Tag Archives: western bluebirds

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.

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.

Mama Owl and More at the River Bend Park, 03-10-18

I got up around 6:30 this morning. Even though rain was predicted for the day, I headed over to the American River Bend park for my walk. It was 48º there and totally overcast.

The manroot and pipevine at the river isn’t as “awake” as it is already at Lake Solano. We’re a little more inland here. It looks like the plants are about a month behind the ones at the lake… The Interior Live Oak trees were just starting to bud, sprouting out new leaves and catkins. Spring is coming.

One of the first things I went looking for when I got there was the Great Horned Owl’s nest. I wanted to see if mama was still there. She was! And she was sitting up in the nest, so I got to see more than just her plumicorns. While I was looking at her, a ranger came buy and asked if I’d seen the other owl, too. I didn’t know there was another one nesting around there! He said the second owl was off to the east about 100 yards away, along the bike trail, near the area where there are some bluebird boxes and where they’re doing a lot of restoration work. I didn’t over there to see it today, but I will be looking for it the next time out there!

I also got to see Wild Turkeys -– bachelor groups with the males trying to out-macho one another – a very cooperative Nutthall’s Woodpecker who let me take lots of photos of him, Mourning Doves, Acorn Woodpeckers, European Starlings, California Scrub Jays and Northern Flickers, and several Oak Titmice. I also was successful in getting several photos of some White-Breasted Nuthatches that were out and about, and lots of Western Bluebirds. Everyone seemed to be scoping out potential nesting cavities around the picnic area.

My walk was cut short when, what would’ve been halfway through, I got back to the car to find the rear passenger window smashed in. Cripes. That had never happened before in all of the years I’ve had the car and have been coming to the park. It looks like the vandal-guy tried to get in through the little passenger side side-window first (probably because the door lock is right there) and then smashed the larger window with a rock. Not a fun thing to come back to after my pleasant walk.

I checked through the car and it doesn’t look like anything was taken except for a jacket that was right by the door. I don’t know if the vandal was just really cold, or if someone else interrupted the guy before he could steal anything more. I don’t have anything really valuable in the car, but still… sheesh!!

And I cut my hands up on the shards of glass that were “hiding” everywhere in the backseat area, so now I have owies all over the place. And my blood usually gushes no matter how minor the cut, so there’s now blood all over the inside of the car, too. *Pouty face*

Rather than continuing on with my walk, I went back home.

Mostly Galls… which is what I was looking for, 08-06-17

Up at 5:30 again. I hate that I have to get up so early on the weekends just so I can get outside when it’s still cool, but… whatcha gonna do? I went over to the River Bend Park, but rather than going to the area where I usually walk, I crossed the bridge and walked along the west shore of the river.

I didn’t see much in the way of animals during my walk, but I did get to see quite a few different galls – which is what I was really looking for. I did get to see, though, some Canada Geese, Mallards, a Snowy Egret, Acorn Woodpeckers, some European Starlings, some Western Bluebirds, and very young fledgling Scrub Jays. The only mammal I saw (besides humans) was a California Ground Squirrel.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

Among the galls I found were: prickly Live Oak galls, Oak “apples”, Spiny Turbans and Red Cone galls (which are by far the most numerous around here), Yellow Wig galls, newly forming Spangle Galls, Flat-Topped Honeydew Galls (some tended by ants and protected by Yellow Jackets), and fuzzy Club Galls.  The majority of the gals I found were all on one tree.  Apparently it’s situated at an intersection where a lot of different wasps and other insects meet.  There was one other tree I went looking for, a small one that’s right along the river’s edge where there are usually great specimens of the Wooly Bear galls…  But, alas, in the flooding spring rains, that little trees was swept away (along with the piece of shore it was growing on.

The eucalyptus trees along the river were also covered in lerps (from the Red Gum Eucalyptus Lerp Psyllid).  The lerps are like little pyramids that the psyllid spin out of starch and sugar.  They’re all sticky with the honeydew the psyllids exude.   I also founds lots of clusters of eggs laid by Assassin Bugs. Most of them were already hatched out.  In one place, I came across some off-looking larvae climbing up and around the rushes along the river side. I’m not sure what they were (some sort of beetle, I suspect, based on their shape); I’ll have to investigate those some more.

The oak trees are just starting to sport their acorns. Give them another month and they’ll be shiny brown and ripe enough to pick and plant.  In September, Tuleyome is having Zarah Wyly from the Sacramento Tree Foundation come to do a lecture for us on acorn gathering.  And then on October 1st, if everything works out well, she’ll also lead an outing to collect Blue Oak acorns from the Silver Spur Ranch property.  Fingers crossed on that one…

I walked for about 2 ½ hours and then went back home

Wood Ducks, Squirrels and Western Bluebirds

Mother Wood Duck and duckling. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Mother Wood Duck and duckling. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

After work today,  I stopped at William Land Park since the weather wasn’t too bad, and walked around the big pond there with the dog for about an hour.  There were no spectacular sights today, but we did see a lot of the usual suspects: ducks, geese, squirrels… I also came across a pair of Wood Ducks sleeping on the edge of the pond with two of their babies.  Even though I had the dog with me, they didn’t startle when I stepped up a little closer to snap photos of them.  At one point, papa Wood Duck goosed one of the babies out of his way so he could get closer to the mom, and then he spent several minutes just grooming mama.  This is common behavior between nesting pair, but I’d never actually seen (or videoed) it before, so that was neat.

Here’s the video:  CLICK HERE

As the dog were walking along, I hear a woman from across the lawn call out, “Sergeant Margie – !”  Hah!  My dog is famous.  I’d seen this lady several times before, with her little dog Colby, but hadn’t seen her in quite a while.  She carries her camera with her everywhere she goes just like I do.   We chatted for a bit, and while we were talking I noticed a female Western Bluebird sitting on a nearby bench, so the two of us creeped up slowly on the bench to get some photos of the bird.  Then the male Western Bluebird showed up – and the female flitted away for a while – and sat on the armrest of the bench turning this way and that way.  “Look! He’s posing for you!” the lady said.  Actually, I think he was showing off to the female, making his feathers gleam in the sun, but I still got the benefit of him sitting there so I could take his picture.  The lady said that when she first saw him, she though he was a baby Robin because of the reddish blush on his chest, but once he was in the sun she could see how blue he really was.

She remarked to me, “You know, all of these people around here, they just walk right by and don’t even see what’s here all around them.” I totally agreed with her.  The joggers and bicyclists racing by, people chasing after their kids or snogging or glued to their cellphones… none of them really SAW the bluebirds or the Wood Ducks or the Tiger Swallowtail butterfly flying overhead or  the m’jillion squirrels running around acting goofy… and that’s really kind of sad.  And I guess that’s why people like this lady and I take all the photos we do: to capture for all of the rushed and distracted people the beauty and sweetness that was there on that particular day…

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Anyway, after our walk, the dog and I went back home and crashed for the day.

Mostly Redbuds and Butterflies

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Around 7:00 I headed over to the American River Bend Park.  Rain is predicted here in the afternoon, so I figured I could get a few hours of walking in before the storm arrived.

As I drove into the park the first thing I saw was a male mule deer (who had apparently recently lost his antlers) at the large Redbud Tree, snacking on the pink blossoms.  So pretty.  I got photos and a video snippet of him.  Further along the trail, I came across a pair of Mallard (a male and a female) waddling through the tall grass.  They came right toward me and when they stepped out onto the path, the female walked up to me and checked me out.  I think she was intrigued by my umbrella.  When I started walking, she followed after me for several feet…

When I got closer to the part of the trail that runs on a shallow cliff above the river I was surprised to see how full the river was and how fast it was flowing.  I knew that Folsom Dam had opened its gates, I’d still never seen the American River up this high before. Much of the shoreline below the nature trail was under water, as ne one of the smaller islands in the middle of the river.

As I continued my walk, I came across lots and lots of Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies.  Because it was still chilly outside (about 47°) they were all torpid, and clinging to plants and trees, waiting for the sun to come out and warm them up.  As I was getting some photos of some of the butterflies in a Redbud tree, a Red-Shouldered Hawk flew up into a tree over my head.  I got some photos of it… and photos of a House Wren, some Western Bluebirds, Wild Turkeys, a Nutthall’s Woodpecker, and a Robin (that was taking a bath in a puddle).  Spring is pushing its way through the cold: the wildflowers are starting to rise up from the ground, the birds are starting to pair up, and the trees are sprouting new leaves… Another week or two – even with the rain – there should be really great photo ops every few minutes.  Today was pretty good, but I’m really looking forward to some super pictures in the next several weeks…

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I walked for about 3 hours, then headed home, stopping at Togo’s to pick up some sammiches and soup for lunch.