Tag Archives: Dunlins

Too Windy at the Refuge, 04-28-17

I’d gotten the okay from my boss to work from home of Friday.  I checked in with office stuff on-and-off via cellphone and email  in the morning, and then did some more work from home in the afternoon, but spent several hours in between driving around the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  It was way too windy there, so I didn’t get to see a lot of stuff, but it was still nice to get outside and into the fresh air.

CLICK HERE for an album of photos and videos.

Because the wind was blowing so hard, my subjects kept moving which made focusing on anything difficult, and at other times, the wind would latterly knock my camera to the side or back into my face, which also hampered picture taking and videoing.  So, I didn’t get as many choice photos as I would have liked.

I did see, in the distance a mama Mallard and what looked like 13 ducklings… It was hard to count them because they kept moving around…

For a minute, I saw a Red-Tailed Hawk in a tree. It’s crop was so full it looked like it had swallowed a tennis ball.  I think it was hoping to just rest in the top of the tree and digest its meal, but a pair of Kingbirds wanted that tree to nest in, and they mobbed the hawk until it flew off…

I also got to see a pair of American Bitterns. They had come out to the edge of the auto-tour road to challenge one another.  Both were doing their “pumper-lunk” calls, but by the time I got the car stopped and my camera primed, they were quiet… and one of them walked off into the tules where I could barely see him.  (Sometimes yet get the pictures; sometimes you don’t.)

Later in the tour I came across a roadkill, which is kind of unusual on the auto tour route because most cars are usually going less than 5 miles per hour. This was a full hit-the-critter-and-roll-it-inside-out kind of roadkill.  By the looks of the tail and the clawed back foot, I’m assuming it had been a muskrat. I wanted to take parts of it home with me – but I don’t have my collections permit yet, and besides you’re not allowed to get out of your car on the tour. Dangit!

A little further up the route, I came across a pair of Black Tailed Mule Deer sitting in a dry culvert, sunning themselves out of the wind.  One was a young male with black “nubbies” where is antlers will come in over the summer; the other was a female. They both lifted their heads to look at me, but didn’t get up.  They were comfortable where they were.

I’m used to seeing all of the Marsh Wren nests in tules, but today I saw a few that were really quite interesting in their construction. One seemed to complete with a grassy ‘handle” on top.  I’d love to be able to just camp out along a stretch of tules at the refuge and film the construction process… and try to figure out what attracts the females to a particular nest when there are so many options available to them.


Vacation Day 10: Cosumnes River Preserve and William Land Park

DAY 10 OF MY VACATION.  I got up a little after 6:00 this morning at the hotel.  We were out of here before 6:30 and headed back to Sacramento, hitting the morning traffic at just the ickiest time. D’oh!  Since we were up and moving anyway, I decided to drive all the way to Elk Grove and the Cosumnes River Preserve.  The dog isn’t allowed in there, so I sat with him in the car and took photos of the birds through the open windows… Got some pretty good shots!

At first I drove along Desmond Road and then I went into the preserve itself.  On October 22nd there was a spotting of about 50 Sandhill Cranes in the field along Desmond Road, some of them within 20 feet of the vehicles that had stopped to look at them.  Today… nuthin’, not a single crane. Nature doesn’t perform on cue.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

But the first thing I saw along Desmond Road was a group of Great Egrets starting their early morning hunt for voles, so I got some photos of them. I watched a pair goose-step together for a while, and then one of them walked off and back with that same stiff posture.  I don’t know if that territorial behavior or early courtship behavior – (Some of the egrets’ faces are flushing green, but they haven’t grown their long plumes yet.)  It was fun to watch.  I got a little video of that, too.  There was a Great Blue Heron out in the field with the egrets, but he was further away, so I didn’t get any really clear shots of him.  Further along, I came across a Say’s Phoebe that posed for me on the top of a dried weed.

In the preserve, I parked near the front pond and got photos of a variety of ducks and shorebirds – and my first American Pipit(!). The overcast turned the water silvery gray, so a lot of the photos I got there have a silver-white background that makes them look like paintings.  Among the ducks were Northern Shovelers, Cinnamon Teals, Northern Pintails, and Green-Winged Teals.  I got a little video of a pair of males beating the crap out of each other, and also spotted a little female that seemed to be having trouble breathing. She was able to walk around, but was gaping a lot.

Among the shorebirds were Killdeer, Long-Billed Dowitchers (in their nonbreeding plumage), Black-Necked Stilts, Dunlins, American Coots, and a couple of Wilson’s Snipes.  I’m always fascinated by the Snipes.  I don’t know why, but I always find myself focusing on them and taking a lot of photos and video of them whenever I see them.  Maybe they’re one of my “spirit animals”. I also saw a few Brown-Headed Cowbirds, Golden-Crowned Sparrows, and Red-Winged Blackbirds.

When I was done at the preserve,  I drove back to Sacramento again, and figured that dog had been so good on the whole trip I’d treat him to a walk at the William Land Park before going home.  While we were there a Green Heron flew up onto one of plant holders in the pond, so I got some photos of it.  I find these birds intriguing, too, and usually take waaaaay more pictures of them than I really need to… along with the pictures I take of the ubiquitous ducks, geese, and tree squirrels.  Among the ducks today there were a lot of Cayuga ducks, some apricot colored Indian Runners, Swedish Blues, a Silver Appleyard, and some Rouens (all of which are domesticated versions of the wild Mallards).

A very nature-filled morning.



Vacation Day 10: Cosumnes River Preserve

Female Western Pondhawk. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Female Western Pondhawk. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

Vacation Day 10.  I got up around 6:30 and headed over to the Cosumnes River Preserve for my walk.  Usually, they don’t open their gates until 9:00 am, but they must’ve had a lot of people complaining about that – including me.  In the late spring and summer months, 9:00 am is already “too late” in the day to see anything, and it gets too hot to walk more quickly in the day…  So, now their gates are open a lot earlier.  Even so, there wasn’t a lot to see there.  The wetland areas are drying up, and it’s not quite warm enough for the dragonflies to emerge or for the midges and wasps to start forming their galls on the oak trees (although I did see some of the big “oak apple” galls on a Valley Oak)… But there were TONS of mosquitoes.  I got bitten all over my arms.  Need to remember to buy some bug spray next time I got to the store. Blug!

I was surprised to see American Avocets at the preserve.  I’d never seen them that far “south” in the region before. They use California as their migration corridor — breeding in the north, then traveling south to rest – but it seems like I’ve seen a LOT more of them this year than in previous years.  And they’re all in their breeding plumage… There were also a few Green-Winged Teals and Cinnamon Teals, some Black-Necked Stilts, Northern Shovelers, Dowitchers and tiny Dunlins but they were few and far between.  The largest populations were of Killdeer and Red-Winged Blackbirds – who are nesting now – some Marsh Wrens, and loads of Coots.  I got a glimpse of a Lesser Goldfinch and some Song Sparrows along the boardwalk area. And I saw a gorgeous California Sister butterfly, but I couldn’t get my camera to focus on it before it flew off.  Dang it!

There was wild mustard and charlock (a kind of wild radish) in bloom everywhere, and the dock plants and scrubby willows were leafing out… some of them covered with Ladybeetles and their tiny alligator-looking larvae…  In the native plant garden the purple and red Penstemon were in bloom along with some California Poppies. Very pretty…  In some of the muddy areas, I found the footprints of Raccoons, but didn’t see any of the beasties myself… I saw some Paper Wasp nests alongside an abandoned must nest (made by House Finches, I think) under the awning over a sign… I also found a single bright green dragonfly hiding in the grass: a female Western Pondhawk.  I don’t know how I spotted her; pure luck.

Best photos of the day were of a Song Sparrow and a Mockingbird.

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