Tag Archives: wildlife

Watching a Hawk Eat His Breakfast, 03-04-19

I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk today.  It was about 46° at the river, and while I was walking the clouds parted, leaving things partly sunny and quite lovely outside. I walked for a little over 3 hours and covered about 2½ miles.

One of the first things I saw was a small group of male Western Bluebirds. They’re small birds, but so brilliantly colored it’s hard to miss them even at a distance.  Around that same area, I watched as an Eastern Fox Squirrel added foliage to a drey she was building inside and around a mound of mistletoe. Smart squirrel. It’s really hard for predators to see the drey from above or below. Now I know where two dreys are in the preserve; I’ll have to keep an eye on them to see if I can spot any babies (once they’re old enough to emerge).

All of the plants and critters are getting ready for spring. The poison oak is starting to leaf out everywhere, their new reddish leaves vibrant in the morning light. And manroot and pipevine are showing up all over the landscape.  In one spot, I found the native manroot intertwining with invasive Periwinkle vines.  Elsewhere, the invasive European Starlings are in a battle with native Acorn Woodpeckers for nesting sites. The Starlings can’t drill their own nesting cavities, so they steal from the woodpeckers whenever they can.

I also spotted a tiny female Anna’s Hummingbird plucking the fluff off of the top of dead Yellow Star Thistle blossoms and flying off with it. They use it to line their nests.

I saw a few Red-Shouldered Hawks today, including one that flew over my head with something in its talons. I tried following it, even though it was moving really quickly, and my legs are really short. Then I could hear it calling from somewhere close, and I jokingly said to myself, “Y’know, it would be really nice if you landed on the bat box over there so I could actually get some picture of you.”

And when I finally found it, it had landed on the bat box! Yay!

It stayed there, letting me take photos of it until it had finished it breakfast and flew off again. Awesome. And in many of the photos, you can see that it had a little dark vole. In some of the photos, you can clearly see the vole’s eyes and face.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

The biggest surprise of the day was hearing the gravelly call of Sandhill Cranes from overhead. The sound can travel for over a mile, so sometimes they’re REALLY hard to spot, but I managed to see the flock, flying waaaaaaaaay overhead among the clouds. ((Later, when I got home, my sister Melissa and I were able to spot another flock flying overhead.))

I love this time of year.

Species List: 

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  4. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata
  5. Black Jelly Roll Fungus, Exidia glandulosa
  6. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  7. Blessed Milkthistle, Silybum marianum
  8. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea
  9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  10. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  11. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  12. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  13. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  14. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  15. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  16. False Turkey Tail fungus, Stereum hirsutum
  17. Giraffe’s Head Henbit, Henbit Deadnettle, Lamium amplexicaule
  18. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  19. Haymaker Mushroom, Panaeolus foenisecii
  20. Manroot, California Manroot, Bigroot Vine, Wild Cucumber, Marah fabaceus
  21. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
  22. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  23. Nutthall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  24. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  25. Periwinkle, Vinca major
  26. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  27. Raccoon, Procyon lotor
  28. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  29. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  30. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  31. Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana
  32. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  33. Wild Turkey, Rio Grande Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  34. Yellow Field Mushrooms, Agaricus campestris
  35. Yellow Star-Thistle, Centaurea solstitialis

And Whose Teeth Are These? 01-26-18

Around 7:30 am I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my walk. It was about 37° at the river when I got there and warmed up to the 50’s by the time I got back home.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The cold seemed to keep a lot of the critters in seclusion, so there didn’t seem to be a whole lot to see but I still got photos of the usual suspects: sparrows, Wild Turkeys, Spotted Towhees, deer, Turkey Vultures, squirrels, Acorn Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, European Starlings, California Scrub Jays, etc.  The only surprise of the day was a large coyote. I spotted him only for a second and wasn’t able to get any good photos of him before he disappeared into the brush.  Oh, and I found part of the carcass of a salmon along the trail. It must’ve been dropped there by the Turkey vultures… So many ferocious-looking teeth on that thing!

I walked for about 3 hours and covered a little over 2 ¼ miles.

Deer, Squirrels and Vultures on 10-27-18

I got around 6:30 am and headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. It was a little foggy and about 49º at the preserve when I got there but went up to about 77º by the afternoon.

