Tag Archives: American Kestrels

Standouts: a Lorquin’s Admiral and a Wilson’s Snipe, 11-03-18

I left the house with the dog around 5:30 am to head out to the Sacramento and Colusa National Wildlife Refuges. It was already 62º there and was windy; not a strong blow-you-over wind, but strong enough so that it kept a lot of the birds hunkered down to keep warm. Neither refuge is at full water capacity yet, so there were long areas of nothing but dried grass and tules. In another month or so, viewing should better.

At the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, the first thing I saw was a Black-Tailed Jackrabbit using a stand of tules as a windbreak. I saw several Red-Tailed Hawks in the trees, saw some American Kestrels on the wing, saw a Northern Harrier on the ground, and lots of Turkey Vultures surfing the wind currents. One of the Red-Tails was so huge, I thought at first that it might be an eagle; the female Red-Tails can get REALLY large. I also heard but didn’t see a Red-Shouldered Hawk.

Lots of Song, Savannah and White-Crowned Sparrows were out along with huge flocks of Snow Geese, Greater White-Fronted Geese, and Northern Pintail ducks. I also saw several Ross’s Geese – which look like Snow Geese, but they’re smaller and don’t have the black “grin patch” on the beak. Among the other ducks were Northern Shovelers (some still in their eclipse plumage), American Wigeons and Gadwalls. The Pintails always out-number the other ducks this early in the season as they’re the first to arrive.

Some areas along the auto-tour route were laden with the thick sticky webbing spiderlings use to “balloon” along the landscape. Long strands and bunches of “spider snot” seemed to be everywhere.

Two standouts at the Sacramento refuge were a Loggerhead Shrike and a Lorquin’s Admiral butterfly. The Shrike had posted itself on some dead cattail stems and as I watched it impaled a large insect on a shard along the side of the stem. Then it manipulated the insect a little bit with its beaks and feet before eating it. I think the insect was a big grasshopper, but I couldn’t get a really good look at it. Shrikes are referred to as “butcher birds” and “songbirds with the heart of a raptor” for their hunting and butchering behaviors.

The Lorquin’s Admiral was a huge surprise. It’s very late in the season for them to be out. This is a kind of butterfly that has several “flights” throughout the year, and they feed on nectar from California Buckeye trees, but they also like bird feces. Ugh. No accounting for taste! What’s cool about these guys is that even though they’re basically made out of “fuzzy air”, they’re super-aggressive and will fight protect their territory. Sort of like getting sucker-punches by a paper doll. Hah! The caterpillars roll themselves up in the leaves of willow trees (among others) and overwinter in them.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

At the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, I saw a lot of the same birds that I did at the Sacramento refuge, but the standout was a Wilson’s snipe and flew up right next to the car and walked around the muddy ground there. Every once in a while, the bird would tilt its head to look up at me as I frantically snapped photos of it through the driver’s side window of my car.

On our way out of the auto-tour route at this refuge, I saw a pair of young Columbian Black-Tailed Deer grazing on the berm that was covered with geese and ducks. The deer didn’t seem to mind it when I stopped my car next to the end of the berm to take some photos and video of them, but when another car came up behind mine, they startled. I was surprised when, instead of running away up the berm through the flock of birds, both deer came charging down the berm right toward my car. I was afraid they were going to hit it. But they both veered off, one after the other, and crossed the auto-tour route road in front of my car – kind of using my car as a shield – before they jumped into the trees and overgrowth on the opposite side of the road. Wow. Got my heart going for a little bit. I don’t know what it was about the other car that made them so afraid.

When I was done with the auto-tour route, I parked near the restroom facility and then took Sergeant Margie out on his leash to stretch his legs. ((Dogs are allowed on the preserve, as long as they’re in your car or on a leash.)) I started down the trail that runs along between a large wetland area and a slough (so you have water on both sides) and was happily surprised to see that Sergeant Margie was able to handle walking a half mile in and a half mile back to the car (one mile round trip). He hasn’t been able or willing to do any kind of “long” walk for almost a year.

I think it helped that the temperature outside was comfortable and the trail was flat and covered with soft leaves. His tongue was hanging out when we got back to the car, but he wasn’t coughing or complaining. I gave him some lunch and a big drink of water before we headed back home.

The Baby Deer Has a Bad Cough, 06-30-18

I got up around 5:00 am, and headed out to the Effie Yeaw Preserve again before it got too hot outside. It’s supposed to get up to 103º today. It was 61º at the river when I got there, and by the time I left at 8:30 am it was already 78º. Ugh!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

When I drove in, there were Yellow-Billed Magpies and American Robins trying to snatch up early morning bugs near the kiosk.

By the nature center, a male Anna’s Hummingbird posed in a tree long enough for me to get a few photos of him.

I watched as a Wild Turkey went up to a blue elderberry bush and jumped up and down to snag the ripe berries from it and pulled them to the ground. At another spot, I was standing under a wild plum tree, and Scrub Jays were in the branches knocking the plums down. Almost got hit by some of those!

Further along the trail, I got to see a pair of American Kestrels in the top of a tree; a little male and a female. They’re so talkative! I also got to see a Red-Tailed Hawk, and a juvenile Turkey Vulture (along with some adults). You don’t get to see the juveniles very often, so it’s always kind of a treat when they’re out and about.

The young fawn and its mother that I’ve seen on my last few trips to the preserve has come down with a horrible cough. It always looks kind of skinny and scrawny to me, but I’d never heard it cough so much before. I looked up pneumonia in deer and apparently, it’s a thing. It affects Big Horn Sheep and White-Tailed Deer more often, but can affect Black Tailed Deer, especially if they’re living near water in a confined space (as they sort of are at the Effie Yeaw Preserve). I don’t know if the preserve staff can do anything for the baby, but that cough is surely going to make him a target for the local coyotes. It’s loud, and it advertises that the fawn is in poor condition. His mom also looks like she might be pregnant again, so I don’t know how she’ll manage with a newborn and a sick yearling… Poor baby.

In one of the ant colonies I cam across, winged adults were emerging, getting ready to start a new nest somewhere else. They were emerging out into the sun, but when I stepped closer to the ant hill to get some photos, by shadow blocked the entrance – and they all went back inside. When I stepped away again to let the light hit the entrance, they all came back out again. Interesting.

And it seems to me that the oak trees are getting awfully full of acorn buds this year. Maybe we’ll have a mast year this fall?

My Article on American Kestrels Has Been Published

I’ve now seen my article on kestrels published in the Davis Enterprise and the Daily Democrat newspapers. In fact, it made it to the front cover of one of them!  That’s always heartening!  You can read it by CLICKING HERE.  All of the photos that accompany the article are ones I took.

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New Year’s Eve at the Cosumnes River Preserve

Sora. Copyright © 2015 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Sora. Copyright © 2015 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

New Year’s Eve.  It was cold and foggy when I got up around 7:15 this morning.

I put in a load of laundry in the dryer, got the dishes going in the dishwasher and made a pot of coffee before sending off copies of my latest Tuleyome Tales to the local media.  This one, timely enough, is on bald eagles.  I also set up a list of topics for the tales for 2016, and got that loaded up so it’s ready to go in 2016.  All of that took about 2 hours, and by then the dishes were washed and the clothes were dry, so I unpacked those machines and put everything away.

Around 11:00 am, I headed over to the Cosumnes River Preserve for a walk.  It was sunny in Sacramento when I left the house, but was still foggy at the preserve (at least for a little while).  There wasn’t a lot to see today (it was in the 40’s ad a lot of the birds were huddled on the ground).  But I did get some photos of the tiny Dunlins, and I saw the Sora again and got a few photos of it.  I also got quite a few shots of an Eastern Red Squirrel munching on thistles; with its winter coat on, its ears had extra red fur on them that made them really stand out.  I was out there for about 2 hours and then headed back home.

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33° at the Cosumnes River Preserve

Female American Kestrel. Copyright © 2015 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Female American Kestrel. Copyright © 2015 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

I got up around 6:30 this morning and headed out around 7:00 to do some grocery shopping and go over to the Cosumnes River Preserve for a walk.

It was a fingertip-freezing 33° at the preserve, so I kept my walk pretty short.  I’d dressed for the cold, but it still managed to get through my layers of clothes and into my bones.  Rattle-rattle- rattle…  The birds were apparently smarter than the humans, and were staying hunkered down in the tules and long grasses and were really difficult to spot.  I did come across a pair of kestrels – a male and a female – who were working on different sides of the road, several Turkey Vultures, and a Red-Shouldered Hawk, along with the usual ducks and geese. I did some gulls fighting over a duck carcass, and some Black-Necked Stilts horning in on a Northern Shoveler “feeding vortex” but nothing else outstanding or special.

Still, it was a nice – if exceedingly chilly – walk.  The sun was out, the air was fresh and cold, and you could see the mountains all along the horizon with their new blankets of snow…  Just lovely.

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29° at the Cosumnes Preserve

Well, my holiday weekend has been so busy so far, I really just wanted to sleep in a bit today… but I was up at about 7:00 am and out the door by 7:30 to go over to the Cosumnes River Preserve.  It was 31° in Sacramento and 29° at the preserve.  Brrrr! I’m going to have to pull out my winter coat!

Coyote. Copyright © 2015, Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.
Coyote. Copyright © 2015, Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.

As I was driving up to the preserve, I saw a huge handsome coyote along the roadside, so I pulled over to get a few photos of him.  That as a nice way to start my nature-watching stint.  There was a herd of sheep out there eating the grass and scrub.  They were watched over by a pair of large white dogs that eventually got tired of rounding up the sheep and just laid down in the sun to try to get warm…  The dog were effective at keeping the lone coyote away, though.

I also saw Red-Tailed Hawks, American Kestrels, Turkey Vultures, House Finches, White-Crowned Sparrows, Great Egrets, Meadowlarks, a Great Blue Heron, quite a few Cinnamon Teals and loads of other ducks, Greater White-Fronted Geese, Canada Geese, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Black-Necked Stilts, Killdeer (one flew right down in front of me and landed in the water), Snipes, American Coots, and ground squirrels…

It was cold enough so some of the water in shallower parts of the ponds and wetland areas was frozen.  I watched a tiny sparrow “walking on water” over the top of the ice.  In some places, where the ice had already started to melt as the sun came up, small round “maws” started to appear in the ice where the water percolated and lapped up as the wind moved the unfrozen part of the ponds around.  I got some photos of some of the Coots swimming right along the edge of the ice, poking at it to try to figure out what it was.  It wasn’t very dense, but it was enough that they didn’t want to cross the boundary it made.

Just as I was heading out the area, I saw a Great Egret poised in its strike-position, so I pulled over to the side of the road to see if would catch anything.  I was really surprised when it stabbed into the brush and brought out a huge RAT!  Then it carried the rat in its bill over to the nearest pond, and drowned it before swallowing it whole.  I’ve seen these big egrets eat all kinds of insects and crustaceans, but never saw one eat something this furry or this big before. It was creepy and awesome at the same time. I got some video of it, too, but the camera didn’t know what to focus on so some of it’s blurry.

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