Category Archives: #MigrationCelebration

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

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

So Many Birds in the Ag Fields, 11-27-21

I got up at 6:00 AM and got myself and Esteban ready to go on a drive to the Cosumnes River Preserve. Around 6:30 AM I headed out to the preserve with Esteban. It was clear and cold, around 37ºF, with some ground-fog still lingering around.

I went first to the boardwalk area. The gate was still closed, so I couldn’t get the car in there. I couldn’t see any birds in the pond by the parking lot, anyway, so I decided to drive around Desmond and Bruceville Roads.

Mostly Greater White-Fronted Geese, Anser albifrons, and some Great Egrets, Ardea alba, in one of the ag fields along Bruceville Road.

The birding there was VERY satisfying. In the agricultural fields there were literally thousands of White-Fronted Geese with some Snow Geese mixed in. They were all talking to one another, so, the noise level was pretty high. In some fields there were also phalanxes of Great Egrets and gangs of gulls in among the geese.

Lots of little sparrows and finches were flitting in the trees and scrub along the edges of the fields, and some Meadowlarks in the grass. In the tules and on the top of the shorter trees were Red-Winged Blackbirds.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

There were quite a few Sandhill Cranes noshing in the fields, too. On of the cranes was sporting some leg bands, so I report it to the International Crane Foundation. I’m hoping they’ll be able to tell me where the bird migrated from.

Banded Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis

I was surprised by the number of raptors I saw out there, including a pair of Bald Eagles. I’d heard of eagles near the preserve before, but this was the first time I had actually seen any. It’s always exciting for me to come across them. As I was watching, the eagles took off flying and went right for one of the large flocks of geese on the ground. Within seconds, all of the birds on the ground were in the air in a flurry of wings and feathers — and so much noise!

It seemed to me that the eagles would down a prey, eat their fill, and then fly off. Once the eagles were gone, the Red-Tailed Hawks and Northern Harriers moved in to eat the leftovers. Then the Turkey Vultures cleaned everything up.

In this video you see two Northern Harriers eating a carcass. I think it’s a mother and her offspring.

There were also the usual suspects in the water: Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs, Coots, Northern Shovelers, Green-Winged Teals, Gadwall ducks and Pintails, and even a few Bufflehead ducks. Those little guys always make me smile. Some of the Northern Shovelers were swimming in a feeding vortex,make the water swirl like a tornado to pull food up from the bottom of the pond.

As I was driving back to the boardwalk area, I saw hawks resting on top of the telephone poles: a couple of Red-Tails and a Red-Shouldered Hawk.  There still wasn’t much to see at the boardwalk, so I drove out to Staten Island Road to see if anything was there.

Surprisingly there wasn’t a lot to see there. I mean, there were Sandhill Cranes and some of the regular species of duck, but they were few and far between.   I did get to glimpse some Audubon Warblers, saw some Tree Swallows and a Kestrel on the powerlines, and large flocks of Pelicans and Tundra Swans in the distance.

A female American Kestrel, Falco sparverius

There are always big trucks moving back and forth on this road, but today it seemed like they were purposely harassing the birders; rushing down on us, dust flying off their tires, honking at us. It was sooooo annoying.            

I left and did a short loop around along Desmond and Bruceville Roads again before heading home. I was out for about 4 hours.


Buy Me a Coffee!

Donate $5 to buy me a coffee so I have the fuel I need to keep exploring and bring more of nature to you. Thanks!

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Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
  4. American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  5. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  6. Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
  7. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  8. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  9. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  10. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  11. Cackling Goose, Branta hutchinsii
  12. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  13. California Wild Rose, Rosa californica
  14. Dunlin, Calidris alpina
  15. Gadwall Duck, Mareca Strepera
  16. Glaucous Gull, Larus hyperboreus
  17. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  18. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  19. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  20. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  21. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  22. Herring Gull, Larus argentatus [spot on bill, gray legs, pale eye]
  23. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  24. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  25. Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla
  26. Long-Billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus scolopaceus
  27. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  28. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  29. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  30. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  31. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  32. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus
  33. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  34. Ring-Billed Gull, Larus delawarensis [ black ring, light eye, yellow legs]
  35. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  36. Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumariumswal
  37. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  38. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  39. Say’s Phoebe, Sayornis saya
  40. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
  41. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  42. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  43. Tundra Swan, Cygnus columbianus
  44. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  45. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  46. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  47. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys

Along Staten Island Road, 11-08-21

I got up around 7:00 this morning and had a light breakfast of toast and black coffee before heading out for a drive to Staten Island Road with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne. We left the house around 8:00 am. I was in pain and moving slowly but figured I could handle an outing during which I didn’t have to walk a lot.

I told the Universe I wanted to see a species of bird I’d never seen before (it IS migrating season after all) and a Snipe. I got the snipe; two, in fact. I don’t know why those odd little birds make me happy, but they do.

We saw quite a few raptors on the drive including several Red-Tailed Hawks, a Red-Shouldered Hawk, a couple of American Kestrels and Northern Harriers. That’s the most of them we’ve seen in a long time.

In the fields were flocks of Canada and Cackling Geese and Greater White-Fronted Geese. There were Sandhill Cranes in the fields, too, even among the cattle. Overhead, too, there were so many flocks moving around, some of them very large, that the air was filled with noise.

Cackling Geese, Branta hutchinsii, and Red-Winged Blackbirds, Agelaius phoeniceus

Along the fences we saw tons of House Finches, Brewer’s Blackbirds, and Red-Winged Blackbirds. We also came across a Black Phoebe and a Say’s Phoebe, some White-Crowned Sparrows and Savannah Sparrows.

And in one of the sloughs, we saw a pair of Great Blue Herons. It’s unusual to see two so close together, and I wondered if they were a mated pair or siblings.

In the flooded fields we saw Northern Shovels, Ruddy Ducks, Canvasback ducks, Tundra Swans and Mute Swans, Killdeer, American Pipits, a Bufflehead, a Greater Yellowlegs, a Black-Necked Stilt, and American Coots in the water.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

We were out for about 3 hours before I started to get hungry and in pain, so we quit the road and headed into town to look for somewhere to have lunch.  The first place we came across was Olive Garden. I haven’t eaten there in ages, and their all-you-can-eat soup and salad lunch really appealed to me. So, I had the Zuppa Toscana soup, salad and breadsticks, a spinach-artichoke dip appetizer with flatbread crisps, iced tea, and Italian donut puffs with raspberry sauce. Sooooooooooo yummy.


Buy Me a Coffee!

Donate $5 to buy me a coffee so I have the fuel I need to keep exploring and bring more of nature to you. Thanks!

$5.00


Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
  3. American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
  4. Belted Kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
  5. Black Angus Cattle, Bos taurus var. Black Angus
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
  8. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  9. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  10. Cackling Goose, Branta hutchinsii
  11. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  12. Canvasback Duck, Aythya valisineria
  13. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii
  14. Eared Grebe, Podiceps nigricollis
  15. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  16. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  17. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  18. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  19. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
  20. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  21. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  22. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  23. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  24. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  25. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  26. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  27. Red-Tailed Hawk, Western Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis calurus
  28. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  29. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  30. Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
  31. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  32. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  33. Say’s Phoebe, Sayornis saya
  34. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  35. Tundra Swan, Cygnus columbianus
  36. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  37. White Tailed Kite, Elanus leucurus
  38. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  39. Wilson’s Snipe, Gallinago delicata