More Galls Than Birds, 09-29-21

Up at 6:00 this morning after a fairly good night’s sleep, and headed out with my friend Roxanne to the Willowcreek area in Davis around 7:00 am: Willowbank Park and the adjoining trails. I’d never been out there before, so it was fun to explore a new location or two.  We were looking for migrating birds, but ended up seeing galls… Oh well… Whatever Nature wants to show us is okay with me.

We started out at Willowbank Park itself, and explored for a bit, but couldn’t find the access to the trail there. We did come across a few people with their off-leash dogs. One was a beautiful Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, or so its owner told us. I’d never heard of them before, so I looked them up when I got home.

“…The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a medium-sized gundog bred primarily for hunting. It is often referred to as a ‘toller’. It is the smallest of the retrievers, and is often mistaken for a small Golden Retriever. Tollers are intelligent, eager to please, alert, and energetic… The name Toller comes from the dog’s ability to lure ducks and geese, which enables the hunters to shoot these birds at closer proximity. This luring ability was the specific purpose of the breeders in creating this wonderful breed… The small size, intelligence, sense of smell, and persistence makes Tollers excellent search and rescue dogs…”

After looking all over for the trailhead and still not being able to find it, Roxanne drove us around the loop to Rosario Street, and found it there. 

Cross over a bridge and the trail run in both directions along a portion of Putah Creek. Right now, there’s no water in the creek, but in the shade of huge oak trees there was a lot of green, and a mix of trees, some native, some not: Valley Oaks, a variety of willows, elderberry trees, black walnut trees, some Elms, some English Oaks, Buckeyes, and Live Oaks, etc.

If we had found the spot earlier in the summer, we might’ve seen fresher galls — especially the ones on the elm leaves — but we were still able to see quite a few including some Woollybears and Elm Sack Galls. We were surprised, though, by the dearth of birds. I also didn’t see any Sulphur Shelf fungus which should be appearing allover right now.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

We walked almost 2 miles of the trail and then decided to take a break for brunch. Afterwards, we decided to do a quick run through the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area. We had to stop when we came across a crop of orange dodder twisting and winding its way through the grass and weeds. I know it’s invasive stuff, a parasite, but I find it so interesting.           

It was afternoon by then, of course, so we didn’t see a lot of wildlife: a few Great Egrets, some White-Tailed Kites and a big Great Blue Heron.  We noticed while watching the Kites, that they were vocalizing to one another, and one kept raising its tail.

According to Cornell: “…Most common call a kewt, given singly or spaced by 1–2 s; resembles an Osprey call and is whistle-like. Call is given in a variety of circumstances including: (1) during territory defense, (2) males approaching nests with prey, (3) adults interacting with juveniles, (4) by members of a pair when near one another, given irregularly. Owing to the broad contexts in which the call is used, its function is uncertain, but Watson speculated it served as a ‘…means of recognition or announcement of presence.’

“Most common display is a Tail Bob where birds cock tail up over back then down, generally in response to an intrusion……Commonly bobs tail in response to kites and other raptor species. This appears to be a first order threat to intrusions by other raptors. While perched, the tail is lifted up about 45° from its normal position and swung down, often repeated many times…”

I learn something new every time I go out into Nature. This was hike #83 in my annual hike challenge.

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Species List:

  1. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  2. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  3. Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
  4. Black Walnut Pouch Gall Mite, Aceria brachytarsa
  5. Black Walnut, Northern California Black Walnut, Juglans hindsii
  6. Blue Elderberry, Sambucus nigra cerulea
  7. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  8. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  9. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  10. California Wild Grape, Vitis californica
  11. Callery Pear, Pyrus calleryana
  12. Cat, Felis catus
  13. Cedar Waxwing, Bombycilla cedrorum
  14. Club Gall Wasp, Atrusca clavuloides
  15. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  16. Convoluted Gall Wasp, Andricus confertus
  17. Curlycup Gumweed, Grindelia squarrosa
  18. Damselfly, Pacific Forktail Damselfly, Ischnura cervula
  19. Deodar Cedar, Cedrus deodara
  20. Dodder, California Dodder, Cuscuta californica
  21. Dog, Canis lupus familiaris
  22. Elm Sack Gall Aphid, Tetraneura ulmi [pouch-like extensions on leaves]
  23. Elm Tree, Field Elm, Ulmus minor
  24. English Ivy, Hedera helix
  25. English Oak, Quercus robur
  26. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  27. Fox Sparrow, Aleutian Sooty Fox Sparrow, Passerella iliaca unalaschcensis
  28. Gouty Stem Gall Wasp, Callirhytis quercussuttoni
  29. Grape Erineum Mite, Colomerus vitis
  30. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  31. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  32. Green Lacewing, Chrysopa coloradensis
  33. Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  34. Leaf Gall Wasp/ Unidentified per Russo, Tribe: Cynipidi [on Valley Oak]
  35. Live Oak Bud Gall Wasp, Callirhytis quercusagrifoliae
  36. Live Oak Gall Wasp, Spring Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis [looks like a soft funnel, green to brown]
  37. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Canis lupus familiaris
  38. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  39. Oakworm Moth, Anisota sp.
  40. Orange Sulphur Butterfly, Colias eurytheme
  41. Pacific Aster, Symphyotrichum chilense
  42. Red Cone Gall Wasp, Andricus kingi
  43. Rosette Gall Wasp, Andricus wiltzae [on Valley Oak]
  44. Round-Gall Wasp, Fuzzy Gall, Burnettweldia washingtonensis [round, fuzzy, on twigs]
  45. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  46. Spined Turban Gall Wasp, Cynips douglasii [summer gall, pink, spikey top]
  47. Sunflower, Common Woolly Sunflower, Eriophyllum lanatum
  48. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  49. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  50. Western Kermes, Rattan’s Kermes, Allokermes rattani
  51. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  52. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  53. Woollybear Gall Wasp, Atrusca trimaculosa
  54. Yellow Wig Gall Wasp, Andricus fullawayi 

Fasciated Telegraphweed, 09-27-21

I was so surprised that I woke up with the alarm this morning. I had actually slept through the night without having to get up to take any meds. And my hip and thigh were actually relatively quiet. Over the last several days, the Poltergeist pain had been so bad I could barely walk, but this morning I was feeling pretty good (!) so I decided to head out to William Pond Park for a walk. 

A FaceBook friend had snapped a photo of a Great Horned Owl on a snag near the viewing pond (where I seldom go because it’s too “manicured” for my taste there), so I walked that trail this morning. It was lovely and cool outside, in the 50’s.

On a cottonwood tree, I found a little Fiery Skipper. Because it was still chilly, the insect was a bit torpid, making it possible for me to snatch it from its leaf and take some close ups of it.

At this part of the park, there is a viewing platform that’s handicapped accessible, and spots for fishing. Usually, there’s a large full pond beyond the platform, but because they’re lowering the water so they can reform the gravel along the banks of the American River for the winter’s salmon run, this pond was nearly empty. I’ve never seen the water level here so low.

What the water level change looks like after almost 200 days of drought.

In a distant shallow-water area, I could see some Great Egrets and other wading birds: Mallards mostly, but also some Long-Billed Dowitchers, Pied-Billed Grebes, Snowy Egrets, Killdeer, American Coots, and a lonely Green Heron.

Great Egret, Ardea alba, on a snag across the river.

There was a Pekin duck that was chasing the Mallards over the mud…until it tripped and face-planted onto the ground. D’oh!

I found some Lace Bugs on a Telegraph Weed plant. I’d noticed them, in part, because they had just finished laying eggs on the leaves of the plant and covering them in black shellac.

While I was taking photos of the bugs and their eggs, I noticed an adjacent plant that was knuckled over in an off curl.  I thought at first it might have been broken but closer inspection showed me it was fasciated, and actually doubly fasciated:  curl on top of curl with lots of weirded out flowering heads.

Fasciation: also known as cresting, a relatively rare condition of abnormal growth in vascular plants in which the growing tip which normally is concentrated around a single point and produces approximately cylindrical tissue, instead becomes elongated perpendicularly to the direction of growth, thus producing flattened, ribbon-like, crested (or “cristate”), or elaborately contorted, tissue.

