Lots of Birds at the Lake, 10-07-20

I got up at 6:30 this morning and headed out around 7:15 am to Mather Lake Regional Park.  It was 59° and partly cloudy when I got there, and got up to 72° by the time I left. Across from the main gate on Zinfandel, on the fence line, I saw a female Northern Harrier.  She was very accommodating, and stayed there while I stopped the car near her and took her photo.

Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius, female

Inside the park, there were hardly any people today. I only saw two fishermen – and the male photographer I’d seen past week who had tried to race me to get photos of the river otters.   Today, he was on the hunt for a Green Heron that had landed on the shore near me. As soon as he approached it, it – and a second heron we hadn’t noticed – took off in a flurry. They landed further down the shore, so he took off after them.

I saw him stalking them, and once again, as soon as he approached, they took off. One of them flew all the way across the lake and landed on the rail boat launch looking very perturbed. I found a few more of the herons on my walk, and as I was leaving, I found one hunting right along the bank by the small bridge.  A Canada Goose was napping right behind it.

Green Heron, Butorides virescens

There were more birds out and about than I’d seen in previous months, and I got treated to views of Bushtits, Belted Kingfishers, a male Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Golden- and White-Crowned Sparrows, and even a pair of White-Tailed Kites among others. The kites were tag-teaming back and forth across the park; I saw them several times in different trees.  Finally, one of them sat still for a while on top of a “naked” tree and I was able to get some good shots of him.

White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

One of the Mute Swans was floating in the water with one foot hitched up behind its back.

Mute Swan, Cygnus olor

“…It is normal for swans to swim with one leg tucked onto their back. People are often concerned that the leg is broken or deformed but the swan is perfectly fine…It has been suggested that this behavior may play a role in helping to regulate the body temperature of the bird. The legs and feet are the only part of the swan not covered in feathers so the blood vessels are in closer contact with the air. The large surface area of the webbed foot makes it easier for heat to be transferred from the body to the air, cooling the swan. This heat exchange could also work the other way, with the feet absorbing heat from the air to warm the bird…”    

I tried catching sight of the muskrat, but no luck. While I was navigating through the weeds along the edge of the lake, though, I found a large brown praying mantis on a stand of bull thistle.

Mute Swan, Cygnus olor, female

The coyote brush throughout the park is starting to bloom now (mostly male plants) and was full of bees, their corbicula heavy with yellow-orange pollen. Good eating right before winter sets in.

On my way out, I saw a couple of ground squirrels scrambling around. They should be getting ready for winter, too. It doesn’t get cold enough here for them to really hibernate, but they do collect nesting material for warmth and are “seasonally lethargic” (I love that phrase) through the winter months.

I walked for about three hours and then headed home.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [pink flowers]
  4. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  7. Bull Thistle, Cirsium vulgare
  8. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  10. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  11. Callery Pear, Pyrus calleryana
  12. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  13. Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
  14. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  15. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  16. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  17. European Starling, Sturnus vulgari
  18. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  19. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  20. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  21. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  22. Great-Tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
  23. Green Heron, Butorides virescens
  24. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  25. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  26. Mediterranean Mantis, Iris oratoria
  27. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  28. Narrowleaf Cattail, Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  29. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  30. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  31. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  32. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  33. Panicled Willowherb, Epilobium brachycarpum
  34. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  35. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  36. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus [heard]
  37. Smartweed, Persicaria lapathifolia [white]
  38. Soft Rush, Juncus effusus
  39. Swamp Smartweed, False Water-Pepper, Persicara hydropiperoides [pink]
  40. Swedish Blue Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Swedish Blue
  41. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  42. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  43. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  44. Willow Bead Gall Mite, Aculus tetanothrix
  45. Willow Pinecone Gall midge, Rabdophaga strobiloides