Tag Archives: Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)

Valentine’s Day Walk

Red-Shouldered Hawk. © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Red-Shouldered Hawk. © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.021416

Happy Valentine’s Day I got up about 7:30 am and headed out to the American River Bend Park for a walk.  I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, and I was trying to be conscientious about not forcing my body to do more than it could, so instead of a 3 or 4 hour walk, I cut it down to about 2 hours.  I did a figure-8 loop through the upper campsite area and came across a large group of birders looking for birds along the river.  There were so many people, though, that they scared off whatever birds might’ve normally been visible to them.  Large groups also play havoc with some of the weaker parts of the trail (which is mostly on sandy cliffs along the riverside).  The group leaders should have known better…

As I said, I wasn’t looking for anything special, and just walked at a slow pace trying to get the crap out of my lungs and watching for whatever Nature wanted to show me.  The long grass is growing in now and everything looks green-green.  The pipevines already have blossoms on them, and the manroot vines are starting to come up.  They’re thick and ropey and look like snakes; they rear straight up off the ground in places looking for low-ling tree branches to grab a hold of.  The Miner’s Lettuce is also growing quickly and is working itself up into secondary leaves and blossoms…

I saw 28 species of bird on my walk today including:  Acorn Woodpecker Melanerpes formicivorus, Anna’s Hummingbird Calypte anna, Belted Kingfisher Megaceryle alcyon, Bushtit Psaltriparus minimus, California Gull Larus californicus, Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, Common Merganser Mergus merganser, Cooper’s Hawk Accipiter cooperii, Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus, European Starling Sturnus vulgaris, Great Egret Ardea alba, House Wren Troglodytes aedon, Lark Sparrow Chondestes grammacus, Mallard Anas platyrhynchos, Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura, Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus, Nuttall’s Woodpecker Picoides nuttallii, Oak Titmouse Baeolophus inornatus, Red-shouldered Hawk Buteo lineatus, Snowy Egret Egretta thula, Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularius, Spotted Towhee Pipilo maculatus, Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor, Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura, Western Scrub-Jay Aphelocoma californica, White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis, White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys, Wild Turkey Meleagris gallopavo.

There was one gorgeous Red-Shouldered Hawk that sat on a stumpy branch on the outside of a tree where I could get some good photos of him.  The Red-Shouldered hawk and a Cooper’s Hawk kept shadowing one another through the forest, like they were both scouting nesting sites and didn’t want the other one to get the best spot.  The Cooper’s Hawk gave up, though, when the Red-Shouldered Hawk met up with its mate.  Two against one…

As I was leaving the park, I came across a small bachelor group of mule deer grazing in the long grass. I pulled off to the side of the road and photographed them through the passenger side window of the car.  They eyed me every now and then, but didn’t bolt or run off, so I got a few good shots of them, too.

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As I said, I had cut my walk a bit short, and on the way home I stopped off at Bel Air to get some stuff for lunch.  I was so exhausted when I got back to the house that I went into my bedroom and pretty much just stayed in bed for the rest of the day.

Mostly Photos of Sulphur Shelf Fungus

Vacation, Day 2:  I got up around 6:00 am on Sunday and headed out to the American River bend Park by 6:30 am… after setting a pot roast in the slow cooker to cook all day.  It was cool, partly overcast and threatening rain, but it didn’t rain while I was on the trails.

I was hoping to see some burgeoning slime molds and fungi, but… eh, not so much yet.  We need more rain to really wake those guys up.  I did see a heck of a lot of Sulphur Shelf Fungus though  – both young and old specimens.  It’s a “polypore” bracket-type fungus that actually prefers it when it’s a little drier, so I wasn’t surprised to see it come out before the others.  I also found some galls and some lichen that had fattened up in the wet grass (while the lichen on the trees is still pretty dry).

There was a hawk that teased me all the while I was on the trail.  I could hear him screeching in a tree and as soon as I got close enough to catch sight of him, he flew off further along the path, landed in another tree, started screeching… He did this again and again until I got to the point where I felt like he was doing it on purpose!  I never did get a photo of him.

The Coyote Brush is starting to bloom. It’s a kind of scrubby-looking bush, but what’s neat about it is that it gets both male and female flowers, and the flowers are distinctly different from one another. On one of the bushes, I came across a sleepy bee… and an Assassin Bug.  I watched a Flicker flick up dirt looking for ants, and an Acorn Woodpecker banging acorns into its granary tree…

I stopped on the trail at one point where it looks down a sort of cliff to what I call “bird rock” in the river (because I always see birds resting on it).  I was filming a Green Heron there who had caught a fish.  The fish was really too big for him to handle in the spot where he was standing, but he was trying to hide it from the Cormorant on the other side of the rock.  So, he’s flipping it and flipping it, trying to get it into a position where he can swallow it whole… and while I’m filming him, two fishermen come up on the trail behind me.  The trail is only one-person wide at that point, and there’s nothing but a sharp fall down one side of it, but I wanted to get my video so I stood my ground and just kept filming.  The fisher-dudes clambered up into the weeds on the other side of the path to get past me, and as he went by one of them poked me with his fishing rod.  Jerk.  I didn’t even respond to him… But that jab was right at the point where the heron swallowed the fish, so that part of the video is shaky.  As I said: jerk.

CLICK HERE for the video.

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

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Fungus and Vultures were the Standouts on Friday

It was my day off, but I got up around 6:30 anyway and headed over to the American River Bend Park.  I was hoping that with the rain during the week and the warm temperatures after it that there would be some interesting slime molds out in the woods.  No slime mold, but I did get to see a couple specimens of Sulphur Shelf Fungus: one in its very early stages and another in its nearly-complete stage.  I also watched a small flock of Turkey Vultures along the riverside, and a family of Acorn Woodpeckers transferring newly fallen acorns from the ground into their granary trees.  As the woodpeckers were stashing the acorns, some White Breasted Nuthatches came by and tried stealing a few of them.  Hah!

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I actually walked around for about 4 hours; I was aching from the long time on my feet, but was really surprised that I actually walked for that long.  On the way home, I stopped at Togo’s to get some sandwiches, and then crashed with the dogs for the rest of the day.  A very quiet Friday…

Galls Along the American River

My day off.  I got up early anyway (around 5:30 am) to head out to the American River Bend Park to search for galls… and it was already 70° outside.  The sun wasn’t even up yet and it was 70°.  Yuck!

I went early in the hopes of maybe seeing otters or beavers in the river before I went searching for galls, and I DID catch a glimpse of a beaver.  I was facing the sun, though, so mostly I just got silhouettes of him in the water.  I also got to see ducks, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, lots of big orb-weaver spiders, Scrub Jays, Starlings, Common Mergansers, Canada Geese, Wild Turkeys, some Green Lacewings (and their eggs) and some Eucalyptus psyllid bugs and their lerps.  The psyllid bugs produce honeydew and ants can often be found tending the lerps.

Of the galls, I got photos of Red Cones, Spiny Turbans, Pumpkins, Oak Apples, Hedgehog Galls, Yellow Wigs, Willow Rosette, and several specimens of the Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall.  The flat-tops look like tiny brown muffins and exude honeydew (like the psyllid bugs do).  Ants and Yellow Jackets can often be found feasting on the stuff… and there were lots of both at one tree I visited.  I also found a leaf gall on a Valley Oak that I haven’t been able to identify… and then came cross a willow tree with hug balls of sap hanging from it.  Those seemed weirdly out of place to me.  I’ll have to do some more research…

I was actually at the park for about 4 hours, and on the way back to the car, caught a glimpse of an adult coyote sauntering across the bank of the river.  ((I’d heard the coyotes yip-yowling at each other when I first came into the park, but didn’t see them.))

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Oh, and I found out that the oak leaf galls were created by the Rosette Gall Wasp (Andricus wiltzae), and not a lot is known about that species.

1st Time Bird, 1st Time Bugs… and Ants Herding Treehopper Nymphs

Saturday morning: I wanted to “beat the heat” — it got up to 100 today.  Blick. — so I got up a little after 5 o’clock and headed out to the American River Bend Park.  I was hoping to see a lot of dragonflies, but… well, I did see two different kinds.  I went to the William Pond Park side of the river – which I don’t really like because it’s too “manicured” and I seldom see many critters over there.  As I was crossing the bridge, though, I noticed movement in the water and focused my camera on it get some video.  The thing in the water was pretty far away, so in the small view screen on the camera I couldn’t tell if it was an otter or a beaver… when I got home and could see the enlarged version I discovered it was a beaver.  My first “live” shot of a beaver in the river.  I was very pleased with that.  Then I got a glimpse of a Belted Kingfisher.  We both saw one another at the same time, and he was faster than me – out of camera range before I could focus on him.  Dang it!

Along the way across the bridge, I noticed there were tons of orb spiders who’d built webs between the bars on both sides of the bridge, so I got some snaps of them… and lots of Canada Geese in the water.  Other birds I saw were the usual suspects: Starlings, Northern Flickers, Scrub Jays, Acorn, Ladder-backed (red on the front of the head) and Hairy Woodpeckers (red on the back of the head), Black Phoebes, Anna’s Hummingbirds, Wild Turkeys, Wrens, Finches… The Flickers I saw were a mama and young fledgling.  The fledgling had all its feathers but not its mature coloring yet… and it was begging mama for food.  Damn teenagers.  Hah!  And I found a dead bird that looked like it might have been a young fledgling turkey.  Sighting of the day, though, was an Ash-Throated Flycatcher who I found singing near the top of a tree.  I’d never gotten a photo of one of those before.

Later, when I went back to the River Bend park side of the river, I also found the Mourning Dove nest again – she’s still cooking her babies – and caught some glimpses of the young Red-Shouldered Hawk testing out his wings.  He’d fly-hop from tree, to scag, to bush, to tree, and would also “whine” for his mama occasionally.  Soft yet piercing hawk-screeches, as though he was making them under his breath.  Oh, and while I was watching him and taking photos, this pair of House Finches flew over my head and pooped on me; hit me right on the forearm.  Guh!  Well, at least they didn’t crap on my camera!

I also saw a pair of mule deer, and one of them was in his “velvet” (just starting to grow his antlers, and they were still fuzzy), but only one antler seemed to be growing normally.  The other one was stubby and sort of gnarled up against his head.  It’ll be interesting to see how that turns out for him…

Came across some ants “herding” tiny Treehopper nymphs.  The ants were tending the eggs and keeping the striped Treehoppers all in one area on several long leaves of a tree.  The Treehoppers produce honeydew and the ants collect and feed on that.  Cool.  I later found larger “instars” (molts) of the Treehoppers and determined they were Oak Treehoppers (Platycotis vittatus).  Other insects included Cabbage White, Sulphur, some tiny Gray Hairstreak and small Buckeye butterflies; loads of damselflies; a Common Whitetail dragonfly and a Widow Skimmer dragonfly; and a bright reddish-orange Velvet Ant (whose name is deceiving because it isn’t really an ant.  It’s a kind of wingless wasp that’s also called “cow killer” because the sting it gives is so horrible.)

In the plant realm, I came across a Mesquite Tree, which I’d never photographed before, so I can add that to my naturalist list.  I think it was Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) but I’m not positive. The seed pods were pretty old and dried out.  I also found some flowering Jimsonweed.

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I didn’t see as many dragonflies as I was hoping to, but… it turned out to be a good day for photographing anyway, so I went home happy.  It was about 68° when I started out (at 5:30 am mind you!) and was already 80° when I headed home around 10:00 am.  Humid, too.  Yick.

Lots of Bird Encounters

After saying goodbye to my brother, Miles, I looked in on the Red-Shouldered Hawk fledgling at the American River Bend Park, and also briefly encountered his mother who did NOT like me hanging around her baby’s tree.  She screeched at me and then sky-rocketed over me.  The baby is almost fully fledged.  He’ll probably be flying by next week.  I also saw the Wrens, Tree Swallows, and a couple of pairs of Western Bluebirds at their nests.  I thought I was getting video of one of the bluebird nests but when I got home I realized I didn’t have it.  The nest was low enough that I was hoping the camera could see inside of it and catch a glimpse of the babies. I could hear them chirping… but I must not have pressed the record button hard enough.  Dang!  I then found a Mourning Dove nest tucked away in the “elbow” of a tree.  It was camouflaged so well that I didn’t see it until it was right in front of my face.  Mama was sitting on it, perfectly still, perfectly quiet.

Along the river, I came across a large flock of Turkey Vultures.  Some were sitting on a large flat rock in the water; others were up in the trees in front of me and over my head.  Most of them flew off when I approached — shy creatures — but there were a couple of brave ones that stayed around long enough for me to get some photos of them.  While I was watching them, they were watching a family of Canada Geese swimming along the river bank: two adults, two fuzzy silver-gold goslings, and two fledglings that were just starting to come into their adult coloring.  The vultures didn’t bother them.

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While I was walking, another photographer came along and said there was a Cooper’s Hawk nest by the horseshoe pit area, so I drove over there, but I couldn’t find the nest.  That ARE always well-hidden though. While I was there, I took some photos of a pair of male Wild Turkeys that were napping in the shade before I headed home – and pretty much collapsed for the day.