Tag Archives: Gadwalls

At the Sacramento Preserve on 04-02-17

I headed out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge to see if there was anything interesting to see.  It was all the usual suspects at the refuge, but I did get to see a Blue-Winged Teal.  I hardly ever get to spot one of those, so that was a nice treat.  Because of the wing there was a lot of “chop” on the water which limited the number of birds swimming in it to just the stronger swimmers. The wind was also knocking butterflies around, and could be heard on the videos I shot.  Not insurmountable, just kind of disruptive.  Still, I saw about 25 different species of birds, which is pretty good for a three-hour viewing session.

Some of the wildflowers are coming out all over the refuge, too, including thick swaths of Goldfields and Fiddleneck, and the pink-headed Squirrel-Tail Barley.  That made for some pretty photos…

CLICK HERE to see the photos and video snippets.

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.

Mostly Jackrabbits, Marsh Wrens and an Eagle

I was feeling pretty burnt out, so I took a mental health day today, and went over to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge with Sergeant Margie. It’s supposed to rain all weekend, so I was hoping it would be nice today… and it was.  It was in the 40’s when I got there and about 59° when I left.  There was a high overcast, but no rain.

At the refuge, there were lots of jackrabbits everywhere and they’re always fun to watch.  And the tules were full of little male Marsh Wrens and their rattling calls, trying to attract females. The place also seemed overrun with young and old White-Crowned Sparrows. They were everywhere! Hah! As I was photographing some of them, I saw a large bird fly onto a pile of broken tules behind the car, so I backed up to see what it might be… It was a handsome juvenile Cooper’s Hawk that posed for me for several seconds before flying off again.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos and video snippets.

There weren’t any big flocks of birds, but there seemed to be a really good variety of them.  I saw  Northern Shovelers, American Wigeons, Gadwalls, Black-Necked Stilts, a few Killdeer, a Raven, several Turkey Vultures, Red-Tailed Hawks, Greater Yellowlegs, Ring-Necked Pheasants, Pied-Billed Grebes, Western Meadowlarks, Red-Winged Blackbirds, White-Faced Ibis, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, several Hairy Woodpeckers, a Great Blue Heron, a pair of California Towhees, Cinnamon Teals, and lots more.

When I stopped to get some photos and video snippets of Eared Grebes, I could see some other movement in the water.  At first I couldn’t figure out what I was looking at: something dark rolling under the surface…  Then a head popped up.  It was an otter feeding in the shallow water!  I got some video of him chomping on something, but he moved so quickly it was hard to keep up with him.  As soon as I focused the camera, he dove down into the water, then popped up somewhere else… It’s always fun to see those guys, though, so I was pleased with the little bit of footage that I got.

The big payout of the day was getting to see a Bald Eagle.  It was sitting in a scag of a tree along the auto-tour route by itself, and was facing right toward the car.  I was able to drive up within about 15 feet of the tree to get some photos.  At one point, the eagle looked straight down at me – just before it flew off.  Neat!

There was also a pond where I could see the gold and silver humped backs of carp… I think they were spawning; swimming closely alongside one another and rolling around.  It’s unusual for there to be carp in there.  They must’ve been brought in with the flood waters from the river and then stranded when the waters receded again…

 

When I was done at the Sacramento refuge, I drove over to the Colusa refuge, but they were still totally flooded and all of the auto-tour routes were closed.  I got out and had lunch with Sergeant Margie at their picnic area, and then walked part of their hiking trail.  Sergeant Margie hadn’t been doing well on walks for a while; he’s slowing down in his old age. But he did really well on the walk and even trotted ahead of me for most of the way. He must’ve needed a “day off” to feel better, too.

Lots of Hawks, Ducks, Geese and an Eagle!

Up at 6:30 again this morning, and I was out the door heading for the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge before 7:00.  It was 38° when I left the house, and was bright, sunny, and chilly all day.  Never got over 54°.  I love this kind of weather!  I had originally planned to go Lake Solano Park today, but something inside me insisted I go the SNWR instead… and I’m glad I did.  Got to see my first Bald Eagle of the season!

CLICK HERE to see the photo album.

The drive to the refuge was unremarkable; I had to stop and put gas in the car, and got some Jack breakfast stuff to eat, then was off again.  It was so clear out, you could see a lot of the foothills and smaller mountains around the valley.  Snow Mountain actually had snow on it… and I could see Mount Lassen in the distance, snow-covered, too… On the way, I counted 15 hawks along the highway…

I got to the refuge around 9:00 am, and juts as I drove into the first lot where the payment kiosk is, I saw a Great Egret fishing in the slough. As I crept forward a little bit to try to get some photos of it, I realized there was a smaller Snowy Egret standing behind it.  A two-fer! That was a nice way to start the morning!  I saw several more egrets along the way.

You could see the silhouette of the Sutter Buttes along the eastern horizon with a layer of fog crawling along below them.  It was neat to see the flocks of geese fly in and land across that backdrop…

An odd happenstance: I came across a flock of American White Pelicans that decided to WALK across the auto-tour route rather than fly… until they spotted my car.  Then little by little they all took off.  Another stunner: I stopped under a big willow tree where I usually see Northern Harrier Hawks.  Today there were no hawks, but there WAS a huge Great Horned Owl sitting up there!  It was dozing, its eyes open just a slit, and it was so well camouflaged it was hard to see it among all the little twiglet branches, but I did get a few photos of it.  I had a similar encounter with a Red-Tailed Hawk that was so covered by branches and stems, I could barely see it…

At another point on the route, something stirred up the Snow Geese, and they filled the air, flying and squawking and carrying on for the longest time.  Most of them settled in the “back 40”, fields a little further away from the auto-tour route which made taking photos a little difficult.  But among the Snow Geese were juveniles (once called “Blue Geese”) and some odd dark-morph ones.

Lots of Jackrabbits here and there, most of them trying to hide out in the tall dead grass or thickets because there were hawks everywhere.  I also saw a little American Kestrel.  I came across a few California Ground Squirrels, and got some close-up shots of one of them.  I also saw a Striped Skunk but – dang it! – it ducked down into its burrow before I could a picture of it.  I have no luck with skunk photos…

Among the ducks were most of the usual suspects: Mallards, Northern Pintails, Northern Shovelers, Green-Winged Teals, Cinnamon Teals, and a few Buffleheads.  The Buffleheads were too far away to get any descent still shots of them, but I did get a little video of them diving and popping up in the water. Oh, and I also found some Ring-Necked Ducks (which actually have a ring around their bill); a small group of males and females.  Later, while I was taking some photos of a group of American Coots, two White-Faced Ibis flew in, so I got a little bit of video of them… I didn’t realize it until I got home a looked through my photos, but I got a fuzzy photo of a Blue-Winged Teal, too.  He was slumming with the Mallards.  Hah!

Among the smaller birds were Western Meadowlarks, Song Sparrows, Black Phoebes, and White-Crowned Sparrows.

I didn’t see the eagle until the very last part of the route, just before you head back to the nature center.  It was sitting in a eucalyptus tree above my head, and I had to do contortions out the driver’s side window to get pictures of her.  I assumed it was a “she” based on her size, and the “depth” of her beak.  (In males, the beak opens up to just in front of the eye; in the female it’s deeper, and opens up to the mid-eye, or even behind the eye.)  An older couple came up in a car behind me and at first seemed aggravated that I was stopped near the middle of the road, then they realized the eagle was up there, and I saw huge smiles cross their faces. The hubby leaned outside the driver’s side window of their car to get some photos, too.  That was a great way to end the run.

