Tag Archives: starling

Vacation Day 7: Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve

Mule Deer. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Mule Deer. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

Vacation Day Seven. I got up around 7:00 this morning and headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my walk.  It was lovely outside: in the 50’s, sunny and breezy.  There wasn’t a lot to see this trip, but the walk was really nice.  My favorite photo of the day was of a Starling perched outside of its nest hole. The picture was hard to get because the sunlight was right behind the tree where the Starling was (which made everything look black).  The dark bird in the intense shadow was hard to see, so I had to open up the iris of the camera to let more light in… which then washes out the bright background…  I got photos of a Red-Shouldered Hawk nest, and I could hear mama hawk screeching inside of it, but she never lifted her head up enough for me to get a picture of her.  There were a few mule deer around, but they were all napping in the grass, so I got photos of the top of their heads.  Hah!

I also got some good shots of coyote scat that I’ll use in my next “Cool Stuff on the American River” book.  Naturalists get excited about stuff like that. Hah-2!

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No Foolin’ on April Fool’s Day

Starling emerging from tree cavity nest. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Starling emerging from tree cavity nest. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

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!

Here’s a little videohttps://youtu.be/E2krSO9NgOo 

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.



Fungi and Critters at the River Bend Park on Saturday

Brown Jelly Fungus. © Copyright 2016, Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Brown Jelly Fungus. © Copyright 2016, Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

I got up around 7:00 this morning and headed over to the American River Bend Park for my walk.  Rain was threatening and it was cold, but I wanted to see if the fungi had started to wake up there yet.  With a week’s worth of rain, I figured something should be showing itself by now.  And I wasn’t disappointed.

Although the full array of fungi weren’t out yet, I did come across some really beautiful specimens of jelly fungus and my favorite “Purple Core” mushrooms (a kind of Blewit), along with other mushrooms, lichens, mosses, and some polypore fungi.  I also came across a kind of ink cap mushroom I hadn’t seen before: the Pleated Inkcap (Parasola plicatilis), a kind of decomposer.  So that was cool.

At one point, I stopped on the trail to get a photo and this little Chihuahua on one of those retractile leashes came up and started yapping at me.  His owner, an older lady who walking with a female friend, reeled him in and said, “Stop barking.  She’s trying that a picture of that… yellow… stuff.”  And I got the opportunity to do my naturalist thing, telling the lady it was a kind of jelly fungus, from the genus Tremella, called “Witch’s Butter” and it was 60% water.  She ooo’ed a little bit and said, “My husband just thought it was a mushroom.”  Mare: 1, Hubby: 0.  Hah!

The big buckeye chestnuts woke up with the rains, too, and I found several of them that were sending out their long tap roots looking for a place to grow.

Along the river bank, I also got to see a variety of birds: Robins, Turkey Vultures (some posing on the top of a tree), Starlings in their breeding plumage, Acorn Woodpeckers, Goldeneye Ducks, Canada geese,  a Spotted Sandpiper (without its spots), a Greater Yellowlegs, an alder tree full of tiny Lesser Goldfinches, and a Belted Kingfisher.  At one spot I also saw a Great Blue Heron and a small Green Heron fishing in the shallows, and a Great Egret trying to challenge a Turkey Vulture for a tidbit of leftover salmon.  (I got a little video of that encounter.) Took lots of photos.

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I got so “involved” with my photo-taking, by the way, that I lost track of time and ended up walking for about 4 hours.  That’s really beyond my limit and with the cold and damp, my bones were really aching by the time I got back to the car.  Just as I got in and closed the door, the rain started.  Good timing!

I headed home, and collapsed with the dogs.  Took some Aleve, had a sammich, and napped for about an hour, then worked for a bit on my journaling and my second American River Book.

Found Some Elfin Saddles in the Rain

I got up a little after 7:00 this morning and headed out to the American River Pend Park.  It was overcast and sprinkling very lightly when I got there, and just as I drove down the entry road, a hawk in a tree caught my eye.  So I pulled over and walked into a part of the park and along part of the river I’ve never seen before.  The hawk  flew off, so I didn’t get any photos of him, but I did see quite a few other birds – Flickers, Scrub Jays, Towhees, Common and Barrow’s Goldeneye Ducks, geese, Killdeer, Starlings, etc. — and I also came across quite a few mule deer, so that was a fun segue.  Then I drove into my favorite part of the park and started walking, the rain getting heavier and heavier all along the way.  I was hoping to see some neat slime molds and ‘shrooms, but was hampered by the rain.  I did get to see a large crop of Helvella lacunosa, also known as the Fluted Elfin Saddle; there were mostly black ones but a few chalky white ones, too. These bad boys are often overlooked because they like burnt ground and often look like little charred bits of wood or burnt paper.  There were so many of them in this one spot, though, that they were really conspicuous.  I wanted to stay out there longer, but it started pouring… and I’d left my umbrella at the office. D’oh!  Overall, I’d spent about 2 hours at the park before heading home.

Bugs and Caterpillars at the River Bend Park

I slept in a little bit this morning and didn’t get up until about 7:30.  I got the dog in the car and we headed out for our walk.  First, though I had to run a few short errands: grocery store, put gas in the car, go to the bank… So we didn’t get to the American River Bend Park until a little after 8:30 am.  I don’t usually like to get there that “late” because by then the place is starting to fill up with humans and the critters make themselves scarce.  The weather was nice, though: in the 50’s while we were walking with a slight breeze and lots of sunshine.

We saw all the usual suspects like wild turkeys, deer, Acorn Woodpeckers, Towhees, Brown Creepers, Starlings, Snake Flies, click beetles, spiders … I was supposed to do a butterfly crawl for Tuleyome today, but that got  cancelled… and it was just as well.  Because there was so little rain in the early part of the year, the forest is about three weeks behind where it should be as far as plant and bug life goes.  The Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars are just now starting to hatch and mature.  It’ll be another few weeks before they’re fully mature and start to build their chrysalises. There were fewer butterflies this season, too, and I only came across a few exhausted stragglers on our walk. One neat thing, though, was the discovery of quite a few of what I think were Red Admiral butterfly caterpillars (Vanessa atalanta) in the stinging nettles.  One even got angry at my intrusion and reared up at me.  It’s hard to get proper photos of those guys because the stinging nettled they love to eat really do sting!  They have microscopic hairs on them that inject histamine into your skin leaving you will this bad “burning” stinging sensation.  It doesn’t last long, but it sure hurts!  (Of course, if this stupid human wouldn’t put her hand into the nettles she wouldn’t get stung…  but I really wanted th photograph!  Hah!)  I also came across a mating pair of Fire-Necked Batyle Beetles (Batyle ignicollis) which are a subspecies of long-horned beetle, and a mating pair of Crane Flies… so I considered it a good time.  The dog and I walked for about 2 ½ hours and then headed back home.

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I’m Really Cranky Today… So, Look Out! (*Hah!*)

I’ve had a killer cough for the past day or two and last night it kept me up all night… so I’m exhausted, headachy and cranky this morning.  Look out!  What’s weird is that it’s just a cough with a low-grade fever; no congestion or sinus pain or itchy eyes. I could have stayed in bed all day, but I got up around 7:30 and took Sergeant Margie with me over to the American River Bend Park for our walk.

There were a lot of different kinds of lichen out, along with some Earth Stars, but I only came across one small stand of mushrooms — some “Jelly Babies” growing out of the trunk of a fallen tree.  Lots of birds making noise, but few posed for me — although I did get some shots of a vulture, a Starling and an Egret.  I also came across a young coyote who posed for me for a few minutes.

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As nice as all of that was, I as aggravated by the bunch of stupid humans who let their dogs run around off-leash (the humans carry the leash in their hand, but don’t actually put it on the dog. )  Several of the dogs rocketed past me trying to catch birds and rabbits, and ruined some of my bird shots.  When one woman’s dog took off, she just stood there and shouted, “Kody, what are you doing?!” as though the dog was responsible for being off-leash and chasing rabbits and she wasn’t.  Later, as we were walking through one of the roundabouts, Sergeant Margie just stopped moving, and I looked back at him to see what his problem was.  His hind legs were all tangled up in fishing line that some other terminally stupid human had left on the ground (instead of throwing it in the trashcan that was about 5 feet away).  Fargging bastages! I had to use the little knife on my keychain to cut the snarled up stuff away from my dog’s legs.   Then I came across a crack-pipe that I assumed someone had thrown out of their car so the Rangers wouldn’t find it… I mean, I know I woke up cranky, but…Ugh!  Where are people’s brains?! ?!  

After walking for about 90 minutes I decided I’d better head back home before I murdered someone.  (*Hah!*)  When I got back to the house I had some chicken soup and gulped down some more cough suppressant before taking a short nap.  Sometimes you just need one of those.