Too Windy at the Bypass, 01-19-21

Birthday Week, Day Three. I had planned for this to be a “crash” day between excursions, but my friend Roxanne invited me to join her on a trip to Yolo County. Yipee!

We went to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area and then went to the Ibis Rookery in Woodland. So we headed out around 7:00 am. It was super-windy today, though, which meant birding was pretty much a no-go. There was so much chop on the water that there were actual cresting waves across the flooded fields and marshes.  And that wind was COLD! As we were driving around, we’d open the car windows to try to shoot some photos through them, only to get blasted by the wind. Some gusts were so strong, they knocked the camera back and forth as I held it up to get a shot.

We saw a few raptors including a couple of White-Tailed Kites, some Red-Tailed Hawks, and a few Northern Harriers. There were also lots of White-Crowned Sparrows hugging the growth closer to the ground and wherever berms shielded them from the wind. There were also “piles” of ducks, different species crammed in against one another for warmth, or feeding with their faces in the water below the chop. Pickings for photos were slim.

The one good thing about this trip is that we figured out the whole circular route through the place this time around, so we know where to go now the next time we head out there.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

As we were heading out of the wildlife area, we saw some Northern Harriers on the ground. One of them had a clod of dirt in its talons and was “playing” with it, lifting it up, letting it fall, picking it up again, tossing it. Apparently, this is common among juvenile Harriers.

Cornell notes: “…In the fledgling stage, juveniles chase and supplant one another, and occasionally pounce on and play with inanimate objects. In winter, Bildstein observed Northern Harriers playing with inanimate objects, both before going to roost in evening and after roosting. Individuals picked up and manipulated vole-size corncobs and other crop residue; birds were more likely to initiate play when a nearby bird did so, and as many as 3 birds played with corncobs…”

As the one we were watching was playing, I noticed that she’d transfer the clod of dirt from one foot to another… almost like she was practicing the “prey transfer” moves that adult Harriers do between them (when the male brings food to the female). I got a little video of it, but it was so windy, the camera moves all over the place.

We then went over to the Ibis Rookery and were surprised by the number of Ruddy Ducks we saw in the water there, but, again because of the wind we didn’t get to see a lot of birds – or anything else.  We were also surprised by a new sign that read “No Birder Vehicles Beyond This Point”, so we weren’t able to circle the settling ponds like we normally would. That kind of added insult to injury.

Although we didn’t get much in way of interesting sightings or photos, we had a lot of fun chatting all along the way. Sometime, we need to set up one of the cellphones to record our running commentary… we crack ourselves up.  Hah!

We spent about 3½ hours driving around, and because it was all driving and no walking, I couldn’t count it toward my #52HikeChallenge.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
  4. American Wigeon, Anas americana
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  7. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  8. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  9. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  10. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  11. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  12. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  13. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  14. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  15. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  16. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  17. Herring Gull, Larus argentatus [spot on bill, gray legs, pale eye]
  18. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  19. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  20. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  21. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  22. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  23. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  24. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  25. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  26. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  27. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
  28. Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
  29. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  30. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
  31. Sunflower??
  32. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  33. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  34. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys