I could hear nestlings calling in a cavity in a small hardwood snag along Old Felta School Rd. As I was checking out the cavity, a fairly old Northern Flicker nestling briefly looked out. The cavity was only about 8-10 feet off the ground. I waited in the area for about 15 minutes but the parents didn't show up. Later, as I was driving by, I was able to get a few pictures of the mom visiting the nest. If you zoom in, you can actually see the nestling looking out of the cavity in the first picture.
A few newts were hanging out near the mouth of a small tributary to Nevada Creek. My guess is that they were California Newts, but I was unable to get a satisfactory look. According to the range map from the California Wildlife Habitat Relationships program, this area seems to be at the edge of the range for the Rough-skinned Newt, and I'm not sure the picture I got is good enough to rule out that species.
I found these bright yellow, white, and pale yellow Calochortus lillies growing within 50 feet of each other. I'm not sure if they were the same species or different species.
I've been wondering for a long time what this fragrant plant is. I finally encountered it in bloom and was able to figure it out - pitcher sage. It was growing in chamise-dominated chaparral.
This baby/juvenile turtle was hanging out in Nevada Creek, which drains a landscape dominated by arid oak woodland and chaparral in northeast Napa County. I was surprised to find a turtle here, and was especially excited to find a young one - I've never seen one before. It was only about 2.5 inches long and had a noticeable tail (I think it's tucked around and sticking out from the left side in the picture). Although there is not much in the way of riparian habitat along this creek, I'd guess that at least portions remain wet year-round, as there were lots of small fish and a Belted Kingfisher flew through the area.
I'm assuming this was a western pond turtle, since the location was pretty remote. I can't imagine that an introduced species would be hanging out here. However, I'm no expert in turtle identification, so confirmation of the species would be much appreciated. The last picture that I've added shows the habitat. The turtle is circled in red.
Slithering along an old ranch road overgrown with annual grasses and other non-native weeds.
On May 16, I heard an Ash-throated Flycatcher calling on the wooded hillside to the east of Fox Pond. About 30m from the trail, I noticed a snaggy-looking, vertical limb with a broken/open top and a woodpecker hole not far below (two different entrances for the same cavity). I wondered if perhaps the flycatcher might be nesting in there. Within a few minutes, an Ash-throated Flycatcher appeared on the rim of the broken top. It had a nice piece of fur in its bill. Eventually, it flew off. Perhaps it was disturbed by my presence. I waited for awhile but there was no more activity at the tree. I revisited the same location on May 22 and saw an Ash-throated Flycatcher perched in the same place. After a few minutes, it dropped down into the limb through the open top. Cool!
The photos I've posted are from May 22. Unfortunately, I only got blurry pictures of the flycatcher when it was carrying the fur. Darn!
I first noticed woodpecker activity at this location on April 4, when I saw a male and female (presumably a pair) in the area and noticed one of them working on a new, round hole in the rotted limb of a black(?) oak. On April 30, a male was quietly hanging out in a nearby oak. On May 12, I heard young calling in the area and was thrilled to see a female woodpecker come to a nest cavity in the rotted limb. I stayed for about an hour and saw the female come to the nest about 4 times. The male finally showed up as I was leaving. The young were calling almost constantly the whole time I was there. Through my scope, I could see their bills when the parents came to feed them. An added bonus was watching a Pacific-slope Flycatcher nest-building in the same tree!
I was certain these were Downy Woodpeckers while in the field, based on general size and calls that I've heard in that area (not the emphatic "peek" of a Hairy Woodpecker; also, I'm pretty sure I've heard some whinnying in that area in past years). While I do sometimes have trouble telling Hairies and Downies apart, I don't remember having much confusion over this woodpecker's id while in the field. But then I checked the only decent photo that I took (of the female), and now I'm not so sure. I guess I'll have to go back out there and nail down the species id. But any comments are welcome.
Update: 5/16/12 - I went back out to get some more pictures of the woodpeckers today. I'm pretty certain they're Downy Woodpeckers. I've added a few pictures of the male that show a good amount of black barring on the tail, and the male's bill doesn't look quite as large as the female's. For what it's worth, the female was flicking her tongue in and out, and I think my photo caught a bit of her tongue, making the bill look a little longer than it really was. I've seen some Hairy Woodpeckers in the last few months, and the bills on the Healdsburg Ridge woodpeckers don't seem as large as what I've come to expect from a Hairy. Though I have to say, they don't seem as stubby as a typical Downy bill, either. In the field, the cavity really seems like the perfect size for a Downy -it's pretty small. I've posted a video on YouTube at http://youtu.be/Nk3fSUuSfsg that shows both the female and the male coming to the nest.
I also posted a picture of the nest-tree here. The cavity is circled in white and is pretty much in the center of the picture.
I watched a Pacific-slope Flycatcher bring nesting material to a nest in a rotted out hole about 8" in diameter in a limb of a black(?) oak. The bottom of the hole was acting as a ledge for the nest to rest on. The nest was about 15 feet above the ground. The nest tree was in dense, mesic hardwood forest on the edge of an open, grassy clearing. Once, I was able to see the flycatcher work a fine piece of dry grass into the nest.
American Robin nest with 4 small nestlings on All-the-Oaks Trail at Healdsburg Ridge Open Space Preserve. I watched a parent come to the nest a few times. I first found this nest on April 24 or 25, when an adult (presumably the female) flew to the nest and hunkered down in it.
On May 12, I saw a river otter foraging along the edge of Fox Pond at Healdsburg Ridge Open Space Preserve, mostly within emergent vegetation and flooded willows. At one point, I could hear it crunching on something. It disappeared after 5 or 10 minutes. I think it became active again about half-an-hour later, as the Canada Geese started honking quite a bit in apparent agitation, and I could see a big ripple down at the pond (I had moved on).
While hiking along the S. Lake Trail at Lake Sonoma, between Buck Pasture Camp and Black Mountain Camp, I encountered a group of pigs foraging along a riparian area. There were at least 2 adults (females, I think) and 2 young. As soon as they noticed me, there was quite a commotion and they took off running. 2 young pigs crossed the trail about 50m from me, but no adults followed after them. I've heard that wild pigs can be dangerous, but these guys seemed way more interested in getting away from me than in attacking me. Fortunately, they had plenty of escape routes. There's lots of evidence of pig rooting in this area of Lake Sonoma.
While camping at Old Sawmill Camp on the upper portion of Lake Sonoma's Warm Springs Arm, I saw 3 river otters swimming together in the early morning. I first noticed them when some nostrils popped up in the water about 25m from me. So cute! They didn't seem interested in being that close to me and swam down the lake.
Having thoroughly enjoyed a short backpacking trip 2 weeks ago at Lake Sonoma, my husband and I decided to head back out there last weekend to catch the full moon. At about 6:30am on May 6, I heard a loon wail ("hoooo-lii") and immediately thought "Hey, that sounded like a loon", which is interesting because I'm not sure I've ever heard a loon in the wild - I must have learned it from the movies! I dismissed it as a coyote, but soon after a Common Loon in breeding plumage floated into view. What a beautiful bird, especially on the misty lake. I had my spotting scope with me, so I was able to see it really well - the black bill and head, red eye, white-and-black checkered back, white chest, and wedge-shaped white collar.
The loon was hanging around Old Sawmill Camp, which is on the upper portion of the Warm Springs Arm of Lake Sonoma. It was still in the area around 1pm.