Tag Archives: spike buck

Blue Oak Galls and Other Stuff, 07-09-19

I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve.  It was about 56° when I got there, but it was up to around 75° when I left.  When I got there, I was happy to see my friend and fellow-naturalist Roxanne there, too. She’s helping me out with the Monarch monitoring facet of my volunteer work at the preserve. I really appreciate her help, too, because it makes the somewhat tedious process of looking over each milkweed plant go more quickly. 

Still no sign of Monarch eggs or caterpillars, and what was odd was we didn’t see much in the way of other insects either.  We did find some spiders (including a White Crab Spider and a little Jumping Spider), some aphids, a single praying mantis, and a couple of beetles but that was it.  The lack of critters was rather surprising and made me wonder if the area had been sprayed or something.  We worked on the plants for about 90 minutes and then went for a short walk through the preserve.

 Although we heard a lot of different birds, we didn’t see any Wild Turkeys today, which was very unusual. They’re normally all over the place. We came across two bucks but no does and no fawns. Both bucks were in their velvet.  One was a nervous youngster who was just getting his first antlers (a “spike buck”), and the other was a laid-back 3-pointer who was just lying in the grass on the side of the trail.  He kept an eye on us but didn’t move from his spot. I guess he figured we were no match for him, so we weren’t much of a threat.  He was gorgeous. And because he was so still, we were able to get quite a few good photos of him.

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos.

The most exciting thing to me that we came across on our walk was sighting a few different species on a Blue Oak tree (Quercus douglasii) along the River Trail.  It had both Saucer Galls (Andricus gigas) and newly budding Crystalline Galls (Andricus crystallinus). The saucers start out flat and then form cups (some with smooth edges and some with serrated edges). The Crystalline Galls start out like tiny dark-pink urns and then swell up and get their sparkly spines. We hadn’t seen any galls at all on the “Frankenstein” hybrid tree further up the trail, so finding the galls on the Blue Oak by the river was rewarding. 

It was nice to see that this particular Blue Oak was also getting acorns on it. These oaks don’t produce acorns in drought years, and when they do produce acorns, they’ll produce a lot one year (a “mast” year) and then produce far fewer for the next two or three years.  So, as I said, it was nice to see this one with acorns all over it.  (The acorns usually take a year to develop.) Blue Oaks are also endemic to California, which means they’re found here and nowhere else on the planet.  It’s also one of the oak trees that is immune to the fungus that causes Sudden Oak Death.  Very cool trees.

Oh, and we found a Treehopper – but it jumped away before I could get a photo of it.  Those things are sooooooo weird-looking with their hunched backs. The one we saw was a Buffalo Treehopper (Stictocephala bisonia): mostly green with some burnished gold edges on it.

We walked the trails for about 2 hours.

Species List:

  1. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii,
  2. Brass Buttons, Cotula coronopifolia,
  3. Buffalo Treehopper, Stictocephala bisonia,
  4. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana,
  5. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta,
  6. California Praying Mantis, Stagmomantis californica,
  7. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica,
  8. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis,
  9. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
  10. Common Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis,
  11. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser,
  12. Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus,
  13. Convergent Ladybeetle, Hippodamia convergens.
  14. Crystalline Gall Wasp, Andricus crystallinus,
  15. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii,
  16. European Honeybee, Apis mellifera,
  17. Flax-Leaf Horseweed, Erigeron canadensis,
  18. Green Lacewing, Chrysoperla carnea,
  19. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
  20. Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus,
  21. Jumping Spider, Phidippus sp.,
  22. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos,
  23. Moth Mullein, Verbascum blattaria,
  24. Mushroom Headed Mayfly, Small Minnow Mayfly, Callibaetis ferrugineus ferrugineus,
  25. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus,
  26. Occidental Grasshopper, Trimerotropis occidentalis,
  27. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii,
  28. Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum,
  29. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus,
  30. Saucer Gall Wasp, Andricus gigas,
  31. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa,
  32. Sweet Pea, Lathyrus odoratus,
  33. Tarweed, Common Madia, Madia elegans,
  34. Wavy-Leaf Soap Plant, Soap Root, Chlorogalum pomeridianum,
  35. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
  36. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia,
  37. White Crab Spider, Misumessus sp.

Deer Jousting and Turkeys Mating Today, 03-12-19

I went out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve and got there around 8:00 am. I was joined there by fellow volunteer trail-walker, Mary M. (The-Other-Mary), and we walked for a little over 3 hours. It was a very interesting walk!

Very early into the walk, we came across a Red-Shouldered Hawk who then joined another one… flew into a nearby tree and did their mating thing right in front of us. Around that same area, I could see a European Starling flitting and hopping through the branches of another tree with a large feather in its beak. It was a gift intended for a female Starling, but the male fumbled with the feather, it fell out of his beak and floated to the ground. D’oh! I kind of felt sorry for the little guy. He was trying so hard to make a big impression and failed epically.

The Wild Turkeys gave us a lot of photos ops today, too. We saw two leucistic turkeys, one a male and the other a female. I’d seen a couple of the females around before, but I had never seen the male until today.  Leucistic animals have a depletion of melanin that washes out most of their coloring, but they’re not pure white like albinos.  On the female turkey, her leucism made her look black and white; but on the male it made him look blond, light brown and white. I thought they were both soooo interesting looking. I took a lot of photos of them.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

While The-Other-Mary and I were watching one small flock of turkeys, we saw another group running across the lawns straight toward them… and then we saw the coyote running right on their heals! He jumped at a few of them but couldn’t catch any of them. and while this is all going on The-Other-Mary and I are trying to get our cameras to focus on the coyote and follow the action. It was my turn for an epic fail; I didn’t get a single image of the coyote. Dang it!

In another area, we’d stopped to watch some of the male turkeys strutting for a handful of females… and then one of the females approached a male, did a circle dance with him, and eventually let him mount her. The-Other-Mary and I are snapping photos as some other people walked up to see what was going on.  So, I got the chance to do my naturalist thing… I identified the males and females for them, told them about how the males strut, about their snoods, and about what attracts a female to the male. When the female turkey bowed down to the ground, I told them about her posture, how the male will “tread” on her, and how, if she’s aroused, she’ll raise her tail for the male… And while I’m talking, the birds are performing as though on queue.  We actually got to see two matings while we were there. During the second one, an Asian lady came up (who didn’t speak much English) and asked if we could take her photo with the birds in the background.  The-Other-Mary obliged her, but it was right when the male mounted the female, so this poor lady now has a photo of herself with turkeys doing the nasty behind her… It will probably turn into internet gold. Hah!

Further along the trail, we came across a pair of Canada Geese in the tree tops.  I’m not certain, but I think with was the same mama and offspring I’d seen a couple of weeks ago. It looks like the younger one can’t fly very well; only in short bursts.  So, they travel from tree-to-tree, then go down to the river, then go back tree-to-tree into the preserve or onto the lawns.

The other cool thing we got to see was a herd of about 15 or 20 Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, including some bucks that still have their antlers. The big 5-pointer was out there, and he started jousting with another older buck. At one point, when they “locked horns” the younger one pushed hard enough to force the older down to the ground. The older one recovered quickly, but he really had to push back HARD to get himself onto all four feet again.

When we were done with the walk, we went into the nature center to record our hours (we get volunteer hour credit for each hour we’re on the trail), and I got to meet Tova, the gal who oversees The Acorn publication. She thanked me for the article I’d written and sent to her on Red-Shouldered Hawks and appreciated that I was able to include photos I’d taken right there at Effie Yeaw. It’s always nice to put a face to a name…

As The-Other-Mary and I left the building, I had to stop to watch one of their snakes (on display) devouring a mouse. The-Other-Mary didn’t want to see that; and I thought that was funny because she’s ex-military and an avid hunter. Hah! So, we left before the snake finished its meal.

The-Other-Mary was very excited about the walk and said it was “one for the books”. We’re hoping to be able to meet up again soon.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. Almond Tree, Prunus dulcis
3. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronate ssp. auduboni
4. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
5. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
6. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
7. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
8. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
9. Golden-Crowned Sparrow,Zonotrichia atricapilla
10. Gopher Snake, Pacific Gopher snake, Pituophis catenifer catenifer
11. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
12. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
13. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
14. Red Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
15. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
16. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
17. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
18. Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni
19. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

Watching a Hawk Eat His Breakfast, 03-04-19

I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk today.  It was about 46° at the river, and while I was walking the clouds parted, leaving things partly sunny and quite lovely outside. I walked for a little over 3 hours and covered about 2½ miles.

One of the first things I saw was a small group of male Western Bluebirds. They’re small birds, but so brilliantly colored it’s hard to miss them even at a distance.  Around that same area, I watched as an Eastern Fox Squirrel added foliage to a drey she was building inside and around a mound of mistletoe. Smart squirrel. It’s really hard for predators to see the drey from above or below. Now I know where two dreys are in the preserve; I’ll have to keep an eye on them to see if I can spot any babies (once they’re old enough to emerge).

All of the plants and critters are getting ready for spring. The poison oak is starting to leaf out everywhere, their new reddish leaves vibrant in the morning light. And manroot and pipevine are showing up all over the landscape.  In one spot, I found the native manroot intertwining with invasive Periwinkle vines.  Elsewhere, the invasive European Starlings are in a battle with native Acorn Woodpeckers for nesting sites. The Starlings can’t drill their own nesting cavities, so they steal from the woodpeckers whenever they can.

I also spotted a tiny female Anna’s Hummingbird plucking the fluff off of the top of dead Yellow Star Thistle blossoms and flying off with it. They use it to line their nests.

I saw a few Red-Shouldered Hawks today, including one that flew over my head with something in its talons. I tried following it, even though it was moving really quickly, and my legs are really short. Then I could hear it calling from somewhere close, and I jokingly said to myself, “Y’know, it would be really nice if you landed on the bat box over there so I could actually get some picture of you.”

And when I finally found it, it had landed on the bat box! Yay!

It stayed there, letting me take photos of it until it had finished it breakfast and flew off again. Awesome. And in many of the photos, you can see that it had a little dark vole. In some of the photos, you can clearly see the vole’s eyes and face.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

The biggest surprise of the day was hearing the gravelly call of Sandhill Cranes from overhead. The sound can travel for over a mile, so sometimes they’re REALLY hard to spot, but I managed to see the flock, flying waaaaaaaaay overhead among the clouds. ((Later, when I got home, my sister Melissa and I were able to spot another flock flying overhead.))

I love this time of year.

Species List: 

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  4. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata
  5. Black Jelly Roll Fungus, Exidia glandulosa
  6. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  7. Blessed Milkthistle, Silybum marianum
  8. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea
  9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  10. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  11. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  12. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  13. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  14. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  15. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  16. False Turkey Tail fungus, Stereum hirsutum
  17. Giraffe’s Head Henbit, Henbit Deadnettle, Lamium amplexicaule
  18. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  19. Haymaker Mushroom, Panaeolus foenisecii
  20. Manroot, California Manroot, Bigroot Vine, Wild Cucumber, Marah fabaceus
  21. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
  22. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  23. Nutthall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  24. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  25. Periwinkle, Vinca major
  26. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  27. Raccoon, Procyon lotor
  28. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  29. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  30. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  31. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  32. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  33. Wild Turkey, Rio Grande Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  34. Yellow Field Mushrooms, Agaricus campestris
  35. Yellow Star-Thistle, Centaurea solstitialis

An Overcast Day at the Preserve, 02-28-19

Date: Thursday, 02-28-19
Time: 7:30 am to 10:30 am
Location: Effie Yeaw Nature Center, 2850 San Lorenzo Way, Carmichael, CA 95608
Habitat: Oak Woodland and riparian boundary
Weather: Overcast, 43° to 46°

Narrative: I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my trail walking right after I fed the dog his breakfast. I arrived about 7:30 am and it was 43° at the river. The first thing I saw when I got into the preserve was a Red-Shouldered Hawk just sitting on the lawn. It hadn’t caught anything (that I could see) and stood there, looking around for a short while, so I was able to get some photos and a video snippet of it before it flew off into the trees.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

After going down the wooden steps onto the Bluff Trail, I caught sight of a Western Gray Squirrel running along the trail with a mouth full of grass and twigs, so I followed it… and found where it was constructing its “drey” (squirrel nest). Dreys are different from other squirrel nests because they’re formed on the outside of a tree or cavity and built where several branches come together. ((If the squirrel’s nest is inside a tree or cavity, it’s called a “den”.)) If it continues to build there, walkers should be able to get some good views of the squirrel and its babies.

