Nelder Creek and Nelder Grove

The creek below the house at Oakhurst holds a flock of California wood ducks that fly off at first sight. As they are unapproachable, we build a hide at the edge of the creek and soon two males are taken in, or are perhaps too curious, and swim slowly downstream; females are clearly less foolhardy hereabouts.

Nelder Creek below Oakhurst

One of the drakes in his brilliant plumage swims right by, with one eye fixed on the makeshift hide; it is built of dull-coloured curtains draped and pegged over a sun umbrella, all bought from the local thrift store; he is suddenly spooked and he flies off rapidly. The wood ducks fly between the trees and bankside vegetation with great agility and are able to land on a sixpence; this male soon returns and flies low upstream, lands, and quickly swims upstream and out of sight.

An american dipper works the small rapids, bobbing constantly, picking invertebrates from the rocks and ducking under the stream of water. A heron lands in a tree and after a time drops down to the creek to hunt.

In the trees that line the creek, a loose flock of acorn woodpeckers arrive with much loud shrieking. There is also flicker, a scrub jay, towhees, sparrows and pair of black phoebes. All come down to drink but only briefly and with great caution. The river is a good hunting ground for a hawk.

We take a road out of town one evening and find the great sequoias at Nelder Grove. There are only a few huge redwoods with their folds of soft bark and huge trunks in amongst the other great conifers. The woodland is quiet as the light drops and talk of mountain lions unsettling; a sobering reminder that there are still a handful of true competitors in this forest wilderness.

Red-tailed hawk

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