Gray Lodge in February, 02-15-23

My friend and fellow Naturalist, Roxanne, left the house around 7:00 AM and stopped first for coffee before heading on toward the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area. We stopped again at Huckleberry’s restaurant for breakfast. What struck us as odd when we arrived there was seeing a flock of domesticated chickens running loose in the parking lot. It seemed so random. Why were they there? We later saw chickens along Highway 99 as we continue through the county so maybe it’s a “thing” there.

On our way to the wildlife area we saw about 14 hawks along the road, and an adult Bald Eagle flew over the car. We also saw a handful of Sandhill Cranes in an ag field along the road. That bode well for today’s outing.

When we got to Gray Lodge we stopped first at a turnout/parking lot with lots of eucalyptus trees and piles of brambles — rose and blackberry vines — intertwined in the privet and pyracantha bushes. There were Turkey Vultures and Tree Swallows flying overhead. The swallows were moving so fast, I couldn’t get any photos of them. Among the brambles we saw Mockingbirds, a Hermit Thrush, some Dark-Eyed Juncos, California Towhees, and other little “twitty” birds we couldn’t catch photos of.

When we got to Parking Lot 14, where the trails and auto tour route start, we walked out into the viewing platform and saw quite a few different species including a Great Blue Heron, Black-Crowned Night Herons (an adult and a juvenile), Ring-Necked ducks, American Wigeons and Gadwalls, and, of course, lots of Coots. It was cool to see so many species in such a confined area.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

We stayed in the car most of the time we were there and didn’t walk the trails or check out the blinds because it was so cold and windy there. When we got back to the car from the viewing platform, our hands were so cold we couldn’t bend our fingers, and our faces were so cold we could hardly talk because we couldn’t move our lips!

Further along the auto-tour route, we saw more ducks, and quite a few Common Gallinules that were sporting their candy-corn colored face shields, getting ready for the breeding season.

From the car we also saw two species of egrets — Snowy Egrets and Great Egrets — more Great Blue Herons, and three different species of geese: Greater White-Fronted geese, Snow geese and Ross’s geese.

In one of the ponds — and there was lots of water on the landscape — we saw quite a few Ruddy Ducks in among little flotillas of Buffleheads Gadwalls, and a few Pied-Billed Grebes.

We also saw quite a few hawks, including Red-Tailed hawks and Red-Shouldered hawks. And we came across a few empty nests including a hanging pendulum nest, a cupped nest (that was probably that of a blackbird), and a mud-rimmed nest. I’m crap at identifying birds’ nests, though, so I wasn’t sure what we were looking at.

Near the end of the auto-tour route we saw a female Belt Kingfisher, and she led us on a chase down the road, trying to get photos of her. I had to settle for shots through the windshield, but Rox got a nice clear photo of her.

Before we left the preserve, we saw a few Columbian Black-Tailed deer including a solitary female and some very curious fawns (that were out of their spots).

We were out for about 8 hours, and I was pretty thrashed by the time we got home. I think the cold sucked a lot of my strength and energy out of me. I went to bed at 7:00 PM. .. But it was a fun and productive day.

Species List:

  1. American Avocet, Recurvirostra americana
  2. American Coot, Fulica americana
  3. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius [4 along the highway]
  4. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  5. American Wigeon, Anas americana
  6. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  7. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  8. Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
  9. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
  10. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  11. Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
  12. Blackberry, Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [red canes]
  13. Black-Crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax
  14. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  15. Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
  16. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  17. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  18. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  19. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  20. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  21. Cattail, Broad-Leaved Cattail, Typha latifolia
  22. Chicken, Domestic Chicken, Gallus gallus var. domesticus
  23. Chinese Privet, Ligustrum sinense
  24. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  25. Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
  26. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  27. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  28. Dark-Eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis
  29. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  30. Duckweed, Common Duckweed, Lemna minor
  31. Dunlin, Calidris alpina
  32. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger [rusty belly]
  33. Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus sp.
  34. Field Mustard, Brassica rapa
  35. Gadwall, Mareca strepera
  36. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  37. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  38. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  39. Grebe, Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  40. Hermit Thrush, Catharus guttatus
  41. Hooded Merganser, Lophodytes cucullatus
  42. Jointed Charlock, Raphanus raphanistrum
  43. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  44. Lesser Scaup, Aythya affinis
  45. Lesser Yellowlegs, Tringa flavipes
  46. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  47. Mistletoe, Broadleaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron macrophyllum
  48. Mullein, Great Mullein, Verbascum thapsus
  49. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus [heard]
  50. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius [3]
  51. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  52. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  53. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  54. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  55. Olive, Olea europaea
  56. Parasitic Wasp, Subfamily: Mesochorinea
  57. Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
  58. Pyracantha, Firethorn, Pyracantha sp.
  59. Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans
  60. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus [15 along the highway]
  61. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  62. Ring-Necked Duck, Aythya collaris
  63. Rose, California Wild Rose, Rosa californica [pink]
  64. Ross’s Goose, Anser rossii
  65. Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
  66. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  67. Snow Goose, Anser caerulescens
  68. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  69. Sparrow, Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  70. Sparrow, White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  71. Striped Skunk, Mephitis mephitis [roadkill]
  72. Swallow, Barn Swallow, American Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica erythrogaster
  73. Swallow, Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  74. Towhee, California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  75. Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  76. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  77. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  78. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus [roadkill]
  79. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  80. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  81. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi
  82. Willows, Salix sp.
  83. Wren, Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris

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