Tag Archives: Desmond Road

Mostly Webs at the Cosumnes Preserve, 11-05-16

I got up around 7:15 this morning, and it was foggy and around 48° outside.  I headed over to the Cosumnes River Preserve around 8:00 am to walk their “river trail” and see if there ant neat-looking ‘shrooms out there yet.  I didn’t see of those, but because of the fog all of the spider webs in the trees, thickets and tules were all decorated with dew, and as the sun came up, they really showed off.  I took waaaaay too many photos of webs.

CLICK HERE to see the whole album of photos.

I’d see one web and thing, Oooo, that’s neat-looking.  Snap.  Then I’d see another one and like it better.  Snap.  Then I’d see two together.  Snap…  Photo after photo of nothing but webs.  Hah!

In the fog, I also saw a Gull dragging around what looked like the carcass of an American Coot in the shallow water.  You can see the video here.  I also got photos of a couple of Spotted Towhees, and some of a little Cottontail Rabbit that hopped out of the underbrush onto the trail in front of me… In the leaf litter was an old wasp gall rotted and broken in half, but you could see all of the individual larval chambers inside of it… and the poison oak was showing off a little bit, rosy in part with new and lengthening growth. As the hours went by, the fog lifted and the sun came out… but it was still cool (in the 60’s); nice weather for a stroll.

As I was walking, I could hear my “nemesis bird” (called that because I seldom if ever am able to get even a half-way descent photo of one), the Belted Kingfisher, nattering away along the banks of the river, and when I finally saw it, it was on the opposite bank.  It was sitting out on a small branch, but there was a lot of tangled growth behind it, and it was so far away, I wasn’t sure the camera would be able to focus on it, but I aimed my lens at it and starting taking some photos and video anyway.  None of them were very good, but you can see in the video the Kingfisher – a female – beating a little fish she’d caught against the branch until she got it into a position where she could swallow it whole. You can see the video here.

I had a similar photographing problem with a late-in-the-season female Green Darner Dragonfly.  I saw it flying through the air in front of me,,, and watched it as it flew around looking for a sunny spot to settle onto… and when it settled, it was up in a tree over my head.  I just aimed the camera at the area where I thought it was – a green dragonfly among the green leaves — and shot some photos.  I never know, when I to stuff like that, if the camera is actually going to focus on what I want.  But I managed to get a few semi-clear photos of it.  A few seconds later a male Green Darner flew by, harassed the female for a little bit, and then hung himself between the leaves of a wild grapevine.  He was a little closer to me than the female was, so I got a few better photos of him.

I walked around the preserve for about 3 hours and then headed back to the car which was parked by the visitor’s center.  As I got closer to the center, I could hear it’s alarm going off.  A group of bicyclists in all their fancy expensive gear and thousands-of-dollars bikes were collected outside the building.  One of them wanted to use the restroom on the outside of the building, and when he couldn’t get in, he tried to force the building’s front door and the alarm went off.  They were all standing out there, talking and laughing about it.  Unbelievable.  What jerks!

After I got to my car, I then took a short drive along Desmond Road  before getting on the freeway and heading back home. The only “cooperative” bird along the road was a young Western Meadowlark who popped up along the edge of a gully and gave me front and back views of its feathers.  Hah!

Saturday at the Cosumnes Preserve

I got up around 6:30 this morning and eased into my day with some coffee and a light lunch before taking out the trash, getting loads of laundry going, and heading out to the Cosumnes River Preserve around 7:45 am.  It was about 36° outside and overcast.  The Preserve was hosting a couple of events today, so there was an unusual amount of traffic.  Along Desmond road there was the normal “birding” crowd, but added to that was a bunch of people looking for where they were supposed to meet for a kayaking excursion. 

Wilson's Snipe. © Copyright 2015 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Wilson’s Snipe. © Copyright 2015 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

Along the road, I came across a Wilson’s Snipe sitting in a shallow hollow very close to the pavement.  I’d never seen these birds come so close to the road before, and worried that it was sick or injured.  It moved around, though, and it’s eyes seemed bright.  Maybe it had hunkered down during the night to get warm, and then was afraid to move when it woke up to find cars cruising by it… I also saw several hawks, and Red-Winged Blackbirds, Meadowlarks, and all of the usual ducks and geese found around there.  After a short drive, I kept going toward the Preserve.

I couldn’t find any place to park near the nature center, so I went over to their boardwalk area and parked there.  In the ponds along the boardwalk were Coots and Pintails, Black Phoebes, Canada Geese and Northern Shovelers… and an usually large number of Green Teals.  I don’t remember seeing so many of those in one place there.  And there was also a little male Kestrel who posed for me on top of a tree.  My big find of the day, though, was a Sora (Porzana Carolina); it’s related to rails and coots.  I’d never seen or photographed one before so I was jazzed when this little fat bird walked out and around the tules right in front of me.  It moved so fast I only got a few still shots of it, but I also got a good video snippet, so I was happy with that.  When I first saw it, I saw it from behind, and with its white tail lifted up, I thought at first I was seeing a waterlogged cottontail bunny, and kept thinking to myself, “Why is there a rabbit out here in the water?”  Then I realized it was actually a bird.  Hah!

Here’s the video: https://youtu.be/-ezuw2eMMKU

At another point I was photographing the mistletoe growing on a willow tree, and saw some wispy reddish stuff that seemed to be growing out of the top of it.  It was high up in the tree, so at first I couldn’t get a very good look at it and didn’t know what it was.  When I changed my position a little bit I realized it was a squirrel’s tail.  D’oh!  Thought I’d found something really “alien” there for  second.  The squirrel was sitting up there just munching away on the mistletoe berries. I know mistletoe is toxic to humans, so I did some reading on it when I got back home.  According to the US Geological Survey website, mistletoe is high in protein and squirrels “are deliriously fond of the plant”.  Well, cool.  I learned something new.

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On my way back to the car, I passed what must’ve been a lesbian birding group (all women holding hands; so cute).  They were trying to identify the ducks they saw and literally got every one of them wrong.  Apparently, their phone app wasn’t at all accurate.  I helped the with a couple of them, and showed them how to pick out certain features of some of them so they could remember them in the future.  They thanked me… and as I walked on an Asian couple stopped me and asked me if I knew what “those things are on the tree”?  They were pointing to the Oak Apple wasp galls.  So, I told them what the things were and how they were formed.  Someone in the lesbian group said, “You should be a docent here!”  I told her, I’d looked into that, but they always have their educational days on days when I work or have other stuff planned.  “Maybe when I retire…”

After Work on Friday

After work, it was so nice outside, I drove around Desmond Road by the Cosumnes River Preserve and got some photos of the birds around there, mostly hawks, an American Kestrel and some Cattle Egrets.

Red-Tailed Hawk. © Copyright 2015 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Red-Tailed Hawk. © Copyright 2015 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

Here are some more pix:

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Birding Along Desmond Road in Galt, CA 11-20-15

After work, it was nice outside and traffic wasn’t too bad so I drove out to Desmond Road by the Cosumnes River Preserve to see if I could get some more raptor photos.  The big surprise as I came up over the hump of the railroad tracks to get down onto the road was a whole herd of goats being used for clean-up duty.  The preserve let the goats graze down all of the dead grass and weeds and stuff so they don’t have to send guys out there with noisy weed-whackers or mowers that would frighten all of the migrating birds.  Cool!

Cattle Egret.  Copyright © 2015, Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.
Cattle Egret. Copyright © 2015, Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.

As for birds: lots of Snow Geese were out there along with their grey juveniles, a bunch of teeny-tiny Dunlins, Killdeer, Meadowlarks, a Say’s Phoebe, Black Phoebes, Greater White-Fronted Geese, Northern Shoveler and Pintail ducks, a pair of Green Teals, Red-Winged Blackbirds and Brewer’s Blackbirds, loads of Coots and the other usual suspects.

I watched a Great Egret catching snails and dragonfly nymphs in the muddy grass, and a few Sandhill Cranes were venturing closer to the side of the road than I’d ever seen them, so I got some shots of them, too.  And I got to see some Cattle Egret.  They’re very common along the highways and farmlands, but I’d never seen any at the preserve before, and I’d never been able to get any decent close-ups of any of them, so it was kind of a treat to see them there.  As for the raptors: I saw some American Kestrels, a Harrier Hawk fly-by, a scruffy-looking Red-Tailed Hawk and a juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawk…

On the way off of Desmond Road, heading back home, I saw a white form sitting on top of a tree, so I took some pictures of it.  I wasn’t sure what it was until I got home and could look at the photos.  It was a White-Tailed Kite!  Too far away to get a decent photo of it, but that was a nice find. So, for an impromptu birding expedition, it was pretty successful.

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Galls, Birds and Spiders at the Cosumnes Preserve

On Sunday, I was exhausted from Saturday’s excursion, so I didn’t go back to Lodi for the wood-carving class. Instead, I eased into my morning and then around 8:30 or so headed off to the Cosumnes River Preserve for a walk there.

It was overcast when I went out and started to rain during my walk, but I was still out there for about 3½ hours. It was a good thing too that I had decided against going in to Lodi this afternoon. There was some kind of accident right near the onramp to the southbound I-5 that caused a semi truck to jackknife and block several lanes. I saw it from the northbound side on my way back from the Cosumnes preserve. The trailer part of the semi was still standing upright, but the whole cab part had fallen onto its side (so the trailer was sitting at a tilt.) Police cars, ambulances, tow trucks… traffic was backed up for miles.

At the Cosumnes River Preserve, I drove past their boardwalk area and into the parking lot by the nature center. The center was closed, but all of the trails were open. I first took the short walk down to the boat launch area. At the boat launch, I was VERY surprised to see the entire area clogged with invasive blooming Floating Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), not to be confused with the Anchored Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia azurea) that’s used for decoration in urban pods. E. crassipes (think: Eech! Crap!) doesn’t anchor itself anywhere. It has purple-black hanging roots (that kind of look like burnt feathers).

I later came across a duck box that was posted on the side of the tree… but instead of ducks, a squirrel had taken it over and was making her nest in it. When I first noticed it, I just saw two little hands holding onto the rim of the opening on the front of the box and couldn’t understand what I was looking at. Then the squirrel popped her head out and nattered at me to get away. She had spider webs and nesting material clinging to her whiskers; made me laugh. Hah!

When I was done walking along that path, I went back toward the nature center and then took off along their “wetlands” path. The wetland areas around there still aren’t very “wet”, but it was a nice walk anyway – even when it started to rain.

I came across a couple of HUGE spiders called Cat-Faced Spiders (Araneus gemmoides). It’s a common orb-weaver spider (identified by the high bumps on its “shoulders”), but I’d never seen ones this big before. It’s other common name is “Jewel Spider” because it’s body is cut into “facets”. Females are giant, males are tiny. I saw one of the males and it was about as big as the female’s foot. One of these big girls actually started spinning some web for me so I was able to get a photo of that. And I even “petted” the back of the smaller of the two females. She felt like a hard little mushroom.

Cat-Faced Spider. Copyright © 2015, Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.
Cat-Faced Spider. Copyright © 2015, Mary K. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.

I also found some wasp galls… Most of them were fading (as this is the end of their season), but I came across some that I’d seen photos of in book but never actually found before, including grape leaf galls caused by a kind of aphid-like critter called a “Phylloxera”, so that was cool!

At one spot, another squirrel stopped and posed for me while it ate the shell off of an acorn. By that time it had started to rain pretty heavily, so I went back to the car and then drive down Desmond Road to see if there were any bird photo-ops there. I saw several American Kestrels (this seems to be the year for them around here), and several Red-Tailed hawks. Some of them posed for a little while, but others, like a big Harrier Hawk I saw, wouldn’t stay still.

I got one shot of some Sandhill Cranes – just as they were launching themselves up from the ground. Turned out pretty good. I was proud of my little camera!

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Tuesday at the Cosumnes Preserve

Tuesday was Vacation Day 11. I got up about 7:30 this morning and headed out to Desmond Road and the Cosumnes River Preserve by 8:00. It was chilly and overcast all day. I’m not complaining, mind you. I like this kind of weather.
The gates to the preserve don’t open until 9:00, so I spent some time driving up and down Desmond Road to look at the birds. (There are rice fields along that road, along with some of the additional wetlands property owned by the preserve, so usually there’s something to see out there.) I got several photos along the road (including some of the Sandhill Cranes), and then headed over to the wetlands area inside the preserve.
I walked for about 2 hours and could’ve walked a good deal further but my right ankle suddenly started to give me fits. Ever since chemotherapy I’ve had a nerve-damaged toe on that foot and it sometimes causes me problems, but today – as soon as I started to approach a Killdeer in a tree – the whole side of my foot all the way up to my ankle suddenly felt like it was on fire and I could barely walk. Luckily, the car was close enough at the point that I could hobble toward it. I seriously considered for a few minutes, pulling my camping chair out of the trunk and plopping myself down somewhere along the water’s side. I gave up that idea, though, and instead drove myself down to the next parking lot, and walked across the road to a bench there where I could sit at watch the birds. It was there that I caught sight of my very first Blue-Winged Teals.
I’ve seen lots of Cinnamon Teals and Green Teals before, but never saw a Blue-Winged one (even though they’re relatively common), so that was cool. All in all, I got to see: White-Fronted Geese, Greater Yellowlegs, Long-Billed Dowitchers, Wilson’s Snipes, Sandhill Cranes, Great Egrets, American Kestrels, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Killdeer, Brewer’s Blackbirds, Pintails, Green Teals, Coots, Northern Shovelers, a Blue-Eyed Darner dragonfly, White-Crowned Sparrows, Crows, Cinnamon Teals, Black-Necked Stilts, another elusive Belted Kingfisher, Blue-Winged Teals, Mourning Doves and a Red-Shouldered Hawk. I was also surprised to find a lone White Pelican hanging out among the geese. It’s usual to find only one of those guys… and to find one so close to the roadway…

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Oh, also along the way I found some raccoon scat, and the remains of a snake. There was still a long piece of skin intact – although it had dried up in the sun over the past few days – as well as lengths of backbone and some rib bones. Kewl!
After my walk and drive, I went home, took some Aleve for my still-sore ankle and foot, and had some lunch with the dogs.