Saturday at the Cosumnes Preserve

I got up around 6:30 this morning and eased into my day with some coffee and a light lunch before taking out the trash, getting loads of laundry going, and heading out to the Cosumnes River Preserve around 7:45 am.  It was about 36° outside and overcast.  The Preserve was hosting a couple of events today, so there was an unusual amount of traffic.  Along Desmond road there was the normal “birding” crowd, but added to that was a bunch of people looking for where they were supposed to meet for a kayaking excursion. 

Wilson's Snipe. © Copyright 2015 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Wilson’s Snipe. © Copyright 2015 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

Along the road, I came across a Wilson’s Snipe sitting in a shallow hollow very close to the pavement.  I’d never seen these birds come so close to the road before, and worried that it was sick or injured.  It moved around, though, and it’s eyes seemed bright.  Maybe it had hunkered down during the night to get warm, and then was afraid to move when it woke up to find cars cruising by it… I also saw several hawks, and Red-Winged Blackbirds, Meadowlarks, and all of the usual ducks and geese found around there.  After a short drive, I kept going toward the Preserve.

I couldn’t find any place to park near the nature center, so I went over to their boardwalk area and parked there.  In the ponds along the boardwalk were Coots and Pintails, Black Phoebes, Canada Geese and Northern Shovelers… and an usually large number of Green Teals.  I don’t remember seeing so many of those in one place there.  And there was also a little male Kestrel who posed for me on top of a tree.  My big find of the day, though, was a Sora (Porzana Carolina); it’s related to rails and coots.  I’d never seen or photographed one before so I was jazzed when this little fat bird walked out and around the tules right in front of me.  It moved so fast I only got a few still shots of it, but I also got a good video snippet, so I was happy with that.  When I first saw it, I saw it from behind, and with its white tail lifted up, I thought at first I was seeing a waterlogged cottontail bunny, and kept thinking to myself, “Why is there a rabbit out here in the water?”  Then I realized it was actually a bird.  Hah!

Here’s the video:

At another point I was photographing the mistletoe growing on a willow tree, and saw some wispy reddish stuff that seemed to be growing out of the top of it.  It was high up in the tree, so at first I couldn’t get a very good look at it and didn’t know what it was.  When I changed my position a little bit I realized it was a squirrel’s tail.  D’oh!  Thought I’d found something really “alien” there for  second.  The squirrel was sitting up there just munching away on the mistletoe berries. I know mistletoe is toxic to humans, so I did some reading on it when I got back home.  According to the US Geological Survey website, mistletoe is high in protein and squirrels “are deliriously fond of the plant”.  Well, cool.  I learned something new.

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On my way back to the car, I passed what must’ve been a lesbian birding group (all women holding hands; so cute).  They were trying to identify the ducks they saw and literally got every one of them wrong.  Apparently, their phone app wasn’t at all accurate.  I helped the with a couple of them, and showed them how to pick out certain features of some of them so they could remember them in the future.  They thanked me… and as I walked on an Asian couple stopped me and asked me if I knew what “those things are on the tree”?  They were pointing to the Oak Apple wasp galls.  So, I told them what the things were and how they were formed.  Someone in the lesbian group said, “You should be a docent here!”  I told her, I’d looked into that, but they always have their educational days on days when I work or have other stuff planned.  “Maybe when I retire…”