After breakfast on Friday, I checked out of the hotel where I worked on the Big Day of Giving for a 24 hour shift, and went in to the Tuleyome office to unpack stuff that had to be returned there, went through the mail, and sent off some emails… Then I headed back home. I felt I needed a nature fix to help clear my tired, fuzzy brain, so I stopped briefly at William Land Park, to walk through the flowers and see the duckies there.
The WPA Rock Garden there is looking lovely this time of year; lots of different flowers and trees in bloom. Between the flowers, the fennel plants and the Spice Bush, the air was filled with fragrance…
Around the pond there were the standard ducks and geese, including one pair of ducks with 10 ducklings. The pair was made up a male Mallard and a larger female Cayuga-Swedish Blue hybrid, so some of the duckling had Mallard markings, and some of the babies were all black with tufts of yellow on them. The cutest thing about the babies was that some of them had black legs and toes, but the webbing between the toes was bright yellow, as was the underside of their feet… Mallards hybridize easily, and most of the ducks around that pond have intermixed at least once, so there are a lot of “odd ducks” walking around the pond.
I also saw a baby Red-Eared Slider Turtle in the water, about the size of a 50¢ piece swimming in the water. It followed me for a bit, then swam off, then came to the surface, then swam off again… It made me smile (even though that species of turtle is actually invasive.)
I walked for about an hour and then went on to the house.
I got up at 6:30 this morning, and headed over to the WPA Rock Garden for a walk. It was actually a little chilly outside (about 53°) with a nice breeze, so it was actually quickly lovely. I’d gone there with the idea of walking through the garden and around the ponds, then go to the zoo, then go grocery shopping. I was waaaaay too ambitious, especially considering that I’ve been tired all week. So I did my walk and shopped for groceries, cutting out the zoo entirely for today. Tomorrow, the zoo is supposed to be hosting a Pokémon Go day, but today I saw all of the adults and older kids out around the park and hanging out in front of the zoo, to see what Poké-stuff they could find. Hah!
There wasn’t a lot really new to see at the park today, but I did get to watch a mama Robin feeding one of her three fledglings. The babies were all very capable of feeding themselves, but pestered mom for food anyway. Danged teenagers. Hah! I got some video of that exchange.
I also watched a hummingbird trying to take a bath in the water caught in the leaves of a tree after a sprinkler got to it, and got s little snippet of video of that, too. There was enough moisture to get the bird’s feathers wet, but not much else, so it ended up just looking like it had bed-head. Hah-2!
Oh, and on my way out of the park, I saw a crow across the lawn that looked very odd. It looked like it had a white or pale yellow patch on the back of its neck that wrapped around to its cheeks. (I thought maybe it was a weird-looking magpie at first, but its body and beak were definitely “crow”.) None of the other crows seemed to care about the oddball one; they worked with it to try to find stuff to eat. It was too far away for me to see it clearly, though; and the camera couldn’t “reach” far enough to see it clearly either. As far as I could tell, I surmised that the crow must have been in the middle of a molt and the pale color I was seeing was is skin and undercoat of feathers.
I went down by the river side where I’d seen the beaver a week ago. No beavers today, but I did get to see a covey of California Quail feeding and running through the short grass. Those are always fun to watch; especially the males with their little “dingle balls” bouncing on their head as they move. This group seemed to be all bachelors; males with no apparent harem of females around them. I crept up on them as quietly as I could, but there’s a lot of stones and gravel around there, so I didn’t get any really good shots of them before they flushed.
I could then hear ducklings peeping from the river, so I walked closer to the shore. There was a mama Common Merganser there with a bevy of babies. I think it might have been the same mama I saw before (the one with 20 babies), but she only had 12 now… and one of the babies had gotten carried off by the current. He was bobbing on the little waves in the river, peeping loudly in distress. Mama rushed across the surface of the water – with the other little ones in tow — and positioned herself downstream from the one that was peeping. While she did that, I saw two other female Mergansers fly across the water in front of the baby as though they were trying to “herd” him in the right direction. The current finally took him to where his mom and siblings were and she went back across the water with all of her kids again. I got some video of her and the kids on the bank opposite from me, and as I was filming, I could a baby peeping again, and saw two others adult females skidding on the water to try to corral it… I don’t know if the was the same baby as before, but there again was a little one who’d gotten separated from its group and was whining for help as the current took it downstream. That poor mama must be so tired by the end of the day!
Later on my walk, I saw another female Merganser, this one with only two babies that she was carrying down the river on her back. That’s a little more manageable, I’m sure.
I also came across a couple of Spotted Sandpipers in their breeding spots bobbing along the bank, eating stuff from between and on tops of the rocks – looked like worms or larvae of some kind — and I got a few photos of them. Along my walk I also saw some California Towhees and Spotted Towhees, Scrub Jays, Tree Swallows, Mallards, a jackrabbit and a Red-Shouldered Hawk.
The wild blackberries are covered in blossoms and berries right now, and the wild grapes have tiny clusters of grapes on them, but nothing’s ripe yet. It’ll be another 2 or 3 weeks. The rushes and flat sedge along the river are all getting their seed-heads now along with the smartweed and dock.
I then drove further into the park and was going to do some walking along the river there but the place was swamped with kids from a youth group that were camping there. *Sigh* I turned the car around and headed home.
I wanted to beat the heat as much as I could, so I was out the door before 6:00 am and went to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk. It was about 68° when I got there and 81° when I left just 2 ½ hours later. And there was an overcast all day, so along with the heat, we got a lot of unusual humidity. Blech!
Anyway, at the preserve I saw a lot of the usual suspects but nothing really unusual or “special”. The Red-Shouldered Hawk family wasn’t performing when I was out there, but I did get to see the two juveniles standing and walking around the nest waiting for their parents to bring them some breakfast. They’re getting big enough now that they should be able to catch their own meals in another week or two… There were lots of Wild Turkey bachelor groups walking around, but I didn’t see any females…
I came across a small herd of Mule Deer which included one youngster who was just out of his spots, and whose more adult coat hadn’t quite settled in yet – so he looked really blond and shaggy. They were foraging for leaves. The young one stopped to watch a squirrel in a nearby tree, then looked over at me and stared at me for a little while, like he wasn’t sure what I was. So cute… I tried to get some nest-photos, but only managed a few shot of a European Starling poking its head out of its nesting cavity… And I watched a tree squirrel wrestle a wild plum out of a tree and run off with it…
On my way out of the preserve I passed by a group of newbie birders who were going to be taken on a guided walk through the preserve… It was so uncomfortable outside by then, though, that I don’t think the outing is going to last very long. And I could tell by what the group leader was saying that some of the participants hadn’t brought water with them – which is a must have in the hot weather (even when it’s humid).
Even though I didn’t get a lot of photos, the walk was good and I got some exercise and reconnection time out in Nature — which is the really the point of all of this.
I got up around 5:45 this morning and headed out to the American River Bend Parkfor a walk. I hadn’t been out there for quite a while, and wanted to see if the water plants were growing along the banks yet, and if the Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars were starting to make their chrysalises. No to the first one – sort of – and yes to the second one. The weirdest sight was when I first drove into the park. A female ranger was out by the kiosk and asked me to stop, so I did… And from across the driveway comes a mama Wild Turkey and her six fuzzy babies – and a male Peacock all walking along right in front of my car. I couldn’t get my camera out of its bag fast enough to get any photos. Dangit! I wondered if this was the same Peacock I’d seen chasing the female turkeys several weeks ago… and if the babies could have been his. The ranger said she didn’t think they could interbreed, but… both birds are Galliformes, aren’t they? I mean, peacocks are more closely related to turkeys than turkeys are to chickens… What would you call the hybrids? Teacocks? Perkeys? Hah! Wish I could keep an eye on that group and see how the babies look when they fledge…
When I pulled the car in further down the road and parked, I was right next to a tree where there were a lot of Acorn Woodpeckers, and I got some photos (and a little video) of one sitting in the nesting cavity. At first glance I thought it was a female sitting on her nest, but it was a young male, so it must’ve been a fledgling not ready to get up yet. Sleepy boy.
Then I came across some very tiny, shiny black beetle-like things on the leaf of a live oak tree. I’d never seen anything like them; they seemed to have suck an odd shape and what looked like white spots in between the body segments. I thought they must have been the larva stage of something, so I posted photos to BugGuide.net to see if someone there could identify them for me…
My next big find was spotting a large beaver eating roots and greens along the bank of the river. It was right up the bank from me, and I was so surprised to see it that I just pointed my camera at it and started shooting. I got some shaky lurching video of it, and a few still shots. That was the closest I’d ever been to a live beaver. It was exciting. I think he would have stayed there for a while longer had I not tripped on one of the stones on the shore and startled him. He took off into the water, slapping his tail down to make a big splash as he left.
Then I saw a female Common Merganser coming down the river with TWENTY little red-headed babies in tow. The stronger ones were able to climb up onto her back when she sped up trying to get past me… Beyond. Cute.
Later on while I was stopping by an old Cottonwood tree to get some photos of lizard, a big male Twelve-Spotted Skimmer dragonfly decided to fly in and rest on a nearby branch, so I got some photos of him, too. Further along, I saw a Bison Snaketail dragonfly land in the dried grass along the side of the trail. I got some photos, but because the dragonfly is almost the same color as the grass, they don’t really show off how cool the dragonfly is…
Then I drove the car a little further into the park and walked along the trail that follows the river but stays well above it. The water was high in the river and running pretty fast, so I didn’t see a lot birds on the shore… just a few Mallards and Canada Geese. What I was really looking for on this part of the trail, though, was the Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars. During this time of the year they’re finishing up gorging themselves and turning their attention to getting up off the ground and forming their chrysalises. I found lots of them. Some still undulating around, some going into their torpor stage, and some already encased in their chrysalises. While I was checking out the caterpillars on one tree, I was startled when a mama Tree Swallow flew past my head and went into her tree-cavity nest right across the trail from me. I got some photos of her checking me out… along with some shots of the butt of a small House Wren who had a nest in the tree across from the Swallow’s nest.
On my walk, I also came across several mule deer, a Killdeer, an Ash-Throated Flycatcher, some Scrub Jays, fly-overs by a few Great Egrets and what looked like an immature Black-Crowned Night Heron, and a few different plants, flowers and galls. So it was a very eventful and productive walk. I was out there for about 3½ hours and then headed out.
Even though I have today off, I got up around 6:00 and was out the door to the American River Bend Park by about 6:30 am.
The vetch and Tule Peas are starting to bloom at the park, along with Sticky Monkey Flowers and Miniature Lupine. The fennel is just starting to sprout, but already parts of the trail smell of licorice. And there’s Pipevine everywhere. I’m both pleases and surprised by how many of the vines are sporting butterfly eggs. Should be a banner year for the caterpillars here. I already found a few first and third instars (different sizes of the caterpillars as they go through several successive molts and start to mature). Right now, they’re still reddish-brown. They’ll turn black as they get older and bigger…
The birds are starting to pair off and get their nests in order. I found nesting spots of some Starlings, a White-Breasted Nuthatch, and a hummingbird so far! I also found a peacock (!) in the park chasing after the female turkeys. Hah! I wonder what they thought of him!
Also saw a lot of Tree Swallows and House Wrens, some Scrub Jays, and a Nutthall’s Woodpecker. The Red-Shouldered Hawks were taking turns at the nest they built over the trail, but they’re careful to keep themselves camouflaged well. I only got a shot of one of their backs today. Dang! Lots of bugs, of course… including loads of Crane Flies (Mosquito Hawks), and I came across some Spittle Bug spit. With the bugs come the first onset of galls on the plants, too. I found some on a Coyote Brush bush and on some Goldenrod.
Since I wasn’t looking for anything in particular and just walked until I finished a figure-8 of the part of the park I was in – almost four hours walking – it was very relaxing.