Back to the Sac’to Wildlife Refuge on Friday

I wanted to go out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge again today, but knew that if I didn’t get out there early-early it was going to be too hot to see anything… so I got up at 5:00 am and was out the door with the dog by 5:30.

We got to the preserve around 7:00 am just as the sun was coming up through the weird overcast.  The clouds lingered all the while I was there – sometimes as an overcast, sometimes on broken clusters – so that helped to keep the temperatures down a little bit.   There was also a newly-full moon out which made it kind of extra eerie and pretty out there.

For several hours, I was the only person on the auto-tour.  I got some more dragonfly (and “exuvia”) shots, got some video snippets of a female mule deer foraging in the grass, a wasp taking a dragonfly apart, and a small flock of American White Pelicans doing their feeding dance (they dive and scoop in sort-of-unison, then drift for a bit, then dive-and-scoop again; it’s kind of mesmerizing).  I also saw a bald eagle, but was so shocked to see it this time of year, my brain didn’t really process what I was seeing at first, and by the time I got my camera focused on him, he took off.  ((I read later that there’s a couple of permanent resident eagles on the preserve, who hang out there year-round in the areas where the cars can’t go.  So, seeing it on the car-tour route this time of year was kind of special.))  I also got some good shots of Pied Billed Grebes, and saw Common Terns and Marbled Godwits up here for the first time.  I got a few photos of them, but they were so far away the pictures aren’t very good.

Mule Deer Grazing

Pelicans Feeding

I also a small group of bachelor mule deer in their “velvet” – some of them with full racks of antlers.  One was bounding down a gully full of water primrose plants, and then climbed up out of the backside of the gully to follow his friends.  Such huge gorgeous animals… I’m wondering of the mule deer on the preserve are a different subspecies than the ones on the American River.  Their coats look more “red” and they don’t seem to have the black hairs on the top of the head and the ones by the River… Saw lots of jackrabbits and cottontails… Lots of Monarch butterflies.  The refuge has a milkweed garden going and it’s doing a good job at attracting and producing more Monarchs…  I also saw some White-Fronted geese still hanging around the preserve, and I wondered if they were nest-building.  I saw a couple of them pulling weeds and grasses in around their bodies…

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I actually drove the 4-mile auto-tour loop TWICE this time to see if I could find anything new and interesting, but by the second time around, it was already starting to get very muggy, so the critters were fewer and farther between.  By the time I left the refuge it was in the 80’s… and raining (that kind of angel-spit rain that gets your car dirty but doesn’t really shed).  I stopped briefly in Woodland to pick up a few groceries – parking the car in the shade with the A/C running for the dog — and then headed home.  ((Y’know, they need to make car in which you can continue to run the A/C without a key in the ignition… Everyone has that issue with their dogs in the summer months.))