I think it’s sooooo interesting!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I finally came across the spot where the snag was but there were no owls around that I could see. Nearby, there was a granary tree being filled and protected by a family of Acorn Woodpeckers.

I walked for about 90-minutes and then headed back. This was hike #82 in my annual hike challenge.

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Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. American Coot, Fulica americana
  3. Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [pink flower]
  4. Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
  5. Arundo, Giant Reed, Arundo donax
  6. California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  7. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  8. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  9. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  10. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  11. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  12. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  13. Fiery Skipper, Hylephila phyleus
  14. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  15. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  16. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  17. Green Heron, Butorides virescens
  18. Holm Oak, Quercus ilex [soft leaves, lighter on back]
  19. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  20. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  21. Lace Bug, Corythucha sp. [on telegraphweed]
  22. Long-Billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus scolopaceus
  23. Lygus Bug, Lygus pratensis
  24. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  25. Mistletoe, Broadleaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron macrophyllum
  26. Oak Apple, California Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  27. Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
  28. Pekin Duck, Anas platyrhynchos domesticus var. Pekin
  29. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  30. Plume Albizia, Cape Wattle, Paraserianthes lophantha
  31. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  32. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens [on live oaks]
  33. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  34. Tall Evening Primrose, Oenothera elata
  35. Telegraphweed, Heterotheca grandiflora
  36. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  37. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  38. Western Goldenrod, Euthamia occidentalis
  39. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys

Lots of Greater White-Fronted Geese, 09-25-21

I woke up around 3:00 am in pain again. I’m getting really tired of this. By 5:00 am I still couldn’t sleep, so I decided to just get up and go to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  It’s a long (for me) drive there, but I’d be sitting for most of the day, so I wouldn’t be walking around aggravating And the morning was cool, only 51º F. I love that. Of course, it was still dark outside at that hour. I fed Esteban his breakfast and packed a lunch for us both (applesauce, crackers, peanut butter, and a Dr. Pepper –mostly for me for the sugar and caffeine), and we were off like a herd of turtles.

I hit most of the traffic lights green and got through town to the freeway in record time. I was at refuge by about 7:00 am. There was still some lingering smoke in the air from the wildfires, and the view of the Sutter Buttes was obscured by that, but it seemed okay for breathing.

There were LOTS of ducks, geese, and ibises doing flyovers in flocks, but many of them were headed OUT of the preserve and settling into the surrounding ag lands where there was free rice and corn. That’s because there still isn’t much water on the ground inside the preserve. I’d say that along the auto tour route, about 90% of the landscape was still bone dry.

Most of the refuge’s landscape looked like this: VERY dry and devoid of bird-attracting water.

There was water in a few places, but it was still relatively shallow, and much of it was off-trail in spots where you could SEE it, but you couldn’t GET to it because it was off limits. *Sigh* Even the little ponds near the nature center were dry.

The first bird I saw up close (relatively speaking) was a spunky male Anna’s Hummingbird who was guarding “his” feeder. He was facing me, but because the sun wasn’t really up yet, I got no iridescence from his gorget.

A male Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna

According to the Audubon Society: “…A hummingbird’s brilliant throat feathers are called its gorget (pronounced gor-jit). The term comes from days of old, when a knight-in-armor wore a metallic collar—or gorget—to protect his throat. The hummingbird’s intense glint is the result of iridescence, rather than colored pigments. The bird’s throat feathers contain minutely thin, film-like layers of ‘platelets,’ set like tiles in a mosaic against a darker background. Light waves reflect and refract off the mosaic, creating color in the manner of sun glinting off oily film on water…”

Then I saw a “wake” of Turkey Vultures sitting on the bare branches at the top of a tree. Later, I also saw some sitting on the ground. I’m assuming they’d just eaten and were too full to fly just yet.

The nearby willow trees seemed to be teaming with tiny birds; all or most of them very adept at avoiding my camera’s eye. Two that I managed to get very blurry shots of were a Yellow Warbler and an Audubon’s Warbler.

