First Oriole of the Season, 05-12-21

I got up around 5:30 this morning and got myself ready to meet with my friend Roxanne at 6:00 am and head out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.

We stopped for some coffee and alight breakfast, and made good time getting to the refuge. As is usual for us, we counted the number of hawks we saw along the way, and we got a final count of six. It seems to us that we’re seeing fewer hawks this year than we saw last year. Insects seems to be declining, so it’s only a matter of time that their absence would start impacting higher animals…

Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis

At the refuge, as we drove into the parking lot, we saw a Killdeer running around, then realized she had about four babies with her. The kids were scattering all over the place, and we were worried they’d get under the wheels of the car. So, I got out and herded the birds to another part of the lot, so Roxanne could park the car out of their way. When then both started taking as many photos of the scurrying babies as we could. Baby Killdeer are sooooo cute; little striped fuzz balls on legs that are longer than their bodies.

We then went in toward the nature center to use their facilities and look for more birds. The center’s pollinator garden was in bloom with datura, Flannelbush, two kinds of milkweed, Cleveland Sage, and Saint Catherine’s Lace (a kind of giant buckwheat).

While we were taking photos (and looking for interesting bugs)one of the rangers came out and talked with us. He noted a tiny Anna’s Hummingbird waiting on a twiggy branch on a tree in the demonstration pond, and said that sometimes the hummers fly right down into his face until he refilled heir feeder. Hah!

He went inside to refill it, and also came out with a jar of grape jelly. He said they’d been seeing Orioles around the center(lots of Bullock’s and a few Hooded passing through), and they love the jelly. As soon as he put some of the jelly onto the feeder and walk away from it, we saw a male Bullock’s Oriole show himself in a nearby tree. Layer, we also saw one eating the jelly right out of the feeder. They’re such handsome birds!  We were also surprised by the sudden and brief visit of a male Western Tanager in the same area. I didn’t get any useable photos of him, but Rox got a couple.

We saw three different species of swallow throughout the preserve. Cliff Swallows were collecting mud from the slough when we drove in. Barn Swallows were checking out a spot on the roof of the nature center where the flashing had been lifted up by recent high winds. And Tree Swallows were whizzing around the trees along the auto tour route. A three-fer!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos

Black Phoebes and Mourning Doves were also in abundance, as were Black-Tailed jackrabbits.

Little Marsh Wrens were singing their buzzy advertising song from (seemingly) everywhere. At one of the park-and-stretch areas, we could see one wren building one of his nests. He dragged wet tule-skin to his construction site, then tried to pull some stalks down to add to it…but he wasn’t strong enough, and the stalk would “twoing!” away from him again. Hah!

Along the auto tour route we didn’t see any damselflies or dragonflies to speak of, but they may come out in another month or so as things warm up a bit more. We saw lots of Cabbage White butterflies, but no other species. The teasel is just starting to bloom, though. When that’s in flower, there are usually lots of pollinators. So a return trip in June may be in order.

In the permanent wetland area we saw pelicans, and geese, including an unusual number of Snow Geese. Some of the Greater White-Fronted Geese are residents, but the Snow Geese migrate. I expected all of them to have moved on by now.

Greater White-Fronted Geese, Anser albifrons, and Snow Geese, Chen caerulescens

            There were only a handful of Clark’s Grebes in the water, and their numbers should increase as the summer comes on. We saw a pair starting to do their mirroring dance on the water, but they were either distracted or just not into one another because they gave it up after just a few seconds.

 As we finished off the auto tour route and drove back into the parking lot, we found a California Ground Squirrel “splooting” in the shade of the welcome sign. A sploot is a type of stretch (dogs do it a lot); the animal lays on its belly with all of its legs stretched out,  So funny looking.

A California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi, in full sploot.

We were out for about 5½,but because we were in the car most of the time, I didn’t count this as one of my #52HikeChallenge excursions.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  3. American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  4. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  5. Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [pink flower]
  6. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens
  7. Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica
  8. Black Mustard, Common Wild Mustard, Brassica nigra
  9. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  10. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  11. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  12. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  13. Bristly Fiddleneck, Amsinckia tessellata
  14. Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides
  15. Brown-Headed Cowbird, Molothrus ater
  16. Bullock’s Oriole, Icterus bullockii
  17. California Flannelbush, Fremontodendron californicum
  18. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  19. California Mule Deer, Odocoileus hemionus californicus
  20. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  21. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  22. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  23. Clark’s Grebe, Aechmophorus clarkii [black above the eye]
  24. Cleveland Sage, Salvia clevelandii [purple, circles]
  25. Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
  26. Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
  27. Common Spikeweed, Centromadia pungens
  28. Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens
  29. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  30. Downigia, Downigia sp.
  31. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  32. Floating Water Primrose, Ludwigia peploides ssp. peploides
  33. Gadwall Duck, Mareca Strepera
  34. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  35. Grass-Poly, Lythrum hyssopifolia [tiny purple flowers]
  36. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  37. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  38. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  39. Harding Grass, Phalaris aquatica [a type of canary grass]
  40. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  41. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  42. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  43. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  44. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
  45. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  46. Mullein, Wand Mullein, Verbascum virgatum
  47. Narrowleaf Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  48. Narrowleaf Milkweed, Mexican Whorled Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis
  49. Narrowleaf Willow, Salix exigua
  50. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  51. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  52. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii
  53. Oregon Ash Tree, Fraxinus latifolia
  54. Paper Wasp, Black Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula
  55. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  56. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
  57. Popcorn Flower, Rusty Popcornflower, Plagiobothrys nothofulvus [tiny]
  58. Q-Tips, Micropus californicus
  59. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  60. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  61. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
  62. Sacred Datura, Datura wrightii
  63. Saint Catherine’s Lace, Eriogonum giganteum [a kind of buckwheat]
  64. Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa
  65. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
  66. Stinking Chamomile, Anthemis cotula
  67. Tall Flatsedge, Cyperus eragrostis
  68. Tasmanian Blue Gum Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus globulus
  69. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  70. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  71. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
  72. Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
  73. Western Kingbird, Tyrant Flycatcher, Tyrannus verticalis
  74. Western Marsh Cudweed, Gnaphalium palustre
  75. Western Tanager, Piranga ludoviciana
  76. Wild Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum
  77. Yellow Starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis