Just a Few Pix from the Cosumnes Preserve

Vacation Day 14.  I was going to go to the zoo today, but they’re have their special “Boo at the Zoo” things going on today and tomorrow and I didn’t want to be inundated with small kids, so I skipped that outing.  Instead, after having a light breakfast and coffee, I caught up on my journaling before showering and getting dressed.  By then it was about 11:00 am.

I headed off to the Cosumnes River Preserve again and was able to walk the boardwalk route today; ankle is feeling much much better.  They were having one of the “Ducks in Scopes” mornings, but no one had showed up, and the ducks were few, so the folks all packed up and headed out just as I arrived.  I didn’t mind.  I just wanted to walk a bit anyway.  Not a lot of birds at the preserve itself, but there were tons of geese along Desmond Road, as well as some Sandhill Cranes.  I also saw a pair of Red-Tailed Hawks and several Kestrels along the road, but they moved too fast for me to get photos of any of them.  (I either have to drive faster or get a camera that can link to my brain to my camera and automatically focus on the fast-moving birds.  Hah!) In the preserve itself, I did come across several dragonflies; last creatures of the season before winter comes in.  Pickings were so slim, though, that I only took about 200 photos instead of my standard 600-700. 

Here are a few:

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Thursday at the Sac’to National Wildlife Preserve

Vacation Day 13. I got up around 7:30 am this morning and headed out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Preserve.  My ankle is better, but I still didn’t think I could do much walking on it, so I went to this preserve to get my nature fix because it has an auto tour route…  The weather was lovely:  sunny, about 75° and windy.

On the drive to the preserve I saw a couple of funny things…  There was a worksite with porta-potties set up around, and each porta-potty was painted with the name of the manufacturer: ARSE.  Hah!  Seemed appropriate.  Then later I saw a guy on the side of the road dressed in a Batman costume and holding up a sign for the Church of Mormon.  Wut tha?!

Because it was so windy at the preserve, not a lot of birds were moving or flying around (unless they got startled), so I got photos of birds hunkered down into tight little balls most of the time.  *Sigh*  The water, too, was real choppy, so the birds bobbed around like… well, “bobbers”.  There were a lot of hawks and falcons around, but all were too distant to get any good shots of them.  I also saw a juvenile Western Grebe foraging all by itself, and what I think was a Golden Eagle (but again it was far away so I couldn’t get a clear shot of it).  It was on a small “island” trying to protect whatever it had killed from a band of ravens.  The best shot of the day was of a Great Egret.  It was snugged up against the tules on the side of the road, and I was able to shoot through the tules to get a close-up of the bird’s head and intense-looking eye.  The rest of the photos of the day were just so-so.

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I hadn’t brought my directions with me, but I knew the Colusa National Wildlife Preserve was around there somewhere, too.  So, when I finished at the Sacramento preserve, I went looking for the Colusa preserve.  The signs along the road lead me to their out-camp site with locked gates, not the preserve itself.  So, grrrrrr on that!  When I got home, I checked the directions to the place, and I’d turned on the road just before the one I was supposed to turn on… even though I was following the signs.  There’s nothing that says “go ahead to O’Hair Road for the preserve” on the signs that direct you through the area.  Pissed me off.  Maybe I’ll try again later.

One of My Photos Will Appear in a CNPS book!

I got a notice from the California Native Plant Society that one of my photos is going to appear in their new book California’s Botanical Landscapes.  One of my mule deer photos is going to show up on page 62 of the book, in Chapter 2.  Cool!  They sent me a PDF of the chapter so I could see it. Neat!

Tuesday at the Cosumnes Preserve

Tuesday was Vacation Day 11. I got up about 7:30 this morning and headed out to Desmond Road and the Cosumnes River Preserve by 8:00. It was chilly and overcast all day. I’m not complaining, mind you. I like this kind of weather.
The gates to the preserve don’t open until 9:00, so I spent some time driving up and down Desmond Road to look at the birds. (There are rice fields along that road, along with some of the additional wetlands property owned by the preserve, so usually there’s something to see out there.) I got several photos along the road (including some of the Sandhill Cranes), and then headed over to the wetlands area inside the preserve.
I walked for about 2 hours and could’ve walked a good deal further but my right ankle suddenly started to give me fits. Ever since chemotherapy I’ve had a nerve-damaged toe on that foot and it sometimes causes me problems, but today – as soon as I started to approach a Killdeer in a tree – the whole side of my foot all the way up to my ankle suddenly felt like it was on fire and I could barely walk. Luckily, the car was close enough at the point that I could hobble toward it. I seriously considered for a few minutes, pulling my camping chair out of the trunk and plopping myself down somewhere along the water’s side. I gave up that idea, though, and instead drove myself down to the next parking lot, and walked across the road to a bench there where I could sit at watch the birds. It was there that I caught sight of my very first Blue-Winged Teals.
I’ve seen lots of Cinnamon Teals and Green Teals before, but never saw a Blue-Winged one (even though they’re relatively common), so that was cool. All in all, I got to see: White-Fronted Geese, Greater Yellowlegs, Long-Billed Dowitchers, Wilson’s Snipes, Sandhill Cranes, Great Egrets, American Kestrels, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Killdeer, Brewer’s Blackbirds, Pintails, Green Teals, Coots, Northern Shovelers, a Blue-Eyed Darner dragonfly, White-Crowned Sparrows, Crows, Cinnamon Teals, Black-Necked Stilts, another elusive Belted Kingfisher, Blue-Winged Teals, Mourning Doves and a Red-Shouldered Hawk. I was also surprised to find a lone White Pelican hanging out among the geese. It’s usual to find only one of those guys… and to find one so close to the roadway…

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Oh, also along the way I found some raccoon scat, and the remains of a snake. There was still a long piece of skin intact – although it had dried up in the sun over the past few days – as well as lengths of backbone and some rib bones. Kewl!
After my walk and drive, I went home, took some Aleve for my still-sore ankle and foot, and had some lunch with the dogs.

 

Sunday at the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve

Vacation Day 9.  I got up at about 7:00 am and was out the door by 7:15.  I had planned to go up to Redding today and visit with Mike and Sharyi, but I was feeling too tired to do that, so I stayed close to home instead.  (Marty and I are now planning to visit with Mike and Sharyi the day after Thanksgiving.)  I went over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve.  It was overcast for most of the time I was out there, which kept the temperatures down in the 60’s.

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular; just walking along doing my “naturalist” thing. Two guys with fancy photo equipment passed me on the trail at one point toward the end of my walk complaining to one another that there “wasn’t anything to see out there this morning”.  What?!  Then they’re either blind or they don’t know how to look for anything. 

I saw Black Phoebes, Mule Deer, a coyote, Acorn Woodpeckers, Wild Turkeys, Scrub Jays, a couple of Red-Shouldered Hawks, Northern Flickers, an American Kestrel, some Sulphur Shelf Fungus, black Harvester Ants, a tiny Sandpiper, some ground squirrels, a big Argiope spider, a river otter, a Great Blue Heron, several Great Egrets, a Green Heron, and a pair of Belted Kingfishers that were chasing each other back and forth across the river.  They moved so fast, I couldn’t get a single decent shot of them (although I did get one dark and very distant shot of the male when he stopped on a rock to rest for a few seconds).  Sheesh!  Where were those camera guys looking?!

As soon as I went into the preserve I saw the turkeys and a gathering of Mule Deer.  Then as I was walking past the area where the deer were resting, I heard a squirrel give off its “chuffing” alarm call, so I looked back to see what it was complaining about.  There was a coyote there, right behind a tall stand of grass near the deer.  The coyote looked pretty ragged, like it was mangy or had been in a fight.  Parts of its fur were missing and its coat was really dull.  It didn’t look like one from the healthy pack I usually see at the preserve.  The deer must’ve gotten wind of it when it stopped to check me out, because they all got to their feet and started milling around.  No fawn for breakfast for that coyote…

At another point, I saw the American Kestrel swooping back and forth over the top of a tree, and went closer to investigate.  As I got near the tree, a large Red-Shouldered Hawk took off out of the branches with the kestrel chasing after it.  Kestrels are about a third of the size of the big hawks, so that was one seriously brave little dude.

When I got to the pond area along the trail I found it covered with a thick blanket of algae.  I saw some Wood Ducks in the water and got a few distant shots of them… then I saw the tules and rushes around the pond start to move.  Some of the ducks startled and flew off, but I kept watching to see what all the rustling was about.  My patience paid off.  It was a river otter! I got a few still shots of him, and also got some video. 

When he moved off into the reeds at one side of the pond, I stepped over there to see if I could get more footage of him… and instead, I accidentally walked into a small group of Mule Deer that were sleeping there, a mom and her three kids (two yearlings and a fawn).  D’oh!  The baby saw me first and started to walk toward me, then his mom and siblings stood up — so that was the end of that adventure.  I backed away a little bit, and videotaped them until they moved elsewhere.

Then I went around to the opposite side of the pool, to see if I could catch another glimpse of the otter, and I came across a huge Banded Garden Spider (Argiope trifasciata) and her web.  She was a full grown beastie, about as long as my thumb, not counting her legs… and she had her web decorated with heavy zig-zags of silk called “stabilimentum” (sort of like the trash-lines in Trash-line Spider webs, but the Argiope do a fancier zig-zag pattern with their silk).  Scientists aren’t sure what the decoration is used for or what it means.  Some speculate it stabilizes the structure of the web, others say it’s used to attract mates, others think it enhances the spider’s ability to catch prey… No one knows for sure; but not all spiders decorate their webs with stabilimentum, so it becomes easy to identify the webs of those that do.

So, I got quite a few photos (some better than others, but that’s the way it always is). 

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After about 3 ½  hours of walking around, I headed back home.  By then it was a little after noon.