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Interesting Turkeys on the Naturalist Walk, 04-09-19

Up at 6:00 this morning, and then headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve to do my trail walking thing – along with three of my naturalist students.  The weather was lovely, so the critters were out and moving around, and the wildflowers were really starting to open up.

We got to see a tiny female American Kestrel chase off a large Cooper’s Hawk, saw the young buck with a broken nose browsing with some of the does, and saw a yard-long gopher snake leave the side of the trail and rush through the grass like water.

We also came across a female Wild Turkey sitting on the ground next to a brush pile occupied by some California Ground Squirrels. Everything I’d read about the turkeys indicated that they nested in low branches of trees or ON brush piles, so even though she looked pretty settled on the ground I assumed she was just taking a dirt bath (which the turkeys often do to control mites).  I walked up to her, slowly, and she eventually stood up and walked away from where she’d been sitting: a bare, shallow patch of dirt.

When I got home, I did some more research on the turkey and found this: “…Wild Turkeys nest on the ground in dead leaves at the bases of trees, under brush piles or thick shrubbery, or occasionally in open hayfields. The female scratches a shallow depression in the soil, about 1 inch deep, 8–11 inches wide, and 9–13 inches long…” So, this gal may have been prepping a nest site, not dirt bathing.  I’ll have to check on the spot again the next time I’m out there.

Seeing the turkeys -– including one of the leucistic females who came out of the forest like a ghost – brought on a flurry of “snood” jokes. Four women on the trail talking about the male turkeys’ accouterments. We couldn’t help ourselves. Hahahahaha!

Oh, and I also learned that although the male hierarchy changes a lot as the males challenge, defeat, and retreat from one another, the female turkeys’ hierarchy remains constant from season to season, with a dominant female overseeing all of the ladies.  How cool is that?

We didn’t see the Mourning Doves on or near their nest, and I’m afraid they may have abandoned it.  When we got to the Red-Shouldered Hawk nest on the Pond Trail, however, mama hawk was in the nest and calling out to hubby. We could hear her, but we couldn’t see her. The nest is pretty deep and it’s right over the trail so it’s hard to see into it. Suddenly, mama hawk burst out away from the nest and flew right at and over one of the students! She was able to catch a photo of the hawk as she flew over her head! Awesome!

Among the flowers we saw were Blue Dicks, Bush Lupine, California Poppies, Fringe Pod, Periwinkle, Miniature Lupine, different kinds of plantains, and a variety of tiny yellow flowers that defied identification. On one of the plants was an example of “fasciation”, wherein the flowering heads weld together.  “…Scientists aren’t sure what causes the deformity, but they believe it is probably caused by a hormonal imbalance. This imbalance may be the result of a random mutation, or it can be caused by insects, diseases or physical injury to the plant. Think of it as a random occurrence. It doesn’t spread to other plants or other parts of the same plant…”

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos.

The ladies were wonderful trail walking companions: they were excited about everything, had great questions, and lots of wonderful feedback about the naturalist course. We walked for almost 5 hours (which was way too long for me) before we all headed back home again. Deborah had come all the way from Napa to walk with me, so she had the longest drive back home (over 2 hours).

I totally overdid it and was exhausted and in pain when I got home, but it was worth it to have spent those hours with the ladies’ positive energy.  Even though I practically went back to bed when I got home, I was happy. This is just how I want to spend what time I have left.

It was a good day.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
2. Asian Ladybeetle, Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis,
3. Bay Laurel, Laurus nobilis,
4. Black Walnut, Juglans nigra,
5. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum,
6. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii,
7. Buck Brush, Ceanothus cuneatus,
8. Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons,
9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
10. California Manroot, Marah fabaceus,
11. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius,
12. Black Bean Aphid, Aphis fabae.
13. Boxedler Tree, Boxelder Maple, Acer negundo.
14. Bush Lupine, Lupinus excubitus.
15. California Plantain, Plantago erecta.
16. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta,
17. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica,
18. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica,
19. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
20. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
21. Cooper’s Hawk, Accipiter cooperii,
22. Coyote Brush Midge (gall), Rhopalomyia californica,
23. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis,
24. Douglas Iris, Iris douglasiana,
25. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger,
26. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris,
27. Fringe Pod, Thysanocarpus curvipes ssp. elegans,
28. Green Shield Lichen,Flavoparmelia caperata,
29. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
30. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
31. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii,
32. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor,
33. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
34. Nutthall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii,
35. Pacific Gopher Snake, Pituophis catenifer,
36. Painted Lady butterfly, Vanessa cardui,
37. Periwinkle, Vinca major,
38. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus,
39. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis,
40. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
41. Saw-Whet Owl, Aegolius acadicus,
42. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula,
43. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus,
44. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor,
45. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura,
46. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
47. Wavy-Leaf Soap Root, Soap Plant, Chlorogalum pomeridianum,
48. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis,
49. Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis,
50. Yarrow, Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,

Two Nesting Doves and a Squirrel Alarm, 04-02-19

I got up around 6:15 this morning and headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve again. It was overcast and drizzly on and off all day and was about 51° when I got to the preserve.

I was joined there by two of my naturalist students, Johannes T. and Kelli O.  Whenever I take students out, I’m more focused on trying find things for them to see, and explaining what they’re looking at, than I am on trying to get photos. So, I don’t have as many photos to share this time as I usually do. Johannes and Kelli seemed to be interested in everything and had lots of personal stories to share about their own outings and hiking adventures.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

We saw several small herds of deer; many of them hunkered down in the grass waiting for the rain to pass.  We also came across a California Ground Squirrel munching on a large peeled acorn, and another one standing on a log giving off an alarm call. That one looked soaked and I wondered if maybe his burrow got flooded.  And we came across a small dead mole on the trail – and they get drowned out often by the river.

We also saw an Eastern Fox Squirrel ripping the tules out of one of the tule huts on the grounds. Hah!  Wutta brat!

At one point along the trail we saw a California Towhee… and then a Spotted Towhee landed on the same part of the trail, so we got to see them side by side, and see how different their field markings are.

Around that same area, we saw a male Mourning Dove flying by with some long grasses in its beak and followed it to where it handed off the grasses to its mate, sitting on her nest on an odd flattened part of a bent branch.  So cool.  The nest is visible from the trail, so I’ll have to keep an eye on it; see if they get any babies.  Mourning Doves can have up to six broods a year!

At the pond near the nature center, there was the paid of Mallards sleeping on log.  That’s a bonded pair, and I’ve seen them every week for the past several weeks; they like resting there.

We walked for about 3 ½ hours and then went on our separate ways.

Species List:

1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus,
2. Asian Ladybeetle, Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis,
3. Bay Laurel, Laurus nobilis,
4. Black Walnut, Juglans nigra,
5. Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum,
6. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii,
7. Broad-Footed Mole, Scapanus latimanus,,
8. Brown Jelly Fungus, Jelly Leaf, Tremella foliacea
9. Buck Brush, Ceanothus cuneatus,
10. Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons,
11. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi,
12. California King Snake, Lampropeltis getula californiae,
13. California Manroot, Marah fabaceus,
14. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta,
15. California Pipevine, Aristolochia californica,
16. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica,
17. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis,
18. Chanterelle mushrooms, Cantherellus sp.,
19. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus,
20. Common Jelly Spot fungus, Dacrymyces stillatus,
21. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis,
22. Deer Shield Mushroom, Pluteus cervinus,
23. Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii,
24. Dog Vomit Slime Mold, Fuligo septica,
25. Dryad’s Saddle Polypore, Polyporus squamosus,
26. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger,
27. False Turkey Tail fungus, Stereum hirsutum,
28. Fringe Pod, Thysanocarpus curvipes ssp. elegans,
29. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris,
30. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus,
31. Green Shield Lichen,Flavoparmelia caperata,
32. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon,
33. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni,
34. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii,
35. Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos,
36. Mazegill Fungus, Daedalea quercina,
37. Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor,
38. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura,
39. Pacific Gopher Snake, Pituophis catenifer,
40. Periwinkle, Vinca major,
41. Pleated Ink Cap Mushroom, Parasola plicatilis ,
42. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia,
43. Rock Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia tinctina,
44. Russula Mushrooms, Russula sp.,
45. Saw-Whet Owl, Aegolius acadicus,
46. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula,
47. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus,
48. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans,
49. Turkey Tail fungus, Trametes versicolor,
50. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata,
51. Wavy-Leaf Soap Root, Soap Plant, Chlorogalum pomeridianum,
52. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus,
53. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis,
54. Western Toad, Anaxyrus boreas,
55. Yarrow, Common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium,

A Foggy Day at the Effie Yeaw Preserve, 01-31-19

I skipped breakfast and went out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk. It was foggy at the river, too, but not as bad as it was by the house. And by the time I left the preserve, the sun was trying to shine through the haze.  Along the usual suspects, I spotted 25 deer at the preserve today. I think that’s the most I’ve ever seen in one outing.  Mostly small herds of females and a couple of fawns, but I also saw about 5 bucks from spike-bucks to 4-pointers. I also saw a pair of the bucks jousting, but they moved down a hill and into a shallow gully so I could only see the tops of their heads.

Oh, and another neat find was seeing one of the Red-Shouldered Hawks working on her nest above the 4B water post marker on the Pond Trail. The nest was built about a year ago, and the hawks didn’t use it, but they might this year. Because of where the nest is placed, it’s almost impossible to see anything inside of it. I could hear the female calling from it and saw her head over the edge of the nest as she moved twigs around.  But if the hawks use that nest and have babies there, there should be some great photo ops are the parents bring food to the kids…and as the kid grow and fledge and learn to fly. Lots of bare branches in the trees around the nest-site for them to light on. I’ll have to keep my eye on that spot…

One funny moment was when I spotted two Wild Turkeys by the nature center posturing and strutting to their reflections in the glass doors.  One of the turkeys kept trying to peck his reflection in the face, to no avail. I couldn’t help but chuckle at them.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I walked for about 3 hours and headed home.

Wildflower Hunting, 04-15-17

On saturday I was up at 6:15 am and out the door by 6:30.  The weather was gorgeous today; sunny and cool (49º when I headed out for my hillside trek and 68º when I got back home.)  I headed out looking for wildflower displays today, taking I5 to the spot where Highways 20 and 16 meet.  There are a lot of ranches around there, as well as some protected areas, and there are usually pretty displays.

Tuleyome had led a wildflower tour last weekend, but pickings were slim, and they couldn’t get down Bear Valley Road to Wilbur Springs because that road is all dirt – and with the recent rains it was basically a 15-mile mud hole.  I didn’t go down there today, and instead stuck to the highways and the turnouts along them.  As I went along, it occurred to me that I actually think we’re still too early for the full wildflower bloom. I think the rain and cooler temperatures have kept the wildflowers from showing off.  The poppies and most of the lupine aren’t awake yet, the onions aren’t opened up yet, and the Blow Wives are just now starting to “blow”.

CLICK HERE to see the entire album of photos.

CLICK HERE if you’d like directions to a self-guided wildflower tour along Bear Valley Road. Before you head out, though, check to make sure the road isn’t really muddy.

Still, I did get to see quite a few different species – about 3o or so – including Tidy Tips, Pepperweed, different kinds of lupine, tiny Owl’s Clover, that super-interesting looking Sack Clover, Big-Headed Clover, Navarretia, Soft Blow Wives, Silverpuffs, Blue Dicks, Bush Mallow, Death Camas, Ithuriel’s Spears, some tiny Blue-Eyed Mary, California Poppies, Goldfields, Fiddleneck, Buck Brush, Larkspur, Bush Monkey Flowers, Indian Paintbrush, Tule Peas, Chinese Houses, and Old Men’s Bear (a kind of clematis).

Driving along Highway 16 was a little bit scary. There had been huge mud and rock slides there, and the road was opened again just recently. As you drive along, you can see massive bald spots where the faces of the hillsides became too saturated during the heavy rains and just slide off.  There  were three places where I could see that the highway had been recently patched and in other places there were huge piles of boulders and mud that had been bulldozed off the road.  But my drive was unimpeded, and nothing fell on my car in the “falling rocks” areas.

Because it was so sunny, I had to contend with stark shadows and sun-glare when I was taking pictures.  If I was able to, I blocked the flowers with my body and took the pictures, but that wasn’t always an option. It’s easier to take photos when it’s a little overcast…

The Tamarisk trees were in bloom all along the waterways.  They’re gorgeous, but they’re totally invasive. Also called “salt cedars” they dump tons of salt into the rivers and streams and kill off a lot of native plant and animals species that can’t tolerate the high salt content. Red-Winged Blackbirds were using some of them as display stages, sitting in the top branches, singing away.

At one spot along Highway 20 and Bear Valley Road, there’s a bridge that goes over Bear Creek, and under the bride were swarms of Cliff Swallows building and tending to their mud nests.  I was surprised to see birds sitting in the unfinished nests – seemingly saving their spot — as their mates flew back and forth with daubs of mud to complete them.  I got some photos and video snippets of that process.

I also saw quite a few Western Fence Lizards, a male Lesser Goldfinch hunkered down in the flowers eating seeds, some katydid nymphs, Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies, Boxelder Beetles, and… eew… ticks.  There were ticks everywhere.  As I was heading back home, I found three of them crawling around the car, and one tiny one on my neck.  Eew, eew, eew!

Because the weather was so lovely, I actually drove around with the car windows open.  It made for a nice weekend drive. I was back home around 2:00 pm.