I got up at 6:00 AM and got myself and Esteban ready to go on a drive to the Cosumnes River Preserve. Around 6:30 AM I headed out to the preserve with Esteban. It was clear and cold, around 37ºF, with some ground-fog still lingering around.
I went first to the boardwalk area. The gate was still closed, so I couldn’t get the car in there. I couldn’t see any birds in the pond by the parking lot, anyway, so I decided to drive around Desmond and Bruceville Roads.
The birding there was VERY satisfying. In the agricultural fields there were literally thousands of White-Fronted Geese with some Snow Geese mixed in. They were all talking to one another, so, the noise level was pretty high. In some fields there were also phalanxes of Great Egrets and gangs of gulls in among the geese.
Lots of little sparrows and finches were flitting in the trees and scrub along the edges of the fields, and some Meadowlarks in the grass. In the tules and on the top of the shorter trees were Red-Winged Blackbirds.
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There were quite a few Sandhill Cranes noshing in the fields, too. On of the cranes was sporting some leg bands, so I report it to the International Crane Foundation. I’m hoping they’ll be able to tell me where the bird migrated from.
I was surprised by the number of raptors I saw out there, including a pair of Bald Eagles. I’d heard of eagles near the preserve before, but this was the first time I had actually seen any. It’s always exciting for me to come across them. As I was watching, the eagles took off flying and went right for one of the large flocks of geese on the ground. Within seconds, all of the birds on the ground were in the air in a flurry of wings and feathers — and so much noise!
It seemed to me that the eagles would down a prey, eat their fill, and then fly off. Once the eagles were gone, the Red-Tailed Hawks and Northern Harriers moved in to eat the leftovers. Then the Turkey Vultures cleaned everything up.
In this video you see two Northern Harriers eating a carcass. I think it’s a mother and her offspring.
There were also the usual suspects in the water: Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs, Coots, Northern Shovelers, Green-Winged Teals, Gadwall ducks and Pintails, and even a few Bufflehead ducks. Those little guys always make me smile. Some of the Northern Shovelers were swimming in a feeding vortex,make the water swirl like a tornado to pull food up from the bottom of the pond.
As I was driving back to the boardwalk area, I saw hawks resting on top of the telephone poles: a couple of Red-Tails and a Red-Shouldered Hawk. There still wasn’t much to see at the boardwalk, so I drove out to Staten Island Road to see if anything was there.
Surprisingly there wasn’t a lot to see there. I mean, there were Sandhill Cranes and some of the regular species of duck, but they were few and far between. I did get to glimpse some Audubon Warblers, saw some Tree Swallows and a Kestrel on the powerlines, and large flocks of Pelicans and Tundra Swans in the distance.
There are always big trucks moving back and forth on this road, but today it seemed like they were purposely harassing the birders; rushing down on us, dust flying off their tires, honking at us. It was sooooo annoying.
I left and did a short loop around along Desmond and Bruceville Roads again before heading home. I was out for about 4 hours.
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- American Coot, Fulica americana
- American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
- American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
- American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
- Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
- Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
- Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
- Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
- Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
- Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
- Cackling Goose, Branta hutchinsii
- California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
- California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
- Dunlin, Calidris alpina
- Gadwall Duck, Mareca Strepera
- Glaucous Gull, Larus hyperboreus
- Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
- Great Egret, Ardea alba
- Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
- Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
- Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
- Herring Gull, Larus argentatus [spot on bill, gray legs, pale eye]
- House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
- Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
- Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla
- Long-Billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus scolopaceus
- Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
- Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
- Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
- Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
- Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
- Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus
- Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
- Ring-Billed Gull, Larus delawarensis [ black ring, light eye, yellow legs]
- Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
- Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumariumswal
- Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
- Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
- Say’s Phoebe, Sayornis saya
- Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
- Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
- Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
- Tundra Swan, Cygnus columbianus
- Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
- Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
- Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
- White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
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