Tag Archives: Spotted Sandpiper

Many Wrens and “Blue Bellies”, 03-30-19

I got up at 6:30 this morning and had some breakfast before heading out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve again.

It was a gorgeous day weatherwise – sunny, cool in the morning and warm in the afternoon — so much so that we were actually able to keep the house open for most of the day.  It was about 43° when I got to the preserve and about 65° when I left.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

At the preserve, I didn’t walk the route that would have taken me by the spot where I spotted the hive last week; I checked out different trails.  There were no special stand outs during this walk, but there were House Wrens everywhere, singing their little hearts out.  I saw two males fighting over the same perches on which to sing; they must have had territories that overlapped or something. For such tiny guys, I’m surprised by how ferocious they can be.  I also saw Acorn Woodpeckers and European Starlings fighting over nest cavities. The Starlings are invasive, and the woodpeckers and other cavity-nesting birds lose breeding spots because of them.

I saw a few female Starlings doing their “baby bird begging” thing to try to get males to feed them. They sit out in open on conspicuous branches and flap their wings against their sides, gaping and calling out. So funny to watch.

Lots and lots of Audubon’s Warblers… I don’t remember ever seeing this many around here before. (They’re a kind of Yellow-rumped Warbler, differentiated from the others by their field markings.  They’re also affectionately referred to as “Butter Butts” for the bright yellow splotch on their rump where the tail attaches to the body.)

On a different part of the trail, I heard a California Ground Squirrel giving out a repeated alarm call, so I tracked it down, and found it in the field right across form the nature center. I was astonished by the fact that it had a gash in its nose and blood on the fur around its mouth and face!  The mamas can be incredibly brave and aggressive when it comes to protecting their burrows and babies, I know, but I’d never seen one in this condition before. There was also a bite mark on the ruff around its neck.  It was roughed up!

The squirrels are supposed to have different calls for land-based predators and air-based predators (like chickens do), but I don’t know their calls well enough to distinguish one from the other. I imagine it had fought a domestic cat (they hunt in the preserve) or something like that, and had to give it props for its tenacity, to keep on kicking and having the wherewithal to alert its fellow ground squirrels of danger nearby.

I saw lots of Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies throughout the preserve. This is their time of year.  I was hoping to see some eggs but didn’t find any on this trip.  Maybe next time.

There’s lots of tall-tall grasses and sedges out right now, and all of the trees are budding their new leaves so the whole place is green-green-green.  I love this time of year!

I’ve been sort of dissatisfied with the macro photos I’ve been getting out of my camera, though, so I pulled out my cell phone to take some of the super close-up shots I wanted of plants and stuff.  The phone takes excellent close-ups, but it’s sometimes hard to manage holding that and my camera at the same time.  What we do for photos!

On my way out the preserve, I came across a male Mourning Dove doing his coo-ing thing from a tree branch. I love the way their whole chest and neck swell up with their song.  That cooing is most often sung by the male birds (not the females) and is used to “woo” the females.  Cooo-oooo-woo-woo-woo.

Because it was warming up outside, the Western Fence Lizards were out in force in some places.  (They’re also called Blue Bellies” for the bright blue underbellies of the males.)  Saw a lot of the boy doing “push-ups” and challenging rivals on different logs.

I walked for about 3 ½ hours and then headed back home

Species List: 

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
3. Audubon’s Warbler, Setophaga auduboni auduboni
4. Bedstraw, Velcro-Grass, Sticky Willy, Galium aparine
5. Black-Headed Grosbeak, Pheucticus melanocephalus
6. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
7. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
8. Bullfrog, American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus
9. Burr Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
10. Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
11. California Geranium, Geranium californicum
12. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
13. California King Snake, Lampropeltis getula californiae
14. California Manroot, Marah fabaceus
15. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
16. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica
17. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
18. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
19. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
20. Common Pepper Grass, Pepperweed, Lepidium densiflorum
21. Dog Vomit Slime Mold, Fuligo septica
22. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
23. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
24. Foxtail Barley, Hordeum murinum
25. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
26. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
27. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
28. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
29. Little Plantain, Plantago pusilla
30. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
31. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
32. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
33. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
34. Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, Crotalus oreganus
35. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
36. Pacific Gopher Snake, Pituophis catenifer catenifer
37. Peregrine Falcon, Wek-Wek, Falco peregrinus
38. Pleated Ink Cap, Parasola plicatilis
39. Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
40. Puffball Fungus, Bovista dermoxantha
41. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
42. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
43. Rock Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia lavicola
44. Saw-Whet Owl, Sophia, Aegolius acadicus
45. Shepherd’s Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
46. Soap Plant, Wavy Leafed Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
47. Spotted Sandpiper, Actitis macularius
48. Stork’s Bill, Big Heron Bill, Erodium botrys
49. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
50. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
51. Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
52. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
53. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
54. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
55. Western Tanager, Piranga ludoviciana
56. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

Cool Tracks and a Coyote, 09-22-18

Happy Autumnal Equinox and Happy National Public Lands Day.

I got up around 6:30 and headed over to the American River Bend Park for a walk. I wasn’t expecting to see a lot there because we’re kind of in between seasons right now – and I didn’t see much. But the exercise was good for me. It would have been a perfectly lovely morning walk had it not been for a large family group who’d been camping there overnight. When they got up, just as I arrived at the park, one of the kids started scream-“singing” at the top of its lungs and wouldn’t stop. No respect for the space or other visitors. The noise didn’t abate until its parents fed it breakfast.

Most of the photos I took on my walk were of scenery – everything kind of rusty looking as we head into fall and winter. In the dusty dirt along the side of the trails, I was able to make out some animal tracks, including those made by deer, raccoon, Wild Turkeys… and Western Fence Lizards: tiny footprints on either side of the long center drag-mark left by their tails.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

At several spots along the trail, I saw a big coyote. It kept itself just out of clear view – so taking photos of it was difficult – but I got it a few times staring right me through the scrub. I also found a couple of places where it had stopped to relieve itself and was kind of surprised to see its poop filled with acorns and wild grapes. Based on its size and how healthy it looked, I thought there would be more animal traces in its scat. Maybe it was a vegan coyote. Hah!

Along the river I saw Canada Geese, a tiny Spotted Sandpiper (without its spots), a Western Gull and a Great Egret. I also saw some House Wrens checking out a possible nesting cavity in the side of a Valley Oak tree.

Oh, and I saw a small flock of Sandhills Cranes flying overhead, clattering to one another. In another month, lots of migrating birds should be flooding into the region.

I headed home after about 2 hours.

Ibis Rookery at the Water Plant, 07-03-18

The dog and I headed out right away to go into Woodland and look for the water treatment plant before going into the office. One of my naturalist course graduates, Sonjia, had told me there was an Ibis rookery there, so I had to go see it!

Luckily the main gate was open.  I overshot the pond area and had to turn around, then went down the gravel road, and took photos from my car and the adjacent field. The air quality was horrible this morning, with all of the wildfires burning around the valley, so everything was tinged an extra shade of red-orange.

At first, I only saw flocks of White-Faced Ibis, Black Necked Stilts and a few other shorebirds, but as I watched I could pick out other individual birds like Tricolored Blackbirds and Yellow-Headed Blackbirds, Killdeer, Mallards, Pied-Billed Grebes, Canada Geese and Great-Tailed Grackles.  Some of the grackles were posturing and “dancing” along the side of the road. One of them kept stepping on the tail feathers of the others to mess them up. Hah!  I also found some damselflies who weren’t warm enough to go anywhere yet, so they clung to the stems of the star thistle, sometimes several of them on the same plant. Lots of photo ops… but I felt rushed because I had to get to the office by 7:00 am.

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

A little further along the gravel road was the rookery area itself, with Ibis practically piled on top of one another in their twiggy nests.  Because it was so early in the morning, most of the adults on the nests weren’t quite awake yet, but in some of the nests, parents were busy feeding hungry hatchlings. If I come back again later in the week, I’ll come a little bit later in the morning when more of the birds are awake.

I was able to see some of the unhatched eggs in nests; they’re a beautiful turquoise blue color. Both parents help to keep the eggs warm. Some evidence seems to indicate that the males sit on the eggs during the day, and females sit on the eggs in the evening, but they can also switch shifts. Both parents also feed the babies (by regurgitation). While I was watching one nest, I saw mom feeding the kids. Then dad flew in, gave mom his breakfast, and flew off again… and mom fed what dad brought to the kids. Lots of barfing and re-barfing going on in that exchange. Eeew! Hah!

The pairs of adults are supposed to be monogamous, but I don’t know if that’s for life or just for the breeding season.  I saw several pairs, some of them interacting very gently with one another. “Allopreening” (mates preening one another) is supposed to reinforce the pair bond.

The baby Ibises have black and white striped beaks and bald heads. They’re so funny looking! And they grab at the parent’s beak to try to get them to open their mouths. Pushy, fussy babies.

In some spots, the female Great-Tailed Grackles were poking around the Ibis’ nests and harassing them. One of them poked its head right in under a mama Ibis who was sitting on the nest, causing her to jump up and turn on it.  It’s not unusual for the grackles to be predatory and try to steal eggs from the nests, but this one was awfully bold!  (I wonder if the Black-Crowned Night Herons come by in the evening to steal babies and eat them… They’re notorious in this area for stealing and killing local Wood Duck ducklings; sometimes killing for no reason and leaving the ducklings bodies lying around.)

I was out there for about an hour and then had to head off to the office, but that was cool way to start my day.

Butterflies, Wrens and Some Leucistic Wild Turkeys, 03-18-18

I went to the American River Park, and I was having some trepidation about that, since the last time I went there my window got smashed.  But I wanted to check on the Great Horned Owl I’d seen there, and I wanted to see if the manroot vines and pipevines were out in force yet.  It was a cold 36º outside I had to wait for the frost on my car to melt before I could head out. It was bright all day but with that kind of high overcast that makes everything look “glary”.

The very first thing I saw when I got into the park was the mama Great Horned Owl sitting on her nest – and white-fluff owlet sitting up against her belly! The nest is pretty high up, and there are only a few places where you can get any kind of an unobstructed view of it, so my photos aren’t very good (in fact, some are crappy).  The baby kept lying down and moving around; and because he’s so short, it’s hard to see him over the rim of the nest.  There might have been 2 babies in the nest, which is typical for this species of owl, but I can’t be certain.  One, for sure, though.  I got a (crappy) video snippet of the mom ripping stuff off some dead thing in the nest and feeding it to the baby, and some still shots of the mom with a bit of fluff sitting next to her. In a few of the photos you can just make out the owlet’s eye…

As the sun came up further in the sky, you could see steam rising from the cold forest floor… kind of spooky-looking.  As it got brighter, all the birds starting singing from everywhere: wrens, woodpeckers, hawks, mourning doves… everyone adding their sound to the jazz ensemble…  It was the day for House Wrens, that’s for sure. They were all over the place, singing and buzzing away.  Those tiny birds sure make a lot of LOUD noise. There were also a lot of Tree Swallows around, too. I think they were vying for who got what tree, and it seemed like a lot of aerial fights were taking place.

The Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies are finally waking up along the river.  Some were flitting around, some were sitting in the grass waiting to warm up, and a few of them looked like they’d just emerged from their chrysalises.  Their wings weren’t fully straightened out yet… At one point, I was mobbed by three of them. Two landed on the front of my coat and one, I was informed by a passerby, landed on the back of my coat. I think they liked that it was both green and warm.  I got the two in front to climb down onto my hand so I could get photos of them. I don’t know what happened to the guy riding in the back. Hah!

Among the Wild Turkeys I saw today, with all the males strutting around, I saw two leucistic ones.  Not true albinos, they still lack most of their pigment, and come out black and white.   I also saw Western Bluebirds, Scrub Jays, Gold Finches, some Audubon’s Warblers, a Dark-Eyed Junco, a Nutthall’s Woodpecker, Acorn Woodpeckers, and Northern Flickers. Oh, and I got a photo of a Brown Creeper today. I think it’s the first decent photo I ever got of one, so that was a plus.

CLICK HERE for an album of photos.

At another point along the trail, I came across an Anna’s Hummingbird. She was flying among a stand of dead star thistle, pulling the fluff off of the old flowering heads. She then flew waaaaay up into a tree to my left, and pushed the fluff into a tiny nest she was building. It was so far up, I couldn’t get a photos of it. But for the next few minutes I watched her return two more times to the thistle to grab fluff. Then she flew into the branches of a tree over my head, and starting plucking off bits of spider webs and lichen. With one mouthful of spider web, she also got a tiny spider and didn’t seem to quite know what to do with it. She couldn’t eat it because then she’d have to eat the web from which it was trailing. Eventually, she just flew off with the spider in tow. Hah!

Along the river I spotted some Snowy Egrets, a pair of Belted Kingfishers, a Spotted Sandpiper (who didn’t have his spots yet), several Goldeneye ducks, Common Mergansers, Mallards, and some Double-Crested Cormorants (one had crests, the other didn’t).

I also saw a few mule deer, two sitting in the grass and one standing up. Seems like all of the deer are across the river at the Effie Yeaw preserve these days. I hardly see any of them at the River Bend Park anymore.

The manroot vines were in full blossom, and the pipevine vines are starting to branch out. The redbud trees are also starting to open their blossoms; in another week or so they should be spectacular.

I walked for about 4 ½ hours, which is really too long for me. By the time I left the park it was 58º.

A Beaver Sighting… and Other Critters, 12-23-17

I gave the dog his breakfast and let him out to go potty, then I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.  It was about 38º when I got there, and about 48º when I left.  Anything around 50º is actually a really pleasant walking temperature. As I was walking through the preserve, I saw a large group of people moving along other trails around me.  I think it might have been from their naturalist class, but I’m not sure. The group was moving very quickly and making a lot of noise, so I bet they didn’t get to see much of anything on their too-quick, too-loud hike… When I lead my naturalists groups out into the field, we’re going to move super-slowly and keep the chatter down…

Here is the album of photos and video snippets from today.

There were a lot of deer out today.  I saw one of the bucks reaching up into a tree to try to snag some of the still-tender leaves from it. It stood up on its hind legs, ad used one its front legs to brace itself against the tree as it reached up.  I tried to get photos and video of it, but he was too obscured by grass and twiglets and the camera didn’t know what to focus on.

In the meadow area, the big 4-pointer buck was holding court. There were three younger bucks in the meadow along with two does (one looking very pregnant) and a fawn. The younger bucks were challenging each other, but when the big 4-pointer walked up to them, none of them even tried to challenge him. They just backed down or turned away.

A little further up the trail, I saw the buck I’d seen several times before sitting among the tall weeds and twigs. He’s the one who has one foreshortened antler. The last time I saw him, he still had his tall antler intact and been wrestling with the other young bucks.  Today, though, he looked thoroughly beaten. His tall antler was broken off, and the whole top of his head looked like it had beaten down to the skull.  He was still alive and wasn’t “bloodied”, and his eyes looked clear, but he’d obviously taken an horrible beating at some point over the week.

As I was walking along the river side, I saw what I first thought was a log floating in the water. But then I realized the “log” was moving against the current, not with it, so I rushed (as fast as my chubby body will rush, hah!) down closer to the shore and realized it was beaver swimming in the water!  I tracked it upstream, and where it came close to the shore on my side of the river, then it made a sharp right and swam across the river to the other side.  I was hoping to be able to see it come up onto the river bank, but I lost track of it when it ducked under the surface.  So neat to see one of those guys, though!  I got several video snippets of it along with some photos.

Walking back downstream, I saw that the Great Blue Heron I’d seen there a week or so ago had returned and was dozing in its favorite spot.  It flew off before I could get around to the front of it to get some better photos, but then I was able to see a teenage Turkey Vulture and its parent eating some dead salmon on a sandbar – with a Herring Gull standing around looking for handouts.  I knew one of the vultures was a teenager because, although it was fully fledged, it’s beak hadn’t turned completely white yet.  While I was video-taping the birds, I also noticed a tiny Spotted Sandpiper, run up behind them and then flit away.

When I stopped to try to get a photo of a Red-Breasted Sapsucker, it flew off just as a Red-Shouldered Hawk flew down into the tree across the trail from me. It was literally at eye-level and only about 20 feet away from me. It was partially obscured by a branch, but it was still neat to see one that close.

As I was leaving the preserve, I saw another Red-Shouldered Hawk sitting on the ground.  I think it had gone after a vole or something and then the vole ducked underground… As I approached the bird, it flew up into a tree, and I was able to get some photos of it before it took off over the preserve.

I walked for about 3 ½ hours and head back home.

Mostly Bucks in Rut, 12-09-17

Up at 5:30 am to let the dog out to pee, then we went back to bed for about an hour before I got up again and went over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.

It was literally freezing, 32º, at the river, and much of the preserve was covered in fog. The fog was very thick at the river side, which made for some interesting photos, especially as the fog started to lift as the sun came up further in the sky. There was a Great Blue Heron sitting on the bank among some scraggly vegetation. He remained still for quite a while and I was able to photograph him from different sides. He kept an eye on me, but remained where he was, trying to warm up before flying anywhere I guessed.

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

The majority of the rest of my photos today were of the Mule Deer. I came across the big 4-pointer buck who was tailing a female, and later came across three younger bucks (two 2-pointers and one spike buck) all sparring among a group of does (who pretty much ignored the boys). I was able to get some video snippets of the sparring contests, and also got some photos but those were more difficult because when the bucks spar, they drop their heads down close to the ground and shove each other back and forth… and when the vegetation around them is kind of tall, I’d lose the bucks in it. Every now and then, though, the bucks would lift up their heads and pose, looking handsome. I got quite a few of those shots.

On my way out of the preserve I found a spike buck browsing in the tall grass, but close to him, just to his left, was a California ground Squirrel gathering up face-fulls of grass and other vegetation to use as nesting material. This is kind of early for them to be breeding in this area, but not unheard of. In Southern California they start breeding in December, and in the Central Valley they usually don’t start until February and then go through April. Changes in breeding seasons is part of what I’ll be able to study more and understand better after I get certified in the phenology course…

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed back home.