The first thing I saw when I got into the preserve was a large 3-pointer buck. He was moving through the meadow with the fog around his flanks and ankles. He was really too far away to get any super good photos of him, but I was still able to get a handful of fairly good images.

Then I came across a group of females, one fawn and a spike buck. Because the group was so close to one another, I was able to get a few two-fer shots which I always like. One female stepped forward to act as a barrier between me and the rest of the group. She eventually crossed the trail and hung out in the shallow pasture on that side. Among the deer there, I’m able to recognize a few individuals, especially one with a very long face. That one was a part of this group, so I was able to get photos of her. The deer seemed fine with me there (all dressed in black and not moving much) but were startled when a pair of other walkers came by (dressed in more brightly colored clothing and walking somewhat quickly).

The “shy mama” deer and her fawn were on the other side of the preserve. She doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to introduce her baby to the rest of the herd.

There were a LOT of Turkey Vultures out thus morning, including a couple of juveniles (with their steel-black beaks). At one spot I was able to see seven or eight of them all standing with their wings out in the “heraldic” pose. I think they’re such neat birds.

I also saw quite a few Northern Flickers out today, a Red-Shouldered Hawk hunting in the same field he was the last time I was out at the preserve, and a Cooper’s Hawk that only show me its back. I caught a glimpse of a coyote but was unable to get any photos of it.

I was able to get some video footage of an Eastern Fox Squirrel worrying the meat out of an old black walnut shell, and more footage of a California Ground Squirrel pealing and eating an acorn, and another Ground Squirrel working on the front of its burrow. I’m always fascinated by how well and quickly they can manipulate things with their front paws.

Showy Milkweed is all dying right now and going to seed. Only one or two Monarch caterpillars early in the year and nothing this fall. Much less than last year.

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed back home,

The Cows Were More Obvious Today, 10-20-18

I had decided to just rest up over this weekend, but I couldn’t resist heading out to the Cosumnes River Preserve in the early morning. The preserve had posted that 90% of their wetland areas had water in them, so I wanted to see what it was like out there.

Uh. If what I saw out there was indeed 90%, then there are huge areas that the public can never see. The slough and some of the rice fields adjacent to the preserve were full of water, but there was no water in the wetland areas around the boardwalk or Desmond Road (which is where the public is allowed to do viewing). So, I was super disappointed as I felt the public had been lied to by the preserve.  Apparently, quite a few other people had also been duped by the announcement; there were cars cruising up and down Desmond and Bruceville Roads looking for birds.

The lack of water also meant a distinct lack of wildlife viewing. I did get to see COWS in some of the fields, and some Sandhill Cranes in other fields (but too far away for my camera to get any good shots of them). *Sigh* There was one Red-Tailed Hawk that was hunting near the boardwalk area and sat on the top of a short tree, so she could see what was around her. I saw her go to ground at one point, but don’t think she caught anything. The only other birds I saw were the common Canada Geese, Greater White-fronted Geese, Mallards, Brewer’s and Red-Winged Blackbirds, and some Bushtits and White-Crowned Sparrows. Nothing special.

I saw a few tiny damselflies that I think were Paiute Dancers, and also came across two large praying mantises, gravid females looking like they were ready to lay their eggs.

But overall, I felt the trip was a bust.

Scouting Out Spots for Trail Cameras, 10-04-18

My Tuleyome coworkers Nate, Eric “Bam Bam”, Kristie and I were all scheduled to head over to the Lake County to scout out places to put the trail cameras today. We left the office at 8:00 am. The trip to the ranch, which is Lake County, took about 90 minutes (one way) and Nate did the driving, hauling all of us up there in his SUV.

It was overcast, around 63º, with some clouds dragging their bellies across the tops of the hills, but the rain held off until just before we were ready to leave.

