“Ducks in Scopes” at the Cosumnes River Preserve

Wow, a nice leisurely morning…  I actually slept in until 8 o’clock, then did some emailing and journaling, and made myself a big breakfast of eggs, sausage, toast and coffee…  I have this weekend off, go to the office on Monday to tidy up and set the phone and email auto-responders, and stuff like that, then I have off from December 24th through the New Year… I already have a short list of one-day excursions I want to go on during that time: the river bend park (of course), Christmas Eve at the zoo, a trip up to the Sacramento Wildlife Refuge and one to the Cache Creek Nature Preserve, maybe New Years Eve at the Crocker Museum, the Effie Yeaw Nature Center, etc….  Today, the Cosumnes River Preserve was going to have its “Ducks in Scopes” Day, so I headed out that way around 10:30 am….

They were just setting up the scopes when I got there, so I walked around a bit by myself.  I came across a couple using a little net to pull bugs, water fleas, and other critters from the water.  I asked what they were doing and they said they were making “duck soup”, the kind of stuff the dabbling ducks eat along with the greenery in the water.  “Come back in a little while, and we’ll have a microscope set up so you can see what we catch.”  I thought that was kewl, so I kept walking along, getting some photos of the birds and the boardwalk.  When I got back to the scope area, they had everything set up — including the microscope, so I took a look through each of them.   With the scopes you see almost every feather on the ducks and geese they were focused on.  I tried getting a photo through one of the scopes, but had a little trouble getting the camera to focus beyond the scope’s eyepiece to what it was looking at… And under the microscope I could see all sort s of little things kicking and floating around in the water… I continued walking around the area for a couple of hours before heading back home.  I saw Red-Winged Blackbirds, Sparrows, White Fronted Geese, Pintails, Northern Shovelers, Green-Winged Teals, Gadwalls, a Bufflehead, Mallards, Black-Necked Stilts, Cinnamon Teals, and Coots.   Here are a few pictures:

Here’s a short video of the critters in the water: http://youtu.be/4HLALq8vg6c

Here’s a short video of a Coot eating in the water: http://youtu.be/wMwZARP2RT4

But my favorite sighting was on the way home when, near Elk Grove Blvd. in a flooded field I saw a large flock of Sandhill Cranes.  They’re wintering in the area right now, and all of the reserves around were bragging about them, but I’d never been able to see them anywhere.  They are surprisingly large birds: sort of a dusky grayish-brown color with red cheeks.  I couldn’t stop to get photos of them because there was so much traffic.  I might go out again tomorrow to see if I can spot them again…