I got up about 5:30 this morning — (Ugh!) — and was ready to head out the door with my dog Esteban to drive over to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge and Colusa National Wildlife Refuge. As I mentioned before, I wanted to take the car on a long jog to see how well it ran after its repairs last week, and I wanted to see how things were going at the refuge.
Esteban usually fusses in the car. The last time I took him with us to the refuge, he whined all the way (wanting to get up in the front seat with me). This time, he whined for about a half an hour, then settled down on my coat in the back seat and fell asleep. He was great for the rest of the trip. I was so proud of him. Occasionally, he’d stand up with his paws on the arm rest and look out the window. I wonder how his little brain processes what he sees…
I stopped off in Woodland to get a coffee before going further, and there were so many blackbirds singing in one of the trees that their sound was almost deafening.
It was about 46° when I headed out, and was a lot windier during the day than I was expecting. Rough winds interfere with birding — everyone tends to hunker down. But I did okay in that department — even though I totally missed getting close up photos of an American White Pelican and a Bald Eagle. (They flew off before I could get near enough. *Sigh*)
I decided to go first to the Colusa refuge first, and the first thing I saw were small flocks of Greater White-Fronted Geese and Snow Geese. There was also a Red-Tailed Hawk sitting in a nearby tree and a White-Tailed Kite kiting in the air over the field.
I was the only person on the refuge for about the first hour or so, so I had the whole place to myself and could go at whatever speed I wanted along the auto tour route. Several of the wetland areas were still dry, which kind of surprised me. I thought it would be all full with a least some measure of water everywhere. There weren’t very many birds near the viewing platform, which was also kind of a surprise. There are usually lots of geese and ducks around there.
At the beginning of the route, there were Wild Turkeys jogging along. They ran out into the field and I could see the males were doing their strutting thing for the females. In another area, I saw a flock of female turkeys all gathered together (avoiding the boys).
There were Coots were everywhere, and Marsh Wrens were teasing me from the tules. I could see of their nests; the males are working hard to impress the females with their construction work.
There were lots and lots of Ibises. Some of the adults are getting their full breeding colors now and are so handsome. I didn’t see any with their white faces yet, however.
There weren’t any more large flocks of ducks, but I did see a wide variety of species: American Wigeons, Northern Shovelers, Gadwalls, Cinnamon and Green-Winged Teals, and Buffleheads. I was surprised to see a little female Hooded Merganser in one of the ponds. I couldn’t see any male around, though.
There were handfuls of Snowy Egrets and the occasional Great Egret, and of course there was the huge flock of Black-Crowned Night Herons day-roosting in the trees at the end of the route.
The sightings of the day were two different Great Horned Owls hunkered down in their nesting spots. There was also supposed to be a Barn Owl out there, but I didn’t see that one. What I DID see was owl poop around the informational kiosk — along with a few pellets. Yay!
I then headed over to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, and the first thing I saw there was a Black-Tailed Jackrabbit. This is baby season for the jack’s and I saw a lot of the adults around, chasing one another.
The wildflowers are just starting to pop up around there even though the vernal pools are empty. It seemed all the “yellows” are coming out first. I saw outcrops of Fiddlenecks, Bird’s-foot Trefoil, amid Brass Buttons, along with fields of Goldfields.
The extra loop to the permanent wetland area is now open, and they’ve done a lot of “remodeling” around it. Most of the taller tules and weeds have been mowed down, so areas around the main pond are more visible. I was hoping to see some Bitterns around here, but had no luck. Of course, I’d gotten here “late” in the morning today (it was a little after 10:00 am. When I usually go here, I go around 6:30 or 7:00 when the sun is coming up.) Here, too, there are huge areas that have no water in them… which alters the kind of species you see (from “wet” to “dry”).
CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.
There was the normal cadre of sparrows everywhere, and a smattering of Western Meadowlarks. One let me get close enough to photograph it and video it singing.
There were lots and lots of Ibises here, too, many of them fishing for crayfish. I was getting some cool video of one of them, just as the battery died in the camera. By the time I got it reloaded and focused on the bird again, the Ibis was swallowing down its meal. Dang it!
