Four Eagles in One Day, 12-03-21

I got up around 6:00 AM and after feeding Esteban his breakfast and letting him outside for potty, I got myself ready to spend the day out at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge with my friend Roxanne.

It was horribly foggy in Sacramento, so much so that it was hard to see more than a car length or two in front of us. Roxanne did all the driving.(Thank you!) At one point, the fog was so heavy we were following the white line along the edge of the road, and accidentally went onto an off-ramp we didn’t want. Rox caught the error right away and was able to get back onto the freeway without a hitch.  Hah! 

The fog on I5 between Sacramento and Willowsin Glenn County.

The fog persisted for much of our drive, and we were worried that if it was that foggy at the refuge, we wouldn’t see anything.  But as we approached the refuge in Glenn County, we drove out of the fog into sunshine! Yay!

A Great Egret, Ardea alba, stands out among the wetlands.

Right from the parking lot, we were seeing birds: sparrows, Black Phoebes, Marsh Wrens and warblers, along with lots and lots of Red-Winged Blackbirds. We followed some Red-Tailed Hawks around the eucalyptus trees, and along the way found some owl/eagle pellets, Sulphur Shelf fungus, some lerps and eucalyptus galls. 

Nearer to the nature center, we were surprised to see some of the teasel starting to bloom already. The plants are so confused.

Then we came upon the field that usually houses the refuge’s vernal pools in the springtime. Right now, it was full of Killdeer running around and whining at one another. In among them were tiny American Pipits and grumpy looking Brewer’s Blackbirds.

The big surprise, though, was being able to see three Snipes in the golden-yellowed grass. The grass and the birds’ coloring camouflaged them so well, it was sometimes difficult to see them at all.

There were flocks of geese and ducks in the air above us almost all day. We were seeing mostly Snow Geese and Ross’s Geese today, but there were some Greater White-Fronted Geese thrown into the mix as well.

Among the ducks we saw Cinnamon Teals, American Wigeons, Northern Shovelers, and Green-Winged Teals, Northern Pintails, some Ruddy Ducks, Gadwalls, some occasional Buffleheads, Ring-Necked Ducks and Coots.  We got to see a large “vortex” of the Shovelers, and got to see a little bit of the courtship dance of the Gadwalls.

In one of the sloughs, we saw a couple of Common Gallinules.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos (as soon as Amazon Website Services corrects their downed servers, grrrrrrrrr).

We saw raptors all along the auto tour route, mostly Red-Tailed Hawks, but we also saw an immature Red-Shouldered Hawk, an immature Cooper’s Hawk and… drum roll… FOUR Bald Eagles!

We spotted some of the eagles in what I call “the eagle tree” at a distance at first. The mature eagle’s bright white head made it extra visible.  We ended up seeing the one mature eagle and two immature eagles in the same tree, so we assumed it was probably a mom and her two offspring. These two younger eagles were about 2½ years old (based on their coloring). Further along the route, we saw one more immature eagle who was probably 3 or 3½ years old.       

The eagles don’t get their fully white head and tail until they’re 4 or 5 years old. The beak also changes color as they mature from steely gunmetal gray to bright yellow.

We were also seeing a lot of large mushrooms in the grass and along the berms around the ponds. I think they were all Stubble Rosegills.

We had left the house at 6:30 AM and got home by 3:00 PM. It was a long day folded up in the car, but we saw a lot and laughed a lot, so it was fun and the hours went by quickly.

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Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
  4. American Wigeon, Anas americana
  5. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  6. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  7. Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
  8. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  9. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  10. Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
  11. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  12. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  13. California Bordered Plant Bug, Largus californicus
  14. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
  15. Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
  16. Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii
  17. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  18. Eucalyptus Gall Wasp, Ophelimus maskelli [speckled; flat galls all over the leaf surface]
  19. Gadwall Duck, Mareca Strepera
  20. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  21. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  22. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  23. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  24. Hare’s Foot Inkcap Mushroom, Coprinopsis lagopus
  25. Interior Sandbar Willow, Salix interior
  26. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  27. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  28. Long-Billed Curlew, Numenius americanus [in a rice field in the Yolo Bypass area]
  29. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  30. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
  31. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  32. Narrowleaf Cattail, Typha angustifolia
  33. Narrowleaf Milkweed, Mexican Whorled Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis
  34. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  35. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  36. Pacific Pond Turtle, Western Pond Turtle, Actinemys marorata
  37. Paper Wasp, Black Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula
  38. Paper Wasp, Red Paper wasp, Apache Paper Wasp, Polistes apachus
  39. Pleated Inkcap Mushroom, Parasola plicatilis
  40. Raven, Common Raven, Corvus corax
  41. Red Gum Eucalyptus, River Redgum, Eucalyptus camaldulensis
  42. Red Gum Lerp Psyllid, Glycaspis brimblecombei [on eucalyptus]
  43. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  44. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus
  45. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  46. Ring-Necked Duck, Aythya collaris
  47. Ross’s Goose, Anser rossii
  48. Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
  49. Sacred Datura, Jimsonweed,  Datura wrightii
  50. Salt Grass, Distichlis spicata
  51. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  52. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
  53. Sulphur Shelf Fungus, Western Hardwood Sulphur Shelf, Laetiporus gilbertsonii
  54. Swamp Smartweed, Persicaria hydropiperoides [white, single stem]
  55. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  56. Tundra Swan, Cygnus columbianus [in a rice field in the Yolo Bypass area]
  57. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  58. Western Kingbird, Tyrant Flycatcher, Tyrannus verticalis
  59. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  60. White Stubble Rosegill, Volvopluteus gloiocephalusi [white or gray mushroom, slick cap with colored center, pale pink to gills, papery volva]
  61. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  62. Wild Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum
  63. Wilson’s Snipe, Gallinago delicata