Frost, Deer, Lots of Little Birds and an Owl!

I saw a post from the National Audubon Society that there’s a guy who’s going to try to see and photograph 5000 bird species in 2015.  Maybe I could challenge myself to photograph 1000 animal species in a year (and to help myself out, “animal species” will include just about anything that breathes, including insects)… I figure there are so many bird and insect species, they’d help me reach my goal…

I got up around 8:15 am and Marty was already off to the gym for his workout with his trainer.  He’d made coffee, though, so I put some of that in the hot/cold cup Marty had given me for Christmas and then headed over to the American River Bend Park.  It was only 30º when I went outside and the car was covered with a thick layer of frost.  I sat in the car for a while so it could heat up – and I could get some coffee in me – before continuing on.

It was frosty in some places at the park, but it seemed to warm up there quickly as the sun rose.  I think it was around 49º by the time I left (around noon).  I focused this walk on trying to get as many photos of animals as I could, I did fairly well considering the season.  Some of the little birds are so fast, it’s hard to get photos of them.  As soon as I get them focused in the lens, they flit off somewhere else.

I walked through the picnic table area, and could hear two hawks screeling at each other.  I spotted their nest up in a tree, but they weren’t in it.  One was in a tree nearby, having a fit, and the other one was hopping and flying from the top of one tree to the next.  In between their screeches I heard the very distinctive low hoot-hoo-hoo of a Great Horned Owl and thought maybe the owl was too close to the hawks’ nest for their comfort.  It took me a while to find the closest hawk in the trees above my head (they blend right in), but I finally managed to see her – a big Red-Shouldered Hawk – and in the tree right next to her nest was the owl!  It just sat there, huge and sleepy-eyed, ignoring the hawk noise.  Sometimes smaller birds will harass owls if they find them out in the daylight, but it didn’t seem to me that the hawks were harassing the owl.  They just seemed irritated that it was so close to their nest.  ((Owls often steal abandoned hawk nests and make them their own.))  Eventually both of the hawks took off, leaving the owl to doze in the tree.  I also came across an old, very tiny hummingbird nest near there, too…

As I headed out of the park, I came across a small band of mule deer: to big bucks and a handful of does.  So gorgeous.  I got a few photos of them before heading back home.

For my “1000 Animal Count” I’m only counting those critters of which I get halfway decent photos, so I’m not counting the hawks today because I couldn’t get photos of them.  I am counting the mule deer, the Great Horned Owl, and the other birds I saw and could identify, including a Ladder-Backed Woodpecker, Scrub Jays, some Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, an Oak Titmouse, Acorn Woodpeckers, a Bewick’s Wren, some Lesser Goldfinches, some White-Breasted Nuthatches, and the Black Phoebe’s.  I consider that a good day!