At the SNWR, 06-14-21

I got up at 5:30 this morning to get ready to go out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne — and my dog Esteban. He did well throughout the long drive, and was only rarely a little fussy. We got to the refuge around 7:30 am, so we made good time! 


Around this time last year, I was able to film some Clark’s Grebes on their floating nests in the permanent wetland pond. This time around, we saw a few of the grebes, but no nests yet. I’m not even sure if there were bonded pairs out there. I wonder if they’re running late this year, or if they went to other places — like Clear Lake.

We were surprised by the “stragglers” we saw in the water; birds that migrate through the region and should have moved on by now. There were Northern Pintails, Norther Shovelers, some Snow Geese, a Ring-Necked Duck and even a Canvasback.

There were several patches of Narrow-Leaf Milkweed throughout the preserve, along with the plants by the nature center. We didn’t see any Monarch Butterfly caterpillars or eggs, though. There were signs throughout the preserve asking folks to alert them to any Monarch sightings via email, phone call, and/or photographs (in iNaturalist).

The Wild Teasel is starting to bloom. When it gets going, we might see more pollinators around. We were a little surprised by the large swaths of pennyroyal blooming in some of the fields near the end of the auto tour route.

Near the nature center, I saw a pair of Brown-Headed Cowbirds at one of the windows; a male and female. The female kept trying to get the male’s attention, but he was too busy trying to intimidate his reflection. Occasionally, he’d turn on the female and try to driver her away, but she was persistent.

We got some very good photos of a male Anna’s Hummingbird drinking at one of the feeders.

A male Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna

I also got a quick photo of a Bullock’s Oriole that stopped briefly on a nearby branch. In the same area there was an Ash-Throated Flycatcher and a Western Kingbird. They were backlit, though, so it was hard getting photos of them.

Alkali Heath, Frankenia salina [salty]

A new-to-me plant that we found today was Alkali Heath.  “…Its common name refers to its preference for saline or alkaline soils. It is a squat flowering bush that forms a twiggy thicket near beaches and estuaries. The leaves are tiny and somewhat succulent. It has the ability to excrete salt as an adaptation for living in saline habitats. The flowers are white, pink or fuchsia in color. It spreads by rhizome and can cover large areas but remains very low…”    

The plants we saw had tiny pink flowers, and we could see and taste the salt secretions on the leaves.

A cool sighting was being able to see a female Ring-Necked Pheasant. She ran across the road in front of the car, and was followed by a male. Then, to our surprise, four poults ran out after their mom. They came sporadically and were too fast for me, so I didn’t get any photos of them. Dang it!

A female Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

There were lots of jackrabbits around, and a black-tailed deer lounging in the deep cover of high grass.

The coolest mammal sighting, though, was being able to see a raccoon sauntering down the road in front of the car.

We didn’t see many damselflies or dragonflies, but the Spotted Orb-Weaver spiders were starting to setup shop in the blackberry vines and tules. In another month or so, they should be all over the place out there.

We ate our lunch in the shade near the nature center, then headed home a little after noon. We got home around 2:00, so were out for about 7½ hours. But because we were in the car the majority of the time, I didn’t count this among my hike challenge hikes.

Species List:

  1. Alkali Heath, Frankenia salina [salty]
  2. American Coot, Fulica americana
  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. Bird’s-Foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus
  9. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  10. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  11. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  12. Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides
  13. Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
  14. Brown-Headed Cowbird, Molothrus ater
  15. Bullock’s Oriole, Icterus bullockii
  16. California Bulrush, Schoenoplectus californicus
  17. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  18. Canvasback Duck, Aythya valisineria
  19. Clark’s Grebe, Aechmophorus clarkii [black above the eye]
  20. Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
  21. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  22. Cottonwood Petiole Gall, Poplar Petiole Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populitransversus
  23. Damselfly, Pacific Forktail Damselfly, Ischnura cervula [males have 4 spots on thorax]
  24. Dog, Canis lupus familiaris
  25. European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  26. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  27. Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
  28. Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
  29. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  30. Ligated Furrow Bee, Halictus ligatus
  31. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  32. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris [heard; nest]
  33. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  34. Narrowleaf Milkweed, Mexican Whorled Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis
  35. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  36. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  37. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  38. Paper Wasp, Black Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula
  39. Pennyroyal, Mentha pulegium
  40. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  41. Raccoon, Common Raccoon, Procyon lotor
  42. Red Gum Eucalyptus, River Redgum, Eucalyptus camaldulensis
  43. Red Gum Lerp Psyllid, Glycaspis brimblecombei
  44. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  45. Ring-Necked Duck, Aythya collaris
  46. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
  47. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis [scat]
  48. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumariumswal
  49. Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
  50. Sacred Datura, Datura wrightii
  51. Saint Catherine’s Lace, Eriogonum giganteum [a kind of buckwheat]
  52. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
  53. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  54. Water Primrose, Ludwigia hexapetala
  55. Western Kingbird, Tyrant Flycatcher, Tyrannus verticalis
  56. Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis
  57. Wild Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum