More Spider Photos Than You Need… and some other critters, too.

It was supposed to get over 100º today, but I wanted to get over to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge to test out my new camera there so… I got up at 4:00 am.  Yeah, I know. Four-fricking-A.M.  It eventually made it to 102º

I took the dog with me and we got to the refuge around a quarter of six, just as the sun was coming up.  Usually, this time of year, there aren’t a whole lot of birds at the refuge, but there are resident ones around the permanent wetlands area.  That’s also the best place to spot lots of dragonflies, damselflies and spiders… So, most of my photos from today were of those guys.

Right off the bat, I spotted some Great Horned Owls: two fledglings and their mother.  They were across a field and in the shade of some trees, so from where I was, they just looked like dark blobs.  (When you do a little birding you get so you can tell which blobs are “important” and which ones aren’t.) I aimed the new camera at the blobs and got some so-so photos of the owls.  They would have been better if I hadn’t been so excited and “greedy” and zoomed in on them so much.  At that distance, the lens needs time to adjust itself so it can focus properly, but I was pushing it; “Get closer! Get closer!”

I learned today that I need to pull back more, and let the camera do its thing rather than trying to force it.  Still, I got some photos of the owls that I wouldn’t have gotten at all if I didn’t have the new camera, so even though they’re not great, they’re still “something”… I’ll get better with more practice and more patience.

There were LOTS of jackrabbits and cottontails around, and TONS of orb weaver spiders and Variegate Meadowhawk dragonflies. They were everywhere!  I tried doing some super-close ups of the insects and some of them turned out pretty good.  I got a video snippet of one of the dragonflies cleaning off its eyeballs and trying to get spider web out of its “teeth”. Hah!  There were also quite a few white Crab Spiders (Mecaphesa sp.), Cabbage White butterflies, some Buckeye butterflies and a lot of Skippers flitting around in the heat.

At one point, I saw the silhouette of a female Ring-Necked Pheasant standing up in a tree… and then I saw her poults running back and forth across the road in front of me.  They moved really fast, so I didn’t get many photos of them, but it was still cool to see the little guys.  Like Turkey poults, I hardly ever get to see pheasant poults…

In another spot, I saw a bunch of Barn Swallows sitting on the road, eating the early morning bugs. And in a nearby tree, Tree Swallows were teaching their kids how to fly and catch stuff.  The youngsters kept going back to the tree-cavity nest and looking into it as though they wanted to get back in there and just watch TV or something.  Hah-2!

Here are some pix and video snippets: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhnaturalist/albums/72157683669582143

Some misses: I saw a gorgeous male Yellow-Headed Blackbird standing up in the tules, but he flew off before I could get a photo of him.  I also saw a pair of Clark’s Grebes doing their courtship dash across the top of the water (!), but I was struggling to get the camera from still shot mode into video mode, and only got the last second or two, just as they finished running and flopped down into the water.  Dang it!  I need to be faster than that!

I was through the auto tour at the refuge by about 10:30 am and it was already 93º there, so I headed back home and made it to the house around noon.  I ordered some sushi lunch (there’s finally a place that delivers out here in “the hood”) and then the dog and I just crashed for the rest of the day.

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Mary K. Hanson is a breast cancer survivor who, at age 61, took coursework to become a Certified California Naturalist. The author of “The Chubby Woman’s Walkabout”™ blog, Ms. Hanson has also written nature-based feature articles published in regional newspapers, authored over ten books, including her "Cool Stuff Along the American" series of guide books, and has had her photographs featured in books, articles, calendars, on the American River Parkway Foundation’s Instagram stream, and even the White House blog. This year Ms. Hanson is helping to launch and teach a new Certified California Naturalist course through Tuleyome, in partnership with the University of California and the Woodland Library, so members of the public can themselves become certified as naturalists in the state. All of the photos seen on her website were taken by Ms. Hanson herself (unless noted otherwise) with moderate- to low-end photographic equipment more easily affordable to the everyday nature enthusiast. She also occasionally leads photo-walks through the American River Bend Park for the public and is sometimes available for public speaking.