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