Mostly Grebes and Raccoons at the Sacramento National Wildlife Preserve

I slept in a bit this morning and got up a little before 8:00 am.  I was out the door in about 15 minutes with the dog and we headed out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  It was about 67° when I left, and got up to about 88° by the time I left.  The air was still hazy with smoke from the fires, but not so bad that I had any trouble breathing.

It’s getting drier and drier at the refuge, but the part of their permanent wetland area they let you drive by still has enough water to sustain Pelicans and other shorebirds, populations of Grebes and Cormorants… and a lot of raccoons!  Hah!  The first thing of note I saw as I went through their driving tour area, though, was a mother Mule Deer and her still-in-spots youngster.  They were foraging in the area where most of the water has evaporated or gone underground.  (Mule Deer can smell water 2 feet under the surface, so they always know where to look for water when they need it.)… Got some dragonfly photos and pictures of butterflies, other bugs, and even some eggs (which I think are Harlequin Bug eggs).  I got a lot of photos and some video of the Pelicans, and the Western Grebes, and watched some mama Grebes incubating their eggs while others built (or added to) their floating-mat nests in the shallow water.  All of the Westerns Grebes I’ve seen out here re nesting in the open water – but that may be because they have to.  There aren’t as many ponds and nesting sites as there should be because of the drought.  I could watch them for hours; they’re so intriguing.  I’ll have to come back in a few weeks, too, to see if I can find the mamas carrying their newly hatched babies on their backs…

The big news of the day, though, was all the raccoons that were out an about today.  I saw two family groups: one was a mother with her two almost-grown offspring, and the other was a mother with her five small babies.  The two moms tried to avoid one another by crossing the dirt road, back and forth, at different intervals.  At one point I had raccoons in front of me, alongside me, and behind me.  They move so quickly, though, that when the babies came up alongside the car, I could get photos of them before they scurried out of site into the scrubby brush on the water’s edge. Even the one-the-road photos didn’t turn out as well as I hoped they would because there was so much heat rising off of the road that it distorted what the camera was able to see, so a lot of the deep background looks more like a watercolor painting than a photograph.  I don’t know how to compensate for heat-waves.

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Video of the Grebes:

Another video of the Grebes:

Video of the Raccoons:

I did the auto tour in about 3 hours and headed back home.  On the way back I passed a phalanx of fire trucks.  They were from Glendale, Monterey Park, Monrovia, Arcadia, San Bernardino and San Gabriel.  I wanted to honk and say thank you to all of them, but then figured that might freak them out…  I did see one car with “Thank You Firefighters” written all over it in white paint.