47 Species in One Day, 02-04-18

The dog and I got up around 6:00 am this morning, and headed out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  It was so foggy between Sacramento and Woodland that traffic was moving at a crawl.  There were a few spots where the fog was so thick, I couldn’t see beyond the reach of the headlights, and I almost missed the off-ramp to the gas station because I couldn’t see it… Scary.

It was about 43º when I arrived at the refuge (where it wasn’t foggy at all) and about 67º when I left.

One of the first things I saw was a lone raccoon walking through a pond. I caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye, and pulled into the park-and-stretch area and got out of the car to rush to the edge of the pond to see if I could find him again.  He walked right out from a stand of tules, and stood in the water, staring at me for a few seconds, before walking on again. I got a little bit of video of him, but didn’t get any good still shots.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos and video snippets.

I also saw a pair of Northern Harriers harassing a Red-Tailed Hawk. I think the Red-Tail had blundered to near to where the Harriers were setting up their nest — (Northern Harriers nest on the ground, not in trees.) – and the Harriers freaked out.  They were pretty far away from me, and moving quickly in and around the tules, so it was hard to get any photos. Finally, one of the Harriers stopped and rested on top of a pile of dead tules, and I was able to get a few shots of him.

Further along the route, I came across a Bald Eagle sitting by the edge of a pool, up to his “knees” in the water.  I got some video of him just as he leapt up from the shore and took off flying across the wetlands – making the waterfowl scatter all around him as he flew along.

Later, when I had arrived back at the nature center at the end of the auto-tour route to take a potty break before heading back home, one of the docents was outside the building setting up a birding scope. I asked her if she’d seen anything good, and she said, “If you look through the scope you can see an eagle in the tree right over there,” and she pointed to a tree within walking distance of the scope. I looked through the scope, figured out which tree the eagle was in, and then ran to go potty. Hah! When I got back out the restroom, the dog and I walked down the trail to see the eagle. I was able to get photos of him from several different angles, even from directly below him when he bent over a little bit and stared straight down at me. Yikes! (I kept Sergeant Margie close to me so the eagle wouldn’t get any ideas of snatching him.)

While I was out on the trail taking photos of the eagle, I could hear two Great-Horned Owls hooting at one another, so I went back to the docent to ask about them. The owls were in a tree on the other side of the nature center, but the tree was in a restricted area, so I couldn’t get near it. The docent said the owls already had eggs and were brooding.  It was so neat to hear them call back and forth to one another from different branches, the male’s voice is deeper than the female’s. They were hooting softly at one another, first him, then her, then him, then her… It was so sweet.

I had finished the Sacramento auto-tour relatively quickly, so I headed over to the Colusa refuge before going home. Not a lot to see over there, but between the two refuges I saw about 47 different species today.

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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.