Tag Archives: egg laying

Lots of Grebe Babies, 07-08-16

I headed with the dog over to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge to see if I could find any other cool dragonflies or see any more Grebe babies.  On the way, I stopped at a gas station to top off the tank, and got some stuff for lunch for Sergeant Margie and me.  It was in the high-70’s when we got to the refuge, and over 90° when we left just a few hours later.

I got to see quite a few dragonfly species including Black Saddlebacks, the ubiquitous Variegated Meadowhawks, blue and green Pondhawk, some Widow Skimmers, and several mated pairs of Green Darners that were laying their eggs in the water.  The pairs were fighting over who got to sit on what stick in the water, and the males dragged the females back and forth while they fought for egg-laying territory.

There were a couple of male Great-Tailed Grackles out singing and chirping around the nests where their females were – like expectant fathers waiting for the babies to hatch.  And I came across a California Ground Squirrel eating along the side of the auto-tour route.  She had a particularly beautiful coat with bands of russet brown around her body and a very dark-brown “mantel” across her back.  Most ground squirrels are scruffy looking, but she looked very… svelt.


I did get to see some more Clark’s Grebe babies.  One pair of adults had chicks sitting on the backs of both of parents, mom and dad, and the parents were feeding them bugs they’d catch from the top of the water.  At a few points, the babies jumped off of the parents’ backs and tried swimming on their own – then immediately climbed back on for the ride.

I also came across a mom who had one baby on her back and was tending her nest where her other babies were apparently just hatched out.  They weren’t very coordinated yet or very strong.  When dad floated by, two of the babies climbed up on his back but the others kept trying to get mom to sit on them some more – as she tried cleaning all the egg crap out of her nest.  I could see dad feeding some of them bugs…  They’re so fascinating to watch.  Unfortunately, they were all still too far away to get any real good clear close-up photos or video of them, but I did the best I could.

Here’s a distant video of a mama Grebe on her nest getting her eggs settled.

Here’s a video of a mama Grebe on her nest with the babies all around her.

I’m soooo in need of an upgrade in camera equipment – even if it’s just to get a camera on which I can shut off the auto-focus… I’ll have to look for a grant for that… I was thinking I should get a car mount for my birding scope, too; maybe I can figure out a way to the camera (or even my cell phone) to focus through that to get some closer shots.  Hmmmm…

I also got to see American White Pelicans – (I got some video of a pair of them feeding in the water) — cormorants, Pied-Billed Grebes, and some juvenile Ruddy Ducks.

Here’s a video snippet of the pelicans feeding.

One cool sighting, though, was a covey of Ring-Necked Pheasant poults running across the road after their mama from left to right, right in front of the car.  I had to shoot through the windshield to get some photos of them – which were crappy – but I did get a little video snippet of some of them.  Then I could hear one of the poults peeping loudly from my left.  It had gotten separated from the group and didn’t know where it’s mom was.  When I stepped out onto the road, I tried getting some photos through the driver’s side window.

A super-brief video of the poults.

Another video of the one lost poult.

Another cool sighting that I didn’t get any photos of: I saw a Lesser Nighthawk (which is a species I’d never seen before) getting mobbed by Kingbirds that didn’t want him around their nesting area.  I recognized the Nighthawk immediately by the bright white bands on its wings.

On the way out of the refuge, I came across some Turkey Vultures who had descended on a squished skunk on the side of the road.  Photo op!  I’m so weird. Hah!

Just a Few Pix from the Cosumnes Preserve

Vacation Day 14.  I was going to go to the zoo today, but they’re have their special “Boo at the Zoo” things going on today and tomorrow and I didn’t want to be inundated with small kids, so I skipped that outing.  Instead, after having a light breakfast and coffee, I caught up on my journaling before showering and getting dressed.  By then it was about 11:00 am.

I headed off to the Cosumnes River Preserve again and was able to walk the boardwalk route today; ankle is feeling much much better.  They were having one of the “Ducks in Scopes” mornings, but no one had showed up, and the ducks were few, so the folks all packed up and headed out just as I arrived.  I didn’t mind.  I just wanted to walk a bit anyway.  Not a lot of birds at the preserve itself, but there were tons of geese along Desmond Road, as well as some Sandhill Cranes.  I also saw a pair of Red-Tailed Hawks and several Kestrels along the road, but they moved too fast for me to get photos of any of them.  (I either have to drive faster or get a camera that can link to my brain to my camera and automatically focus on the fast-moving birds.  Hah!) In the preserve itself, I did come across several dragonflies; last creatures of the season before winter comes in.  Pickings were so slim, though, that I only took about 200 photos instead of my standard 600-700. 

Here are a few:

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Lots of Critter Encounters

I got up about 6:00 am and immediately headed out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  After its tune-up and flush yesterday the car was running great.

At the preserve, I noticed they’d just started to flood up some of the seasonal wetland ponds.  It’ll take a month before there’s enough water to satisfy large flocks, but I did see more ducks today than I did the last time I was up there.  Besides those, there were a lot of the usual suspects at the preserve: jackrabbits, cormorants, egrets, herons, dragonflies, pelicans…  But I also saw quite a few ibis today (although I couldn’t get any photos of them because they’d come out of nowhere and then disappear again), and two small flocks of American Avocets (which I also couldn’t get any clear shots of)… those are for next time I guess.

I came across a pair of Green Darner dragonflies in the water.  They were perched on a stick.  The male still had hold of the female, and the female was laying her eggs in the water along the sides of the stick.  Very kewl to watch. According to my research, large female dragonflies like these can lay huge clutches of eggs, and hypoxia triggers the eggs to hatch.  A lot of these Darners are residents (although there are also migratory populations) and it takes about a year for them to become sexually mature.  As this female was laying her eggs, she and her mate kept getting annoyed by Blue-Eyed Darners that wanted in on the action with the female.  They’d buzz in low over the pair and the male Green Darner would shoo them off by flapping his wings and jumping up a fraction off the stick.  He didn’t let go of his female, though, so the Blue-Eyes ones got tired of trying and eventually left the pair alone.  I wanted to get out of the car to see how many eggs the female was laying, but you can’t leave your vehicle on the auto-tour, so… waah.

I also got to see some of the raccoons again, and came across a small family of river otters swimming and rolling around in the water.  Not too many clear shots of them, but I did get some video of the otters (from a distance).  As soon as the otters showed up in the water, the ducks went scrambling in every direction.  And I saw some baby Western Grebes.  One was floating like a bobber in the water between its parents, and another one was pretty well hidden on its mother’s back (but I got some distant video of the papa feeding the chick.  So cute.)  It’s times like this when I bemoan my low-tech camera equipment. Oh, and I also watched two Common Terns harassing a young Great Blue Heron.  I don’t know why, but they kept buzz-bombing him.  Then they’d fly off for a while and then they’d come back to harass him.  I got the distinct impression that they were just jerks.  The heron wasn’t doing anything…

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I stayed in the refuge for about 5 hours before heading back to Sacramento.

None of these videos are very detailed (because the subjects were so far away) but you’ll get the gist of them.

Video of the heron getting harassed: http://youtu.be/tNKtHKXz-Os

Video of the Grebes and their babyhttps://youtu.be/LFbJYdDKZQ4

Video of the otters: http://youtu.be/knWhMJsNsKo