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.
- American Avocet, Recurvirostra americana
- American Coot, Fulica americana
- American Kestrel, Falco sparverius [4 along the highway]
- American Robin, Turdus migratorius
- American Wigeon, Anas americana
- Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
- Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
- Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
- Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
- Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
- Black Walnut, Eastern Black Walnut, Juglans nigra
- Blackberry, Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [red canes]
- Black-Crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax
- Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
- Blessed Milk Thistle, Silybum marianum
- Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
- Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
- Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
- California Quail, Callipepla californica
- California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
- Cattail, Broad-Leaved Cattail, Typha latifolia
- Chicken, Domestic Chicken, Gallus gallus var. domesticus
- Chinese Privet, Ligustrum sinense
- Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
- Common Gallinule, Gallinula galeata
- Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
- Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
- Dark-Eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis
- Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
- Duckweed, Common Duckweed, Lemna minor
- Dunlin, Calidris alpina
- Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger [rusty belly]
- Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus sp.
- Field Mustard, Brassica rapa
- Gadwall, Mareca strepera
- Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
- Great Egret, Ardea alba
- Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
- Grebe, Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
- Hermit Thrush, Catharus guttatus
- Hooded Merganser, Lophodytes cucullatus
- Jointed Charlock, Raphanus raphanistrum
- Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
- Lesser Scaup, Aythya affinis
- Lesser Yellowlegs, Tringa flavipes
- Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
- Mistletoe, Broadleaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron macrophyllum
- Mullein, Great Mullein, Verbascum thapsus
- Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus [heard]
- Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius 
- Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
- Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
- Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
- Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
- Olive, Olea europaea
- Parasitic Wasp, Subfamily: Mesochorinea
- Poison Hemlock, Conium maculatum
- Pyracantha, Firethorn, Pyracantha sp.
- Red-Shouldered Hawk, California Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus elegans
- Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus [15 along the highway]
- Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
- Ring-Necked Duck, Aythya collaris
- Rose, California Wild Rose, Rosa californica [pink]
- Ross’s Goose, Anser rossii
- Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
- Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
- Snow Goose, Anser caerulescens
- Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
- Sparrow, Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
- Sparrow, White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
- Striped Skunk, Mephitis mephitis [roadkill]
- Swallow, Barn Swallow, American Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica erythrogaster
- Swallow, Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
- Towhee, California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
- Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
- Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
- Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
- Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus [roadkill]
- Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
- White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
- White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi
- Willows, Salix sp.
- Wren, Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
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