Tag Archives: Bushtits

The Cows Were More Obvious Today, 10-20-18

I had decided to just rest up over this weekend, but I couldn’t resist heading out to the Cosumnes River Preserve in the early morning. The preserve had posted that 90% of their wetland areas had water in them, so I wanted to see what it was like out there.

Uh. If what I saw out there was indeed 90%, then there are huge areas that the public can never see. The slough and some of the rice fields adjacent to the preserve were full of water, but there was no water in the wetland areas around the boardwalk or Desmond Road (which is where the public is allowed to do viewing). So, I was super disappointed as I felt the public had been lied to by the preserve.  Apparently, quite a few other people had also been duped by the announcement; there were cars cruising up and down Desmond and Bruceville Roads looking for birds.

The lack of water also meant a distinct lack of wildlife viewing. I did get to see COWS in some of the fields, and some Sandhill Cranes in other fields (but too far away for my camera to get any good shots of them). *Sigh* There was one Red-Tailed Hawk that was hunting near the boardwalk area and sat on the top of a short tree, so she could see what was around her. I saw her go to ground at one point, but don’t think she caught anything. The only other birds I saw were the common Canada Geese, Greater White-fronted Geese, Mallards, Brewer’s and Red-Winged Blackbirds, and some Bushtits and White-Crowned Sparrows. Nothing special.

I saw a few tiny damselflies that I think were Paiute Dancers, and also came across two large praying mantises, gravid females looking like they were ready to lay their eggs.

But overall, I felt the trip was a bust.

The Bugs Were More Interesting Today, 10-15-18

DAY 10 OF MY VACATION.  I got up around 6:30 this morning, expecting to meet with an on-line friend, Dee, at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery. Dee had to cancel at the last minute because her dog got skunked, but I decided to go to the hatchery for a walk anyway.

There wasn’t much of anything at all to see there.  The migrating waterfowl haven’t arrived yet, and the salmon ladder wasn’t operating.  But I did get to see some of the salmon in the river; their humped backs appearing through the surface of the water here and there. I also got to see a few birds: California Gulls, Herring Gulls, Common Mergansers, and a female Belted Kingfisher rushing back and forth along the riverbank. There was a Great Egret walking along the netting on the top of the fish raceways, trying to find a way in, and it actually made it in somehow for a little while. As soon as the employees realized it was in the raceway, they opened gates and shooed it out again.  I’ve seen Green Herons (who are much smaller and can hide more easily) inside the raceways just gorging on fish.  That Great Egret could’ve taken a lot of the larger fish if it hadn’t been seen as early as it was.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

The fish in the raceways “know” that when a shadow moves along the side of their enclosure, food is probably coming, so they go crazy – jumping and splashing, opening their mouths for fish-food to fall into. There are buckets along the raceways filled with food you can take to the fish, and every now and then, a truck goes by spewing food out of the side of it like a leaf-blower.

In a sort of gully/barrow pit next to the raceway area there were several Mallards, a Great Blue Heron and a Snowy Egret wading through the rocks and water looking for tidbits. I was able to get quite a few photos of the heron, but actually, some of the insects in the area were more interesting. I found a Mayfly, several ladybeetle nymphs and pupa cases, a large gravid praying mantis, and Green Stinkbugs, some of their eggs and several nymphs in different stages of development.

As I was leaving, I got a glimpse of a beaver swimming on the edge of the bank but lost it when it ducked underwater.

A Melanistic Squirrel on Turkey-Eve, 11-22-17

Around 7 o’clock I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk. It was about 46º and foggy when I went out, but turned somewhat sunny and got up to 61º by the time I headed back home.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

A lot of the usual suspects at the preserve this morning, but there were a few interesting moments including being able to watch a flock of Wild Turkeys chasing each other in circles; and watching a California Scrub Jay pose nicely for me so I could get photos of it, and then seeing it jump down onto the ground and then flit back up into view with a big, fat Jerusalem Cricket in its beak. But the coolest sighting today was of a melanistic tree squirrel: all pitchy black. It was in one of the granary trees used by the Acorn Woodpeckers to stash their acorns and nuts, and was ripping off the bark from the branches to it could steal their stock from them. The birds were freaking out, buzz-bombing the squirrel, but it was bold and took the harassment (including be struck in the head several times by the birds) for quite a while. I’d never seen a squirrel like that before, and took lots of photos and video snippets of it.

“…Melanistic animals actually are somewhat common in nature, with some species even passing on the trait as a genetic adaptation. Black skin and fur assist in nighttime camouflage, and melanism can also help animals deal with extended periods in direct sunlight…”

I walked for about 3½ hours and then headed home. It was so nice outside when I got home that I opened up the whole house to let the fresh air in. (It was a little chilly, but lovely.)

Was Able to See a Killdeer Lay Her Egg Today

I actually had today off but I got up at the regular time anyway to get to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge by 7:00 am.  It was about 43° when I headed out and got up to 65° by the late afternoon. Sunny and tiny bit breezy all day… It was gorgeous.

I had planned months ago to take today off because I was able to get a spot in one of the photo blinds there.  I picked the blind I did because it’s handicapped accessible.  But today it wasn’t… there was too much water around it to get to it, and was flooded inside (not deep, but enough to make it unusable).  I also have a reservation for a blind at the Colusa refuge for the weekend, but that one is under water right now, so I won’t be able to get to that one either.  Not being able to use the blind today was kind of disappointing, but the day was so beautiful, I just drove the auto tour route – twice – and got to see lots of stuff anyway. I burned through 4 batteries and took over 1600 photos!  Yikes!

CLICK HERE to see an album of some of the photos and video snippets.

As soon as a I drove into the refuge, I was a greeted by the sight of a small flock of Snowy Egrets feeding in a shallow pond by the entrance, so I was able to get some shots of them right off the bat.  Along with the egrets were a few American Wigeons, and one of the males swam right up within view, so I was able to get some good photos of him, too.  That was an auspicious start to my day.

I also saw White-Faced-Ibis, Northern Shovelers, a Flicker, Golden-Crowned Sparrows, White-Crowned Sparrows, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Song Sparrows, a Red-Tailed Hawk, Pied-Billed Grebes, Great Egrets, Gadwalls, Black Phoebes, Black-Necked Stilts, Western Pond Turtles, Green-Winged Teals, Bufflehead ducks, a  House Sparrow, Double-Crested Cormorants, nests, Western Meadowlark, Mallard, Snow Geese, Northern Harrier, Great Blue Heron, American White Pelicans, a Yellow-Rumped Warbler, American Coots, Cinnamon Teals,  White-Fronted Geese and several California Ground Squirrels. I also got a glimpse of a muskrat.  He was in the water along the edge of the road.  I saw him, he saw me and poof! he was out of there.

There were lots and lots of jackrabbits out and about, and lots of Ring-Necked Pheasants.  I saw a pair of American Avocets in a distant pond, one was in its breeding plumage and the other wasn’t.  I’d seen Avocets in their breeding colors before, but I’d never seen a “plain” one, so that was a first for me.

I found some Marsh Wrens weaving their nests among the tules… and lots of the tiny males singing away trying to attract females. I got a little video of one of the males working on his nests, and some photos of him emerging from one of them.  Further along the route, I came across a spot where a pair of Bushtits were building their nest, and got photos and video snippets of them, too.  It’s that time of year.  All of the birds are working on home-building projects.

At the end of the auto-tour route I came across a pair of Killdeer.  Mama was sitting down in the dirt and papa was patrolling around her.  They were head-bobbing, so I thought maybe they were getting ready to mate.  I didn’t think they had a nest there because even the though there was a slight depression in the ground, it wasn’t in the kind of dense gravel Killdeer normally prefer (so their spotted eggs blend into the stones). As the head-bobbing continued, I noticed the female was fanning her tail a little bit, so I turned on the video option on my camera expecting to see a mating… But as I watched, the mama surprised me and laid an egg! Literally.  A little grey and black spotted egg.  That was so cool – and what a great way to end my day at the refuge!  I’m a little worried about their nest, though.  It’s very near the auto route and right along a spot where some people hike through to get to the pedestrian trails…

I headed back home and got to the house a little before 3:00 pm.

After Work on Friday, 04-29-16

Mallard ducklings hugging the shade. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Mallard ducklings hugging the shade. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

On the way home I stopped off at the WPA Rock Garden again,  It was really too warm (for me) to be out there, but I wanted a bit of a walk and some fresh air.  Not a whole lot new to see.  What was sad though was coming across a Bushtit nest that had apparently been downed by the storm on Wednesday and then stepped on by someone.  If you didn’t know what it was, it would just look like a snarl of dry plant material, but I recognized it immediately.  I felt the nest to see if there was any movement in it (there wasn’t), so I checked inside of it and was very saddened to see it filled with dead baby birds. Awwwww…

What’s neat about the little Bushtits is that when they’re building their nests there are usually several adult male birds that help with the building, then everyone takes turns sitting on the nest until the chicks fledge.  The winds and downpour on Wednesday must’ve overwhelmed all of them.  I don’t know if the birds will build a new nest and try again in the same season if one nest fails…

I came across a hybrid duck (part Mallard, part Runner I think) who had one baby with her.  And then later came across a Mallard mama with seven ducklings.  They didn’t like the heat either, and tried to stick to the shade as much as they could.  Baby turtles, on the other hand, were starting to emerge from the pond and climbing up on the structures around the water plants to get warm.  Most of them were baby Red-Eared Slider Turtles, though, which we don’t like because they’re invasive.

Lots of damselflies are starting to show up, and I saw several mating pairs but I couldn’t get them to stop flying around long enough to get a shot of them.  The fuzzy golden male Carpenter Bees were also uncooperative today.  A major irritant, though, was some jerk play golf by the pond with a buddy – and letting his Husky dog run around off leash so it could chase and attack the geese and ducks.  It must be nice to go through life thinking that the rules apply to everyone else on the planet EXCEPT YOU.  I took photos of the jerk and his dog and turned them over to the park authorities.

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Critters at the Park and a Figeater at the House

I slept really well last night and got up around 6:00 am.  I headed out to the American River Bend Park.  I’m still feeling a little bit of the vertigo, but only if I move too quickly – and I felt I needed to get outside and moving. It was in the 60’s when I got there and was up to about 71° by the time I left.  In the summer it’s sometimes slim pickings as far as photo material goes, but today I did get to see hawks, woodpeckers,  small flock of Common Mergansers (all females), a young coyote, a large dragonfly, lots of fresh raccoon scat, blackberries (that seemed to be everywhere), some California Wild Roses in bloom, Bushtits…  So I got some good shots.

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I walked through the park for about 3 hours and then went home to have some breakfast of my own.

For lunch, I grilled some cheap steaks outside, and while I was doing that this huge iridescent green beetle with black wings came flying around me.  It made such a loud buzzing sound I thought at first it was a Carpenter Bee, but nope… it was a beetle.  It crashed into the side of the house a couple of times before landing on the patio.  It was shiny green – like metal – on the underside, and dull green on top with a tan rim along the margins, tan hairs under its “chin” and black wings.  I got a hold of it and carried it into the house so I could get my camera.  Then I took it back outside, took several photos of it (none of which did its color justice) and let it go.  It flew up into the mulberry tree and disappeared into the leaves.  I learned later it was a Figeater Beetle (Cotinis mutabilis); really big, but very harmless.

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My Tuleyome Tales article on photographing nature was published online today by the Davis Enterprise newspaper:  http://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/news-columns/tuleyome-tales-photographing-nature-doesnt-have-to-be-expensive/