In Search of Sandhill Cranes, 10-04-20

I got up around 6:00 am today and was out the door by 6:30 to head out for some nature walking with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne.  After stopping at a drive-through for some breakfast, we went first to the Cosumnes River Preserve, taking Franklin Blvd. instead of the freeway. Once we got near the preserve, we drove down Bruceville and Desmond Roads to see if there was anything interesting in the agricultural fields yet. We were going on the hunt for Sandhill Cranes which had been reported in the area.

House Sparrow, Passer domesticus

All along the route, we saw large flocks of Wild Turkeys in the empty lots and fields. They’re getting ready for the males to do their fall/winter strut.

We saw lots of sparrows and finches in the brambles and tules on the roadside, including Song Sparrows, Savanah Sparrows, House Sparrows, White-Crowned Sparrows, House Finches and Lesser Goldfinches. Among them was a bird I’d never seen before: a little bright yellow fellow with a black mask. He was in among some tules and I kept saying, “what IS that?!”, as I tried to get his picture. The shots I got weren’t all that good, but they were good enough to make an ID. He was a Common Yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas. They’re migrating through the area now, so several people have seen them. 

Common Yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas

Another nice sighting further along the road was a Say’s Phoebe, Sayornis saya.  We see Black Phoebes all the time, but the Say’s not so much. There were also Red-Winged Blackbirds and Brewer’s Blackbirds feeding and flying in small flocks; some singing from the tree tops.

It was so great to see all bird-life activity again after the dearth of it for the past several weeks. Migrations are starting. We should be seeing tons more birds over the next several months.  The only thing that really seemed to be obviously missing were the hawks. We only saw a couple of them during the whole trip.

Charolais Cattle, Bos Taurus var. Charolais

There were lots of cattle in the fields, some of them bellowing loudly.  In one field, close to the fence line, there were whitish Charolais Cattle: moms with calves. Some of the calves were playing with one another, bouncing around, jostling and head-butting each other.  So cute!

Charolais Cattle, Bos Taurus var. Charolais

At the preserve itself, there still isn’t very much water; most of it is still bone dry which doesn’t bode well for the migratory birds. We did see a lot of Least Sandpipers in one little marshy area along with some Killdeer and one or two Greater Yellowlegs.

A Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous, and a Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla

Along the boat ramp, we found several trashline spiders and their webs, and some larger orb-weaver webs (some with spiders, some without). There were some dragonflies flitting about, but none of them would sit still for any length of time. I think I got a single photo of a Variable Meadowhawk. Down by the water, I could see the Water Hyacinth was still clogging part of the waterway, but they must’ve cleared it out around the dock because it wasn’t around there.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

River with Water Hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes, in it

We when got back to the car, we headed over to Staten Island Road. On the way there, we had to stop for a bit while a farmer used his tractor to clear a fallen tree limb off the road. We gave him a thank-you wave when he was done.

Along Staten Island Road, nothing much is flooded there yet, so there weren’t a lot of different waterfowl that we could see.  We did see lots of Sandhill Cranes, though, which is what we were hoping to see.  Adults and juveniles were in the fields, doing their crackling-calls to one another, feeding, flying overhead. It was great to see them.  We also saw a flock of Cackling Geese, the shorter cousins of the Canada Geese.

We drove up and down the road once, and then headed over to the Woodbridge Ecological Preserve

On the way there, we saw a Northern Mockingbird posing nicely on top of a road sign, but just as I raised my camera to take its picture, the battery died. I told the bird to wait while I changed out the spent battery for a new one, and Roxanne quipped, “Watch. It will wait until you’re ready again, and then fly away.” And sure enough. The bird sat there, looking handsome, while I changed out the battery and as soon as I lifted my camera to take its photo, it flew away.  Hah!

There were more cranes at the preserve, but they were in the fields across from the fenced-in preserve. In one field there was over 200 of them! Amazing.            

There was water on the ground in the preserve itself, on the other side of the fence, and there were birds in the water, but everything was too far and backlit, so we couldn’t get any decent photos of any of them.  We did see a flock of White-Faced Ibis flying overhead, and could also hear lots of Red-Winged Blackbirds in the elderberry bushes along the road. In the culverts on one side of the road, water was running and there was more water hyacinth growing in there, and Great Egrets fishing.

Great Egret, Ardea alba,in the roadside culvert with Water Hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes

We saw signage for The Black Hole wetland preserve, a privately owned preserve overseen by the Wetland Preservation Foundation.  I sent them an email to see if I can get Roxanne and I onto the property to do some photography and species identification.

We were out and about for about 6 hours and headed back home.

Species List:

  1. Alfalfa, Medicago sativa
  2. Amaranth, Redroot Pigweed, Amaranthus retroflexus
  3. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  4. Bagrada Bug, Bagrada hilaris
  5. Black Angus Cattle, Bos Taurus var. Black Angus
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  8. Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
  9. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  10. Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis
  11. Cackling Goose, Branta hutchinsii
  12. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  13. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  14. Charolais Cattle, Bos Taurus var. Charolais
  15. Club Gall Wasp, Atrusca clavuloides
  16. Common Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  17. Common Duckweed, Lemna minor
  18. Common Yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas
  19. Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
  20. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  21. Dead Man’s Foot Fungus, Pisolithus arhizus
  22. Deer Grass, Muhlenbergia rigens
  23. Devil’s Beggarticks, Bidens frondosa
  24. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  25. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  26. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  27. Fuzzy Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis washingtonensi [round faintly fuzzy galls on stems]
  28. Goldenrod Bunch Gall, Goldenrod Floret Gall Midge, Solidago canadensis
  29. Goldenrod, California Goldenrod, Solidago velutina californica
  30. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  31. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  32. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  33. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  34. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  35. Hoverfly, Margined Calligrapher Fly, Toxomerus marginatus [very tiny]
  36. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  37. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  38. Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla
  39. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  40. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris [nest]
  41. Mistletoe Gall, caused by Mistletoe  haustorium growing on a tree
  42. Mistletoe, American Mistletoe, Big Leaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
  43. Narrowleaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis
  44. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  45. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  46. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  47. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii
  48. Orange Sulphur Butterfly, Colias eurytheme
  49. Pin Mold, Order: Mucorales
  50. Potato, Russet Potato, Solanum tuberosum
  51. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  52. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  53. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  54. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium
  55. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  56. Sandhill Skipper, Polites sabuleti
  57. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  58. Say’s Phoebe, Sayornis saya
  59. Small Honey Ant, Prenolepis imparis
  60. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  61. Spiny Turban Gall Wasp, asexual, fall generation, Antron douglasii
  62. Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni
  63. Swamp Smartweed, False Water-Pepper, Persicara hydropiperoides [pink]
  64. Tall Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis
  65. Trashline Orb Weaver Spider, Conical Trashline Spider,  Cyclosa conica
  66. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  67. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  68. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
  69. Water Hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes
  70. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  71. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  72. Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis
  73. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  74. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi
  75. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi
  76. ?? spider egg sac