Tag Archives: Garter Snake

Kind of All Over the Place, 04-07-18

It was raining and overcast when I got up, and rained on and off for most of the day. I eased into my morning with some coffee, and did some journaling. We had to be out of the house between 1:00 and 4:00 pm because the realtor-people wanted to do an Open House today. *Sigh*

The dog and I went to Woodland first. I wanted to see if I could find the Burrowing Owls along Road 104… only to find that you can’t get there from Woodland (even though the maps say you can) because the Conaway Ranch blocks the way. *Sigh* Driving around, though, looking for a different route of access to Road 104, I came across the Egret and Heron rookery along Road 103.

There’s a stand of eucalyptus trees in someone’s front yard, and the trees are full of nests. I didn’t go onto the property, but parked across the road and got a few photos. The white Great Egrets are so white that when I tried to get a photo of the nests underneath them, the birds blended in with the “white” sky. I’ll have to go back there and try other settings some other day. I saw Great Egrets and a pair of Black-Crowned Night Herons. It looks like they’re just starting their nests. I saw some egrets in a nearby field, picking up sticks as building materials. the nests look so “small” in comparison to the size of the birds, but I guess they know what they’re doing. Hah!

Then I headed back toward Sacramento and stopped at William Land Park to see the big pond there. It had been closed “forever” while it was refurbished and cleaned out, and I hadn’t been there since they opened it up again last month. It looks very much like it did before, only a little tidier.

Because the water is so “clean” right now, there are no fish, crustaceans or waterborne insects for the birds to eat, so there weren’t a lot of birds hanging around; mostly just ducks and geese. One mama Mallard had a troupe of ducklings already (one of them very “blonde”). I’m assuming she’s a new mom, though, because her kids runs all over the place and she doesn’t supervise them well. Hah! Sergeant Margie liked the walk around the pond.

I was irritated to see a couple walking a large dog that was obviously a wolf-hybrid (which are illegal to own in California)… and they were walking it without a leash. The woman had the leash in her hand but not on the dog. That dog was big enough to take down a CAR. Where are these humans’ brains?!

Then I went over to the Cosumnes River Preserve to see if I could find the Virginia Rail that has been hanging out by the boardwalk. (She’s there almost every year and usually has a clutch of 3 or 4 chicks.) No rail – but I think she was hiding because there were a bunch of single parents there with their screaming kids. I saw one kid trying to chase down and stomp on a sparrow, and I wanted to smack him. Hateful little bastard. I just don’t understand what motivates that kind of behavior.

I did get some photos of Tree Swallows, Marsh Wren nests, and some bullfrogs. I tried to get some photos of a young garter snake slithering through the water, but it moved too quickly, so I only go the center portion of it. No one else could tell it was snake in the water, I guess, I know what it is. Hah!

By the time I was done there it was almost 4:00 pm, so I headed back to the house and thankfully the realtor people were gone.

Back to the Cosumnes River Preserve, 05-18-17

DAY 13 OF MY VACATION. I got up around 6 o’clock this morning and headed out to the Cosumnes River Preserve. I was looking for damselflies and dragonflies; it’s early in the season but as the weather is turning warmer, I thought they should be starting to emerge… It got up to 85º today…

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos and videos.

At the preserve, I didn’t see a lot of dragon- or damselflies, but I did find a great example of exuvia – the exoskeleton left behind when a dragonfly leaves its aquatic body and emerges as a winged dragonfly. I was able to get a lot of close-up photos of it.  I also saw two garter snakes and got some photos of the Virginia Rail and she scurried back and forth getting bugs for her babies.  And for some reason there were a lot of crayfish all over the place; most of them in areas where the egrets and herons couldn’t get in to eat them. They must’ve figured out where it was safer… I also saw quite a few tiny Pacific Tree Frogs, and came across a small Tadpole snail.  I’m always surprised when I’m able to catch sight of the teeny stuff like that…

When I got to the preserve its was 54º, but by the time I left it was already 76º — which is “too hot” for walking.  I walked for about 4 ½ hours… and was exhausted by the time I got back home. My feet and ankles just can’t take walks that long anymore…

 

American Bitterns Pumper-Lunking on Sunday

I was up at 6:00 am and out the door before 6:30.  It was my original intention to do some more wildflower hunting, but on the way to Highway 20 I got lost in my thoughts and missed the turn off (D’oh!), so I continued up the highway to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge and spent the morning there instead.  The weather was lovely (mostly sunny; 51º when I got there, 70º by the time I left).

CLICK HERE to see the whole album of photos and videos.

We’re right at the beginning of the breeding season, so lots of bird are starting to pair up, build nests, and claim territory.  I saw a lot of Great-Tailed Grackles flying overhead (and some American White Pelicans, too), and although I could hear the grackles occasionally singing their broad range of odd songs, I didn’t see any of them on or near the ground so I didn’t get any photos of them. I also saw a young garter snake and a green-tinted Western Racer snake, but they moved too fast for me. By the time I got my camera focus on them, they were gone into the brush.  I’d never seen a Western Racer before, so that was neat to see one for the first time.  When I initially saw it, I thought it was a tule on the auto-tour route… but then it moved.

A lot of the wildflowers and vernal pool flowers at the refuge were in bloom, so in area the ground was a patchwork of yellow Goldfields, orange Fiddleneck, white Popcorn Flowers and purple Dowingia… so pretty. There’s also wild mustard and Poison Hemlock, Blessed Milk Thistle, Italian Thistle, and Teasel blooming everywhere – just in time for the pollinators to wake up.

I saw only a few dragonflies, but it’s still early in the season for them. The Painted Lady and West Coast Lady butterflies on the other hand were everywhere. I bet I saw 20 of them just around the permanent wetland area.

There were jackrabbits and Cottontails bounding all over the place, and I got a few good shots of some California Ground Squirrels.

I didn’t see many babies today, just a pair of Canada Geese with their little troop of goslings, but it’s still early in the season.

The highlight of the day was seeing an American Bittern in the tall grass “booming”.  I don’t know why it’s called “booming” because the call has its own name but… whatever.  To stake out their territory, the Bitterns give out a loud complex call called the “pumper-lunk” call.  The bird claps its bill several time, sucking air into its esophagus, and then expels the air by compressing its neck – making a loud burbling sound, sort of like a melodious burp.  The one I was watching did his call five times, and I was able to get video of two of the calls.  Made. My. Day.  Here’s one of the videos of it: https://youtu.be/cg0HDZ2lhbw.

The odd moment of the day came when I saw something with long brown, black and white fur moving through the long grass.  I could see that it was moving nose-down along the ground, but because the critter never lifted its head, I couldn’t tell what it was.  I was thinking it was probably a Striped Skunk, but the brown shades were throwing me off… then I was thinking badger (but the fur was too long)… or maybe even porcupine (but they’re usually much larger, and the video proved that I was seeing fur and not quills)… So I’m settling on skunk, but I’m still not certain.

In another “what is that?” moment, I saw the dorsal fin and tail fin of a Northern Pike in one of the slews.  I know I’ve said it before, but those guys are brutal; they’ll eat anything.  They come up into the sloughs when the area gets flooded, then when the water recedes again, they get trapped.  They’re fast and powerful, though… and can move even in shallow water, so once they’re in the sloughs they prey on everything, including birds…

On the viewing platform, I came across a pair of Western Fence Lizards, that were challenging each other: doing pushups, body slamming one another, staring each other down.  I got some of the interaction on video.  The two males were very mature – showing off why they’re also called “Blue Bellies” – and had lots and lots of blue on their bodies, even along the back and on the head.  I’ve never ones that were this colorful before.  When the winner of the contest was done with his rival (who ran off) he decided that my blue-green walking shoes were an enemy, too, so he ran up as close to me as he dared and started doing pushups again.  Hah!  I let him win and walked away – after I got some video and photos of him.  In the same area, I found a melanistic Western Fence Lizard, a dark pitchy-gray one sitting on a branch sunning himself.  He was such a contrast to the brightly colored one, I had to get his photo, too.

I’m usually not too thrilled about seeing Black Phoebes, mostly because they’re so ubiquitous around here, but I caught sight of one carrying grass for its nest.  It perched on a limb of a tree and sat there for a while, letting me get some pretty good photos of it.  And the Kingbirds were out in force. I got some good shots of them, too.

Another good bird-moment was when I saw some American Coots playing “keep-away” with a crawfish.  One has caught it and was trying to eat it when a second Coot rushed up and grabbed it.  Coot #2 swam off with its prize, but as soon as it stopped to eat, Coot #3 rushed up and took it… When it comes to lunch, these guys aren’t polite.  Hah!

I stayed at the refuge for about 4 hours and then headed back home to crash with the dogs… So I didn’t see much in the way of wildflowers, today, but it was still a nice day out in nature…