Friday Afternoon at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Female Variegated Meadowhawk dragonfly. ©2016 Copyright Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.
Female Variegated Meadowhawk dragonfly. ©2016 Copyright Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.

After work, I headed over to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge as I’d planned.  It was about 77° there, so not too bad.  Just as I started the auto-tour route, I saw a lean jackrabbit who posed on the side of the road for me, and an adult Great Horned Owl sitting a tree about 100 feet away.  The big news seemed to be the larger dragonflies which are starting to come out everywhere in the refuge.  I saw Blue Dashers, Black Saddlebags, Variegated Meadowhawks, a Green Pondhawk and several Widow Skimmers.  Very cool.  As for other insects, I also saw Hoverflies, some big Orb-Weaver Spiders, some Painted Lady Butterflies, and a White-Striped Sphinx Moth.  I also got a few photos of a pair of damselflies mating.

At one stop along the route I saw a snake – or what I believed to be  snake – in the water along the edge of the wetland area.  It was limbless, but it was all pale grey with no other discernable markings on it.  I know garter snakes hunt in and around the water, but this one wasn’t marked like a garter snake at all.  Then I wondered if it was a legless lizard… but they don’t usually live in habitats like this.  So, I don’t know what it was – and I didn’t get any photos of it because by the time I realized it was there and got my camera focused, it had ducked in between several rocks.  Dang it!

As I was driving along, two cars kept tailgating me.  There was enough room for them to go around, but they just kept riding my rear bumper, like they were trying to crowd me and force me to drive through more quickly.  I pulled off to the side of the road as I could, put the car in park and turned off the engine.  It took them a few minutes to figure out I wasn’t budging, and they finally drove past me.  I saw both cars ahead of me later on, and people got out of both of them to take photos – which is against the rules of the park.  So I took photos of the offenders – AND their license plate numbers – and emailed them to the refuge rangers.

Anyway, driving along I saw the usual suspects – ducks, geese, seagulls – and came across some adult and juvenile Pied-Billed Grebes.  All along the last part of the extra loop around the permanent wetlands, I also saw quite a few Clark’s Grebes building and sitting on their nests.  I got still shots and a couple of video snippets.

CLICK HERE FOR SOME VIDEO of the mama grebe adjusting some of the vegetation on her nest before she sots down on her eggs.  Notice that when she sits, she exposes her almost featherless belly which she’ll press against the eggs to keep them warm.

One sad discovery – and I wonder if it was in reaction to the stupid people getting out of their cars to get closer to the birds – I found one nest very close to the road that had eggs in it… but the parents were nowhere to be seen.  I hope it wasn’t completely abandoned.

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I did the whole auto-tour route far more quickly than I normally do –(took 2 hours instead of 4) — so I could get to my hotel by check-in time, so I didn’t linger much anywhere.  I’ll go much slower tomorrow.

The dog and I stayed at the Ramada Inn in Williams (about 20 minutes from the refuge).  I had picked up some food from The Nugget before I left Woodland, so I had some of that for supper – and gave the dog a can of his favorite dog food.  Then we crashed for the rest of the day…