Lots of deer were out, including several small herds of does and their yearling fawns. I hung around one group for a while just watching a doe grooming her fawn. They’re so tender with their babies; it’s so relaxing to watch them. I also came across a couple of bucks, into two younger ones who were sparring for a little while. One or two of the does seem to be showing their pregnancies already. ((The gestation period is 7 months long so around 203 days.))

At one point along the trail, I saw two odd shapes in the top of a bare-branched tree. Because the sky was overcast, looking up into the branches everything was backlit, so it took a while for me to figure out what I was looking at: a pair of Wood Ducks (a male and female) looking for a place to nest.

I also came across more fungi today than I did on my walk with my naturalist student the other day. Puffball fungus, mushrooms, Elfin Saddles, and three different kinds of jelly fungus, including the nicest specimen of Witches Butter I’ve ever seen. I found a nice specimen of Trametes betulina, a kind of fungus that looks like Turkey Tail fungus (Trametes versicolor), but it has gills! It’s sometimes called the Multicolored Gilled Polypore or Mazegill. This is the first time I’ve seen it live and in such wonderful color. (I usually see it in its later stages when it’s just a bunch of hard weird gills.) Very cool.

Because it was early and overcast and a weekday, I didn’t see a lot of people, but had short interactions with those I did see: got to talk to one lady about Black-Tailed Jackrabbits and another about jelly fungi.

I walked for about 3 hours and headed back home.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
3. Black Jelly Roll fungus, Exidia glandulosa
4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
5. Brown Jelly Fungus, Tremella foliacea
6. California Buckeye, Aesculus californica
7. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
8. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
9. California Sycamore, Platanus racemosa
10. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
11. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
12. Deer Shield Mushroom, Pluteus cervinus
13. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
14. Elfin Saddle, Helvella lacunosa
15. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
16. False Turkey Tail, Stereum ostrea
17. Gilled Polypore, Mazegill, Trametes betulina
18. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
19. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
20. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
21. Lords and Ladies, Naked Boys, Arum italicum
22. Nutthall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii (heard only)
23. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
24. Puffball fungus, Paltry Puffball, Bovista plumbea
25. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
26. Rio Grande Turkey, Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
27. Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia lavicola
28. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus, (heard only)
29. Turkey Tail fungus, Trametes versicolor
30. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
31. Wavy Leaf Soap Plant, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
32. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
33. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
34. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
35. Witches Butter, Golden Jelly Fungus, Tremella mesenterica
36. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
37. Yellow Field Mushroom, Egg Yolk Fungus, Bolbitius vitellinus
38.
Russet Toughshank mushroom, Oak Lover mushroom, Gymnopus dryophilus

Mostly Bucks and Gobblers, 12-05-18

It was chilly and overcast for most of the day, but not much in the way of rain.

I got up around 7:00 am, right around the same time Lissa got up and let her dogs out for their morning potty. I got Sergeant Margie outside and fed him his breakfast. I had a small bite of food, so I could take a pain pill and then headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk even though I was in some pain (around a 6 or 7). I didn’t cover as much ground as I normally would have, but still got in about a three-hour walk.

The place seemed dominated by the “boys” today: small bachelor groups of Wild Turkeys, and the bucks in rut. I saw bucks from young spike-bucks up to the big 4-pointers. One of the larger bucks was chasing the other ones all over the place, challenging them, no matter their age, and making everyone scatter. There was a 2-point buck about 8 to 10 feet from me beside the trail at one point who was nursing a sore leg. Another 2-pointer walked up, charged the wounded one, and the wounded one rushed away – right toward me! Yikes! He pivoted to one side before hitting me, but that was close!

The turkeys were far more cooperative and mellow. Many of them were just sitting around showing off their snoods to one another.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I also saw the melanistic squirrel again. This time I was able to get a few halfway decent photos of him before he ran off into the high grass.

Some fungi are just starting to show up. I got photos of a really beautiful specimen of Oyster Mushrooms growing near the base of a tree. One of the caps was about a foot wide. I think they’re so lovely; they bend up and back to reveal their gills. Kind of look like off-white wings.

I got home by about 11:30 and had some lunch.

Turkeys in Trees and Lots of Deer Everywhere, 11-26-18

Around 7:15 am I went over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve again for a walk. When I first walked in, I saw a small group of deer collected behind the classroom facility across from the nature center. There was one of the 3-pointer bucks back there, rubbing his head against some of the scrub brush (to transfer his scent) and showing off to the couple of does that were near him. I would have missed him completely if he hadn’t made such a fuss over the bushes, rattling and shaking them with his rubbing.  I climbed up onto the stone bench next to the building to look over the plants around there and see him.  He lifted his head up high a couple of times to check me out but otherwise ignored me. He was more focused on trying to impress the gals.

One of the does had a springtime fawn with her, so she wasn’t interested in the buck, and kept moving around to keep him away from her baby. The other doe didn’t seem overly impressed with him either. She walked through a garden to nature center, lifted some of the tomato cages they have around young plants there (to protect them from the deer), and ate the no-longer-protected plants. Hah!  What a brat!

Further along the trail, I came across another buck that was sitting on the side of the trail. He looked pretty good but had a rosy spot on the tip of his nose that he might’ve gotten from jousting.  He just sat there in the grass and let me get pretty close to him to take photos. He stayed where he was until a pair of does came down the trail and caught his eye.  He got to his feet as soon as they sauntered by, and just when he was approaching them, the big 4-pointer buck came across the field and ran the other buck off.  So, the younger buck’s wait was for naught.

On a different part of the trail, I found the buck with the damaged antler. He was standing amid some fallen logs and scrabbly brush… and it took me a while before I realized there was a doe sitting in the grass on the other side of the log. When I went to get some photos of her, the buck poked his head under the log to keep his eye on me.  On the other side of the trail, I also noticed a young spike buck who was sitting in the tall weeds where the larger buck couldn’t see him. When the doe decided to get up and walk away, the older buck followed her… and the spike buck followed him. Stalker.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The Wild Turkeys were out in force again. The males are all in strut, showing off to one another and the ladies. Although most of the time they were just posturing at or bluffing one another, I saw a couple of short fights break out among them. They chase one another around, jump up and use the heavy spurs on the sides of their legs to whack one another. You can hear the “crack!” when they make contact all over the preserve; it’s actually louder than the sound made by the deer when they joust.

I was surprised, though, to see about a half dozen of the turkeys way up in the trees over the trail. They were complaining to one another, so I assumed there was something on the ground (a cat or coyote) that was distressing them. After about 15 minutes, I saw them all fly down, crossing over the tops of other trees and landing in a shallow field. They’re big birds and tend to glide rather than flap-and-fly, so they don’t make a whole lot of noise until they get close to the ground, set their feet down and run to a stop.

About halfway through my walk, I was irritated by the fact that the continuous-mode setting on my camera (that takes photos in a burst of 5 shots) decided to stop working. It would take a burst of photos and then stall – the whole camera would freeze up and I couldn’t get it to release unless I took the battery out of it to make it stop.  After quite a while of this nonsense, I set the camera to single-shot, but I hate taking photos like that because there’s a second or two between each photo that you have to wait until the camera resets itself and is ready for the next shot. It’s apparently a problem for my type of camera when I take a lot of photos. The scan disk card isn’t “fast” enough to handle all of the data and the buffer fills up and makes the camera crash. So, I need to get a faster card.

I was in single-shot mode when I came across an Acorn Woodpecker that I wanted to get photos of. As I finished with those shots, I saw that on another branch on the same tree there was a Red-Shouldered Hawk. The bird was polite enough to sit for me and I was able to get quite a few good shots of him.  When nature sits still, single-shot mode works pretty well. Hah!

I walked for about 3½ hours.