Looking for a Mandarin, 05-23-21

I got up at 6:00 am this morning, and headed out to the Elk Grove Regional Park because a Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata) had been spotted there.  I had seen photos of the ducks before, but never saw a live one, in situ as it were. I walked around the whole 7½ acre lake, but didn’t find the duck I was looking for.

The park is easy to get to and sprawls out over 122 acres. It’s pretty but it’s  too “manicured”, too “Stepford” for me. There are gorgeous heritage oaks (including Black Oaks and Interior Live Oaks), Coast Redwoods, Weeping Willows, and others on the grounds that provide a lot of shade, but they’re trimmed up so high you can’t touch the leaves. So, nature is around you, but you can’t really interact with it very much. I’d prefer something more “scruffy” that I can explore, not just stand in  as though it’s a museum.

Those feelings aside…

I did see a lot of Mallards and Mallard hybrids, Wood Ducks, some Muscovy Ducks, Swan Geese and Canada Geese. Some of the Canadas had goslings at various levels of development. And I saw a group of tiny Wood Duck ducklings, that looked like newborns, swimming around in the water with no mama.

Something bad must have happened to her; I didn’t see her anywhere and she wasn’t responding to the ducklings’ cries. If they can find enough to eat, the ducklings can survive without mom, but they have no protection and no extra heat source when the nights get cold, so… the whole group may be goners. (see follow-up below)

Sad sights were seeing the handsome Yellow-Billed Magpies eating out of the trash cans, and going after the carcass of a squirrel on the road. And speaking of the squirrels… Although there are signs in the park telling people not to feed the geese or the squirrels, I saw one group of people blatantly feeding the geese; and the squirrels run right up to you looking for handouts. One came so close I expected it to grab my pant leg and demand breakfast.

An unexpected sighting was a Black Phoebe nest on one of the pilings in the lake. The babies inside were nearly fully fledged, but the parents were still feeding them. I could see four of them crammed into a nest that didn’t seem big enough to hold one.

Between feedings, the chicks rested in the sun, preened, and stretched their wings. I watched them for quite a while; couldn’t seem to get enough of them. Then I continued on to the other side of the lake and headed back to the car.

I was at the park for about 90 minutes and only walked about 0.7 miles, so it didn’t count toward my #52HikeChallenge tally.

Follow-Up on the Ducklings:

I got a message from Christy of the Sacramento Heron and Egret Rescue, who suggested I get in contact with local rescuer Ben Nuckolls. So, I did that, and Ben said he’d have the “duck lady” who’s at the park every day check on the ducklings. If they still look in distress or are unclaimed by a mama duck, they’ll try to coordinate a rescue. Thanks, everyone!

Species List:

  1. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  2. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  3. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  4. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  5. California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  6. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  7. Coast Redwood, Sequoia sempervirens
  8. Deodar Cedar, Cedrus deodara
  9. Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis
  10. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  11. Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana
  12. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  13. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  14. Muscovy Duck, Cairina moschata
  15. Swan Goose, Chinese Goose, Anser cygnoides [can be white, or gray/brown, knob on the bill]
  16. Weeping Willow, Salix babylonica
  17. Wood Duck, Aix sponsa
  18. Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli