Lots of Ibises at the Refuge Today, 04-03-20

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.

Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica

            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.

White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

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.

Western Grebes, Aechmophorus occidentalis

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.

Esteban chillaxing after his long day in the field.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  3. Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
  4. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  5. Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  8. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  9. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  10. Bristled Downingia, Doublehorn Calico Flower, Downingia bicornuta 
  11. Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides
  12. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  13. Bull Mallow, Malva nicaeensis
  14. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  15. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  16. Chinese Praying Mantis, Tenodera sinensis [ootheca]
  17. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  18. Clark’s Grebe, Aechmophorus clarkii
  19. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  20. Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
  21. Common Stork’s-Bill, Red Stemmed Filaree, Erodium cicutarium
  22. Common Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum
  23. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  24. Dunlin, Calidris alpina
  25. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  26. Fennel, Sweet Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  27. Field Mustard, Brassica rapa
  28. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  29. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  30. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  31. Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica 
  32. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  33. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  34. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  35. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  36. Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  37. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  38. Jointed Charlock, Wild Radish, Raphanus raphanistrum
  39. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  40. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  41. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
  42. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  43. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  44. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  45. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  46. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marorata
  47. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  48. Pineappleweed, Matricaria discoidea
  49. Pink Squirrel-Tail Rye, Sitanion elymoides
  50. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
  51. Prickly Sow Thistle, Sonchus asper
  52. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  53. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  54. Ring-Necked Duck, Aythya collaris
  55. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
  56. Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
  57. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  58. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  59. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  60. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  61. Western Grebe, Aechmophorus occidentalis
  62. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  63. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  64. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi