Tag Archives: Great Egret (Ardea alba)

Guh! I Broke My Camera!! ( — and a Bit of Myself)

I got to the office around 7:00 am, printed up a grant request letter and got it ready for mailing, and then I headed out for Lake Solano Park. to do a preliminary walk of the trails before our naturalist field trip on March 3rd.  The park is in Winters, about 35-45 minutes from the office in Woodland.  It was chilly, in the low 40’s and a little overcast, but it was still nice “walking weather”. My coworker, Bill got there a little after I did. I was trying to fend off one of the resident peacocks who walked right up to the door of my car looking for handouts when he drove up. Hah!

While I was fending of the peacock, I missed being able to get a photo of a squirrel who went hurrying across the parking lot at the same time with a mouth full of feathers and grass for its nest. Dang it!

Anyway, Bill and I walked down the short driveway from the parking lot to the front gate where the pay-here kiosk was standing.  In the first couple of minutes I managed to get some photos of the peacocks, a tiny White-Breasted Nuthatch, and a Turkey Vulture.  But just as we were about to cross the street from the kiosk to the camping ground to look for the riverside trail, I tripped on the very uneven pavement around the kiosk and fell forward.  I landed HARD on the pavement and dirt, primarily on my knees, and also hit the ground with my right forearm.  I did not hit my head, but I could feel a kind of “whiplash effect” at the back of head and neck (as though my spine shoved forward into the base of my skull).  The impact with the ground was very hard, but I never lost consciousness.

[This is why you should try to have someone with you when you go out into the wild. Accidents happens even in the most benign places.]

When I managed to crawl to a fence and get myself back onto my feet, I noted that I was seeing double and my vision was blurry, so I asked Bill to check my pupils for any sign of concussion. He said my pupils seemed to be of equal size, but he wasn’t able to determine if they reacted normally to changes in light.

I leaned over the fence for a few minutes to let my body process the shock of the fall — maybe 5 minutes — and by the time I stood upright again my vision had gone back to normal, and remained normal for the rest of the day.

I sustained deep bruising, abrasions and some small hematomas on both knees, and it felt like the cartilage or bursa or whatever you call it behind both knee caps was “burning”.  I also sustained abrasions to my right forearm — even through the heavy coat I was wearing — and slight abrasions to the heel of my hands.  I felt pain in the triceps of both of my arms (more so on the right side than the left), like the muscles had been strained in the fall.

Still, I was able to walk (with some but not a lot discomfort; maybe a 6 on a scale of 10), and Bill and I scoped out part of the trail.  While I walked, Bill kept an eye on me to make sure I was okay and didn’t have any other issues with my vision. We were able to come up with a plan of action for the field trip, and also generate some extra questions/fun facts for the naturalist students. So, mission accomplished despite the fall.

My main concern, though, was my camera.  It was smashed in the fall.  The lens was in the elongated telephoto position when I fell, and the entire lens housing was smashed into the body of the camera. I need my camera for the naturalist course, for Tuleyome social media postings and albums, and for my own personal stuff (and being very attached to my camera I feel “blind” without it).  I can take the damaged camera to a shop to see if it can be repaired, but it looks pretty thrashed.  I wasn’t able to take photos with the camera – obviously – for the rest of this trip and had to use my cellphone for photos. It does okay on the close-up stuff, but it sucks for anything else. I couldn’t get descent shots of the other birds we saw along the way.

[[As an aside, Tuleyome agreed to reimburse me for the broken camera, so… yay!]]

I was surprised to see, during our walk, that the Pipevine at the park is already in bloom. That usually doesn’t show its face until March.  We also saw Acorn Woodpeckers, an American Robin, Buckeye trees just starting to get their leaves, lots of Bufflehead ducks in the river, a couple of Bushtits, California Mugwort, Canada Geese, Common Goldeneye ducks, Elderberry bushes, Giraffe’s Head Henbit, some Golden-Crowned Sparrows, several Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets, a Green Heron, Long Stalks Cranesbill, Mallards, Manroot vines in blooms (so you could see the boy flowers and the girl flowers), Miner’s Lettuce, Mistletoe, a Nutthall’s Woodpecker, some Oyster Mushrooms, lots of Poison Oak, a couple of Snowy Egrets, and all sorts of other stuff.  I hope it’s this nice and varied when we take the students there.  I think they’ll really enjoy it.

I was able to drive myself home, but noted that bending my knees to get into and out of the car was very painful.  I opted not to seek immediate medical attention because I didn’t feel “concussed” or that anything was “broken”, and I didn’t want to go to the emergency room if I was just bruised.  When I got home, I took some Aleve, and went directly to bed.

Even though I “hate” the quality of most of the photos I took today, I’m putting them into an album to share with my naturalist students anyway.  You can see the album here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhnaturalist/albums/72157691735739781

The CalNat Field Trip #1, 02-10-18

Around 7:00 am we headed out from Woodland to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  Many of the students had never been there before, and some didn’t even know it existed, so it was kind of an eye-opener for them.

In the early hours it was in 50’s and sunny, but by mid-morning the winds kicked up and were really brutal, blasting everything with the fine dust kicked up by the vehicles on the dirt auto-tour route.

I drove my own car to the refuge, but joined Bill, Nate and one of our students (a young Latino man named Huraira) in Bill’s van when we got onto the auto-tour.  Before that, though, while some in our group took potty breaks, others wandered around the parking lot and nearby wetlands trail.

Our first sighting of the day was a juvenile Bald Eagle who flew up into a tree over our heads, then flew off to another tree further down the trail.  A handful of us followed it and tried to get photos of it, but where it sat in the tree, its head was completely hidden by the foliage, so all we got were shots of its body. Hah!  Others ambled further up the trail and spotted a Cooper’s Hawk, a Red-Tailed Hawk and a Great Horned Owl.  I’m hoping they’ll share their photos with everyone (!).  The student’s assignment for the day was to find and identify 10 bird species, 5 plant species, and 5 other species of their choosing.  There were so many different kinds of birds out today that they were all able to find their 10 birds within just a few minutes.

The one that seemed to give everyone trouble was the “5 other”.  I’d thrown that in there to make them really look around them and focus on what was in front of them.  I told them they could count any critters they smelled or heard along with anything they actually saw.  At next week’s class, we’ll be sharing the lists of what we found.

CLICK HERE for an album of my photos from the trip.

When we were leaving the area where the young Bald Eagle was, we came across some pellets that had obviously been coughed up by raptors. The size of the pellets, and their location, seemed to indicate that they had been cast by very large birds, and someone asked if eagles cough up pellets the same way owls do. We weren’t positive, so we did a little research and found the following:

“The only part of the prey that eagles can’t digest is the fur or feathers. About 12-18 hours after eating prey with fur or feathers an eagle will cough up, or cast, a pellet. A pellet is a compact bundle of indigestible material formed in the stomach/gizzard and covered with mucus.”

 In the pellets we saw there was evidence of fur, some bone fragments, some pieces of turtle shell, claws, snake skin, and other material. Under our collections permit, I picked up a few of the pellets so we could share them with the students at the next class.  I’ll ask Bill to bring our digital telescope along so we all can get a closer look at what the pellets held. ((DID I MENTION THAT I LOVE TEACHING THIS COURSE?!)

After meeting briefly in the parking lot again, I reiterated to the students what I expected them to find and report back about during their drive along the auto-tour route, and then let them go along the route at their own pace.  There were three park-and-stretch spots where we’d all meet and share notes and talk a little bit about what we’d seen, but otherwise, I let the student explore the place on their own – which is the best way to see it.

When everyone was done with auto-tour loop we convened at the picnic tables near the nature center, had some lunch, and explored what the nature center had to offer.  I actually ended up buying two of their books on birds. One was a pocket guide to the most common birds in the Central Valley, and will be great to take along on our future outings.  By the picnic tables were several bird feeders, so the students all got to see examples of a variety of small birds like Lesser Goldfinches, White-Crowned and Golden-Crown Sparrows, and House Sparrows.

We were able to wrangle a portion of the group up to get something a of group photo and then let everyone disburse. Most went home, but a few of them stayed on to try to walk the wetlands trail even though the wind was brutal.

The only big snafu of the day was when I accidentally locked my keys in my car. D’oh!!   Otherwise, I thought it was a fun day.

47 Species in One Day, 02-04-18

The dog and I got up around 6:00 am this morning, and headed out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  It was so foggy between Sacramento and Woodland that traffic was moving at a crawl.  There were a few spots where the fog was so thick, I couldn’t see beyond the reach of the headlights, and I almost missed the off-ramp to the gas station because I couldn’t see it… Scary.

It was about 43º when I arrived at the refuge (where it wasn’t foggy at all) and about 67º when I left.

One of the first things I saw was a lone raccoon walking through a pond. I caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye, and pulled into the park-and-stretch area and got out of the car to rush to the edge of the pond to see if I could find him again.  He walked right out from a stand of tules, and stood in the water, staring at me for a few seconds, before walking on again. I got a little bit of video of him, but didn’t get any good still shots.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos and video snippets.

I also saw a pair of Northern Harriers harassing a Red-Tailed Hawk. I think the Red-Tail had blundered to near to where the Harriers were setting up their nest — (Northern Harriers nest on the ground, not in trees.) – and the Harriers freaked out.  They were pretty far away from me, and moving quickly in and around the tules, so it was hard to get any photos. Finally, one of the Harriers stopped and rested on top of a pile of dead tules, and I was able to get a few shots of him.

Further along the route, I came across a Bald Eagle sitting by the edge of a pool, up to his “knees” in the water.  I got some video of him just as he leapt up from the shore and took off flying across the wetlands – making the waterfowl scatter all around him as he flew along.

Later, when I had arrived back at the nature center at the end of the auto-tour route to take a potty break before heading back home, one of the docents was outside the building setting up a birding scope. I asked her if she’d seen anything good, and she said, “If you look through the scope you can see an eagle in the tree right over there,” and she pointed to a tree within walking distance of the scope. I looked through the scope, figured out which tree the eagle was in, and then ran to go potty. Hah! When I got back out the restroom, the dog and I walked down the trail to see the eagle. I was able to get photos of him from several different angles, even from directly below him when he bent over a little bit and stared straight down at me. Yikes! (I kept Sergeant Margie close to me so the eagle wouldn’t get any ideas of snatching him.)

While I was out on the trail taking photos of the eagle, I could hear two Great-Horned Owls hooting at one another, so I went back to the docent to ask about them. The owls were in a tree on the other side of the nature center, but the tree was in a restricted area, so I couldn’t get near it. The docent said the owls already had eggs and were brooding.  It was so neat to hear them call back and forth to one another from different branches, the male’s voice is deeper than the female’s. They were hooting softly at one another, first him, then her, then him, then her… It was so sweet.

I had finished the Sacramento auto-tour relatively quickly, so I headed over to the Colusa refuge before going home. Not a lot to see over there, but between the two refuges I saw about 47 different species today.

Birding at the Cosumnes Preserve, 02-01-18

I was invited to go for a birding walk at the Cosumnes River Preserve this morning, so I went to that before getting on with my normal work stuff.

On my way to the preserve, I thought I saw a dead Bald Eagle along the side of the highway. I was going by at 70 mph, though, so I only caught a glimpse of it, but I thought I definitely saw a bird with a black body and a white head… I would’ve stopped to double-check it, but there was too much traffic. Even if I HAD stopped for it, if it WAS a Bald Eagle, I think I’d have to turn the carcass over to the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. I have a “salvage” permit (so I can pick up road kill if I want to), but eagles have a lot of extra laws protecting them – even when they’re dead. I think only Native American can keep the feathers and the bones…

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

When I got to the preserve, I took the long way to the first parking lot by going around Bruceville and Desmond Roads where the rice fields and the wetland meet. There were quite a few raptors out, but I only got photos of a couple of them: a Red-Tailed Hawk and some American Kestrels. There was also a Northern Harrier sitting along the side of one of the rice fields – but I only got a blurry photo of it because it was so far away. And there was a Red-Shouldered Hawk, too, but it flew off before I could stop the car and get a photo.

At the preserve, I just walked the boardwalk trail and around the ponds but I still was able to see quite a few species including: a Loggerhead Shrike, Red-Winged Blackbirds, White-Crowned Sparrows, Golden-Crowned Sparrows, a few Greater Yellowlegs, a couple of American Wigeons, Northern Pintails, and lots and lots of American Coots including a dead one.

The dead bird was lying in a mass of its own feathers right beside the trail – and next to an otter slide. Whatever had killed the bird had grabbed it by the neck and just started to rip the feathers away before it took off and left the bird behind. Otters don’t eat birds, so I thought maybe it had been attacked by a fox or weasel or something like that – or maybe someone’s small dog. It wasn’t “shredded” as though it had been attacked by a larger animal like a coyote; they’re not “delicate” with their prey. And I don’t think a hawk or eagle got the Coot because they don’t grab prey by the neck; they go for a body slam and hold, and then rip out the soft spots first – not the feathers around the next. It was weird. I wish I had more “forensic” skills.

I also saw some Cinnamon Teals, lots of Green-Winged Teals, and one Blue-Winged Teal, Northern Shovelers, Gadwalls, several Killdeer, a Wilson’s Snipe hiding in the tules, some American Pipits, lots of Brewer’s Blackbirds, several Black Phoebes, and two different kinds of Warblers: some Myrtle Warblers and an Audubon’s Warbler. They used to be lumped together and referred to as Yellow-Rumped Warblers, but since 2016 the Yellow-Rumped Warblers (affectionately referred to as “Butter Butts”) where broken out into four species based on their field markings (coloration) and breeding ranges. The Myrtles have a white throat, and the Audubon’s have a yellow throat. There are also Black-Fronted Warblers found in Mexico, and Goldman’s Warblers that only live in Guatemala.

The sightings continued this morning with lots of Snow Geese, some Sandhill Cranes, Long-Billed Dowitchers, Black-Necked Stilts, lots of tiny Dunlin, a Herring Gull, several Marsh Wrens singing amid the tules, and some Song Sparrows, Greater White-Fronted Geese, a Tree Swallow and Western Meadowlarks. I also saw two Great Egrets.

One was sitting up in a tree preening itself. It was in its long trailing breeding plumage, but didn’t have its neon-green face yet. The other wasn’t in breeding plumage, and was hunting along the side of the road. I saw it catch several crawdads. I ate two of them, but let the third one go because it was so large and aggressive. I guess the birds wasn’t hungry enough to bother with food that could fight back. Hah!

So that was, what… almost 40 species? A good birding day.

Valentine’s Day Walk

Red-Shouldered Hawk. © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Red-Shouldered Hawk. © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.021416

Happy Valentine’s Day I got up about 7:30 am and headed out to the American River Bend Park for a walk.  I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, and I was trying to be conscientious about not forcing my body to do more than it could, so instead of a 3 or 4 hour walk, I cut it down to about 2 hours.  I did a figure-8 loop through the upper campsite area and came across a large group of birders looking for birds along the river.  There were so many people, though, that they scared off whatever birds might’ve normally been visible to them.  Large groups also play havoc with some of the weaker parts of the trail (which is mostly on sandy cliffs along the riverside).  The group leaders should have known better…

As I said, I wasn’t looking for anything special, and just walked at a slow pace trying to get the crap out of my lungs and watching for whatever Nature wanted to show me.  The long grass is growing in now and everything looks green-green.  The pipevines already have blossoms on them, and the manroot vines are starting to come up.  They’re thick and ropey and look like snakes; they rear straight up off the ground in places looking for low-ling tree branches to grab a hold of.  The Miner’s Lettuce is also growing quickly and is working itself up into secondary leaves and blossoms…

I saw 28 species of bird on my walk today including:  Acorn Woodpecker Melanerpes formicivorus, Anna’s Hummingbird Calypte anna, Belted Kingfisher Megaceryle alcyon, Bushtit Psaltriparus minimus, California Gull Larus californicus, Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula, Common Merganser Mergus merganser, Cooper’s Hawk Accipiter cooperii, Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus, European Starling Sturnus vulgaris, Great Egret Ardea alba, House Wren Troglodytes aedon, Lark Sparrow Chondestes grammacus, Mallard Anas platyrhynchos, Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura, Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus, Nuttall’s Woodpecker Picoides nuttallii, Oak Titmouse Baeolophus inornatus, Red-shouldered Hawk Buteo lineatus, Snowy Egret Egretta thula, Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularius, Spotted Towhee Pipilo maculatus, Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor, Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura, Western Scrub-Jay Aphelocoma californica, White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis, White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys, Wild Turkey Meleagris gallopavo.

There was one gorgeous Red-Shouldered Hawk that sat on a stumpy branch on the outside of a tree where I could get some good photos of him.  The Red-Shouldered hawk and a Cooper’s Hawk kept shadowing one another through the forest, like they were both scouting nesting sites and didn’t want the other one to get the best spot.  The Cooper’s Hawk gave up, though, when the Red-Shouldered Hawk met up with its mate.  Two against one…

As I was leaving the park, I came across a small bachelor group of mule deer grazing in the long grass. I pulled off to the side of the road and photographed them through the passenger side window of the car.  They eyed me every now and then, but didn’t bolt or run off, so I got a few good shots of them, too.

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As I said, I had cut my walk a bit short, and on the way home I stopped off at Bel Air to get some stuff for lunch.  I was so exhausted when I got back to the house that I went into my bedroom and pretty much just stayed in bed for the rest of the day.

Spotted 35 Bird Species from the Car Window

Male American Kestrel. © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Male American Kestrel. © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

I switched one of the meds I’m taking for the bronchitis thing to a strict antihistamine last night, and the new med knocked me out.  So I got some much-needed sleep, but didn’t wake up until about 8:30 am.  Today was the start of the Great Backyard Bird Count (http://gbbc.birdcount.org/get-started/) AND I needed to go out to get refills on some of my meds anyway, so I tried venturing out in the fresh air… a little bit.

I didn’t feel anywhere near strong enough to go for one of my 3-hour walks, but I still wanted some air and to see some birds, so I drove over to the Cosumnes River Preserve and drove around the farm roads that butt up against it.  Last year, when I did the bird count, I only counted those species of which I got good photographs.  This year, I counted whatever I saw whether I got a good photo of it or not.  For the large flocks (like geese and Coots) I rounded off the numbers to 100.  In the end, for the Backyard Bird Count today alone I saw 35 species that I could identify just from the car; thought I did pretty well for one location.  I saw:

100      Greater White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons

20        Canada Goose Branta canadensis

10        Gadwall Anas strepera

16        American Wigeon Anas americana

25        Mallard Anas platyrhynchos

2          Cinnamon Teal Anas cyanoptera

26        Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata

20        Northern Pintail Anas acuta

4          Green-winged Teal Anas crecca

3          Great Egret Ardea alba

2          Snowy Egret Egretta thula

3          Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis

1          Sora Porzana carolina

100      American Coot Fulica americana

6          Sandhill Crane Grus canadensis

5          Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus

2          Killdeer Charadrius vociferus

3          Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca

6          Dunlin Calidris alpina

1          Long-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus scolopaceus

2          American Kestrel Falco sparverius

1          Prairie Falcon Falco mexicanus

3          Black Phoebe Sayornis nigricans

1          Say’s Phoebe Sayornis saya

1          Western Scrub-Jay Aphelocoma californica

3          Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor

2          Marsh Wren Cistothorus palustris

6          European Starling Sturnus vulgaris

3          Yellow-rumped Warbler Setophaga coronata

6          Golden-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia atricapilla

2          Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia

50        Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus

10        Western Meadowlark Sturnella neglecta

50        Brewer’s Blackbird Euphagus cyanocephalus

15         House Finch Haemorhous mexicanus


I then headed home, stopped at the store to pick up some meds and a few other things, and collapsed for the rest of the day.  I really think getting myself out into the fresh air helped.  We’ll see how I feel tomorrow, though.

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