By the time I got to the front gate of the SNWR it was only about 11:30 am, so I decided to head over to the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge before heading home.  It’s on the way; just outside of the town of Williams.  At Colusa, I saw pretty much the same species of ducks and geese, except for some American Widgeons and the Black-Crowned Night Herons.  There  were also a lot of Great Blue Herons along the sloughs, and I was able to get some fairly good shot of them.

There were also lots of hawks, too, and at one point I stopped to watch a big Red-Tailed Hawk trying to manage a Coot it had been successful in catching. The Coot was too large to eat at all once, and too heavy to fly away with, so the hawk wasn’t sure what to do.  It ate as much as it could, then flew off into a nearby tree – where two other hawks and a Turkey Vulture were sitting, waiting for leftovers. After a few second, the first hawk flew back to its kill, and flew-dragged the Coot off onto a small knoll in the middle of a wet area.  There, the hawks kind of posed for me and I got some really good shots of it with its prey.  I got some video of it spreading its tail and raising its head-feathers to make itself look more formidable.  Such a handsome animal!

I left the Colusa refuge around 1:30 and then headed home.

And here are some video snippets:

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 3: Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

DAY 3 OF MY VACATION.  I got up around 6:30 am and headed out with the dog for the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  The almost-full moon was still out, shining brightly, and there were big sofa clouds everywhere. A slight breeze continued throughout the day. It got up to about 70° by the afternoon.  It was a beautiful day for a drive.

CLICK HERE for an album of photos from the day.

I got to the refuge around 8:00 am and the first thing that greeted us when we arrived was a Peregrine Falcon sitting up in a tree.  It was kind of far away, so I couldn’t get any detailed shots of it, but I did manage to get a few photos.  There were lots of Jackrabbits around and the Northern Harrier hawks were flying all over overhead, sometimes buzz bombing the flocks of Coots and duck to try to get them to flush…  White-Crowned Sparrows seemed to be everywhere (this must be “their time” of the year) along with Red-Winged Blackbirds, Meadowlarks, a Black Phoebes.  Huge flocks of Greater White-Fronted Geese could be seen sitting on the ground; occasionally taking to flight when something spooked them.  I saw a much smaller flock of Snow Geese in one of the farther fields, but they’re not there in any great number yet.  It’s still early in the migration season, though. Among the ducks I saw Mallards, Green-Winged Teals, Northern Shovelers (still in their eclipse plumage), Gadwalls, Northern Pintails, and American Wigeons… but like the Snow Geese, their numbers weren’t very large yet.

At one point along the auto-tour route I found a Great Egret, a Snowy Egret and a Green Heron all feeding in the same patch of water primrose.  I didn’t see the heron at first because he was in sitting on top of the primrose in the shade and was well-camouflaged by his green and brown feathers. But then the Great Egret sort of shoved him out of the way and he jumped up with a squawk and a the raising if his crown feathers.  Hah!  Later on, I saw a few more egrets and herons in other places.

The surprise was being able to spot a Wilson’s Snipe right along the side of the road in a marshy patch… And very near to it, I also saw a California Ground Squirrel eating the seeds out of old thistle heads.  They were right outside the driver’s side of the car so I was able to get some nice close ups of them.  A funny thing: further down the road, I found a couple of crayfish trying to cross the gravel from one part of the wetlands to another.  One of them only had one pincher left, but he bravely brandished it at the car as I drove by him. So much bluster in such a small creature…

And I got to see a pair of young mule deer. It looked like a yearling and its younger sister.  They were eating among the teasel; their mother a few feet back, hidden in the overgrowth.  Both of the youngsters stopped to look at my car before they turned around and headed back to mom.  So cute.

As I mentioned, it’s still very early in the migration season, and the refuge doesn’t have its full contingent of water yet, so there aren’t as many birds to see just yet as I’d like to see.  Still, it was a nice drive, and I got to see a lot of different critters (if not very closely) so I was pleased.  The dog and I headed back home after a few hours and arrived at the house around 1:30 pm.