Many Many Hawks on Saturday

I got up about 7:00 am and headed out with Sergeant Margie to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  It was about 43° and foggy when we headed out.  The haze hung around all day, but it did get up to about 64° by the late afternoon.

Red-Tailed Hawk. Copyright © 2015, Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.
Red-Tailed Hawk. Copyright © 2015, Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.

The very first thing that greeted us when we entered the refuge was a huge hawk sitting on top of one of the eucalyptus trees near the nature center.  After that, it seemed like I saw hawk after hawk on the driving tour.  The majority of them were Red-Tailed Hawks. One of them was sitting on the branch of the tree that was growing out of a gully on the side of the road, so it was right at window-level with the car.  Among the raptors, I also saw some American Kestrels, a Cooper’s Hawk, several Harrier Hawks (but only in flight), a Peregrine Falcon (that was in a weird position so I couldn’t get a decent photo of him), a Red-Shouldered Hawk and Turkey Vultures.

Other birds I saw along the drive were Black Phoebes, Red-Winged Blackbirds. Brewer’s Blackbirds, Greater White Fronted Geese, Snow Geese, Pintails. Mallards, American Coots, White-Crowned Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, Northern Shovelers (including some males in their eclipse plumage), a Great Blue Heron, Gadwalls, a Great Egret, Meadowlarks, a bunch of non-breeding Eared Grebes (distinguished by their huge fluffy butts), an immature Common Gallinule, a few Bufflehead Ducks, European Starlings, and some tiny Killdeer.  I also some saw some Long-billed Curlews but they were so far out in the distance I couldn’t get a decent shot of them. 

At one point along the auto tour, I pulled over near a drainage ditch to let some other cars pass me, and as I was sitting there, I hear something splash in the water in the ditch.  I looked out through the passenger side window, and in the water was a River Otter!  The light was hitting him at a weird angle, some he was mostly in silhouette, but I managed to get a few photos and video snippet of him before he gave me an explosive snort and disappeared under the water again.  I also got to see a raccoon family, but they were crossing the road in front of me and too far away to get any photos of them.

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When I was done with the auto tour, I let Sergeant Margie out of the car for a walk around the small wetlands area near the nature center.  ((Dogs are allowed as long as they’re on a leash.))  He’s getting up in age (he’ll be 13 years old on the 22nd of this month), though, and can’t walk as far as he used to, so we only got about a quarter of the way through before I had to get him back to the car.  His spirit is always willing, but his body can’t take long-long walks anymore. Poor old critter.