I got up around 7:00 this morning, gave Esteban his breakfast, and then we headed out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. I wanted to go today because it’s supposed to rain over the next several days. I had to stop on the way to put gas in the car and was pleased by the $2.65 per gallon price. That’s where it should be. The almost-four-dollar price was ridiculous!
Driving out to the refuge was without any hiccups; I’m liking the reduced traffic everywhere. I counted hawks along the way and got up to eight (most of the Red-Tails) before I reached the gates of the refuge. It was a cool and breezy day, bright and clear; about 42° when I went out and about 68° when I got back to the house around 2:30 pm.
The first thing I saw was a pair of Killdeer on the edge of the parking lot. They were working together to create a “scrape”, a shallow divot on the ground they’ll use as a nest. They use their chests and their feet to create it.
These little birds are monogamous and mate for life. According to Cornell: “… In [a] typical Scrape Ceremony, male lowers breast to the ground and scrapes with feet to form shallow depression; female then approaches male with her head lowered and displaces him from scrape. Male then stands with body tilted slightly forward, tail raised and spread. This posture is usually accompanied by rapid calling, approaching a Trill…” This is pretty much the behavior I was seeing. I got a couple of video snippets of them.
Usually, it’s the male that starts the scrape, and then the female joins him if she likes the spot. This pair seemed somewhat uncertain about their scrape. One was committed to it while the other wandered around looking elsewhere. It WAS a somewhat precarious place, so close to where vehicles park. I worried a little bit about that particular placement. After a scrape is completed, and both birds like it, it might take a week or so before the female lays her first egg. So, I’d like to go back to the refuge in a week or so to see if they’re still there.
[[Once the female lays the eggs, she incubates them during the day and the male incubates at night. So, both birds lose some of the breast feathers, exposing their naked skin to the eggs.]]
There was no water in the vernal pools but there were some flowers coming up in their empty hollows including Gold Fields and purple-blue Downingia.
There were LOTS of White-Faced Ibis along the auto-tour route and at the new viewing platform along the trail. Some of them were even sporting their breeding “white faces”. I also saw and heard a lot of Marsh Wrens singing in the tules.
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I was hoping to see some Bitterns, but they weren’t showing themselves. I heard one of them “pumper-lunking” in the distance, though.
It was nice to see the Clark’s and Western Grebes starting to show up in the permanent wetland area. There was no water in there last year, so I missed seeing them all year. It was great to have them back. I’m looking forward to seeing them build their floating nests as we get closer to summer. I was not, however, happy to see a Mute Swan in the water. They’re considered an invasive species in California.
There were some Tree Swallows nesting in a tree along the route, but they were on the passenger side of the car. You’re not allowed to get out of your vehicle on the route, so, I had to lay down in the front seat and shoot up, out of the window, to snag some photos of them as they entered the nesting cavity.
On the way out of the refuge, I found a young Bald Eagle sitting in a tree. It was just starting to get its white coloring so it was probably about 2½ to 3 years old. That was another bird that forced me to lay down in the seat to get photos of it.
I was out on the auto tour route for about 4 hours before heading home.
Esteban was great throughout the whole ride. He slept most of the time when we were on the freeways, but looked out the windows when I drove slowly at the refuge. When we got home, I eventually settled on the bed, and he laid on top of me, tuckered out from his long day in the field.
- American Coot, Fulica americana
- American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
- Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
- Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
- Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus
- Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
- Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
- Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
- Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
- Bristled Downingia, Doublehorn Calico Flower, Downingia bicornuta
- Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides
- Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
- Bull Mallow, Malva nicaeensis
- California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
- Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
- Chinese Praying Mantis, Tenodera sinensis [ootheca]
- Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
- Clark’s Grebe, Aechmophorus clarkii
- Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
- Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
- Common Stork’s-Bill, Red Stemmed Filaree, Erodium cicutarium
- Common Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum
- Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
- Dunlin, Calidris alpina
- Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
- Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
- Field Mustard, Brassica rapa
- Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
- Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
- Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
- Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica
- Great Egret, Ardea alba
- Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
- Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
- Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
- Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
- House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
- Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
- Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
- Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
- Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
- Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
- Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
- Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
- Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
- Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marorata
- Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
- Pineappleweed, Matricaria discoidea
- Pink Squirrel-Tail Rye, Sitanion elymoides
- Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
- Prickly Sow Thistle, Sonchus asper
- Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
- Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
- Ring-Necked Duck, Aythya collaris
- Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
- Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
- Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
- Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
- Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
- Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
- Western Grebe, Aechmophorus occidentalis
- Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
- White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
- White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi