Tag Archives: spike bull

A Walk with My Naturalist Students, 02-18-19

Date: Monday, February 18, 2019
Time: 7:30 am to 11:30 am
Temperature: 31° to 53°
Weather: Sunny, clear, breezy, cool
Location: Effie Yeaw Nature Center, 2850 San Lorenzo Way, Carmichael, CA 95608
Lat/Log: 38.6174656, -121.3115716

Narrative:  This walk was an impromptu walk for the Tuleyome CalNat course which I led.  We had 16 people, along with my co-worker Nate, Eric Ross (a former Tuleyome naturalist graduate, who’s now working to become a docent at Effie Yeaw), Mary Messenger (a volunteer “trail walker” at Effie Yeaw) and about a dozen students. One of the students also brought along a friend to participate in the walk. It was good group.

The first thing we saw when we entered the preserve was a trio of Eastern Fox Squirrels doing a ménage à trois thing right out there in front of God and everybody. Everyone joked that during the walk we witnessed instances of fornication, urination, evacuation, and mastication. Hah!

We saw lots of different fungi, identified quite a few plants and trees, saw several species of birds, and saw a lot of Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, including does and several bucks (including a spike buck, split-prong buck with only one antler, and some 4- and 5-pointer bucks. We got to see one of the larger bucks performing the “Flehmen Sniff” while he followed after a female. CLICK HERE for an article I wrote about the bucks and the sniff. CLICK HERE for the full album of the photos I took today. (When I’m leading a hike, I take far fewer photos than when I’m walking alone, but I get more”people” shots in the mix.)

We walked for about 4 hours and covered about 2½ miles.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Audubon’s Warbler, Setophaga auduboni auduboni, Yellow-rumped Warbler, “Butter Butt”
  3. Barometer Earthstar fungus, Astraeus hygrometricus
  4. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  5. Black Jelly Roll fungus, Exidia glandulosa
  6. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea
  7. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  8. Brown Jelly Fungus, Tremella sp.
  9. California King Snake, Lampropeltis getula californiae
  10. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  11. Canada Geese, Branta canadensis
  12. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  13. Common Jelly Spot fungus, Dacrymyces stillatus
  14. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser, female
  15. Coyote, Canis latrans
  16. Crust fungus, Phlebia sp., Stereum sp.
  17. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  18. Dark-Eyed Junco (Oregon morph), Junco hyemalis
  19. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  20. Elfin Saddle, False Morel, Helvella lacunosa
  21. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  22. False Turkey Tail fungus, Stereum ostrea
  23. Gall of the California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  24. Gall of the Live Oak Wasp/Gallfly, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
  25. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix sp.
  26. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  27. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  28. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  29. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii, California state lichen
  30. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  31. London Planetree, Platanus × acerifolia
  32. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
  33. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  34. Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris
  35. Nutthall’s Woodpecker (sound only), Picoides nuttallii
  36. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  37. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
  38. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  39. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  40. Rock Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia sp.
  41. Spider, unidentified
  42. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  43. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria sp.
  44. Turkey Tail fungus, Trametes versicolor
  45. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  46. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  47. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  48. Western Sycamore, Platanus racemosa
  49. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  50. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare

The Bucks are in Rut at the Effie Yeaw Preserve, 11-10-18

I slept in a tiny bit this morning and got up around 7:00. After giving the dog his breakfast, I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.  It was a chilly 34° at the river!  Got up to about 70° by the afternoon.  The air quality was bad enough today to spark a “Very Unhealthy” purple warning.

At the preserve, the first thing I saw was a small harem of female deer and a couple of fawns, along with a young spike buck.  I got quite a few photos of him doing his “Flehmen Sniff” thing. He closes his nostrils and pulls air in and over the “vomeronasal organ” in the roof of his mouth to pick up on the pheromones of the females around him to learn if they’re in estrus or not. He lifts his top lip because the intake part of the organ is just behind his upper front teeth.

I also saw other deer dotting the preserve here and there including the big 4-pointer (who I think is now a 5-pointer, but I can’t tell for sure from the photos I got of him). He was tucked away on the other side of a field in the shade, so at first, I didn’t see him. When I stepped into the field, though, to get some shots of a Red-Shouldered Hawk (I saw two of them today) he moved, and only then did I realize he was there. It looked like one of the prongs on his rack had been snapped off, but he was still very impressive looking.

I found another older buck in a different part of the preserve, but his rack was really wonky.  On one side, he only had on long prong, and on the other side, he had a 3-point antler with a gnarly-looking eye guard. The doe he was pursuing, though, didn’t seem to mind too much that he was “uneven”…  Several different things can make the antlers messed up like that: the pedicle on the head from which the antlers grow may have been damaged somehow; or the antlers themselves might have been damaged while they were still in their velvet stage and growing; or the buck may have nerve damage in the hind leg opposite from the malformed antler.

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos.

You may also notice in the photos that the mature bucks’ necks swell during the rut. Although I couldn’t find any scientific studies about this phenomenon, the consensus seems to be that the swelling is caused by a dramatic increase in testosterone during the rut which affects the blood vessels and muscles in the neck (along with other parts of the body; hah!). The thick neck is apparently attractive to the females, and also helps to cushion the head and body when the bucks joust, absorbing some of the shock when the bucks butt heads. Interesting!

As I mentioned, I saw two Red-Shouldered Hawks in different parts of the preserve today, and I also saw a Red-Tailed Hawk, but that one flew off before I could get any good shots of it.  Inside the nature center at the preserve, I also got to see Orion, the preserve’s Swainson’s Hawk. He’s still a youngster, so doesn’t have his adult coloring yet, but he’s a handsome bird.

Along the usual suspects like Wild Turkeys, California Scrub Jays, Northern Flickers, Spotted Towhees and Acorn Woodpeckers, I got to see a tiny Hermit Thrush in the scrubby brush on the side of the trail. I hardly ever get to see those little guys, so it’s always kind of a treat when I can get pictures of one of them.

There were lots of California Ground Squirrels and Eastern Fox Squirrels around.  The squirrels can have a second breeding season in the fall, and I saw one of them carrying a big mouthful of grass to its nest.  The cool thing was being able to spot the melanistic squirrel (all black) again.  I hadn’t seen that guy for a year.  The last time I saw him was actually on November 22nd last year.  Maybe he only comes out once a year. Hah! (You can see last year’s photos HERE.)

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed back o the car. On my way out of the preserve, I stopped in at the nature center (which is when I saw Orion) and picked up several copies of “The Acorn” magazine published by the American River Natural History Association. My lichen photo is featured on the cover.  Super cool!

 

Encounter with a Juvenile Turkey Vulture, 09-23-17

I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve and it was 48º when I got there. Fall has fallen. I love it when it’s like this!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos and video snippets.

Saw some deer right off the bat, and a European Starling poking its head out of its tree-cavity nest. I also got to watch an Acorn Woodpecker trying to pull green acorns off of a tree so he could stash them in his troop’s granary tree (the tree where they keep all of their nuts and acorns and winter food).

They drill new holes into their granary trees only during this time of the year, when the sap in the tree is running low, so they don’t kill the tree. Then they find acorns and other food stuff and shove them into the newly drilled holes for the winter. In the spring and summer, you may see them banging on the trees, too, but they’re not drilling new holes then (except maybe for their nesting space); instead, they are moving those nuts and acorns that have shrunk in size from one hole to another to wedge them in more tightly. They’re such ingenious little birds, and funny too. They’re a hoot to watch.

Among the deer I saw a lot of does, some does with fawns (out of their spots and growing bigger), some bucks with their full racks of antlers (no long covered in velvet) and even a young “spike buck” (only one point; so he was around 2 years old).

The highlight along my walk today, though, was coming across a fledgling Turkey Vulture. It was full size but didn’t have all of its adult feathers in yet, and it couldn’t fly very well. It’s face was still grey (not red yet) and its beak was still metallic black (instead of bone white). I spotted it first in the low branches of a tree, and tried to get photos of it through the branches. It worked its way up to a slightly high branch, flew clumsily over my head and landed on a dead skag-tree. It then walked up the naked branches of that, and parked itself on the top of the tree. I got several photos of it and then realized an adult Turkey Vulture was flying in low circles around the skag.

As I watched, the adult flew into the upper branches of a nearby tree, and the youngster flew to it, kind of crashing into a branch just below the adult. The adult then fed the youngster and flew off again. So cool! At one point while I was taking photos of the juvenile, several people came up and looked on. I explained to them that they were seeing a juvenile and what differences to look for between adults and their babies. They all pulled out their cell phones to take photos. A teaching moment. It was fun.

You can see the video here.

On the way out of the preserve, I stopped at the frog pond… and two other “old women” with cameras came up to join me in finding and taking photos of the bullfrogs there. It was obvious that the pond had recently been cleaned out: it was easier to see the bottom of it today than it has been for a long time; most of the cattails were gone; and the pond had been scraped free of a lot of duckweed. All of the full grown, large-as-your-hand bullfrogs were also gone. But the pond was full of minnows, tadpoles and small bullfrogs, so there was still a lot to look at (and all of the remaining frogs seemed to be females).

It eventually became a kind of jovial contest between us old ladies over who could find the best angle on the loveliest frog. Hah! We had more fun there than the kids who passed by did. (This is why I’d rather host nature outings for adults than for kids.)

I walked for almost four hours (phew!) and then headed home.

Mostly Sulphur Shelf and Bucks

Saturday, around 11 o’clock I headed over to the American River Bend Park for a walk.  I didn’t take the dog with me because I wasn’t sure if we’d get rained on or not and I didn’t want him getting wet and cold…  Everything was pretty soaked there, but it didn’t rain while I was walking.  Saw lots and lots of Sulphur Shelf Fungus; it seemed to be everywhere.  And a lot of teeny-tiny mushrooms popping up all over the place, but nothing big yet.  At least the spores a waking up with the rains.  When I was photographing some of the mushrooms, I looked up to find a young spike bull Mule Deer sitting in the grass in front of me.  He’d situated himself behind a treefall, so people walking or driving by on the paved path couldn’t see him unless they walked out to where I was fungus-hunting.  He let me get to within about 15 feet of him before he stood up and walked off.  I also saw a Red-Shouldered Hawk and got a few photos of him while he shook his feathers out, some woodpeckers, and a group of Turkey Vultures sitting on the river bank.  Heading back to the car, I came across another young spike bull (with slightly longer spikes than the first one)… and there were two big adult bucks with him.  All of them were following after a pair of does, who were ignoring them.  They’re such handsome things.  One of them came right out to the edge of the road where I was standing taking pictures, but then high-tailed it out of there when a truck drove up behind me.  I stepped out the driver’s way and he grinned when he passed me: it’s a nature-lover-connection-thing… I walked for almost three hours (which is pretty much my limit), and then headed home.

 

 

And here’s a very short video of two of the more mature bucks:  http://youtu.be/INmHHpErNk0