Tag Archives: Great Egrets

Still Not a Lot of Variety Yet, 11-12-18

I got up around 7:00 am, fed the dog his breakfast, and then went out to the Cosumnes River Preserve for a walk. There was still a lot of smoke in the air from the Camp Fire.

The preserve still doesn’t have enough water in it, so it was something of a disappointment, but I did get to see several different species of birds including fly-overs of small flocks of Sandhill Cranes and Tundra Swans. In their Facebook posts, the preserve had been talking about large flocks of Snow Geese in the surrounding rice fields, but I didn’t see any.  There were loads of greater White-Fronted Geese, though.  I also saw a few

The Coots were out feeding near the viewing platform of the boardwalk area, and I got to do my naturalist thing when two older women walked up and asked me if the “black birds were Moor Hens”.  I told them about the Coots and the Gallinules (moorhens) and how they were different, and then was able to point out a Northern Pintail to them, and a Black Phoebe. So, they got a free lesson today.  There was also some kind Rail near the viewing platform, but she flew off into the tules before I could get a really good look at her.  Maybe a Virginia Rail, but I’m not sure. It seems early in the season to see one of those.

I also saw Red-Winged Blackbirds, Killdeer, and Black-Necked Stilts which are all kind of ubiquitous in the area, along with a few  White-Crowned Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, Western Meadowlarks, Northern Shovelers, House Finches, Great Egrets, Cinnamon Teals, Green-Winged Teals, a Greater Yellowlegs, some American Pipits, two or three Wilson’s Snipes, Red-Tailed Hawks, a Red-Shouldered Hawk, some male Lesser Goldfinches, and Song Sparrows.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I was surprised when a small flock of Cedar Waxwings flew in and occupied the oak trees along the slough for a while. They’re primarily berry-eaters, and there were no berries around the slough this time of year.

As I was leaving the boardwalk area of the preserve, I stopped to use the little outhouse there, and found a couple of female praying mantises that apparently had just laid their egg cases on the side of the building. I also found a mud bird’s nest (probably a Phoebe’s) and some wasps’ nests (both from Paper Wasps and Mud-Dauber Wasps). I walked for about 3 hours and then headed back home, getting there around noon.

I Helped Lead a Tour of the SNWR, 11-12-16

I had to work today — helping to lead an auto-tour of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge — so I was up at 5:00 and out the door by 5:30 am.  I stopped at a gas station on my way, filled up the tank, and got some munchies for the road, and then headed over to the Denney’s off of West Street in Woodland to meet up with my coworker Nate and the folks who were coming on the tour.  I’d gotten there early enough to order a small breakfast and get it in a to-go box.  I ate what I could of it out in the car, and then saw Nate and the others gathering outside the parking lot on the street, so I drove over there to meet them.  I handed out guide books and directions to the refuge, and we were all on the road by a little after 7:00 am.  There were seven people in our group (besides my coworker Nate and me) but only three of them were birding “newbies” who had never been to the refuge before.  The rest of them were avid birders, some from Yolo Audubon…

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

CLICK HERE to see additional photos from other photographers.

We arrived at the refuge around 8:00 am, had folks pay for their vehicles at the kiosk and then we met at the inside parking lot before heading out along the auto tour drive. Although there were birding experts willing to drive with the non-birders.  Most of the non-birders chose to drive their own vehicles by themselves.  I had one “newbie” birder who went with me, a gal named Colleen.  Along the way, I was able to help point out birds to her, and name the species and tell her some fun facts… and I was so busy doing that, that I didn’t take very many photos while I was out there… and I forgot to eat lunch.

Along the auto tour there are three park-and-stretch places where you can get out of your car and look around.  I had brought my spotting scope me… but the experienced birders had brought ones of their own and had them set up before I could even get mine out of my car.  But that was okay; at least everyone got to see some of the birds up close.  As we watched one Red-Tailed Hawk who was sitting on the ground, warming up as the sun came up and burned through the low clouds, about 10 Jackrabbits popped up all around the bird and ran circles around it then scattered into the low brush and tules.  Hah!  We also saw a Raven come in for a landing with a large bit of what we assumed was a vole, in its beak, and watched it eat its breakfast before driving on… The folks from Yolo Audubon had also brought additional guide books, and used them to help the newbies to more effectively identify the hawks they were seeing (along with the guide books I also provided to guests who wanted them).

Throughout the tour I was to point out and help folks identify a Cooper’s Hawk, Red-Tailed Hawks, Northern Harriers, Song Sparrows, House Sparrows, White-Crowned Sparrows, ravens, Mallards, Northern Pintails, Green-Winged Teals, Cinnamon Teals, Northern Shovelers, Greater White-Fronted Geese, White-Face Ibis, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, a Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vultures, Black Phoebes, Eared Grebes, Yellow-Rumped Warblers, Bufflehead ducks, Pied-Billed Grebes, American Coots, Canada Geese, a Peregrine Falcon, American Wigeons and American Pipits, and the Snow Geese (which were out in force today).  Among the regular totally white-bodied snow Geese was a single “dark morph” Snow Goose.  It had a white head, but it’s body was dark steely-grey.  A VERY cool sighting… but it was pretty distant (for my camera) and I didn’t get any really good shots of it.  I told everyone in our group that they had to share what they photos they took with us, so we could post them to Facebook.

In the non-bird species, along with the jackrabbits, we saw Columbian Black-Tailed Mule Deer, California Ground Squirrels, a Western Pond Turtle, a Western Fence Lizard, webs from “ballooning” spiders, and the nest of Paper Wasps. So it was an interesting excursion.  Some of the newbies had never been to the refuge before, and were excited to come back later in the season.

Vacation Day 14: Cosumnes River Preserve

DAY 14 OF MY VACATION.  Around 8:00 am I headed over to the Cosumnes River Preserve for the second time this week.  They’ve gotten more of their water in already. I think they flooded a couple of extra fields because they were having a “Ducks in Scopes” and nature photography thing going today.  They thought they’d have to cancel the activities because of rain, but although the clouds threatened, it was a rainless 65° there.  I steered clear of the groups of people – they make so much noise, they scare off all of the birds – and sort of made my own path around the front half of the refuge. (I might go back tomorrow, to do the river walk there; we’ll see what the weather is like.)

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I saw a couple of Red-Tailed Hawks.  One of them was sitting in the top of a tree BEHIND all the people who had their birding scopes set up.  I didn’t tell anyone he was there, and just got a bunch of photos of him from different angles before moving on.  Y’gotta pay attention to what’s around you, folks! Hah!

Among the ducks, I saw the usual suspects including Northern Shovelers and Pintails, Green-Winged Teals, and Cinnamon Teals.  And among the other shorebirds, I saw Greater Yellowlegs, Black-Necked Stilts, Long-Billed Dowitchers, Dunlins, and tons of America Coots. There were also White-Crowned Sparrows, Golden-Crown Sparrows, Lesser Goldfinches, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Savannah Sparrows and Black Phoebes.

Along the wetlands walks, the oak trees were still sporting some wasp galls, and the poison oak was looking very Christmasy in red and green. The rain is also waking up the lichen, which is starting to fatten up, stretch out and reproduce.

I saw several groups of Sandhill Cranes fly overhead, so I tried to watch where they landed and then went over to where I thought they might be.  They usually keep pretty far away from the roads and walkways, but I was able to get some photos of a small group of them that were making their way across the top of a levy.  Most of the time they had their butts toward me, but I did get a few side-view shots when they turned their heads.  In that same area I came across a couple of Great Egrets, so I got some shots of them, too.

As I was heading out of the area, I caught glimpse of a large bird sitting on top of a pile tules – and it looked awfully “pale”.  I thought it might be a juvenile Bald Eagle because of its size, but I only got photos of the back of its head, so I couldn’t see what the eye-ridge or beak looked like.  Now, I’m not sure if it was an eagle or just a really big super-light-morph Red-Tail – or something else.  When it took off flying, much of its tail was white (which would be indicative of an eagle)… but I’m still not sure.  If it was a juvenile Bald Eagle it would be REALLY unusual for this area.

Anyway, I was at the preserve for about 3½ hours and then headed back home.

Vacation Day 9: Colusa and Sacramento National Wildlife Refuges

DAY 9 OF MY VACATION.  I was up around 6:30 am and headed out with the dog to the Colusa and Sacramento National Wildlife Refuges…

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

At the Colusa refuge, which I went to first, I was surprised to see water in the pond near the viewing platform.  Last week when I was there, there was no water at all.  Two guys with large-lens cameras were setting up on the deck when I got there.  There weren’t a whole lot of birds to see yet, but they were taking photos of the fly-in of White-Fronted Geese.

Although the water is coming in, what birds are there are not very close to the auto-tour road along the levies yet (because the water is still shallow and isn’t in all the areas it should be) so getting photos with my gear wasn’t easy.  The difficulty was compounded by the glare of the early morning light coming through breaks in the clouds and fog.  I was kind of disappointed in the picture I got there.  Still, I got to see a Loggerhead Shrike, Greater White-Fronted Geese, some,  Greater Yellowlegs, Gadwalls, Pintails and Mallards, a couple of Red-Tailed Hawks – including one that landed in a tree right over my car and stared down at me! – a Long Billed Curlew, some Turkey Vultures, Black-Necked Stilts and a couple of immature Common Gallinules.  I was also surprised by a few Sandhill Cranes, and got to see both mature and immature Black-Crowned Night Herons sitting in their morning roost trees.

That drive took me about an hour. Then I headed to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge which is about 20 miles further north up the highway. The big news at that refuge is that the flocks of Snow Geese have arrived there.  There were only a handful of them last week; today there were hundreds of them… but they were mostly far away because, as with the Colusa refuge, the water in this refuge isn’t at full capacity yet, so the birds stay pretty far away from the touring road.

Along with birds similar to those I saw in Colusa, I saw several Great Egrets, some Red-Eared Slider Turtles and Western Pond Turtles, Killdeer, American White Pelicans, a few White-Faced Ibis, a Peregrine Falcon, and loads of Red-Winged Blackbirds.  A few California Ground Squirrels stopped and posed for me, and I got to see a female Belted Kingfisher chase off both a Turkey Vulture and a Red-Tailed Hawk from a tree in the middle of a pond where she was fishing.  Tough little broad!

At one point, I’d stopped to get some photos of a little Savannah Sparrow on the side of the road, and then saw about six River Otters scurry across the road in front of me. By the time I got the camera up, they were already disappearing into the brush. Dang it!

By the time I was done going through the Sacramento refuge it was around 2:30 pm, so I headed back to Williams, got a sandwich and then headed over to the hotel.