Tag Archives: grass

Mostly Pheasants and Marsh Wrens, 03-21-19

I got up a little before 6:00 am and headed out with the dog to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  I hadn’t been out there in a few months, so I was anxious to see what it was looking like.  I arrived there around 8:00 am and it was about 44° outside; when I left around noon, it was about to about 63°.  For the first half of my drive, the full moon was out, and all I could think was: I bet the Tiger Salamanders in Dunnigan are up and running around.  Hah!  Too much of a naturalist.

There “wasn’t much” to see at the preserve. Most of the large flocks of birds have moved on, and the summering birds haven’t arrived yet. What there was to see was mostly Ring-Necked Pheasants and Marsh Wrens… But there were other species as well, most of them too far away to get a decent photo of them. So, the day was a little frustrating for me. I did get to see some Black Phoebes building their nests under an overhang on the sign at the first park-and-stretch site, a pair of male pheasants squaring off against one another (although they were more interested in breakfast than in fighting), and a Great Egret fishing for crawdads in one of the sloughs.  One of the male Ring-Necked Pheasants jumped up onto a fallen log and “crowed”, then jumped back down and walked along the edge of a shallow levy to show off in the morning sun. He was unusually cooperative, so I got quite a few photos of him.  I saw a few Red-Tailed Hawks and some Northern Harriers (in flight); no eagles out today.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

Not a lot of wildflowers are out yet; it’s been too chilly for them. But I did see some Fiddleneck, and the pink Squirreltail Barley was all over the place.

I saw a small herd of deer cutting across one part of the wetlands, and one of the does looked VERY pregnant. Her belly was almost halfway down to her “knees”.

The Pool 2 Extension Loop was open, which was a nice surprise.  They’ve “manicured” some of the banks of the pool, though, knocking down and bending over some of the tules – which gives you a better view of the water, but means there are fewer hiding places for the birds (like the Bitterns), so you don’t get to see them. Can’t win.

The one thing that was out in abundance was the midges; they were everywhere, some of them in deep warming balls. Lots of food for the insectivores!

I drove around the auto tour route for about 4 hours and then headed home, getting there around 1:30 pm or 2:00.

Species List:

1. American Coot, Fulica americana
2. American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
3. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
4. Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus
5. Black-tailed Jackrabbit, Lepus californicus
6. Brown-Headed Cowbird, Molothrus ater
7. Bufflehead, Bucephala albeola
8. Bullfrog, American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus
9. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
10. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
11. Cattail, Broadleaf Cattail, Typha latifolia
12. Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera
13. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Mule Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
14. Crayfish, Crawfish, Crawdad, Red Swamp Crayfish, Procambarus clarkii
15. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auritus
16. Fiddleneck, Common Fiddleneck, Amsinckia intermedia
17. Great Egret, Ardea alba
18. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
19. Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
20. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
21. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
22. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferus
23. Loggerhead Shrike, Lanius ludovicianus
24. Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris
25. Meadowlark, Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
26. Midge, Tanytarsus sp.
27. Northern Harrier, Circus cyaneus
28. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
29. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
30. Pink Barley, Squirreltail Barley, Foxtail, Hordeum jubatum ssp.
31. Red-Eared Slider Turtle, Trachemys scripta elegans
32. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
33. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
34. Ring-Necked Duck, Aythya collaris
35. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
36. Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
37. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
38. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
39. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
40. Teasel, Wild Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum
41. Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus var. occidentalis
42. Western Kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis
43. Western Pond Turtle, Pacific Pond Turtle, Actinemys marmorata
44. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
45. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi

After Work at the WPA Rock Garden, 09-14-17

After work, it was still relatively nice outside, so I went over to the WPA Rock Garden and duck pond for a short walk.

I came across the caterpillar of a Redhumped Caterpillar Moth on one of the Redbud Trees there.  They’re considered a pest species because they can have three generations in a single year and skeletonize the leaves of a lot of different kinds of trees.  There was only one that I saw, and it was big enough to start working on its chrysalis, so I don’t think it was much of a threat to the tree at this point.  The caterpillars burrow underground to form their chrysalis and overwinter in it.  Lots of little Skippers and some Hairstreak Butterflies around.  Among the common Fiery Skippers were some darker Woodland Skippers to break up the monotony… I also got some photos of a Flame Skimmer dragonfly and a Variegated Meadowhawk . Their regular mating season is almost over now…

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

While I was taking photos of the insects, there was a professional photographer taking photos of a little boy, a toddler with thick black curly hair.  His mother made loud squeaking noises at him to make him laugh… and every time she did that, a homeless guy who was squatting in the park shouted at the top of his lungs, “Goddamn it! It is so noisy here!  Shut Up!  I’m trying to sleep!  This is the noisiest place I have ever lived in!”

Someone yelled back at him, “You don’t live here, man. This is a public park. If you don’t like the noise, get out!”

Then the homeless guy started screaming like a chimpanzee – “Oooh! Ooh!  Eee!  Eee!” — as he gathered up all of his stuff.  As he was leaving the garden area, he started yell-singing at the top of his lungs, “What do you get when you fall in love?!  You get enough germs to catch pneumonia!  After you do, he’ll never phone ya! I’ll never fall in love again!”  He kind of mixed up the lyrics and apparently these were the only lines he knew he knew, because he repeated them over and over and over again… I could hear him even when he was halfway out to the golf course. *Sigh*

I watched some hummingbirds chase each other around the garden and I think one pair of them were Rufous Hummingbirds, the ones with the rusty coloring on them. The male never sat still long enough for me to get any decent photos of him, but I got quite a lot of the female.  It seems awfully late in the year for them to be so “horny” but maybe the hurricanes and Climate Change have confused them…

There was a Green Heron running back and forth along the edges of the pond, picking off little minnows when they came up to munch on algae. I followed him around for a little while and got quite a few photos of him. I saw him catch several fish, but he always had his back to me when he did it, and I couldn’t get any good “capture” shots.

I finished off the walk taking photos of the ducks before heading back the car. On my way out of the garden I came across a male Praying Mantis, and snapped a few shots of him before I left.

Deer, Goslings and Acorn Woodpeckers, 05-16-17

DAY 11 OF MY VACATION. I got up around 5:30 this morning and headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve… It was cool and overcast all day today, and never got over 65º outside.  All of this beautiful weather we’ve been having is on its way out, though. When I got back to work next week, it’s supposed to be over 100º every day… Pleh!

I was hoping to see the baby hawks again today at the preserve, but it was dark and chilly outside, and they weren’t awake yet.  I got a tiny bit of video of one of them rustling around the nest, but no good shots.  I could hear their mom and dad screeching at one another across the preserve, but didn’t see either of them go to the nest… I did get to see quite a few deer, and lots of geese and their goslings, though.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos and videos.

The first deer I saw was a female – who looked very pregnant – standing in the overgrown native flowers bed near the nature center building. She was eating all the tender leaves on the plants, and some of the flower heads.  Surprisingly, she let me get quite close to her – maybe within 8 feet– and never startled.  She was so calm, I watched her graze for several minutes before moving on.  All of the other deer I saw were also casually grazing… and I saw one buck in his velvet hobbling though the long grass.  It looked like he was favoring his right front leg, but I couldn’t tell what was wrong because the grass came up almost to his shoulders.  I couldn’t see any swelling in the joints that I could see; and nothing looked broken.  Maybe he has an injury to his hoof…

I found some areas where the thistles were thick… and many of them had Painted Lady Butterfly caterpillars stretched out along them, covered with a thin web of silk (which they spin while they’re feeding)… It’s hard to get photos of them when they’re in their webs because the camera keeps trying to focus on the webbing instead of the caterpillars, and the prickles on the thistles stab me in the hands.  I got a few, though.

I also came across a small flock of female Wild Turkeys, and next to them was a group of males, all showing off, fanning their tails, dropping their wings, and snorting through their snoods.  The gals were not impressed and didn’t even look at the guys. I got some video of one of the gobblers and in it you can his snood contract and expand on his face.  On the video you can hear me “chew!”-ing at him, mimicking the noise the male turkeys made when they snort out blasts of air from under their snood.  It made the male turn and look at me, so I could get some good head-on footage of him…

Just seconds after I left the group of turkeys behind to get some shots of another doe in a nearby field, I heard the turkeys all scrambling and gobbling and shrieking frantically, I looked back to see a coyote chasing one of them down.  I ran – Yeah, me, running. Try not to laugh out loud. – after the coyote but lost it in the over-growth.  I couldn’t tell if it got a turkey or not, but as I turned back to the trail, I saw a second coyote running up from the riverside.  He must’ve heard the breakfast call.  It all happened so fast all I got through the camera was a few-second glimpse of the second coyote as it ran through the overgrowth. Got my heart going, I can tell you.

After that I headed to the river bank to see how far up the water was there.  It was up higher than it normally is, but wasn’t “flooding” like it had been earlier. There were quite a few pairs of Canada Geese close to the water, and each pair had a handful of goslings.  It seemed like each group had babies of different ages, from little golden fuzzies to gray-and-black ones that were just starting to fledge.

Now, a lot of times several groups of dominant parents will work collectively to oversee, feed and protect a large crèche of babies, but these pairs weren’t intermingling, and sometimes showed aggression toward one another.  So I was surprised by how close the parents let me get to their kids; some came to within about a foot of me – and the parents didn’t attack or hiss at me.  I was the only person on the shore, so maybe they didn’t think I was much of a threat… One of the parents, though, got mad at another parent’s fledgling that got too close to its fuzzies, and it bit the fledging in the butt and chased it into the water. For the rest of the time I was there, that one fledgling stayed in the water, whining for its parents to come get it… Poor baby. When his mom finally came back to him, he fussed and fussed at her, as though scolding her for leaving him behind.  Hah!

I also saw a lot of Acorn Woodpeckers who were out and about, squawking and “ratchet-ing!” at each other. One pair was in the process of excavating a new nesting cavity in the side of a dead tree near the nature center that had been denuded of limbs and topped off (so it wouldn’t fall on anyone). It amazed me how perfectly round the cavity’s doorway was; like they had used a drill or a awl or something rather than their face.  Amazing.

I walked for about 4 ½ hours, and then headed home. On the way there, I stopped to get the few groceries I had forgotten to put on the list for delivery this afternoon, and got back to the house around 11:30 am. My ankles were killing me, but I think the exercise is good for me…

I relaxed with the dogs for a few hours, and then Safeway delivered the rest of the groceries to the house.  I unpacked those, and then crashed for the rest of the day.

Robins at the WPA Rock Garden, 08-06-16

I got up at 6:30 this morning, and headed over to the WPA Rock Garden for a walk. It was actually a little chilly outside (about 53°) with a nice breeze, so it was actually quickly lovely.  I’d gone there with the idea of walking through the garden and around the ponds, then go to the zoo, then go grocery shopping.  I was waaaaay too ambitious, especially considering that I’ve been tired all week. So I did my walk and shopped for groceries, cutting out the zoo entirely for today.  Tomorrow, the zoo is supposed to be hosting a Pokémon Go day, but today I saw all of the adults and older kids out around the park and hanging out in front of the zoo, to see what Poké-stuff they could find. Hah!

There wasn’t a lot really new to see at the park today, but I did get to watch a mama Robin feeding one of her three fledglings.  The babies were all very capable of feeding themselves, but pestered mom for food anyway. Danged teenagers.  Hah!  I got some video of that exchange.

CLICK HERE to see it, and other photos in the album for this day.

I also watched a hummingbird trying to take a bath in the water caught in the leaves of a tree after a sprinkler got to it, and got s little snippet of video of that, too.  There was enough moisture to get the bird’s feathers wet, but not much else, so it ended up just looking like it had bed-head. Hah-2!

Oh, and on my way out of the park, I saw a crow across the lawn that looked very odd.  It looked like it had a white or pale yellow patch on the back of its neck that wrapped around to its cheeks.  (I thought maybe it was a weird-looking magpie at first, but its body and beak were definitely “crow”.)  None of the other crows seemed to care about the oddball one; they worked with it to try to find stuff to eat.  It was too far away for me to see it clearly, though; and the camera couldn’t “reach” far enough to see it clearly either. As far as I could tell, I surmised that the crow must have been in the middle of a molt and the pale color I was seeing was is skin and undercoat of feathers.

Day 2 of a 2-Day Excursion, 07-16-16

Up at 5:00 am.  I know, it’s my day off, but I wanted to get everything packed in the car, get some gasoline, and head out to the refuge again as soon as I could to take advantage of the cool morning air.  (It was about 67° when I got there, and was up to 82° before I left around noon.)  Early-early morning is really the best time to see cool stuff at the refuge… CLICK HERE to see the entire album.

I saw lots of jackrabbits and a skunk (who moved too fast for me to get any photos of), and flocks of White-Faced Ibis flying overhead (again, too fast for me and my camera).  There was one spot, deep in the tules, where I could see Ibis, Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets all gathering and flying in and out… I knew there was a shallow pool there, and I suspected they were all having breakfast.  I lifted my camera up out of the window, and tried to shoot over the tools and thistles.  Still photos weren’t turning out well at all, so I tried shooting a little bit of video.  That turned out a little bit better (although it’s still pretty crummy because the angle and all of the vegetation interference), and you can see one of the Snowy Egrets raising its crown feathers at another one in it.  Here is the snippet.

On “Pelican Island” out in the middle of the wetland area, there were quite a few American White Pelicans, Double-Crested Cormorants, some Black-Necked Stilts and sleepy American Avocets among the seagulls.  Later the pelicans and cormorants left the island to go fishing and I got some photos and video of that.  The pelicans often work together swirling the water so they can catch fish. Today, it seemed like the cormorants showed the pelicans where the fish were, and then as the pelicans worked to swirls up the fish, the cormorants get into the middle of everything and chowed down, too.  I love watching the pelicans when they’re feeding in a group; it’s almost like a choreographed water ballet.  Video of Pelicans fishing.

I also saw Ring-Necked Pheasants, Great Blue Herons, Yellow-Headed Blackbirds (females and juveniles), lots of female Red-Winged Blackbirds, a Turkey Vulture,  pair of female Great-Winged Grackles feeding by the rocks, tons of Coots, some Pied-Billed Grebes, and a group of immature Tree Swallows.  They had all gathered at an old gnarled tree and were eating bugs out of a cavity at the end of one of its stubby branches.  Video of Tree Swallows.

I also spotted several river otters on the road ahead of me, but when I got to the place where they’re entered the water, I couldn’t see them anymore.  Dang it!  Those little guys move fast!  And I got just a couple of photos through the windshield of my first Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis proximus), a kind of long slender garter snake.  It was warming up on the road next to a pool, but when it saw the car coming it slipped into the water and vanished from sight.

Again, there were loads of Variegated Meadowhawks and blue damselflies.  I tried to get some photos showing how many there were, but the pictures don’t really do their numbers justice because the camera can only focus on one small area at a time.  I got a little bit of video of the damselflies, but still… imagine those multiplied a thousand fold and you get some idea of how many there were out there. I also saw some Black Saddlebag dragonflies, blue Pondhawks, and Widow Skimmers.  I’m still trying to get some decent shots of Green Darner and Giant Darners, but they’re few and far between… Oh, I also got a very brief video of a pair of Variegated Meadowhawks as the male flew the female over the top of the water. He’d “tap” her against the water’s surface and with each tap, she’d lay some eggs…  Video of egg-tapping.

And, of course, there were the “cities” of orb-weaver spiders among the tules on the side of the road, Common Buckeye butterflies, Sulphurs, Painted Ladies, some Hairstreaks, and a couple of Monarchs along with a variety of skippers.  I also came across a nest of Paper Wasps in a weird place. By the viewing platform (at the halfway point on the auto tour) there’s a gate that keeps visitors out of the area where one of the photo-blinds are, and in the open top of the fence post was the nest. It looked like they were all busy building new cells (which were all empty right now, as far as I could tell).  The wasps were so focused on what they were doing that they didn’t spook or fly out when I put my camera over the top of the nest to get photos of them.

I got lots of video snippets of the Clark’s Grebes out on the water.  [Please excuse the “shaking” in some of them; I sometimes had to move the car while videoing at the same time.] Some of the females are still sitting on eggs even though their other babies have already hatched, so the dads were doing “taxi service” for the kids a lot of the time.  In one video, the chicks are riding on the back of one of their parents while the other tries to feed them a fish (or flatworm of some kind). The morsel is too big for the babies, though, and they keep dropping it in the water. So the parent retrieves it, “washes it off” and tries again.  Then the fish gets covered with eel grass and crud… and you can almost feel the parent’s frustration with the whole thing.  Here’s that video.

In another snippet, you can see the mother grebe, on her nest, rolling her egg around while dad floats nearby with their chicks on his back.  Cooperative parenting.  [In this video, it looks to me like the dad is actually a Western Grebe, not a Clark’s Grebe like the mother!  The black on his head surrounds his eye – one of the field markings of a Western Grebe.  On the Clark’s Grebe, the eye is surrounded by white, not black.] Here’s that video.

I also have a video snippet of this pair in which the dad first feeds feathers to the babies – [This is normal of the species; the feathers seem to aid in digestion (sort of like the way chickens eat gravel; the gravel sits in the gizzard and grinds up the seeds they eat).] – and then dumps them in the water so he can go fishing. You can then see the babies then try to climb up onto the nest to get warm with their mama. Here’s that video.

Then in another video, I have a snippet of a Clark’s Grebe dad who’d caught a good sized panfish.  Mom came by with the babies on her back, but dad didn’t want to share. The fish was way too big for the kids; I even thought it was way too big for dad to swallow but he somehow managed it, gulping it down whole. Here’s that video.

Further on down toward the end of the auto-tour route, I came across a mother Killdeer.  When she saw the car coming, she dropped to the ground and did her “broken wing” act – which told me she had a nest nearby.  [Killdeer mothers pretend to be injured and roll around on the ground hoping to distract predators from their nests.  When the predator goes after the mom, she flies away at the last second to safety.] But as I looked around, I realized it wasn’t a nest from which she was trying to distract me. She had two new fuzzy hatchlings running along the opposite side of the road!  I’d seen photos of Killdeer chick before, but had never seen one in “real life” before.  They were beyond adorable!  The video I got of them was terrible, because I had to keep moving the camera from one window of the car to another, but I did capture mama’s “wounded” routine.  Here is the video of the Killdeer.

One of the oddest things I encountered all morning was a spot where the water seemed to be “alive” with jumping, plopping creatures.  The critters moved so fast, I couldn’t get any real still shots of them, but I did get a video snippet.  At first I thought they were some time kind of fish, but on closer inspection, I found they were bullfrog tadpoles!  They were getting close to emerging as frogs, and were jumping up to the top of the water to gulp air (as their tadpole gills weren’t functioning at full throttle anymore). Gulping air also helps to make them more buoyant in the water. Super cool! Here is the video of the tadpoles gulping air.

Another neat find was spotting an immature American Bittern in a shallow pond where it was fishing.  I’d actually passed the bird at first, and then caught a glimpse of it in my side-view mirror, so I backed up and watched it for a while.  In order to see it through the tules, I had to open the back passenger side window and hold the camera out behind the front seat on that side of the car.  Holding the camera at such a weird angle strained my shoulder a little bit, but it was worth it, I think.  I got some still shots and a little bit of video of it.  In of the still shots, you can see it’s caught a bullfrog tadpole – and this photo give you some idea of how BIG those tadpoles are. Here is a video of the Bittern.

Oh, I also came across a two different groups of Black-Tailed deer.  The first one was a female with a bum leg traveling with a young male who was in his velvet.  I assumed it was a mother and son pair.  Mom was having difficulty maneuvering; it looked like her left front leg or foot was giving her trouble, and she limped pretty severely.  I couldn’t see her leg or foot, though, because she was traveling in high vegetation.  Eventually, she got tired and just sat down – and all I could see was her ears and part of her head.  I got some still shot, and some video of the male walking through the plants. Here’s that video.

A little further up the road, I came across another female – with two fawns. The babies were just starting to come out of their spots – good sized, but still obviously nursing along with eating their veggies.  They were moving away from me (so I got butt shots of them, mostly), but I could tell what direction they were going in, and knew that the road turned up ahead, so I drove up ahead of them, and got photos of them as they came through the deep vegetation and tules.  They all starting browsing among the cocklebur plants.

Here is a video of mom and the fawns walking away from me.

Here is a video of mom and the fawns walking toward me.

So, although I didn’t get a lot of stuff in the heat of the afternoon on Friday, I got to see loads of interesting stuff this morning.  I left the refuge about noon and got home right around 2:00 pm.  When I got to the house, I unpacked the car, and then the dog and I crashed for the rest of the day.