Tag Archives: Saw-Whet Owl

Lots of Critters… and a Beaver, 06-20-19

Up at 5:00 am again. I let the dog out to go potty and fed him his breakfast then headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my weekly volunteer Trail-Walking gig.  It was a gorgeous 58° when I got to the preserve and was overcast, so it never got over about 68° while I was there.  Perfect walking weather.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

One of the first things I saw was a Red-Shouldered Hawk carrying nesting materials. First she flew over my head, then she landed on a tree to get a better grip on the grasses she was holding before taking off again. These hawks only have one brood a year, but often work on the nest throughout the year to keep it clean.  It’s no uncommon for them to use the same nest over several season if the first nest is successful.  Later in my walk, I went by where I knew one of the hawks’ nest was and found a juvenile (fledgling) sitting out beside it squawking for its parents to come feed it. It was capable of feeding itself, but some of these young’uns milk the I’m-just-a-baby thing for quite a while. While it was near the nest, it was hard to get photos of it because it was backlit, but later it flew out and I was able to get a few better photos of it when it landed in a nearby tree.

There were a lot of deer out today, but I didn’t see any fawns. I DID see a couple of bucks, though, both of them still in their velvet, a 2-pointer and one with wonky antlers (one super-long one and one stumpy one). The 2-pointer was walking with a doe, and when I stood on the trail to take photos of them, he decided he didn’t like that.  He stepped right out toward me with a very determined look on his face. (Bucks can get real possessive of “their” does.) I knew he wouldn’t rush me and try to gore me because he was still in his velvet.  In that state, the antlers are super-sensitive to touch, and if he rammed me, he’d actually hurt himself.  But, he could still outrun me mash me with his hooves if he had a mind to, so I put my head down and back away.  That seemed to be enough of a submissive posture to him, and he returned to his doe.  As beautiful as the deer are, I have to remind myself that they’re still wild animals and will do whatever their instincts tell them to do – even in a nature park.

I heard and caught glimpses of several Nuttall’s Woodpeckers on my walk, but never got enough of a look at one to take its picture. Those birds enjoy teasing people, I swear. They’re really loud about announcing themselves in flight, but then hide from you once they land.

The wild plum and elderberry bushes are all getting their ripened fruit now. I saw birds eating some of the berries and came across an Eastern Fox Squirrel breakfasting on the plums.

Along the river, there was a small flock of Canada Geese feeding (bottoms-up in the shallow water) with a female Common Merganser fishing among them. They eat different things, so the geese were stirring up the water plants and the Merganser would grab any small fish that appeared. Unintentional mutualism.  While I was watching them, I saw something else in the water, swimming against the current and realized it was a beaver! 

I went down as close to the shore as I could – (It’s hard for me to clamber over the rocks.) – and tried to get some photos of it. Photo-taking was difficult because the beaver stayed close to shore and was obscured by the tules and other riverside plants and scrubby trees. When it got into less cluttered spots, in was in the shade, and my camera had trouble focusing between the dark and the reflections on the water.  So, I walked ahead of where I thought the beaver was heading to a sunnier spot and waited for it… and waited for it… and then I heard a splash and realized it had swum under the water right past me and came up in the river behind me.  Hah!  Sneaky Pete!  

I walked for about 4 hours and then headed back home.

Species List:

  1. American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus,
  2. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii,
  3. Black Harvester Ant, Messor pergandei,
  4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans,
  5. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii,
  6. Bush Katydid nymph, Scudderia pistillata,
  7. California Black Walnut, Juglans californica,
  8. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana,
  9. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
  10. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
  11. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis,
  12. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica,
  13. California Wild Plum, Prunus subcordata,
  14. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis,
  15. Chinese Privet, Ligustrum sinense,
  16. Coffeeberry, California Buckthorn, Frangula californica,
  17. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
  18. Coyote Mint, Monardella villosa,
  19. Coyote, Canis latrans,
  20. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii,
  21. Doveweed, Turkey Mullein, Croton setigerus,
  22. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger,
  23. Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata,
  24. English Plantain, Ribwort, Plantago lanceolata,
  25. European Praying Mantis, Mantis religiosa,
  26. Evening Primrose, Oenothera biennis,
  27. Goldwire, Hypericum concinnum,
  28. Greater Periwinkle, Vinca major,
  29. Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea,
  30. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
  31. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus,
  32. Leafhopper Assassin Bug, Zelus renardii,
  33. Moth Mullein, Verbascum blattaria,
  34. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
  35. North American Beaver, Castor canadensis,
  36. Northern Yellow Sac Spider, Cheiracanthium mildei,
  37. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii,
  38. Pink Grass, Windmill Pink, Petrorhagia dubia,
  39. Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum,
  40. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus,
  41. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
  42. Rock Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia sp.,
  43. Rusty Tussock Moth, Orgyia antiqua,
  44. Saw-whet Owl, Sophia, Aegolius acadicus,
  45. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa,
  46. Spanish Clover, Acmispon americanus,
  47. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus,
  48. Sudden Oak Death pathogen, Phytophthora ramorum,
  49. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura,
  50. Western Drywood Termite, Incisitermes minor,
  51. Winter Vetch, Vicia villosa,
  52. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa,
  53. Wooly Mullein, Great Mullein, Verbascum thapsus,
  54. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,
  55. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis

Interesting Turkeys on the Naturalist Walk, 04-09-19

Up at 6:00 this morning, and then headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve to do my trail walking thing – along with three of my naturalist students.  The weather was lovely, so the critters were out and moving around, and the wildflowers were really starting to open up.