I then saw, in a tree across the Wetlands Trail from where the warblers were, a handsome Red-Shouldered Hawk.

Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus, getting some extra color from the “red” of the sun rising through the smoke.

There were a few dragonflies still in the refuge, most of them on their last legs as their breeding season comes to a close. I found one Variegated Meadowhawk clinging to a teasle stalk. 

Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum

As it was still cool then (in the 50’s), the dragonfly was very torpid, so I was able to grab it by the wings and take it back to the car, where we both warmed up a bit. I got some photos of the dragonfly, and a video snippet of it hyper-vibrating its wings as it tried to warm up its flight muscles. When it was able to fly, I opened the car window and released it back to the wild.

According to the Tree of Life Project: “…Dragonflies’ flight capabilities are prodigious. They dash, they dart, they maneuver, they cross oceans. At least four distinct flight styles are recognized in Odonata: counter-stroking (where fore- and hind-wings move up and down about 180 degrees out of phase), phased-stroking (where the hind-wings cycle about 90 degrees – a quarter cycle – before the fore- wings), synchronized-stroking (where fore- and hind-wings move in unison), and gliding…

Dragonfly flight is powered by muscles attached directly to the wing bases. Efficient muscle action depends on temperature and many dragonflies spend considerable time and energy in maintaining a near constant elevated temperature for their flight muscles. When at rest the dragonfly thorax appears skewed, but in flight the head is held low and the stroke of the wings is about parallel to the long axis of the flight muscles, providing mechanical efficiency. Small controller muscles operating on the wing base adjust the wing shape and angle of attack of the wing during each stroke…

Dragonfly wings are very dynamic structures. They are not simple planar objects. The corrugations in the wing hold an airfoil of air around the physical wing, lowering friction, and the wings flex around several axes, responding both to muscle actions and to inertia effects. The pterostigma on the leading edge near the tip is a weight that causes the wing tip area to flex during a wing stroke, improving aerodynamic efficiency.

“To make things more impressive, dragonflies can fly with different wings doing quite different things, even using different methods to generate thrust. Asymmetric wing stroking in damselflies permits wings on one side to drive forward, and the other side to drive back, spinning the animal on its axis in a single combined stroke. All dragonflies achieve their mastery of flight by varying what their wings are doing in a coordinated fashion. They can adjust wing shape, stroke length, angle of attack, move a wing forward (or backwards) of its “usual” position, stop one or two wings, adjust relationships between any two wings on either side of the body … the list goes on…”

They’re amazing!

I saw several other Variegated Meadowhawks along the auto-tour route, including a bound pair that was daubing eggs into some still water. I also glimpsed quite a few Blue-Eyed Darners and Green Darners, a Blue Dasher and a Black Saddlebags. I might have been able to see more, but the road to the extension loop where a lot of the dragonflies are, is now closed to the public until March of next year.

There were LOTS of sparrows in the tules and feeding on the ground: Song Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, migrating White-Crowned Sparrows…

It was a little bit difficult for me to identify the ducks I saw because many of them were backlit by the rising sun and/or in their non-breeding plumage. I tried to ID them by their GISS (General Impression Shape and Size) but I don’t know how successful I was.  Mallards, Northern Shovelers, and Northern Pintails (many without their “pins” yet as they’re going through a major molt right now).

At one spot, I could see something dark I among the weedy things, and stopped the car to get a closer look. From the weed emerged a large male Ring-Necked Pheasant who continued to nonchalantly walk away from me down a no-people-allowed track beside the road. I also a few other males (no females), most of them flushing suddenly and flying across the road in front of the car.

There were no Snow Geese there yet, but the place was stuffed full of large flocks and congregations of Greater White-Fronted Geese. You could hear the noise of their vocalizing all over the preserve.

Some of the Greater White-Fronted Geese were traveling with their fledged youngsters. You can tell by their size and coloration.

According to Cornell: “Adults have bright white forehead, black patches and/or bands on lower breast and belly, pinkish bill with light orange wash above nostrils, and orange legs… Fall immatures slightly smaller and lighter than adults, lack black bars on belly and white forehead… Young gain a few indistinct belly bars and narrow white forehead over winter…”

The Red-Winged Blackbirds are coming in, in force, too. I pulled off the side of the auto tour route for a moment, just to listen to and record the gurgling, chortling sound of them.

I could also hear a few Western Meadowlarks singing, but trying to zero in on them was almost impossible. Their voices travel sooooo far; they sound like they’re right next to you when in fact, they’re halfway across a field.

The tiny male Marsh Wrens are starting to sing to establish their territories before the next-building frenzy starts, so their buzzy songs were added to the bird-cacophony of the place.

I came across the ubiquitous Black Phoebes that seem to follow my friend Roxanne and me everywhere. 

Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans

I was surprised to hear in an email from Joseph Zinkl that the most recent Audubon Society survey at Bobcat Ranch they found only one phoebe. He wrote: “…A minor  up-note was the presence of a single black phoebe. Over the years they have been around headquarters/parking lot nearly every survey. Sonjia, Josh and I have shared our concerns regarding the absence of these birds. My notes indicate that the last time we saw one was on July 1. Anyway they seem to be back. I have no idea what caused their absence…”

Rox and I seem to see the phoebes everywhere. I’m surprised there seem to be so few at Bobcat. (Joseph DID say that they found lots of Lewis’s Woodpeckers there, though, 38 of them! Dang it! I haven’t seen even ONE in over three years.)

The only place where I saw a fairly wide variety of birds was about ¾ of the way through the auto-tour route. There was a flooded field on the other side of berm, in a place where the car couldn’t go. Over the edge of the berm I could see Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Black-Necked Stilts, Greater Yellowlegs, White-Faced Ibis, Greater White-Fronted Geese, and Long-Billed Curlews.

BUT…because they were so far away, and I had to shoot across the passenger seat of the car from a very awkward position, I couldn’t get really clear photos of any of them.  So unfair!

I don’t understand why the refuge doesn’t flood the field accessible to the auto-tour route FIRST, so visitors could at least see a variety birds in relative comfort. More birds means more visitors; more visitors mean more money. What good does it do to lure me there and then show me nothing but dry fields and a handful of species in a plot I can’t get to. So aggravating!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The excitement for the day was provided by a Peregrine Falcon (who refused to let me get any clear photos of it). It had apparently dropped its meal on the gravel road somewhere in front of where my car was heading, and a Turkey Vulture was starting to circle it. The falcon, screeching all the while, chased off the Turkey Vulture, then zoomed down in front of my car, snatched its breakfast right off the gravel without landing or missing a wingbeat, and flew away. Those birds are sooooo fast! Gasp-worthy!

This was the only shot (and through the windshield) I got of the Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus, as he took off from a branch and zeroed in on the Turkey Vulture.

Because there was so little water at the preserve, and therefore not much to stop and look at, I got through the auto-tour route faster than I normally do. So, I decided to try the nearby Colusa National Wildlife Refuge…but like the Sacramento refuge, this one, too, was practically without water. The main pond where the viewing platform is was just starting to fill up… and again there were more Greater White-Fronted Geese than anything. 

The other 80% of the place was dry-dry-dry.

Among the geese, I got a photo of one that looks like it might have “bird pox”.

According to Northeast Wildlife: “…Avian pox, caused by a poxvirus, is one of the oldest known infectious disease of birds. There are many different strains of the avian pox virus but most are species specific. However, some strains have the ability to infect birds across different families… Wild waterfowl in North America have recently experienced an apparent increase in infection rate, though infections in these birds are still relatively uncommon…

“…Biting insects such as mosquitoes, mites, fleas, midges, and flies are most frequently responsible for transmitting avian pox. These insects pick up virus particles when they take a blood meal from an infected bird and then transmit the virus when they do the same with another susceptible bird. Transmission rates are highest when biting insects are abundant. 

“…The most common clinical sign of avian pox is the formation of wart-like growths on the skin, particularly on unfeathered parts of the body such as the legs, feet, eyelids, base of the beak, and the comb and wattles. This is the cutaneous or “dry” form of avian pox. Birds with mild infections may only have a few growths that minimally affect their health status. These lesions can persist from 1 to 4 weeks but in most cases, the bird will survive and the nodules will heal potentially with some scarring. …”

What do you think?

The real shocker at the preserve, for me, though was seeing only about three Black-Crowned Night Herons in the day-roost area. There’s usually 50 to 100 there.

Black-Crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax

The highlight of that tour was being able to see a White-Faced Ibis fairly close up as it fished in some shallow water.

I was out for about 8 hours — a very long day — but because I spent the majority of it in the car, I didn’t count it toward my annual hike challenge.

Buy Me a Coffee!

Donate $5 to buy me a coffee so I have the fuel I need to keep exploring and bring more of nature to you. Thanks!


Species List:

  1. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [pink flower]
  4. Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis
  5. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  6. Big Saltbush, Atriplex lentiformis
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Black Saddlebags Dragonfly, Tramea lacerata
  9. Black-Crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax
  10. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  11. Blue Dasher Dragonfly, Pachydiplax longipennis [white faced]
  12. Blue-Eyed Darner Dragonfly, Aeshna multicolor
  13. Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides
  14. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  15. Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
  16. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  17. Damselfly, Familiar Bluet, Enallagma civile
  18. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii [scat]
  19. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  20. Fiery Skipper, Hylephila phyleus
  21. Gadwall Duck, Mareca Strepera
  22. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  23. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  24. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  25. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  26. Green Darner Dragonfly, Anax junius
  27. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  28. Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla
  29. Long-Billed Curlew, Numenius americanus
  30. Long-Billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus scolopaceus
  31. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  32. Margined Calligrapher Hoverfly, Toxomerus marginatus
  33. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
  34. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  35. Non-Biting Midge: Chironomus sp.
  36. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  37. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  38. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  39. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  40. Pale Smartweed, Persicaria lapathifolia [pale drooping flowering heads]
  41. Pectoral Sandpiper, Calidris melanotos
  42. Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus
  43. Red Gum Eucalyptus, River Redgum, Eucalyptus camaldulensis
  44. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  45. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus
  46. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  47. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
  48. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  49. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumariumswal
  50. Sacred Datura, Jimsonweed,  Datura wrightii
  51. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  52. Sea Clubrush, Bolboschoenus maritimus
  53. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  54. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  55. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  56. Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly, Sympetrum corruptum
  57. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  58. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  59. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi      
  60. Wild Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum
  61. Yellow Warbler, Setophaga petechia

First Snipe of the Season, 09-22-21

Happy First Day of Fall! The Autumnal Equinox.

I got up around 6:00 this morning, and headed over to the Cosumnes River Preserve for a walk. There was nothing to see at the preserve itself because there’s no water on the landscape there yet. But along Bruceville and Desmond Road, where some of the fields are flooded, I got to see quite a few things, including my first Wilson’s Snipe of the season. Yay!

Along Bruceville Road, I saw members of the covey of quail that live among the blackberry vines there. And across the road from them were the moo-cows, some of them curious enough to come to the edge of the fence to look at my car.

Charolais Cattle, Bos taurus var. Charolais, calf

  There were Red-Winged Blackbirds singing from amid the tules and tall grasses, and some Meadowlarks, too, although they were more elusive.

And here’s a little White-Crowned Sparrow peeping.

 On top of the telephone poles and on the wires, I saw Red-Tailed Hawks, some Kestrels, and a couple of Cooper’s Hawks.  I chased one Cooper’s Hawk down the road until it landed in a tree. I could get closer photos of it there — but then it hid its face in the leaves. D’oh!

In one really muddy part along Desmond Road is where I saw the snipe. Along with him were Killdeer, Brewer’s Blackbirds, American Pipits, and a little flock of Least Sandpipers. I also saw my first Lesser Yellowlegs. A “lifer” for me.

The sandpipers flew in a bunch right over the snipe making the snipe duck and lift its tail in the air. Then the sandpipers landed right in the same place from which they took off. Hah!

Wilson’s Snipe, Gallinago delicata, in the “Displacement-Feeding Posture”, tail-up

Cornell calls the snipe’s behavior a Displacement-Feeding posture. “…Holds bill rigidly downward and tail erect and fanned so that it is almost parallel to long axis of body at high intensity; at low intensity, both bill and tail at 45°…”

All along the fields on Desmond Road I saw several Northern Harriers (all of them brown juveniles or females). At one point, one of them flew over to a blackbird that was perched on a twig, and seemed to offer the bird a stick. That was weird! It may have been a juvenile exhibiting a kind of “play” behavior — that the blackbird didn’t understand.

I always lament not seeing many “Gray Ghost” males of this species, and learned from Cornell that that’s because there just aren’t that many males.  Females hold the territories, and a single male may service as many as ten females, bringing them all food during the breeding season. Wow.

“…Generally monogamous, but also simultaneously polygynous, with well-structured hierarchical harems of 2–5 females. No other raptor species exhibits either the degree, or regularity of occurrence, of polygyny… Internest distances significantly shorter among harem members than among the population at large…”  So, I guess, once the male has his harem, he doesn’t have fly too far. They’re such beautiful and fascinating birds.

In the deeper ditches along the roads I saw Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons, and some Snowy Egrets in the fields. One of the herons was doing that “gular flapping” that they do when they’re too warm. I couldn’t understand why it was doing that; it was only about 70 degrees F outside at the time.

Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias

On one of the telephone poles there was a Raven “clicking” at me. According to Cornell, only females make this clicking/knocking sound.

Common Ravens can make a wide array of sounds. Recent evidence suggests that there are local dialects and individual-specific calls so that the total vocal repertoire may be virtually limitless…Knocking. Ravens give a rapid percussion-like type of call that sounds like a woodpecker drumming or a stick thrust in a spinning bicycle wheel. Typically about a second long, it consists of a dozen or so notes with the final ‘percussion’ of a lower pitch than the first, and it is commonly followed with a bill snap. A second knocking call consists of just 2 knocks in rapid succession, and a third call is of 3 knocks. The knocking calls are given only by females, and at any time of year after about the first year of life…There appears to be geographic variation in this call…”  Cool!

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

The only thing I saw at the preserve itself was a Columbian Black-Tailed Deer doe and her two young fawns. They were feeding in the weeds then rushed across Franklin Blvd. I held my breath while they did that because, although there isn’t a lot of traffic, vehicles go waaaaay too fast on that road, and I was worried they’d get hit.

Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus, doe and one of her two fawns

I then went over to Staten Island Road, but didn’t see a whole lot there. There’s a potato farm down that road, and they were harvesting, so there were tons of fast-moving giant trucks and equipment moving up and down the road. I did see a few Sandhill Cranes and some Pelicans in the distance, but not much else worth noting.

I was out for about 5 hours, but because I was in my vehicle for the majority of the time, I didn’t count this toward my annual hike challenge. #MigrationCelebration

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Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Goldfinch, Spinus tristis
  3. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  4. American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
  5. American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  8. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  9. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  10. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  11. Charolais Cattle, Bos taurus var. Charolais
  12. Chicory, Cichorium intybus
  13. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  14. Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii
  15. Corn, Maize, Zea mays
  16. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  17. Curlycup Gumweed, Grindelia squarros
  18. Gadwall Duck, Mareca Strepera
  19. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  20. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  21. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  22. Himalayan Blackberry, European Blackberry, Rubus bifrons [white flowers]
  23. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  24. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  25. Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla
  26. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  27. Lesser Yellowlegs, Tringa flavipes [very pale, white]
  28. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  29. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  30. Narrowleaf Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  31. Narrowleaf Willow, Salix exigua
  32. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  33. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  34. Raven, Common Raven, Corvus corax
  35. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus [heard]
  36. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus
  37. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  38. Rice, Oryza sativa
  39. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumariumswal
  40. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  41. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  42. Say’s Phoebe, Sayornis saya
  43. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  44. Spiny Cocklebur, Xanthium spinosum
  45. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  46. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  47. Water Smartweed, Persicaria amphibia [pink]
  48. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  49. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  50. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  51. Wilson’s Snipe, Gallinago delicata