Eagles, Eagles, Eagles, 01-19-20

My Birthday Week: Day One.  I was in the car for the majority of the day and took Esteban with me.  He did better on this trip; only whined a couple of times and tried to get into the front seat three times. But for most of the time, he was sitting politely in the middle of the back seat where he could see out of all of the windows, or sleeping on my old sweatshirt.

Start Time: 6:00 am
Start Temperature: 36º F
End Time: 11:30 pm
End Temperature:
46º F
Weather: Foggy in part, then mostly cloudy with intermittent sunshine
Total Hours in the field (includes travel time):
6.5 hours

I got up around 5:30 am and was out the door before 6 o’clock and heading out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  It was super driving-through-a-tunnel foggy in Sacramento and into Woodland, but once I got past Woodland, it was clear and sunny. So weird!  It was nice to see snow on Snow Mountain and parts of Goat Mountain.

I was hoping to see some Bald Eagles and wasn’t disappointed.  The first thing I saw, though, was a pair of Ravens poking at a couple of roadkills, an opossum and a raccoon on the road.  

Raccoon, Procyon lotor

Later, I saw two live raccoons on the road of the auto tour.  They were lumbering across the road behind a phalanx of cars. I think I’m the only person who saw them at the time.  And in another location, I saw an otter sitting alongside one of the march ponds, and then saw him “glassing” through the water a few seconds later. I didn’t get good photos of either the raccoons or the otter, but I was happy to see them.

At one point, I also saw a little dark brown mouse or vole jump-running across the grass on one of the levies.  It ducked down into a hole before I could get my camera focused on it.

I was surprised by the number of Ring-Necked Ducks I saw along the auto-tour route, and I even got to see a few Ruddy Ducks.  Those guys make me smile whenever I see them.  They’re so little; they look like toys.  The males aren’t in their breeding plumage yet, but when they get to that stage they’ll have neon-blue bills and ruddy-red feathers.

There were lots of Ring-Necked Pheasants out, too; mostly males.  I think they’d come into the preserve because there was hunting going on all around it and they make for big targets.

A male Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The first Bald Eagle I saw was sitting in what I call the “eagle tree” along the auto route.  It was in a position, though, where I couldn’t get a clear photo through any of the car windows, so I opened the driver’s side door and raised my camera up over the car.  Before I could focus on the bird, though, it took off across the marsh.  Dang it!  I was so upset that I almost cried.  Nature made up for that near miss, though, by showing me about seven other eagles along the route, including an obliging juvenile who landed in a tree right by the car.

I was also able to track one with my camera as it flew from a marsh, across the road in front of me, and into another area where it landed on the ground. And as I was driving out of the preserve there two eagles sitting in one of the eucalyptus trees.  While I took photos, a third eagle flew in and they all started doing that fast screel-talk of their.  So cool!  So I was happy about that, too.

The other nice surprise was seeing a flock of American White Pelicans on one of the “islands” in the wetlands.  They were pretty far away, but because they’re such big birds, I was still able to get a few photos of them.  All in all, I saw over 40 different species, so that was a good day of birding.

American White Pelicans, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos

I got back to the house around 1:00 pm.  Driving back to Sacramento from the refuge, it was sunny until I got to Woodland – then it was light fog and overcast.  Microclimates. So weird.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Goldfinch, Spinus tristis
  3. American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
  4. American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  5. American Wigeon, Anas Americana
  6. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  7. Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
  8. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  9. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  10. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  11. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  12. Common Raven, Corvus corax
  13. Common Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum
  14. Gadwall duck, Mareca Strepera
  15. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  16. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  17. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  18. Hairy Woodpecker, Leuconotopicus villosus (long bill)
  19. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  20. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  21. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  22. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  23. Lincoln’s Sparrow, Melospiza lincolnii
  24. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  25. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  26. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  27. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  28. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  29. Raccoon, Procyon lotor
  30. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  31. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  32. Ring-Necked Duck, Aythya collaris
  33. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
  34. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
  35. Ross’s Goose, Chen rossii
  36. Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
  37. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  38. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
  39. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  40. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  41. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  42. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  43. Virginia Opossum, Didelphis virginiana
  44. Western Harvest Mouse, Reithrodontomys megalotis [ID not confirmed]
  45. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  46. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  47. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi