Lots of Hawks Around Today, 12-19-21

I got up around 7:00 AM this morning, -and it was, again, foggy and overcast. Never got above 45º. I decided nonetheless to head out to the Cosumnes River Preserve and Staten Island Road with my dog Esteban.

The gates were closed at the preserve, but I walked past them to the main pond near the boardwalk parking lot. Lots of the usual suspects in the pond: Greater White-Fronted Geese, Black-Necked Stilts, Northern Shovelers, Green-Winged Teals, etc. I was surprised to see a solitary Cackling Goose among the other geese. The other geese weren’t too thrilled that he was around, and although they didn’t actively chase him away, they did poke at him to keep him moving along and away from them.

I also noticed that some of the geese had a blackish tip on their bills, and assumed that those might have been the juveniles (even though they had the white rim around the base of the bill like the adults.) Cornell says: “…1-yr-old geese tend to have fewer ventral markings and more dark toenail and bill nail pigmentation…” So, I was almost right.

Greater White-Fronted Geese, Anser albifrons. Note the black tip on the bills of the younger geese. The older GWF Geese have pinkish bills and dark bars across their bellies.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Along Desmond and Bruceville Roads were there were hundreds of Coots. Some were in rafts on the water, while others were on the berms eating vegetation. I noted again that when they’re grazing on grasses, they turn their head sideways, so they can use the side of their bill to cut into a larger swath of grass than they could if they used the pointed tip of the bill. (Cornell doesn’t mention this, but both my friend Roxanne and I have witnessed it in the field.) I was hoping to get photos of the Coots’ incredible-looking feet, but no such luck. They kept them hidden in the grass.

I also saw Bufflehead and Gadwall ducks, some more Teals, some Northern Pintails and a few American Wigeons. There were small groups of Herring Gulls gathered on some of the berms, squawking and posturing at one another. And here and there were Great Egrets stalking food in the taller grass.

The big surprise, though, was the number of hawks I saw. I think I counted almost a dozen of them out along the roads, in the tree tops, on the telephone poles, even one down in the water. Hawks don’t have water-proofing on their feathers, so when they get wet, they can get into trouble. The one I saw, landed down in the water, missed catching whatever it was after, and flew back up into a tree, water dripping from it. With the damp air, I figured, it was going to take “forever” for the bird’s feathers to dry out. I felt bad for it.  Most of the hawks I saw were Red-Tailed Hawks, but there were a few Red-Shouldered Hawks mixed in here and there. I also saw some Turkey Vultures, a couple of Kestrels and a White-Tailed Kite.

I then headed over to Staten Island Road. I was worried that the dirt part of the road would have been a muddy mess after the rains, but it was surprisingly dry. Must have good drainage. Along with the usual suspects there, I saw several Sandhill Cranes, a couple of different grebe species, and American White Pelicans (in the extreme distance with Canvasback ducks). Tundra Swans were also in the water.

Here, too, I saw a lot of hawks. I think my mental count of them for the trip was 26. Wow! And I saw more Cackling Geese. A couple of them were huddled near a single Snow Goose.

I was out for about 4 hours and then headed back home.

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Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  4. American Wigeon, Anas americana
  5. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  6. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  7. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  8. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  9. Cackling Goose, Branta hutchinsii
  10. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  11. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  12. Canvasback Duck, Aythya valisineria
  13. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  14. Eared Grebe, Podiceps nigricollis
  15. Gadwall Duck, Mareca Strepera
  16. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias [flyby]
  17. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  18. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  19. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  20. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  21. Herring Gull, Larus argentatus [spot on bill, gray legs, pale eye]
  22. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  23. Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla
  24. Long-Billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus scolopaceus
  25. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  26. Meadow Mushroom, Agaricus californicus [white, collared, pink/dark gills]
  27. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  28. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  29. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  30. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  31. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus
  32. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  33. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  34. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  35. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
  36. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  37. Tundra Swan, Cygnus columbianus
  38. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  39. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  40. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  41. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys