I headed out to the American River Bend Park for my walk around 5:00 am.
I went down by the river side where I’d seen the beaver a week ago. No beavers today, but I did get to see a covey of California Quail feeding and running through the short grass. Those are always fun to watch; especially the males with their little “dingle balls” bouncing on their head as they move. This group seemed to be all bachelors; males with no apparent harem of females around them. I crept up on them as quietly as I could, but there’s a lot of stones and gravel around there, so I didn’t get any really good shots of them before they flushed.
I could then hear ducklings peeping from the river, so I walked closer to the shore. There was a mama Common Merganser there with a bevy of babies. I think it might have been the same mama I saw before (the one with 20 babies), but she only had 12 now… and one of the babies had gotten carried off by the current. He was bobbing on the little waves in the river, peeping loudly in distress. Mama rushed across the surface of the water – with the other little ones in tow — and positioned herself downstream from the one that was peeping. While she did that, I saw two other female Mergansers fly across the water in front of the baby as though they were trying to “herd” him in the right direction. The current finally took him to where his mom and siblings were and she went back across the water with all of her kids again. I got some video of her and the kids on the bank opposite from me, and as I was filming, I could a baby peeping again, and saw two others adult females skidding on the water to try to corral it… I don’t know if the was the same baby as before, but there again was a little one who’d gotten separated from its group and was whining for help as the current took it downstream. That poor mama must be so tired by the end of the day!
Later on my walk, I saw another female Merganser, this one with only two babies that she was carrying down the river on her back. That’s a little more manageable, I’m sure.
I also came across a couple of Spotted Sandpipers in their breeding spots bobbing along the bank, eating stuff from between and on tops of the rocks – looked like worms or larvae of some kind — and I got a few photos of them. Along my walk I also saw some California Towhees and Spotted Towhees, Scrub Jays, Tree Swallows, Mallards, a jackrabbit and a Red-Shouldered Hawk.
The wild blackberries are covered in blossoms and berries right now, and the wild grapes have tiny clusters of grapes on them, but nothing’s ripe yet. It’ll be another 2 or 3 weeks. The rushes and flat sedge along the river are all getting their seed-heads now along with the smartweed and dock.
I then drove further into the park and was going to do some walking along the river there but the place was swamped with kids from a youth group that were camping there. *Sigh* I turned the car around and headed home.