It’s the City Nature Challenge Day #4. Roxanne and I went to the Yolo Bypass and then to the water treatment plant in Woodland [the Ibis Rookery]to look for more species observations to add to our list.
We were overjoyed to see several Yellow-Headed Blackbirds in the high grass outside the entrance of the bypass. We’d gone to the bypass several times before to try to find them, and they eluded us. Today, we weren’t looking for them – and there they were. They were “lifer” birds for me; so exciting.
A few other cool bird sightings followed. We saw a Great Egret chowing down on what I think was a vole. Of course, the bird was behind a blind of high grass and mustard plants, so I couldn’t get my camera to focus properly on it. We also found a handful of Brown-Headed Cowbirds, males and females together. The males were doing their dominance “bowing” behavior for the females.
According to Cornell: “…Bow: feathers on back, chest raised, wings lifted and spread, tail spread and bowing forward, followed by Bill Wipe, always given with Song. Intensity varies greatly, from slight bow and feather ruffle to full elaborate bow ending with Bill Wipe. Intensity greater when directed to other males than to females; little or no bow given with song if no other cowbirds within 1–2 m (S. Rothstein pers. comm.). A group of males may together perform this ceremony. Male-male bowing displays associated with other agonistic displays…”
I chased a male American Goldfinch around, up and down the auto tour road, then gave up in frustration. Later, I spotted it sitting high in a tree further down the road, and got a few long-distance photos of him.
We saw hardly any raptors on the drive, besides a Swainson’s Hawk sitting on the ground in a plowed field. I was hoping to see the Great Horned Owl’s babies, but it was chilly and windy outside, and she had them snuggled down in the nest under her. I’ll try going back later to see if I can get a shot of the owlets.
We were surprised to find a pond that was hosting a small group of Cinnamon Teals and Blue-Winged Teals. I seldom see the Blue-Winged ones, so it’s always a treat when we can find them.
We were also surprised by the huge swaths of Flatface Calicoflowers (downingia) that we could see from various vantage points along the auto tour route. Charlie Russell, one of our favorite botanists, had told us the flowers were there, but that was several weeks ago, so we thought they’d all be dried up and gone by now.
One of the really fun finds for me was a new-to-me gall on one of the Goodding’s Willow trees near a parking area along the route. It was listed in Russo as the gall Willow Bud Gall Mite, Aculops aenigma. The mites cause the tree to create crenulated bunches of plant material on its leaves, catkins and stems. [They kind of look like ash flower galls to me.]
In that same area, I saw several damselflies: Tule Bluets and Pacific Forktails.
CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.
We then headed over to the Ibis Rookery in Woodland. The pond was flooded, and there were no ibises there yet [they usually nest in the summer months.] It was hard to get close-ups of anyone because what birds there were, were mostly in the ponds and furthest from the edge of the driving route. There were some of the usual suspects including Canada Geese, Ruddy Ducks, and Black-Necked Stilts, but a big surprise for us was spotting a solitary Eared Grebe in full breeding plumage.
I’ve seen the grebe before in their dull, gray non-breeding plumage, but not in the breeding plumage which is spectacular. Cornell describes it as: “[having] a black head, neck, breast, and upperparts, cinnamon-brown sides and flanks, white belly, and head with black crest and bright golden ear tufts (elongated feathers extending distally from around rear eye); foreneck sometimes largely tinged brownish; crown feathers erectile, usually forming peaked profile, sometimes crest…”
On our way out of the area, in a drainage ditch on the side of the road, we were looking for turtles or maybe a Green Heron… but instead saw something moving slowly just under the surface of the water! We waited for it to show itself but it disappeared into the tight collection of plant life near the end of the ditch. Dang! We speculated that it might have been a mink, or a small muskrat or maybe a big-ass snake… but we didn’t see enough of it to know for sure. Very creepy.
We were out for about 6 hours. It was a very productive day.
- Alkali Heliotrope, Heliotropium curassavicum
- American Coot, Fulica americana
- American Goldfinch, Spinus tristis
- Bee, European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
- Bisnaga, Visnaga daucoides
- Black Mustard, Brassica nigra
- Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
- Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
- Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
- Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
- Blue-Winged Teal, Spatula discors
- Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
- Broadleaved Pepperweed, Lepidium latifolium
- Brown-Headed Cowbird, Molothrus ater
- Bullfrog, American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus [tadpoles breathing]
- Cabbage White Butterfly, Pieris rapae
- California Bulrush, Schoenoplectus californicus
- Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
- Caterpillar Hunter Beetle, Calosoma cancellatum [like a Darkling with a sculpted carapace]
- Chamomile, Stinking Chamomile, Anthemis cotula
- Cheeseweed Mallow, Malva parviflora
- Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
- Clover, Bur Clover, Medicago polymorpha
- Common Spikeweed, Centromadia pungens
- Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
- Curly Dock, Rumex crispus
- Damselfly, Pacific Forktail, Ischnura cervula
- Damselfly, Tule Bluet, Enallagma carunculatum
- Desert Cottontail, Sylvilagus audubonii
- Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
- Downingia, Flatface Calicoflower, Downingia pulchella
- Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis
- Field Mustard, Brassica rapa
- Gadwall Duck, Mareca strepera
- Grasses, Lesser Canary Grass, Phalaris minor
- Grasses, Rabbitfoot Grass, Polypogon monspeliensis
- Great Egret, Ardea alba
- Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
- Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
- Grebe, Eared Grebe, Podiceps nigricollis
- Gumweed, Great Valley Gumweed, Grindelia camporum
- House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
- Jointed Charlock, Raphanus raphanistrum
- Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
- Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla
- Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
- Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
- Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
- Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
- Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
- Orange Sulphur Butterfly, Colias eurytheme
- Pigeon, Rock Pigeon, Columba livia
- Pineappleweed, Chamomilla suaveolens
- Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
- Raven, Common Raven, Corvus corax
- Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
- Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
- River Bulrush, Bolboschoenus fluviatilis
- Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
- Saltbush, Big Saltbush, Atriplex lentiformis
- Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
- Sow Thistle, Common Sow-Thistle, Sonchus oleraceus
- Sparrow, House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
- Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
- Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni
- Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
- Tamarisk, Saltcedar, Tamarix ramosissima
- Tick, American Dog Tick, Dermacentor variabilis
- Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis
- Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
- White Blister Rust Disease, Wilsoniana bliti [looks like white plaque on the leaves]
- White Sweetclover, Melilotus albus
- White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi
- Willow Bud Gall Mite, Aculops aenigma [look like the ash mite galls]
- Willow, Goodding’s Willow, Salix gooddingii
- Wren, Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
- Yellow-Headed Blackbird, Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus
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