Posts Tagged ‘wildlife’

Bike Trip East

12 October 2017

I took this trip on the 24th of September. Got busy and almost forgot to write about it!

yellow asters

These hardy yellow asters thrive in an otherwise very dry landscape.

I have taken the American River Bikeway (also known by other names) west into Sacramento many times, but never east, so that’s what I decided to do one recent Sunday.

wild growing grapes

Here is another plant that grows in dry areas. But the fruit needs shade.

I have already written about the plants that grow along the river, but I never tire of photographing them – always hoping for a better shot than the last one. The jimsonweed with its huge white whorled flowers is always interesting to take pictures of.

jimsonweed

The trail east (towards Folsom) goes through drier land than that found downriver. And at one point the soil becomes almost 100 percent large gravel. This is a deposit from an ancient glacier, as far as geologists can tell. The stones are very worn and rounded. You will see these boulders in gardens; there is so much of it around here.

There is also an area of cliffs upriver. I took some pictures, but they didn’t seem very exciting and I didn’t really want to go on about geology, as it’s not my subject. There are also some really fancy houses up on top of those cliffs (other side of river). The views from up there must be pretty darned good.

Meanwhile, down on the trail a little group riding horses pass by. Horses are allowed along most of this trail, but they have their own paths they are supposed to follow, so they won’t interfere too much with the bike riders. These paths weave in and out along the river bank, sometimes using the bike path shoulder. This time of year you can often tell if there are horses ahead because their passing stirs up dust.

horse riders

Egret

egret by the trail

About a week before I made this trip, I saw a very large bird – probably a blue heron – land on the roof of a nearby house. It reminded me of seeing large birds following the creeks of Pullman down to wintering grounds closer to the big rivers, where it stays warmer and the water doesn’t freeze over.

But the fish eaters in this region don’t need to migrate. It never freezes here. Yet these birds do move around, and I am sure they are joined by more birds that summer at higher elevations were it does freeze in the winter. So there was one, one day, standing on a rooftop in Sacramento.

And then on this trip I saw this bird, an egret, by the trail. Myself and another photographer got pretty close to it before it took off. She had a fast camera and said she got a picture of it flying. It is really quite a large bird so seeing it in flight close to the ground is quite dramatic. My attempt to photograph it in flight captured only blue sky.

Lilacs

An another subject, there is the question of the “California Lilac.” Someone decided to call a bushy tree that somewhat resembles the traditional Lilac of the northwest, midwest and east coast by this name. The Lilac we are used to in “temperate” areas originates in the Mediterranean region (or Asia) and is in the Olive Family and rather closely related to the Privet (which does grow in the Sacramento area).

northern lilac flowers

Real lilacs are in genus Syringa

However, the plant found in drier climates named after the Lilac is in the Buckthorn Family, which has a somewhat unusual flower structure. Many of these species are native to California and are seen all over the place, including in many yards and urban plantings. They can be white, pink, violet (purple). A have seen plants that seemed to have totally red flowers, but those were perhaps a different plant, as Ceanothus flower colors apparently don’t include red. In gardens they do appear much like traditional Lilacs. However, the larger plants remind me a lot of mountain-ash (rowan). This particular specimen was hanging over a fence and getting dried out, but the shot shows its flower very well, with its showy frilled petals seated atop rather long slender stems. This plant was probably bred to have flowers this showy.

california lilac flower

California “lilac” is in genus Ceanothus.

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Sacramento Critters

2 July 2017
squirrel Sutter's fort

Tree squirrel at Sutter’s Fort.

We are all aware that many animals share human environments with us. Besides the obvious organisms that take advantage of the fact that we leave behind a certain amount of trash, both inside and outside, there are the ones that live semi-wild in our garden and park areas.

Perhaps the most obvious animals that share the urban environment with us are the birds. However, with my resources these are some of the most difficult animals for me to photograph. Robins, sparrows, swallows, and all their various relatives are familiar regulars in urban trees and bushes. Pigeons are also well-know, and often seem like a nuisance bird. In open areas you will see hawks and other raptors, indicating a considerable but hidden population of ground mammals (mostly rodents). Tree squirrels move around where we can see them, but the rest of those types of animals hide in underground areas much of the time.

Home gardens and park areas may have water features (or regular sprinklers) that support additional animals. These include various amphibians and reptiles, insects, even fish. I should mention soil worms, though these usually only appear when we dig around or after it rains hard. Worms and other soil organisms are an important part of any ecosystem but are another group that does not lend itself to ordinary photography.

We will also see some migrant species come through our cities. Many of us are not particularly aware of which animals are in this category. And there are some birds, like the geese and ducks pictured below, that you might think migrate but might actually be full-time residents. Some of these have lost the instinct to migrate due to being held in captivity over several generations.

geese and ducks at Sutter' Fort

These geese are probably permanent Sacramento residents. I don’t know about the ducks. This is at Sutter’s Fort.

Yesterday (Saturday 1 July) I visited a little museum on Auburn Blvd near Watt that has been known as the Discovery Museum, but will be known as the Powerhouse Science Center when it moves to its new downtown building (an old electric power station). This museum specializes in exhibits for children. Its original emphasis was probably the natural sciences, but it is moving into “hard” technology in a big way, with a “space mission” experience for kids, a planetarium, and more technology-related exhibits in the offing.

The museum grounds include a park and pond. The pond is kept aerated by a fountain. Aeration is important for most urban ponds, as they are usually quite shallow and warm up a lot in summer, which deprives them of vital dissolved oxygen. This particular pond was probably seeded with many of the animals that now grow in it. It has a lot of turtles for just one pond and is teaming with developing frogs (tadpoles / polliwogs). I also saw many dragonflies and a hummingbird. I asked the flying animals to pose for photographs (a habit I’ve taken up, as it sometimes works) and a few dragonflies consented to do so, but the hummingbird would not stay put long enough for me to get a proper photo.

turtles sunning themselves

Turtles sunning themselves at the Discovery Museum pond.

tadpoles in pond

Tadpoles were teaming in this pond.

dragonfly at pond edge

The dragonfly that posed for me.

Some of the first “wild” animals I ran into in Sacramento were ground squirrels at the Marconi-Arcade light rail station. I noticed them many times running across the tracks between their burrows and the public waiting areas. They are a bit nervous and so hard to photograph, but I got a few shots of them finally.

ground squirrel near its burrows

One of the infamous track-jumping Marconi-Arcade ground squirrels.

Fawn leaps out

25 June 2016
view east early morning

Nature area with industrial park above it – 5AM.

After working most of a Saturday first shift, I went out for my usual shopping trip, returning around 3:30.

There is an open area that serves as a wildlife passage between the small nature area in the bottom lands leading north out of Pullman and a wild area to the west, “behind the high school.”

I have seen a couple deer in the nature area this year. Last Saturday one trotted out onto the street in front of me. But I NEVER have my camera handy for such sightings.

This afternoon as I was returning from shopping, a saw a doe and her fawn poking their way down through the open area towards a low clump of trees. I hurried home, got my camera, and walked up behind my apartment building (there are two more buildings up there – I never go up there; great view though) to see if I could spot the deer.

Sure enough, they were in a the clump of trees trying to be discrete. I squatted down and waited to see if anything would develop. Sure enough, the fawn ran out into the clearing (as fawns are wont to do) and walked about a bit in the grass before returning to its mom under the trees.

fawn leaps out into grass

A portion of my too-big photo, featuring the little deer.

I think I should have been able to get a better shot than this. Obviously I have a way to go to become a decent wildlife photographer.

I still catch some pretty nice photos of flowers, though, such as this lupine which grows luxuriantly in a small watered public garden on my way to work.

lupine flower closeup

Lupine, a member of the pea family.

Larry visits Idaho

5 May 2013
Chipman Trail sign

Pullman entrance to the Chipman Trail

Idaho is only about 6 miles from Pullman, so it wasn’t that long a trip!

The area was experiencing an inversion. Warm air pushing down from the east. Temperatures around 80°F and dry. I couldn’t resist going out for a bike ride. I didn’t pack water because I didn’t think I would stay out long. But after an interesting visit to Palouse Treasures thrift shop, I set out to see if the North end of the Pullman bike trail connected to the Chipman Trail. And sure enough, it did!

So I went out on it. My basic purpose after getting under way was to reach someplace where I could get some water. This happened just across the Idaho border, at the Moscow (weird name for a Western town!) Walmart. That’s about six miles out on the trail; I skipped the last mile and came back.

There were quite a few people using the trail. A few walkers and runners. A lot of bikers. And a group of student-age people riding bikes, skateboards, roller skates (a church group?). The trail follows the creek, so is somewhat scenic, unlike much of the surrounding area, except on a grand scale (the rolling hills). If you slow down and watch you’ll see lots of birds. And a few butterflies and insects were out.

The ride “up” to Idaho is indeed uphill (though very slight gradient – maybe 100 feet in 7 miles) but was also against the odd east wind. But as I glided back down towards Pullman I thought: What a joy this is! The greenery, the birds, the rustling grass. The sun twinkling in the moving water of the creek. What a simple pleasure!

I wish everyone on the planet could enjoy such things!

Chipman Trail info

Info sign at Pullman entrance to the Chipman Trail.