I got up at 5:30 this morning to get ready to go out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge with my friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne — and my dog Esteban. He did well throughout the long drive, and was only rarely a little fussy. We got to the refuge around 7:30 am, so we made good time!
Around this time last year, I was able to film some Clark’s Grebes on their floating nests in the permanent wetland pond. This time around, we saw a few of the grebes, but no nests yet. I’m not even sure if there were bonded pairs out there. I wonder if they’re running late this year, or if they went to other places — like Clear Lake.
We were surprised by the “stragglers” we saw in the water; birds that migrate through the region and should have moved on by now. There were Northern Pintails, Norther Shovelers, some Snow Geese, a Ring-Necked Duck and even a Canvasback.
There were several patches of Narrow-Leaf Milkweed throughout the preserve, along with the plants by the nature center. We didn’t see any Monarch Butterfly caterpillars or eggs, though. There were signs throughout the preserve asking folks to alert them to any Monarch sightings via email, phone call, and/or photographs (in iNaturalist).
The Wild Teasel is starting to bloom. When it gets going, we might see more pollinators around. We were a little surprised by the large swaths of pennyroyal blooming in some of the fields near the end of the auto tour route.
Near the nature center, I saw a pair of Brown-Headed Cowbirds at one of the windows; a male and female. The female kept trying to get the male’s attention, but he was too busy trying to intimidate his reflection. Occasionally, he’d turn on the female and try to driver her away, but she was persistent.
We got some very good photos of a male Anna’s Hummingbird drinking at one of the feeders.
I also got a quick photo of a Bullock’s Oriole that stopped briefly on a nearby branch. In the same area there was an Ash-Throated Flycatcher and a Western Kingbird. They were backlit, though, so it was hard getting photos of them.
A new-to-me plant that we found today was Alkali Heath. “…Its common name refers to its preference for saline or alkaline soils. It is a squat flowering bush that forms a twiggy thicket near beaches and estuaries. The leaves are tiny and somewhat succulent. It has the ability to excrete salt as an adaptation for living in saline habitats. The flowers are white, pink or fuchsia in color. It spreads by rhizome and can cover large areas but remains very low…”
The plants we saw had tiny pink flowers, and we could see and taste the salt secretions on the leaves.
A cool sighting was being able to see a female Ring-Necked Pheasant. She ran across the road in front of the car, and was followed by a male. Then, to our surprise, four poults ran out after their mom. They came sporadically and were too fast for me, so I didn’t get any photos of them. Dang it!
CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.
There were lots of jackrabbits around, and a black-tailed deer lounging in the deep cover of high grass.
The coolest mammal sighting, though, was being able to see a raccoon sauntering down the road in front of the car.
We didn’t see many damselflies or dragonflies, but the Spotted Orb-Weaver spiders were starting to setup shop in the blackberry vines and tules. In another month or so, they should be all over the place out there.
We ate our lunch in the shade near the nature center, then headed home a little after noon. We got home around 2:00, so were out for about 7½ hours. But because we were in the car the majority of the time, I didn’t count this among my hike challenge hikes.
- Alkali Heath, Frankenia salina [salty]
- American Coot, Fulica americana
- American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
- Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
- Armenian Blackberry, Rubus armeniacus [pink flower]
- Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens
- Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica
- Bird’s-Foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus
- Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
- Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
- Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
- Bristly Oxtongue, Helminthotheca echioides
- Broadleaf Cattail, Bullrush, Typha latifolia
- Brown-Headed Cowbird, Molothrus ater
- Bullock’s Oriole, Icterus bullockii
- California Bulrush, Schoenoplectus californicus
- Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
- Canvasback Duck, Aythya valisineria
- Clark’s Grebe, Aechmophorus clarkii [black above the eye]
- Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
- Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
- Cottonwood Petiole Gall, Poplar Petiole Gall Aphid, Pemphigus populitransversus
- Damselfly, Pacific Forktail Damselfly, Ischnura cervula [males have 4 spots on thorax]
- Dog, Canis lupus familiaris
- European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
- Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
- Goodding’s Black Willow, Salix gooddingii
- Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
- House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
- Ligated Furrow Bee, Halictus ligatus
- Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
- Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris [heard; nest]
- Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
- Narrowleaf Milkweed, Mexican Whorled Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis
- Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
- Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
- Oregon Ash, Fraxinus latifolia
- Paper Wasp, Black Paper Wasp, European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula
- Pennyroyal, Mentha pulegium
- Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
- Raccoon, Common Raccoon, Procyon lotor
- Red Gum Eucalyptus, River Redgum, Eucalyptus camaldulensis
- Red Gum Lerp Psyllid, Glycaspis brimblecombei
- Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
- Ring-Necked Duck, Aythya collaris
- Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
- River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis [scat]
- Rough Cocklebur, Xanthium strumariumswal
- Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
- Sacred Datura, Datura wrightii
- Saint Catherine’s Lace, Eriogonum giganteum [a kind of buckwheat]
- Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
- Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
- Water Primrose, Ludwigia hexapetala
- Western Kingbird, Tyrant Flycatcher, Tyrannus verticalis
- Western Spotted Orbweaver Spider, Neoscona oaxacensis
- Wild Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum