Tag Archives: tree squirrel

Mostly Galls and Fawns, 08-04-18

Up at 5:30 to get over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve by 6:30. The smoke in the air was thick again and the sun came up over the American River fiery red, making the water look like lava. It was about 60º when I got to the preserve and made it up to about 95º by the late afternoon.

At the preserve, I saw a few deer, mostly does and a pair of twin fawns who kept their eye on me from a distance. The little boy fawn was slightly braver than his sister and walked up to within about 15 feet of me – still hiding behind some foliage. His sister followed him a few seconds later and I got photos and a video snippet of them together. So cute.

Early on in my walk, I came across a juvenile Turkey Vulture flying low to the ground between the trees with a much smaller hawk chasing him. He flew up onto a snag of a tree and posed for a little bit before flying off again. I followed the hawk and found it in another tree further up the road: a Red-Shouldered Hawk. I ended up seeing three of them today.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

It’s that time of the year again when the Fox Squirrels and Gray Squirrels are up in the Black Walnut trees stealing walnuts. They take them up into the branches and scrape the husks off of them with their teeth. As they do that, their teeth squeak and rasp against the hard shell under the husk, and you can hear that sound from several feet away. I heard about six squirrels but only got photos of two of them.

More galls are starting to show themselves – finally. I saw several newly formed spiny galls from the Live Oak Wasp, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis, and several very nicely formed Kernel Galls from the wasp Callirhytis serricornis. And I even found a few tiny Pumpkin Galls (Dryocosmus minusculus). These are all found on Live Oak Trees.

On my way out of the preserve, I saw several juvenile Western Bluebirds in the trees around the small pond. They’re such pretty little birds.

I walked for about three hours and then went home.

Lots of Cavity Nesting Birds, 05-19-18

I got up around 6:00 am and was out the door by 6:30 to go over to the American River Bend Park. I was sure the Great Horned Owl owlets were fully fledged by now and off hunting, so I didn’t expect to see them. I wanted to go out there, though, to see if the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars were mature enough yet to start making their chrysalises. It’s apparently still too early for that around here, but I still got to see a lot birds and bugs and other things.

A lot of the usual suspects were out – Wild Turkeys, Starlings, Tree Swallows, Mourning Doves, House Wrens – and I was able to get photos of some of the cavity nesting birds in and around their nests. One pair of wrens was just starting to work on their nest, bringing sticks and soft stuff to line it with; another pair of wrens had babies and were flying food to them every few minutes. Standing nest tot heir tree, I was able to hear the bay birds inside cheeping away. I need to get a camera with a stretchy arm that can reach up and look down into the cavities…

The neat find of the day – even though I didn’t get many good photos because of the lighting and where the birds were – was a Western Bluebird nesting cavity. Both the male and female were feeding their nestlings (which, like the wren babies, I could hear from inside of the tree). Western Bluebirds are shy, though, and move really quickly, especially if they think you’re looking at them. (As brightly colored as the males are, it always surprises me how easily they can disappear into the shadows.) Still, I managed to get some photos of both the mom and the dad and they flew back and forth and brought bugs for their babies. At one point, the papa Bluebird figured I was getting too close to the nesting cavity, and he flew right at me, beak open. I got a few shaky photos of that before I backed off from the tree. I’m there to observe, not interfere…

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I also found a male hummingbird high up in a tree, and tried to get photos of him, but I couldn’t tell if he was an Anna’s or a Black-Chinned.

I saw some Scarab Hunter Wasps hovering close to the ground, looking for grubs to infest, and some other wasp-like insects that I haven’t been able to identify yet. There are sooooooo many insects with superfamilies, families, and tribes to go through before you ever get down to the genus and species level… They’re really difficult for me to identify properly. I really admire entomologists and their bug and insect proficiency.

One of the odd-ball insects I found was a small wasp-like thing with an iridescent blue thorax, red-orange abdomen, and somewhat clear wings. I was thinking maybe it was a kind of “Digger Wasp”, but I couldn’t find one on Bugguide.net with the right color legs. Maybe a “sawfly”?  I also found a golden fly-like thing with red eyes and an iridescent green thing I think is some kind of cuckoo wasp. I’m not sure. I’ll have to continue the search for the IDs.

I also came across quite a few Tussock Moth caterpillar cocoons. Most of them were already spent (with an opening at one end through which the mature moth emerged), but one was completely intact and had a layer of hard white “fluff” over the top of it. I’d never seen one like that, so I took photos and then did some more research when I got home.

I knew that the female moths (which are wingless) laid their eggs on their old cocoons and then covered the eggs with a layer of hair and foamy secretions from their bodies (which hardens to protect the eggs as they overwinter), and that could have been the case with the cocoon I found, but it seemed at first glance that the pupal casing was still inside the cocoon, which meant the moth hadn’t emerged yet.  A puzzle.

My research indicated that sometimes parasitic wasps will lay their eggs on top of the cocoons and as the larvae emerge they build a tight white webbing around them to protect themselves while they feast on the moth pupa inside the cocoon. I wasn’t sure which scenario I was looking at, so, I opened up the cocoon to see if there was anything inside of it.  Although the cocoon itself was intact (no emergence hole in the end of it), the pupal casing inside of it was empty.  I’m still not absolutely positive about what I was seeing, but I’m assuming the white fluff was made by a wasp, not by the female moth, and the pupa was devoured before the moth had a chance to develop. Nature is so fascinating.

The buckeye trees are all in bloom right now; so pretty. And some of the black walnut trees are already sporting new walnuts. I was surprised to see that many of the Hop Trees around had already lost most of their seeds. Lots of hungry birds out there, I guess.  Along the river, I found a lot of Elegant Clarkia in bloom as well as Bush Monkey Flowers. I would have gone further along that part of the trail but by that time I had already been on m feet for over three hours, and I needed to get back to the car.

All in all, I ended up walking for about 4 hours.

A Partially Blind Deer at the Preserve, 04-12-18

I had to get another nature fix today before finishing off all of the packing and taking stuff to the thrift store for them to recycle, so I went over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, just open to whatever Nature wanted to show me today.

In front of the nature center building, the native plants garden was in full bloom: redbud, bush lupine, seep monkey flowers, California poppies, Buckbrush. Very pretty. And the air was filled with birdsong: sparrows, hawks, woodpeckers, wrens, nuthatches, finches… and the gobble of Wild Turkeys. Such a nice springtime morning! I really needed that.

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

The mule deer were out and about, and the bucks are already sprouting their new set of antlers. Some of them just had little nubbins, but on others you could already see the velvet growing. One of the deer I saw was blind on one side, but that didn’t seem to hamper its ability to get around.

I was alerted by the soft cries of a female American Kestrel to her perch on a high branch of tree, and realized she was calling to her mate. The little male flew up to her, they mated for a while, and then both sat for a bit. The male then kept flying back and forth between the tree where the female was and another tree nearby. I don’t know if it wanted the female to follow it or if he’d found a good nesting for her and wanted her to check it out, but she wasn’t budging. She kept “whining”, like a baby bird asking for food. It’s not unusual for a male to offer food to a female during the courting season. While I was watching and photographing the kestrels, some of the Wild Turkeys decided to take that moment to fly down from their night roosts in the trees to the ground… and several of them whizzed right by me. I don’t get to see the turkeys in flight very often, so that was neat to see – even though I was worried that some of them might crash right into me. They’re big birds!

I was surprised by the number of wildflowers throughout the preserve. I’ve never seen so many there. There was one shallow field that was filled with miniature lupine. I waited for the deer to find it so I could get some photos of them grazing there: all that pretty dark blue around them…

The Red-Shouldered Hawks that usually have a nest right next to the nature center have seemingly opted out of that one for this year. They’d been using that one for several years straight, and it might be overrun with mites and crud right now. I had seen them during the fall working on another nest near the water-post 4B on the Pond Trail, so I checked over there, and sure enough, a mama was occupying that nest.

Unlike the nest near the nature center, however, the one on the Pond Trail is very hard to see. I only saw the very top of the mama’s head poking up above the rim of the nest and could hear her screeching to her mate… When they occupied the nest near the nature center, you could get a good view of it and see a good deal of the mom and babies. Their current nest is going to make that kind of viewing almost impossible. Still, I’m glad they’re there.

I also came across a pair of young Cooper’s Hawks. I don’t know if they were courting or what, but they seemed to stick close to one another.

Further along the trail, I found the nesting cavity of a pair of Oak Titmice and a House Wren. The wren was still adding nesting materials to the inside of the cavity, so I got some photos of it with twigs in its beak.

I saw a lot of Fox Squirrels (Tree Squirrels) running around and stuffing their faces with food, but didn’t see much of the California Ground Squirrels today. There were Western Fence Lizards (Blue Bellies) all over the place doing their push-ups, but it seemed like every time I was able to focus the camera on them to get some footages of their exercises, they stopped moving. Hah!

I DID catch a glimpse of a coyote, though, a skinny female who – by the look of her teaties may have recently given birth. I saw her head moving through the tall grass, and trained my camera on a spot where I thought she might emerge and take to the trail in front of me. She did! And I was able to get a little video snippet of her before she caught sight of me and disappeared again. I had a similar experience with a Black-Tailed Jackrabbit: he came running through the grass, saw me, and then high-tailed it back the way he’d come. Hah-2!

The only disturbance while I was out on the preserve was the sound of screaming children. Apparently, the nature center was holding some events there and there were groups of kids all around it – some of them brandishing Native American weapons as part of a learning exercise. (Yikes!) After encountering one group of the kids, I left the preserve. They were scaring off all the wildlife – and me.

Coyote Dash, Turkey Trot and Others, 01-13-18

Wow, the dog and I slept in nicely this morning. Sergeant Margie didn’t wake up until it was almost 7:00 am. I gave him his breakfast and let him outside to go potty, then I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk. I’m feeling better today than I have in a week. Fingers crossed that I’m done with this stupid flu.

