I got up around 5:30 and left the hotel to get over to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. The windy was blowing a gale out there this morning, though, so I wasn’t expecting to see much of anything. There was no one else at the refuge that time of day, and I actually didn’t see another car until about noon as I was getting ready to leave.
Along the auto-tour route, the jackrabbits were up, and I also came across a couple of Striped Skunks – but those little guys can really MOVE, so all I got was blurry photos of them. At one point, one of them got pissed off because I was “chasing” it with my car, and it stopped an aimed his butt at me to warn me off. Hah! I finally did manage to get a short video snippet of it, but that was all.
Along with the usual contingency of ducks and geese, I got to see the American White Pelicans again – most of them napping on a small island in the middle of the permanent wetlands area. And I got some photos of the little red House Finch picking up thistle-seeds from the ground.
The dragonflies surprised me. Because of the hard wind, I didn’t think I’d see many of them, but they were smart and fly close to the ground on the lee side of the tules to shield themselves from the wind, so I got some more photos of them, including some Widow Skimmer dragonflies, some adults and some juveniles who hadn’t fully developed their deep wing staining yet or gotten the greyish-blue pruinescence on their abdomen (so they were still striking black and yellow)… I saw several of the smaller dragonflies caught up in spider’s webs, and got a little video snippet of a spider racing out to sting and wrap a dragonfly in silk before it could wriggle free.
Among the other insects, I also got some photos of Painted Lady butterflies and a Red Admiral butterfly feeding on the teasel flowers. And there were Cabbage White butterflies all over the place… On my way out of the refuge later, a tiny Crescent butterfly flew into the car and walked along the dashboard before leaving again…
At the permanent wetlands area, the mother Clark’s Grebe that I’d filmed yesterday moving her eggs around on her floating nest, was off the nest this morning (and I got photos of the eggs). The winds had kicked up small waves on the water and the waves were wreaking havoc on the floating nest. Mom and dad worked to try to add more grass to the nest and shore it up a bit, and eventually mom got back onto it, but it looks to me like her weight pushed the eggs under water… so I don’t know if they’re going to make it. (Other grebes on their mats that I could see dotting the water seemed to be fine.) I also saw another pair of grebes working on their nest (no eggs yet). They had a good start on it and were working hard despite the waves.
The abandoned nest I saw yesterday was still there but the eggs were gone. There was a pair of Pied-Billed Grebes checking the nest out, but I just thing that one’s too close to the road and will remain un-lived-in for the season.
I also saw a large “straw” nest in a tree along the route and was stymied by it for a while. It was all grasses and small twigs with a hole in the side of it. After doing some research, I decided it must have been an Oriel’s nest. Now, usually Oriel’s nests are really easy to distinguish; they hang like purses or socks from branches. But this one was up against the trunk of the tree – an unusual but not unheard of placement. According to Cornell’s “All About Birds” site: “… The distinctive nest usually hangs below a branch, but is sometimes anchored along a vertical tree trunk…”
The dog and I also walked one of the shorter trails at the refuge before heading home.