I headed with the dog over to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge to see if I could find any other cool dragonflies or see any more Grebe babies. On the way, I stopped at a gas station to top off the tank, and got some stuff for lunch for Sergeant Margie and me. It was in the high-70’s when we got to the refuge, and over 90° when we left just a few hours later.
I got to see quite a few dragonfly species including Black Saddlebacks, the ubiquitous Variegated Meadowhawks, blue and green Pondhawk, some Widow Skimmers, and several mated pairs of Green Darners that were laying their eggs in the water. The pairs were fighting over who got to sit on what stick in the water, and the males dragged the females back and forth while they fought for egg-laying territory.
There were a couple of male Great-Tailed Grackles out singing and chirping around the nests where their females were – like expectant fathers waiting for the babies to hatch. And I came across a California Ground Squirrel eating along the side of the auto-tour route. She had a particularly beautiful coat with bands of russet brown around her body and a very dark-brown “mantel” across her back. Most ground squirrels are scruffy looking, but she looked very… svelt.
I did get to see some more Clark’s Grebe babies. One pair of adults had chicks sitting on the backs of both of parents, mom and dad, and the parents were feeding them bugs they’d catch from the top of the water. At a few points, the babies jumped off of the parents’ backs and tried swimming on their own – then immediately climbed back on for the ride.
I also came across a mom who had one baby on her back and was tending her nest where her other babies were apparently just hatched out. They weren’t very coordinated yet or very strong. When dad floated by, two of the babies climbed up on his back but the others kept trying to get mom to sit on them some more – as she tried cleaning all the egg crap out of her nest. I could see dad feeding some of them bugs… They’re so fascinating to watch. Unfortunately, they were all still too far away to get any real good clear close-up photos or video of them, but I did the best I could.
I’m soooo in need of an upgrade in camera equipment – even if it’s just to get a camera on which I can shut off the auto-focus… I’ll have to look for a grant for that… I was thinking I should get a car mount for my birding scope, too; maybe I can figure out a way to the camera (or even my cell phone) to focus through that to get some closer shots. Hmmmm…
I also got to see American White Pelicans – (I got some video of a pair of them feeding in the water) — cormorants, Pied-Billed Grebes, and some juvenile Ruddy Ducks.
One cool sighting, though, was a covey of Ring-Necked Pheasant poults running across the road after their mama from left to right, right in front of the car. I had to shoot through the windshield to get some photos of them – which were crappy – but I did get a little video snippet of some of them. Then I could hear one of the poults peeping loudly from my left. It had gotten separated from the group and didn’t know where it’s mom was. When I stepped out onto the road, I tried getting some photos through the driver’s side window.
Another cool sighting that I didn’t get any photos of: I saw a Lesser Nighthawk (which is a species I’d never seen before) getting mobbed by Kingbirds that didn’t want him around their nesting area. I recognized the Nighthawk immediately by the bright white bands on its wings.
On the way out of the refuge, I came across some Turkey Vultures who had descended on a squished skunk on the side of the road. Photo op! I’m so weird. Hah!