Bam Bam had never been to the property before, and Nate and I hadn’t been there since the Pawnee Fire burned through it.  I was kind of shocked by how much surface damage the wildfire had done.  I need to find the “before” photos so you can see the change from when I first saw the place and what it looks like now. Even without the comparison, you’ll be able to see just how burned “BURNED!” is.  In some spots, the fire burned so hot and lingered so long that it burned down into the root ball of trees, and when the trees fell over the fire burned them down into the ground until there was nothing left but white and orange ash “skeletons” on the ground.  Bam Bam, who used to be a volunteer firefighter, said that when the mop up crews from the fire brigade come into a wildfire area after a fire, the first thing they look for are the root holes. They make sure that all of the roots are gone and that there’s nothing left smoldering in the holes that might re-ignite and start another fire.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Nate had made maps that noted some areas where he thought would make good placements for the cameras, and he used that as a guide, but once we got to the site, we chose spots based on where we saw scat, tracks or game trails; where we could see where the water from the season creek would flow; and where there were open spaces flanked by areas where we figure vegetation would sprout in the spring. We’d originally thought we’d put out about 5 cameras, but we ended up finding about 9 spots where we want cameras to go.

One of “good” things about the wildfire was that it revealed all of the parts of the landscape that had been covered up by overgrown grasses and other vegetation.  We could clearly see the path of the seasonal creek – including a large pond – which helped us decide where to put cameras to capture images of river otters and other critters that might visit the creek once the water is flowing.  In the pond area, there was a stand of tules and cattails that were mostly dried out, and in among them Nate and Kristie found about 5 nests, most likely made by Red-Winged Blackbirds, woven into and around the tules. Nate cut out one of them, so we could use it as a display piece for our Certified California Naturalist class.

While we were scouting the area, we found evidence of deer, elk, bobcats, a black bear, jackrabbits, and coyotes… including some large elk bones (mostly ribs and vertebrae.) So, we know there are critters out there. The question will be: will they return as the landscape revives from the fire.

I documented some plant life but need to do more of that next time we’re out there. Along with the Blue Oak trees and Ponderosa Pines, there were also lots of manzanita trees and toyon bushes, mugwort, heliotrope, and doveweed… and some Yellow Star Thistle which needs to be pulled out.  I also found some fungi, including Barometer Earthstars.

The funniest part of the day was when Nate set off the sound box of a toy quail on the property — and live quails answered it. A couple of male quails jumped up into the branches of a dead tree trying to see who the intruder was. Hah!

The rain was polite and waited until just before we were ready to leave before it started. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed themselves. It was a fun and productive day.

Funding for this project was paid in part by the Sacramento Zoo, Project #18-022.

Going to See Coconut, 09-23-18

Around 8:30 I headed over to the Sacramento Zoo. It was 64º when I got there and 78º when I left.

I’d gone to the zoo primarily to see Coconut, the new Snow Leopard cub.  He was born in May and had several birth defects that made it difficult for him to walk and see normally. When I first got to the Snow Leopard enclosure, the dad, Blizzard, was out, pacing around. But the second time I passed the enclosure, Coconut and his mom, Misha, were out. The baby had a small watermelon he was playing with, and he’d work himself up into such a frenzy of happiness that he’d jump up away from the water, then jump around in circles, and roll onto his back. Sooooo cute. Misha wrestle with him occasionally and let him jump on her face and pull at her tail. They were so sweet together; she’s such a good mama. Later, as I was leaving the zoo, Coconut was up on a stone ledge, napping. To look at him no, you’d never know that just a few months ago, he couldn’t walk in a straight line without falling over.

The male Jaguar was out today, too. Jaguars don’t really “roar” like lions do, but this male was doing his best impersonation of one; loudly “chuffing” and grunting.  He sat out on a ledge in his enclosure, grooming himself and licking his paws.

The male and female African Lions were also out this morning; both of them lazing in the morning sun. At one point, the male laid down and rolled on the ground, getting his mane full of woodchips.  The tigers are gone. After their new male attacked and their female, their got rid of him (sent him back to the zoo he came from) and aren’t going to replace them. It looks like the zoo is going to expand the lions’ enclosure and put glass along the front of it for easier viewing.   There was actually a lot of construction going on. And they’d just completed a new parklet with picnic tables across from the giraffe enclosure.

I got to see the Orangutans when they first came out, bleary-eyed, not really wanting to get up yet; and the Chimps were out, too, but hiding in the darker part of their enclosure or up in the rafters where it was hard to see them – and even more difficult to photograph.  My favorite Red River hogs were out, though, so that was fun.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Before I left the zoo, I stopped at their café for some lunch: turkey-bacon club sandwich, fries and a Coca-Cola Icee. Mmmmm