I watched some male Northern Shoveler ducks trying to do some of their courtship movements for a female. There was the “Head Dip and Up-end” that looked like a mini-bath, the “Wing Flap” and “Precopulatory Head Pumping”… but the gal just wasn’t into them. D’oh! She just swam by with her face in the water looking for food.
I also watched a male Canvasback as he was feeding. They’re actually diving ducks, but here the water was exceedingly shallow, so the male rose up and stirred up the bottom of the marsh with his feet, then dipped forward to eat what he’d kicked up.
When a female Mallard got too close to him and his meal, he attacked her and chased her until her boyfriend showed up. The Canvasback turned away then, and let the Mallards depart together.
In that same pond area there were Clark’s and Western Grebes checking out spots to build their nests (which they’ll be sitting on in the summer). There were also some Pied-Billed Grebes singing to one another.
Along the end of the auto tour route, several Ground Squirrels popped up, and one came out onto the road and gave itself a dust bath right next to the car. Hah! They’re such cute little things. I’d love to have a colony of them in the yard just so I could watch them.
Around this same area, I saw another Great Horned Owl sitting on a nest in a tree. It was pretty distant, so I couldn’t get any close ups.
All together Esteban and I were in the car for about 10 hours! The walking I did at each of the refuges combined counted as the 29th hike in my #52HikeChallenge. Woot!
- American Coot, Fulica americana
- American Elm Tree, Ulmus americana
- American Pipit, Anthus rubesce
- American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
- American Wigeon, Anas americana
- Arundo, Giant Reed, Arundo donax
- Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
- Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
- Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus
- Black Mustard, Common Wild Mustard, Brassica nigra
- Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
- Black-Crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax
- Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
- Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
- Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
- Boxelder, Box Elder Tree, Acer negundo
- Brass Buttons, Cotula coronopifolia
- Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
- Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides
- Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
- Cackling Goose, Branta hutchinsii
- California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
- California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
- Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
- Canvasback Duck, Aythya valisineria
- Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
- Clark’s Grebe, Aechmophorus clarkii [black above the eye]
- Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
- Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia menziesii
- Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
- Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
- Floating Water Primrose, Ludwigia peploides ssp. Peploides
- Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
- Gadwall Duck, Mareca strepera
- Goldfields, California Goldfields, Lasthenia californica [6-8 petals, rounded mound-like center]
- Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
- Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
- Great Egret, Ardea alba
- Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
- Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
- Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
- Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
- Himalayan Blackberry, Rubus bifrons [white flowers]
- Hooded Merganser, Lophodytes cucullatus
- House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
- Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
- Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
- Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
- Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
- Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
- Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
- Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
- Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
- Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
- Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii [heard]
- Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
- Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marorata
- Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
- Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
- Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
- Prickly Sowthistle, Pigweed, Sonchus asper
- Red Swamp Crayfish, Crawdad, Procambarus clarkii
- Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
- Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
- Ring-Necked Duck, Aythya collaris
- Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
- Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
- Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
- Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
- Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
- Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
- Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
- Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
- Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
- Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
- Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
- Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
- Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
- Western Grebe, Aechmophorus occidentalis [black below the eye]
- Western Kingbird, Tyrant Flycatcher, Tyrannus verticalis [nest]
- Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
- White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
- White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
- White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
- White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi
As an Aside
Wow. Some bee-otch on the Birding California group complained about my adding scientific names to the species photos I post. (Which I do as a naturalist to be specific with my IDs and to help others learn.) She wrote: “Does listing the ‘official name’ of each bird make you feel superior? No just egotistical.”
Geez, cranky much? I consider this harassment (as it’s personally denigrating and inaccurate.) I reported her to the admin of the group, reported her to Facebook, and blocked her. No one has to take harassment and bullying from any troll — ever, anywhere.
It was nice to see others in the group stand up for me. One person wrote: “…Keep doing it. Great photos. Ignore the trolls.” and another wrote: “Great posting for us newbies. I used your photos as “flash cards” to see if I could correctly identify each bird before reading your label. Thanks teach!”