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Lots of Birds Nesting, 03-31-19

Around 7:00 am I headed over to the American River Bend Park for walk. It was about 44° at the river when I got there and was heading toward 70° by the time I left.

It was nice to see that the dirt road to the camping area and nature trails was cleaned up and smoothed out. No more car-swallowing potholes!  I saw some deer and a jackrabbit right when I was heading in, so I felt that was a good portend.

The Black Walnut trees are starting to leaf out and drop their catkins, and the California Buckeye trees are just beginning to squeeze out their panicles of flowers. Redbud trees are flowering, and the Santa Barbara Sedge is starting to show off. I checked out various stands of Pipevine but still don’t see any evidence of butterfly eggs yet… I was happy to see small stands of stinging nettle in the picnic area. Let’s see how long it’s allowed to remain there.  It’s a host plant for Red Admiral butterflies, and when the park eradicates the nettles, they eradicate the butterflies as well.  You’d think they’d figure that out.  It would be a lot easier and cheaper to post a sign about the nettles and have people avoid them, than to kill all of the plants.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I spent almost 20 minutes watching a female Western Bluebird deciding whether she wanted to commit to a nesting cavity or not. She flew up to the opening several times, poked her head in and looked around, but then would back off again. I didn’t understand what her hesitation was and wondered if maybe the hole was already occupied by something. Then it occurred to me that she might not be committing to the spot because I was there watching her, so I walked off a bit, then a bit more. I still didn’t see her go all the way in, but her hubby was sitting in the tree nearby patiently waiting for her to make a decision.

I also came across a House Wren taking twigs to her nesting cavity, and a European Starling poking her head out of her nest.  She’d chased off a Tree Swallow that wanted the same spot.  Lots of cool photo ops today!

I got to see a very large Red-Tailed Hawk in a tree (but she had her face turned away from me, so I didn’t get any good shots of that).  She was so big, I thought at first that she might have been an owl.  As soon as she left, I saw a Red-Shouldered Hawk near the same tree.  As I was leaving the park, I also saw a Cooper’s Hawk chattering in a tree alongside the road.

I walked for a little over 3 ½ hours before heading back home.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga auduboni auduboni
3. Black Walnut Tree, Juglans nigra
4. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
5. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
6. Burr Chervil, Anthriscus caucalis
7. California Buckeye, Aesculus californica
8. California Manroot, Bigroot, Marah fabaceus
9. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
10. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
11. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
12. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
13. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
14. Common Ink Cap Mushroom, Coprinopsis atramentaria
15. Cooper’s Hawk, Accipiter cooperii
16. Cranefly, Mosquito Hawk, Tipula dietziana
17. Destroying Angel Mushroom, Amanita ocreata
18. Dog Vomit Slime Mold, Fuligo septica
19. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
20. Giraffe’s Head Henbit, Henbit Deathnettle,
21. Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina
22. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
23. Haymaker Mushroom, Panaeolus foenisecii
24. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
25. Hop Tree, Ptelea trifoliata
26. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
27. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
28. Longstalk Cranesbill, Geranium columbinum
29. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
30. Nutthall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
31. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
32. Popcorn Flower, Plagiobothrys sp.
33. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
34. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
35. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
36. Santa Barbara Sedge, Valley Sedge, Carex barbarae
37. Shepherd’s Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris
38. Speedwell, Bird’s Eye Speedwell, Veronica persica
39. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
40. Stinging Nettle, Annual Stinging Nettle, Urtica urens
41. Stork’s Bill, Big Heron Bill, Erodium botrys
42. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria sp.
43. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
44. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
45. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
46. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
47. Winter Vetch, Smooth Vetch, Vicia villosa

The Birds and Flowers are Starting to Spring, 03-19-19

It was cloudy in the morning, and very overcast by the afternoon, but mild temperature-wise: 47° when I first headed out, and up to about 51° by noon.

I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve to do my volunteer trail walking there. I had invited others to come along on the walk if they wanted to, but no one else showed up, so I was on my own (which is fine with me).

The air was full of bird song: wrens, nuthatches, woodpeckers, hawks, towhees, turkeys, everyone was talking.  I heard Nutthall’s Woodpeckers and Spotted Towhees but couldn’t see them amid the branches and brush.  I did get to see a lot of House Wrens and a few Bewick’s Wrens, California Scrub Jays and Western Bluebirds, Oak Titmice and White-Breasted Nuthatches.

In one area, I came across a juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk that flew from tree to tree along the trail.  And in another area, I saw a pair of Red-Shouldered Hawks calling to each other and mating (twice). I think they might be using the nest on the Pond Trail near the fire suppression stanchion 4B. Their mating took place very near there, and I saw the female fly into the tree where the nest was.

During the second mating, there was a group of children on the trail, so they kind of got an eyeful. Hah!  On another part of the trail, I came across another small group of kids (each of whom was allowed to go on a solo walk before rejoining their group). When the kids were grouped together, they were right near where I was, so I told them that if they looked up into the tree across from them on the trail, they’d be able to see a Bushtit nest that the little birds were actually in the process of building. They couldn’t make it out at first, so I used the laser-pointer I had (I always take one on my walks) to point out the nest.  They oooed and awwwed, and at the same time a mature couple walked up, asked what we were seeing, and stopped to take photos.

A little further up the same trail, there was a large tree in a shallow meadow, and it was being visited by Western Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, an Anna’s Hummingbird, and Audubon’s Warblers. I swear, I should have just set a chair up there and spent the day watching that tree. Lots of photo ops.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I saw some deer today, mostly small groups of does and a handful of buck (most of them having lost their antlers by now). In one spot, I came from behind a tree on the trail where there’s an open field – and a coyote was standing out there, right in the open. For some reason, my brain freezes when I first see the coyotes, so it takes me a couple of seconds to realize what I’m looking at… and the coyotes usually use those seconds to turn their back on me and lope away as did this one. Dang it!

One of the does was sitting down almost obliterated from view by grasses and shrubbery. She was in an area where, last year, one of the does had her fawn.  I wonder if this was the same doe…

There were a few flowers starting to come up in the grass, and the Interior Live Oak trees are dripping in catkins right now, so spring is springing.  Another few weeks, warm weather permitting, it should be super gorgeous out there.

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

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
3. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronate auduboni
4. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
5. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum
6. Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
7. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
8. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
9. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
10. Coyote, Canis latrans
11. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
12. Elfin Saddle, Helvella lacunosa
13. Giraffe’s Head Henbit, Henbit Deadnettle, Lamium amplexicaule
14. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
15. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
16. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
17. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
18. Manroot, California Manroot, Bigroot, Wild Cucumber, Marah fabaceus
19. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
20. Mole, Broad-Footed Mole, Scapanus latimanus
21. Mugwort, California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
22. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
23. Nutthall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
24. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
25. Oxalis, California Wood Sorrel, Oxalis californica
26. Periwinkle, Vinca major
27. Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
28. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
29. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
30. Rio Grande Turkey, Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
31. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
32. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
33. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
34. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
35. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

Mama Great Horned Owl – and Other Stuff, 04-10-18

I just HAD to go see how mama Great Horned Owl was doing at the American River Bend Park, so I got up around 6:30 am and headed over there, hoping to beat the incoming rain. It was about 59º and totally overcast, but no drizzles while I was out.

When I got to the park, I was happy to see mama up in her nest with her three, now very large, owlets. The babies are all just about the same size as mom right now, but they’re still in their baby fluff and look to soft and cute. With the three of them in there, there’s hardly enough room for mom, too, but somehow they all fit. I took photos and video snippets of them, and then went to see what else was in the vicinity.

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos and video snippets.

Lots of House Wrens singing from every direction, Western Bluebirds and Audubon’s Warbler. Y’know, I’d never really noticed the warblers before this year, but they seem to be all over the place right now. I also saw a young Cooper’s Hawk be harassed by Scrub Jays. When I first saw the hawk it was above my head in a tree and all I could see was its tail feathers. I could hear the Jays screeching at it, and they beat it down through the branches until the hawk was free enough to fly off. I saw it land on a curved branch several yards away… and it was still getting harassed. Poor thing!

Then I saw a young Red-Shouldered Hawk sitting in a tree near where the Cooper’s Hawk was. The Red-Shoulder must have seemed more “assertive” than the Coop, because the smaller birds left it alone and didn’t go anywhere near it. It also let me get pretty close to its resting spot – It looked right at me. – without flying off, so it must have been very self-assured.

I saw stinging nettles, miner’s lettuce, Stork’s Bill, and pipevine plants (many of them now covered with small clusters of Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly eggs), buckeye chestnut trees, wild grape vines, and black walnut trees (which are just starting to get their catkins). I also found one Elder Moth caterpillar folded up in the leaf of a blue elderberry bush.

As I walked around, I kept going back to where I could see the owls’ nest so I could get more photos of them as they moved around and shifted positions in the nest…

I was out there for about 3 hours and then headed home.

Here is a video of mama owl and her babies: https://youtu.be/sof6Mf7UKMQ