Up at 5:30 to get over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve by 6:30. The smoke in the air was thick again and the sun came up over the American River fiery red, making the water look like lava. It was about 60º when I got to the preserve and made it up to about 95º by the late afternoon.
At the preserve, I saw a few deer, mostly does and a pair of twin fawns who kept their eye on me from a distance. The little boy fawn was slightly braver than his sister and walked up to within about 15 feet of me – still hiding behind some foliage. His sister followed him a few seconds later and I got photos and a video snippet of them together. So cute.
Early on in my walk, I came across a juvenile Turkey Vulture flying low to the ground between the trees with a much smaller hawk chasing him. He flew up onto a snag of a tree and posed for a little bit before flying off again. I followed the hawk and found it in another tree further up the road: a Red-Shouldered Hawk. I ended up seeing three of them today.
It’s that time of the year again when the Fox Squirrels and Gray Squirrels are up in the Black Walnut trees stealing walnuts. They take them up into the branches and scrape the husks off of them with their teeth. As they do that, their teeth squeak and rasp against the hard shell under the husk, and you can hear that sound from several feet away. I heard about six squirrels but only got photos of two of them.
More galls are starting to show themselves – finally. I saw several newly formed spiny galls from the Live Oak Wasp, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis, and several very nicely formed Kernel Galls from the wasp Callirhytis serricornis. And I even found a few tiny Pumpkin Galls (Dryocosmus minusculus). These are all found on Live Oak Trees.
On my way out of the preserve, I saw several juvenile Western Bluebirds in the trees around the small pond. They’re such pretty little birds.
I walked for about three hours and then went home.
I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk. It was about 61º when I left the house and got up to 103º by the late afternoon. The air throughout Sacramento County is dense and hazy with the smoke from the 45,000-acre Carr Fire (more on that later) even though the fire is about 180 miles away.
At the preserve, I was at first kind of disappointed that I wasn’t seeing very much, but then Nature “opened the doors”, and I got good shots of a Red-Shouldered Hawk, a mama deer and her twin babies, dragonflies, and a mama coyote and glimpses of two of her pups.
I saw the young coyotes first. They were “hunting” along the trail in the tall grass. They’re so cute when they do that: standing still with their ears pricked forward and then play-pouncing on whatever they found in the grass. I was only able to get some very short video snippets of them; when they saw me, they took off. Then a little further down the trail, the mama coyote came out and crossed the trail right in front of me. I was able to get quite a few still shots of her as she paused periodically on her way across a meadow to look at me. She was soooo beautiful.
When I saw the mother deer and her babies, I again saw the babies first. They came bounding out from behind a tall brush pile of downed trees and twigs, feeling their oats and playing, and mom followed after them. The fawns came running out toward me, but then when they realized I was another animal, they went bouncing back to mom. Made me smile.
I didn’t see the fawn that had the cough today, although I did see his mom browsing in her favorite spot. I worry that he didn’t make it… but the preserve is about 100 acres wide, so maybe I just missed him today…
I walked for about three hours and headed back home.
DAY FIVE OF MY FALL VACATION… I got up about 6:45 this morning and headed off to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. I was surprised, when I got outside, by the heavy smell smoke in the air. There are wildfires all around us (but none close to where we live), and the smoke is pervasive. There was so much smoke in the air it was actually a little hard for me to breathe, and by the time I’d finished with my walk I had a headache…
At one point along the trail, I came across a troupe of mule deer: mostly females, a couple of yearlings, and one male – a spike buck sporting his first one-pronged antlers. One of the matriarchs stepped up onto the trail directly in front of me, so I couldn’t get any closer to the fawns in the group. She stared me down for quite a while, and I was impressed with her bravery and tenacity. When she felt the others were safe enough, she backed off and went into the dry grass to graze.
I followed the troupe for a while, and watched as a doe and her fawn broke off from the herd and headed toward the river. I walked out that way after them and got some photos and video snippets of them. I was worried that the doe was going to try to take her fawn across the river; the current is really strong in that area. But she just waded the baby out until the water was up to its knees and then brought it back to shore.
The smoke in the air clouded the sun, and the sunlight coming through it was bright orange… which made the water in the river look like it was on fire in places…
There were quite a few specimens of Sulphur Shelf Fungus throughout the preserve – the most I’ve ever seen there…
When I had stopped on the path to take some photos of a Northern Flicker, a woman came up right behind me to look at the photo-screen on my camera to see what I looking at. I thought that was kind of rude and annoying, but I was nice and refrained from elbowing her in the face.
She asked me, “Where is that?” and I told her the bird was sitting on a hanging branch further up the path.
“Wow, how did you know it was there? I can’t see it from here.”
“Once you do this for a while, you get a kind of ‘nature eye’ and can see all sorts of things most people miss.”
“Wow. Thank you for pointing that out.”
At another spot, I was taking photos of the Acorn Woodpeckers, and different woman came up. Just as I turned to look at her, a Hairy Woodpecker flew into a nearby tree and she got all excited. “Did you see that?! Did you see that?!” (We old women can get so excited about the smallest things. Hah!) I did see the Hairy, and I started taking photos and video of it. We actually had a short discussion about whether it was a Hairy Woodpecker or a Downy Woodpecker. I get the two mixed up all the time because their markings are nearly identical. Based on the overall size of this guy, though, we decided it must be a Hairy…
The woman watched it for a while, and then took off back down the trail to tell her friends (who were lagging behind) about the bird.
While she was gone, a White-Breasted Nuthatch flew down onto the trail in front of me and started pecking at a dried piece of scat. I got photos of that, too, just before it grabbed the scat and flew off with it. Eew! Hah!
The oak trees are all covered in acorns right now – not as many as in a mast year, but still a good yield. Most of the trees in the preserve, though, are hybrids, so the acorns aren’t necessarily good for harvesting (for the purpose of replanting). The deer, squirrels, and birds really like them, though, so there’s a lot of action around them in the forest. I watched the Acorn Woodpeckers grab acorns from surrounding oak and fly them back to their granary trees and jam them into the holes for safekeeping over the winter. Some of the birds are efficient at it and seem to know which acorns are ripe enough to pull easily away from their caps, and others… not so much. They try to pull unripe acorns, and end up in a tug-of-war with the things. So funny…
The weather was gorgeous – except for the smoke – while I was out there. I was about 47º when I got there, and only around 68º when I left. And it remained cool throughout the rest of the day, in the 70’s.
I walked for about 3½ hours, which is generally my limit, and I had a really bad headache by then which I attributed to the smoke… but I liked the exercise.