We got to see a tiny female American Kestrel chase off a large Cooper’s Hawk, saw the young buck with a broken nose browsing with some of the does, and saw a yard-long gopher snake leave the side of the trail and rush through the grass like water.

We also came across a female Wild Turkey sitting on the ground next to a brush pile occupied by some California Ground Squirrels. Everything I’d read about the turkeys indicated that they nested in low branches of trees or ON brush piles, so even though she looked pretty settled on the ground I assumed she was just taking a dirt bath (which the turkeys often do to control mites).  I walked up to her, slowly, and she eventually stood up and walked away from where she’d been sitting: a bare, shallow patch of dirt.

When I got home, I did some more research on the turkey and found this: “…Wild Turkeys nest on the ground in dead leaves at the bases of trees, under brush piles or thick shrubbery, or occasionally in open hayfields. The female scratches a shallow depression in the soil, about 1 inch deep, 8–11 inches wide, and 9–13 inches long…” So, this gal may have been prepping a nest site, not dirt bathing.  I’ll have to check on the spot again the next time I’m out there.

Seeing the turkeys -– including one of the leucistic females who came out of the forest like a ghost – brought on a flurry of “snood” jokes. Four women on the trail talking about the male turkeys’ accouterments. We couldn’t help ourselves. Hahahahaha!

Oh, and I also learned that although the male hierarchy changes a lot as the males challenge, defeat, and retreat from one another, the female turkeys’ hierarchy remains constant from season to season, with a dominant female overseeing all of the ladies.  How cool is that?

We didn’t see the Mourning Doves on or near their nest, and I’m afraid they may have abandoned it.  When we got to the Red-Shouldered Hawk nest on the Pond Trail, however, mama hawk was in the nest and calling out to hubby. We could hear her, but we couldn’t see her. The nest is pretty deep and it’s right over the trail so it’s hard to see into it. Suddenly, mama hawk burst out away from the nest and flew right at and over one of the students! She was able to catch a photo of the hawk as she flew over her head! Awesome!

Among the flowers we saw were Blue Dicks, Bush Lupine, California Poppies, Fringe Pod, Periwinkle, Miniature Lupine, different kinds of plantains, and a variety of tiny yellow flowers that defied identification. On one of the plants was an example of “fasciation”, wherein the flowering heads weld together.  “…Scientists aren’t sure what causes the deformity, but they believe it is probably caused by a hormonal imbalance. This imbalance may be the result of a random mutation, or it can be caused by insects, diseases or physical injury to the plant. Think of it as a random occurrence. It doesn’t spread to other plants or other parts of the same plant…”

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos.

The ladies were wonderful trail walking companions: they were excited about everything, had great questions, and lots of wonderful feedback about the naturalist course. We walked for almost 5 hours (which was way too long for me) before we all headed back home again. Deborah had come all the way from Napa to walk with me, so she had the longest drive back home (over 2 hours).

I totally overdid it and was exhausted and in pain when I got home, but it was worth it to have spent those hours with the ladies’ positive energy.  Even though I practically went back to bed when I got home, I was happy. This is just how I want to spend what time I have left.

It was a good day.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
2. Asian Ladybeetle, Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis,
3. Bay Laurel, Laurus nobilis,
4. Black Walnut, Juglans nigra,
5. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum,
6. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii,
7. Buck Brush, Ceanothus cuneatus,
8. Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons,
9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
10. California Manroot, Marah fabaceus,
11. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius,
12. Black Bean Aphid, Aphis fabae.
13. Boxedler Tree, Boxelder Maple, Acer negundo.
14. Bush Lupine, Lupinus excubitus.
15. California Plantain, Plantago erecta.
16. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta,
17. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica,
18. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
19. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
20. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
21. Cooper’s Hawk, Accipiter cooperii,
22. Coyote Brush Midge (gall), Rhopalomyia californica,
23. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis,
24. Douglas Iris, Iris douglasiana,
25. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger,
26. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris,
27. Fringe Pod, Thysanocarpus curvipes ssp. elegans,
28. Green Shield Lichen,Flavoparmelia caperata,
29. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
30. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
31. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii,
32. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor,
33. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
34. Nutthall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii,
35. Pacific Gopher Snake, Pituophis catenifer,
36. Painted Lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
37. Periwinkle, Vinca major,
38. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus,
39. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis,
40. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
41. Saw-Whet Owl, Aegolius acadicus,
42. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula,
43. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus,
44. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor,
45. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura,
46. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
47. Wavy-Leaf Soap Root, Soap Plant, Chlorogalum pomeridianum,
48. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis,
49. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
50. Yarrow, Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,

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