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.
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.