At Cosumnes and Staten, 11-17-20

I got up around 6:00 this morning and was out the door by 6:30 to head over to the Cosumnes River Preserve.  I wanted to get out and about before the rain, which was predicted to arrive around noon. The cloud cover wasn’t complete yet, but it was enough to keep the long morning shadows at bay, and colored up nicely as the sun rose.

I went around Bruceville and Desmond Roads before going to the preserve itself, and was happy to see Cattle Egrets among the cattle in some of the fields. The cattle were mostly mamas with their calves, and I got to see a few of the calves nursing.  So sweet.

Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis, with Charolais Cattle, Bos Taurus var. Charolais

There were also lots of sparrows: White-Crowned and Golden-Crowned. And, of course, there Brewer’s and Red-Winged Blackbirds everywhere.

There were several hawks out including a Red-Shouldered one and a Red-Tailed Hawk that sat near the top of a telephone pole and seemed to be sort of leaning on it. As I got closer, I was surprised that it didn’t startle and fly away, and I worried that maybe it was sick. When I got closer enough to get a good look at it, though, I realized it was blind on one side. There was swelling and crusty exudate covering the eye.  When the bird turned its head so it was facing me, its bright good eye caught sight of me, and it kept watching me until I moved away.

Elsewhere, in another tree was another Red-Tailed Hawk being harassed by a Kestrel. As fate would have it, my camera battery died before I could get photos of the tiny bird trying to defend its tree. By the time I’d changed out the old battery for a new one and brought my camera up to take photos, the hawk was still there, but the kestrel was gone. Dang it! Such is the naturalist’s lot…

Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis

There was more water in some of the fields than I’d previously seen there, but not too many birds yet. Lots of Pintails and geese an a few gulls, but not much variety otherwise. I was hoping to see a Wilson’s Snipe, but no luck yet.

I did find one spot along the road where I saw a bird sitting in the middle of a field by itself. I thought that was odd, so I parked the car and got out to see if I could get a closer view and photo of it. I realized it was a Northern Harrier. I thought maybe it had brought its breakfast to ground, but no, it was just sitting there, like it was resting up. It shifted in the grass when it realized I was looking at it and then flew off.

Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius, sitting in a field

In the downed tules and grass along that part of the road, though, I found the remains of several crayfish, heads and claws mostly. Considering their number, all in the same area, I wondered if they’d been eaten by the birds or by people.

Red Swamp Crayfish, Crawfish, Crawdad, Procambarus clarkia

In the preserve itself, they’re still filling the wetland areas with water. The front pond is still empty by the boardwalk, but the back fields are filling up. Again, there weren’t many birds yet, just the occasional Northern Shoveler or Cinnamon Teal. By Thanksgiving we should be seeing more variety out there. Where the water is just starting to come in, everything smells awful (like rotting grass and sour bird droppings) and there’s a kind of “oil slick” on the top of the water.  Once the water reaches a certain level, all of this goes away, but right now the place stinks.

The slick on the stinky water.

At the preserve I saw Killdeer, Stilts and Pipits, but not in large numbers.  As along the roads, there were blackbirds among the tules in the preserve, and sparrows, including some Song Sparrows.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Somewhat disappointed by what I was seeing at the preserve, I decided to drive up to Staten Island Road to see if there was anything interesting there. Several of the agricultural fields have been plowed up, and others were just starting to get plowed, so there was a lot of dust and smell of manure everywhere.  Other fields, though, were nearly completely flooded, and other were left with the remnants of corn plants so the cranes and other birds could forage through them for roots, leaves and discarded corn kernels. There were also cattle in a couple of the fields but they didn’t seem to bother the birds.

There were also lots and lots of handsome Sandhill Cranes, and many of them were close enough to the road to get good photographs of them. In one spot, I was taking pictures of a small flock of them in a field when, to my surprise, two of cranes that were apparently foraging in the ditch along the side of the road, suddenly stood up right in front of me. I was able to get quite a few shots of them before they scuttled away.

Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis

I also got to see some of the cranes dancing. According to Bird Note:

“…The stately cranes are courting, renewing an annual dance they perform in earnest as the days lengthen into spring. The dance begins with a downward bow, the cranes’ long, slender bills nearly touching the ground. Then, like enormous marionettes pulled deftly upward, the cranes leap several feet off the ground, wings outstretched. Bowing and leaping, raising and lowering their wings, the cranes dance on… Sandhill Crane pairs remain together for life, and their spirited dance plays an essential role in reaffirming this bond…They might also throw a stick or some plants into the air.”

Sandhill Cranes, Grus canadensis, dancing

I saw a couple of the cranes tossing vegetation and picking up sticks, but not always while they were dancing. I also caught some photos of one who was jumping so high in the dance, that he jumped up right out of the frame.  Beautiful!

Along with the cranes there were lots of Greater White-Fronted Geese and Cackling Geese, Killdeer, blackbirds, Pipits and House Finches, and a few Meadowlarks. 

In one of the flooded fields there were Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets foraging together. Along the edges of that field were more Kildeer and Pipits, but sadly no Snipes. I didn’t see a single one all day.

A pair of Snowy Egrets, Egretta thula, beside a Great Egret, Ardea alba

In the adjacent field, however, I did get to see some Canvasback ducks. I so seldom see those, that this was a real treat.

Canvasback Duck, Aythya valisineria, drake

Oddly, too, in two of the fields, I saw Northern Harriers sitting on the ground. I wasn’t able to get any photos of one of them, but I got a few blurry pix as the other took off from the ground and flew away.  Odd to see of the birds just sitting in different fields, in different places, at different times.

Along the fence lines were dozens of House Finches showing off to one another. In some places there were so many of them, I didn’t know where to point the camera first – but I opted to try to focus on the rosy-colored boys.            

House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus, male

I was out for about 6½ hours, and was hungry and hurting by the time I got back to Sacramento

Species List:

  1. American Bugleweed, Water Horehound, Lycopus americanus
  2. American Coot, Fulica americana
  3. American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
  4. Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus
  5. Black Angus Cattle, Bos Taurus var. Black Angus
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  8. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  9. Cackling Goose, Branta hutchinsii
  10. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  11. Canvasback Duck, Aythya valisineria
  12. Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis
  13. Charolais Cattle, Bos Taurus var. Charolais
  14. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  15. Corn, Zea mays ssp. mays
  16. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  17. Floating Water Primrose, Ludwigia peploides ssp. Peploides
  18. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  19. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  20. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  21. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  22. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  23. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  24. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  25. Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla
  26. Narrowleaf Cattail, Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  27. Narrowleaf Willow, Salix exigua
  28. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  29. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  30. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  31. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  32. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  33. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  34. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  35. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  36. Red Swamp Crayfish, Crawfish, Crawdad, Procambarus clarkia
  37. Rice, Oryza sativa
  38. Ring-Billed Gull, Larus delawarensis
  39. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumarium
  40. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  41. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  42. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  43. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  44. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  45. Turkey Oak, Quercus cerris
  46. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  47. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  48. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  49. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi [flying overhead]