It was totally overcast and foggy all day. Never got over 53º at the house.

At the refuge, this was a day for horribly noisy people – which makes birding and nature-watching really difficult because the inconsiderate LOUD PEOPLE scare off all of the wildlife. Gad, I got as far away from them as I could…

Once again, I saw most of the usual suspects, but I did get a short video snippet of a big, very healthy-looking, coyote as it dashed across a small field – right in front of a deer.

And I also got to see a large band of wild turkeys strutting and showing off to one another on the trail. It looked like there were maybe two different subspecies in the group. Most of them were Rio Grande Wild turkeys (with tan tail tips and coppery-green reflections in their iridescent feathers). But I think there was one or two Merriam’s Wild Turkeys in there, too (with purple/bronze reflections in their feather and light, almost white, tail tips). I’m not positive though.

I walked for almost 4 hours – which was waaay too long — and then went straight home.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of pix and video snippets.

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.

Deer, Birds, and Lion’s Mane on a Drizzly Morning, 11-26-17

The dog and I got up around 7:00 and after giving Sergeant Margie his breakfast, I headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. The weather forecast called for rain today, but I was hoping to get out before the front settled over this area. I timed it pretty well, too. It didn’t start to rain in earnest (along with some thunder) until just as I was leaving the preserve… It was cloudy all the while I was out there; and in some places the clouds looked really “stirred up”, with “boiling” bottoms. That usually means that on top, the clouds are spiking really high up into the atmosphere. Thunderheads…

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

The first thing I saw when I went into the preserve was a buck with mismatched antlers following after a doe.  I followed them for a while, making sure not to get between the buck and the doe. At one point the buck stepped out, straight toward me, as though warning me off, but otherwise he was pretty blissed out on doe-scent. I watched as the buck went to a small tree and rubbed his head against it. Male mule deer have an extra scent gland there that the females don’t have – and the scent advertises how mature the male is, how healthy he is, and whether or not he’s in rut. I could smell him even from several feet away… that kind of leather, musk and wet-dog smell. I kind of like it, actually.

When the buck stepped away from the tree and in closer to the doe again, I walked up to the tree and stayed there for a while because the spot gave me a good look at both deer.  The doe was confused though, I think, by the mix of my human scent and the buck’s scent on the tree, and she stretched her nose out toward me, with this quizzical “what the hell?” look on her face. Hah! I watched the pair of them until they wandered off into the ticket and out of sight.

I saw quite a few of the bucks out in different parts of the preserve, even a young “spike” buck. They were all looking for girls.  I came across several does, too, and they were all out, away from the bucks, browsing with their this-year’s fawns. One mama also had one of her yearlings with her, along with her twin babies. The babies are all out of their spots now, but are still “snack size”, so their moms keep a close eye on them.  In one spot, I saw a mama park her baby in a tall outcropping of weeds before she trotted off towards the river to get a drink.

There also were quite a few pairs of Red-Shouldered Hawks flying around and screeching to one another. The hawks mate for life, and during this time of year they reinforce the pair-bond by refortifying their nests and participating in light courtship behavior (jumping from branch to branch, sometimes feeding one another).  I came across a volunteer at the preserve, a lady about my age named Elizabeth. She said she and other people had seen a lot of the pair-bonding behavior from the hawks, too. We all wonder if the weird weather this year has thrown off their breeding schedules. (Elizabeth suggested that I sign up to volunteer with the preserve since I know it so well…)

Down by the river, I came across a wake of Turkey Vultures. They were all sitting on a rocky shoal in the water chowing down on salmon and steelhead leftovers that had flowed down stream. Nearby were some Mallards, a male Goldeneye, a couple of pairs of Buffleheads, and some female Common Mergansers. It was kind of “dark” and foggy down by the water, which made picture-taking a little difficult, but it was neat to see so many birds in such a confined area.

Another cool find was when I was heading out the preserve and came across a tree where both a female Northern Flicker and a female Nutthall’s Woodpecker were hanging out, one on one side of the tree, one on the other. Nutthall’s Woodpeckers are pretty small, so I’m not sure the Flicker was even aware it was there, but I was able to get a few photos of both of them.

I also managed – just barely – to get a fleeting image of a male Ruby-Crowned Kinglet showing off his red crown. He was chasing an Oak Titmouse away from “his” tree, chattering, head blazing bright red. What a display!

The neatest find of the day, though, was something I wasn’t expecting to see in this area at all. In a stump very near the nature center building was a large outcropping of Lion’s Mane Fungus (Hericium erinaceus). I’ve seen photos of it before, but have never seen it “in the flesh”. Because it was tucked inside the stump, I extricated a small bit of it so I could get some close-ups of its surface.  It’s supposed to be edible and it a kind of “tooth fungus” with long, white, shaggy “hairs” running down its surface. It looks more like a frozen waterfall to me than a lion’s mane, but… it’s still cool.

Here’s hoping this year brings out a lot of interesting fungi in the region!