the Buckeye trees are just starting to open. Pipevines, grape vines and manroot vines abound, many of them vying for the same spots in the sun; and the black walnut trees are heavy with catkins. I was hoping to get some photos of Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly eggs, and was a little surprised to find that the caterpillars had already hatched out of most of them!  There were little first and second instar caterpillars everywhere…

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE ENTIRE ALBUM. More videos will be added shortly.

I also got to see a few Tussock Moth caterpillars, which are always cool. I even got one to crawl on my hand for a little while… (They’re the moths in which the female is wingless.  She sit in the tree she was born in and waits for the males to come to her.)

And I also came across an area where a bunch of Elder Moth caterpillars (a kind of cutworm) were coiled up on young elderberry bushes; some had curled themselves into the leaves, and one leaf curl had a shiny new pupa case in it… Neato.  [The Elder Moths are white and super-fuzzy and have green “staining” on their wings.]

A couple of other cool things happened on this walk, as well.  The most exciting was when I was trying to get photos of a pair of Bewick’s Wrens that were bringing food to their hatchlings.  The wrens were nesting in a tree cavity BUT, the tree was lying on its side on the ground, so they had to go through grass to get to the opening.  I was trying to figure out how to shoot through the grass and eliminate the heavy shadows around the opening to the nest, when I heard screeching in a tree behind me. I turned around to find a handsome Cooper’s Hawk up in the tree… and as soon as I looked at it, it started buzz-bombing me.  It dove straight at my head, so I lifted my camera up to deflect it.  Then it landed up in another tree, and I was taking photos of it there, it dove at me again… and again… and again… first from one direction, then from another. I don’t know if I was too close to its nest, or if it had a fledgling on the ground, or if I was too close to its breakfast, but it was NOT happy.

I got as many photos of it as I dared, and then walked off before it had the chance to gouge out my eyes.  (I tried getting video of it. I got a few frames of it screaming and diving at my head, and then the rest of the video is just a bunch rapid shaking and me shouting in exclamation.  I might add that to the album just because it’s funny.

I never did get a photo of that wren’s nesting site; maybe next time. But I did get some video of wrens singing and “beeping”, so that was something of a consolation.

Another cool thing: I saw some European Starlings picking stuff off the side of a tree, so I went over to see what so interesting to them.  A huge portion of the tree was literally covered in ants; a whole bivouac of them including some winged ones. I don’t know if they were moving in or moving out, but there were hundreds of them.  While I was getting some video of that, I noticed something “yellow” in the periphery of my vision, so I looked up and… Wow, it was a gorgeous Western Tanager! I’d never seen one at the park before.  It grabbed some of the winged ants and flew off, and then came back and sat on the low branch of a nearby tree for quite a while. In order to get pictures of it, I had to shoot through the leaves of the tree closest to me, a little hole about the size of my fist, and then get the camera to focus on the bird and not the leafy edges of the hole.  I got quite a few good photos, including a cute one of the bird cocking its head to one side. I was super-pleased.

Aaaannnd… I also got to see an Ash-Throated Flycatcher. He was sitting on the top of a small, broken, dead  tree trunk, but his back was to me so, all I could see with this powderpuff of feathers on the top of his head.  Then the bird flew off into another branch, and I could see its whole body… Yep, Flycatcher.  They’re not uncommon birds, but I think I’ve only seen maybe three or four altogether at the River Bend Park.

On the way out of the park, I walked by a spot where a couple of Tree Swallows were making all sorts of noise. That always alerts me to the notion that there’s a nest nearby, and sure enough, I was able to spot it as one of the birds exited the cavity.  I had to climb over a (very low) fence and then find a position where I could view the tree without interfering with the birds and watched it for about 10 or 15 minutes. I got quite a few photos of the birds in and near the nest hole… and even watched as one of them chased off an interloper when it got too close. That was a nice way to end the walk.  (I actually walked for a little more than 3½ hours before heading home.)