Day 1 of a 2-Day Excursion, 07-15-16

After work, I headed out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge with the dog, and we made a fast pass through it in the scorching afternoon heat.  On the way there, I was surprised by the number of Sulphur butterflies were out and about; at one point, about a dozen of them impacted with my windshield.  *Sad emoji*…  Wild animals are smarter than humans: not too many of them were out in the heat… and a grasshopper jumped into the car through the open window and sat on the A/C vent.  Hah!  On the water in the permanent wetlands part of the refuge, I did get  to see American White Pelicans, grebes, geese and other water birds… and m’jillions of Variegated Meadowhawk dragonflies and blue damselflies.  Of the Variegated Meadowhawks, I got a couple of photos of the males doing their tail-up threatening stance on top the of the tules; it’s a kind of territorial display.  Very cool.

The Great Egrets, which I’ve had trouble getting close-ups of for some reason this year, seemed to be out and more photo-ready today. One actually flew into a tree right next to the auto tour and posed for me for a while.  To get photos of him, though, I had to lay down across the front seat of the car and shoot out the passenger side window.  What we won’t do for photography!  I noticed he had a leaf stuck to one of his knobby knees, and wondered if that was the egret equivalent of walking out of a bathroom with toilet paper stuck to your shoe…

I also saw what I think was a mama Pintail Duck scooting across the surface of the water with her ten – count ‘em, ten – fledglings.  As I got a distance shot of them and some video, I was struck by the notion that although the wetland area looked relatively “small” to me, to that mama ad her babies, as small as they were, the water must’ve looked never-ending…

At one point, I saw what looked like a striped feather stuck in between some dead tules. I took photos of it just because it looked “pretty”… when I got home and went through my photos, I realized it was actually the caterpillar of a Red Admiral butterfly.  Hah!

The real surprise of the day, though, was seeing a Green Heron flying straight toward the driver’s side of my car.  I stopped, and the bird landed on rocks in a slough on the side of the auto-tour road.  Yay!  I was able to get quite a few photos of him.  Green Herons are small, about the size of a kid-sized football, so in the vast expanse of the wetlands, they’re hard for me to find at the refuge.  (I see them a lot at the American River and William Land Park, but this was actually the first time I’d spotted on at the refuge.)  That was a nice way to end the tour.

You can see the album of photos and a video by CLICKING HERE.