Mostly Butterflies as Things Grow and Bloom, 03-26-16

Pipevine Swallowtail eggs. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Pipevine Swallowtail eggs. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

Up at 6:30 am.  I headed over to the American River Bend Park for my walk this morning.  It was chilly, about 48°, but clear.

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular and just wanted the fresh air and exercise.  Still, I came across mule deer, wild turkeys, and jackrabbits.  I found some Red Admiral Butterfly caterpillars among the stinging nettles, and there were a lot of Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies flitting around.  I also found a lot of their eggs on the pipevine plants along the trails.

The grasses are all getting lush and long; the black walnut trees are starting to develop their catkins; the elderberry bushes are starting to bud and the valley sedges are… “sedging”.  Hah!  There’s also poison oak emerging and growing everywhere.  The vines are flowering now and look really pretty… attracting people who don’t know what they are to touch them…

I found a Red-Shouldered Hawk in a tree above part of the trail and came across a House Wren singing to attract a female.  So there were little things to see here and there all along my walk.  Heading back to the car, I saw an osprey “kiting” over the river.  I was pretty far away, so I managed to snap a few photos of it.  They’re such gorgeous birds – and always an exciting sight to see.

I walked around for about 3½ hours and then headed home.

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A Good Day to View Nature, 03-25-16

Jackrabbit. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Jackrabbit. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

Even though I had the day off, I got up at 5:00 am anyway, and was out the door with the dog before 6:00 to head out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  I thought if I went in earlier I might be able to see some fly-ins, or spot coyotes or other crepuscular critters… and I figured I’d avoid the early morning work traffic.

When I got to the refuge, the  sun was just coming up and the moon was just going down.  Made for some interesting light for a while.  There were lots of wildflowers all over the refuge –mostly the yellow and orange waves right now: fiddleneck, wild mustard, goldfields…  So pretty.  There were a lot of jackrabbits around, zig-zagging through the grass; and I was surprised by how many pheasants I was able to see.  They must’ve known that part of the complex was off-limits to hunters.  Hah!  The extra mile loop at the refuge was open, though, so I drove through there and got some photos of an couple of American Bitterns.  One was hunkered down in some water iris, and another one was walking though the tules.  I saw him start to clap his bill and gulp air, filling up his gullet with it.  I’d never seen that behavior before, so I stopped to watch him (and got a tiny bit of video of it).  He’d gulp in air, and then let it out in with an odd sound that was particularly loud.  ((The video didn’t capture the sound very well.))  It was so odd, I looked it up when I got home and found out that that behavior is associated with territorialism. The sound is called a “pumper-lunk” and has been described as the sound of a “congested pump”.  I don’t know what a congested pump sounds like, but watching the bird make it was a cool sight to see.

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I also saw  mule deer, Canada Geese, White-Faced Ibis, a Snowy Egret, Bufflehead ducks (and lots of other ducks), Cinnamon Teals, lots and lots of Coots, Snow Geese, ground squirrels, a Great Blue Heron, cormorants, Killdeer, Turkey Vultures, Meadowlarks, a Nutthall’s Woodpecker, Northern Shovelers and Great Egrets – their faces all green this time of year (their breeding color).  And then there were the raptors: Northern Harriers, Red-Tailed Hawks, a Red-Shouldered Hawk and a Peregrine Falcon.  And one huge American White Pelican sitting on a small island with Coots and cormorants.

The Red-Winged Blackbirds were all around by the droves, too, all singing at the same time.  In some areas the sound was almost deafening.   And the tules were full of tiny Marsh Wrens singing and displaying around the nests they’d built for the females… Makes me want to go out there every day.  But I gotta work… and I’m getting two weeks off in April.

I drove around for several hours, then headed back to Sacramento.

After Work on Tuesday

Double-Crested Cormorants. ©2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Double-Crested Cormorants. ©2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

By the afternoon it was in 60’s and so pretty outside that I took the dog to the park after work.  We walked around for about an hour.  The WPA Rock Garden is starting to bloom up. I even got to see a Red Admiral Butterfly there.  (It was looking pretty raggedy, though; too much sex.)  At the middle pond in William Land Park, rain had filled it up so it was flooded up over the sidewalk in places.  I saw quite a few turtles sunning themselves on the rocks, and among the regular contingency of ducks and geese, I also saw a little male Wood Duck and a pair of Double-Crested Cormorants.

The cormorants were already showing off their crests, extra feathers they get over the eyes during the breeding season.  It makes them look like they have bushy eyebrows. While I was watching them, I saw one pull up sticks from the bottom of the pond and toss them in the air or drag them around for a while… I know that cormorants make their nests out of sticks, but I’d never seen this stick-toting and tossing behavior before, so when I got home I looked it up. Apparently, it’s something cormorants do. They also toss stones into the air and try to catch them.   Funny!  I didn’t know that!  Oh, another fun fact: A group of cormorants is called a “flight”, a “gulp”, a “sunning”, or a “swim” of cormorants.

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