Cranes in the Fields, 11-15-19

I was out the door by 6:30 to go with my friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne Moger, to the Cosumnes River Preserve.  Roxanne was acting as chauffeur today, so she did all of the driving.

It was chilly there, in the 40s, crisp and clear; very autumnal.  The sun was just starting to work its way up through the morning clouds and there was a bit of ground fog in some of the rice fields and pastures.  Roxanne had never taken the short route around Bruceville and Desmond Roads near the preserve, so we went there first.  There were flocks of Greater White-Fronted Geese and Canada Geese, and couple dozen or so Sandhill Cranes in the fields, so we got out of the car a couple of times to get some photos of them. 

Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
Sandhill Cranes

Morning “fly-in” hours are the best time to see the cranes in that area.  There were both adults and juveniles in the groups. We saw a couple of Great Egrets and a Great Blue Heron out there as well.

In another field, we saw some Greater Yellowlegs walking around and a very large gull sitting on an outcropping watching a Northern Harrier eat its breakfast on the ground.  There were actually a lot of hawk out today.  On the preserve we saw both Northern Harriers and Red-Tailed Hawks, and along the freeway both going to the preserve and coming back home, we saw more Red-Tails and a Swainson’s hawk.

Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius, female
Northern Harrier eating its prey.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

There was a waning moon overhead, so tried to get some photos of birds flying past it.  The White-Fronted Geese were the most “cooperative”. Whenever their flocks would startle and take off into the sky, I’d focus my camera on the moon and activate the shutter whenever birds passed by it.  Got a few fairly good shots out of that exercise.

Greater White-Fronted Geese, Anser albifrons, flying over the moon
Geese Flyover

We walked along the boardwalk and the slough that runs along the road for about 2½ hours before heading back toward Sacramento.  We saw eight hawks along the highway on the way there.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
  3. Ash Flower Gall Mite, Eriophyes fraxinivorus
  4. Black Angus Cattle, Bos Taurus var. Black Angus
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  7. Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
  8. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  9. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  10. Club Gall Wasp, Xanthoteras clavuloides
  11. Gadwall duck, Mareca strepera
  12. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  13. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  14. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  15. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  16. Herring Gull, Larus argentatus
  17. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  18. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  19. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris [heard]
  20. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  21. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  22. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  23. Pennyroyal, Penny Royal, Mentha pulegium
  24. Purpletop Vervain, Verbena bonariensis
  25. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  26. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  27. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium
  28. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  29. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  30. Say’s Phoebe, Sayornis saya
  31. Tricolored Blackbird, Agelaius tricolor
  32. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  33. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  34. Western Gull, Larus occidentalis (second winter, juvenile)
  35. White Ash, Fraxinus americana
  36. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  37. Willow Pine Cone Gall Midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides