Tag Archives: Greater Yellow Legs

There are Still a Lot of Birds at the SNWR

American Avocet. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
American Avocet. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

Up at about 6:00 am and out the door by 6:30 with Sergeant Margie to go over to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  I got there right around 8:00 o’clock and had the whole place to myself for a couple of hours before anyone else showed up.  Like the Colusa preserve, some of the wetland areas in this larger preserve are also drained and dried out already, but they have a loop open that lets you drive around some of their permanent wetland area, so although you don’t get to see a ton of birds, you do get to see some… and a few of them are ones that I can’t see along the American River.

The drive started off with good views of Killdeer and some American Avocets (which I think are such pretty birds), Greater Yellowlegs and Red-Winged and Brewer’s Blackbirds.  There were  lots of jackrabbits along the auto-tour route along with some chubby little Cottontails (which look like babies next to the big jacks.)  And lots of ground squirrels.  I didn’t see any raccoons this time out, but I did see a few deer. Oh, and I saw some pond turtles and Western Fence Lizards.

There are still a lot of wildflowers in bloom – mostly Goldfields and Fiddleneck – and the Poison Hemlock is starting to rise along with the Milk Thistle and other weeds.

Marsh Wrens were everywhere in the tules, chattering away and tucking in the loose ends of their nest construction. Between them, the blackbirds, and the Meadowlarks, some spots were really NOISY!  There  were quite a few Ring-Necked Pheasants out and about adding their loud rusty-hinge croaks to the cacophony, and in some places the Double-Crested Cormorants were grunting like pigs.  I’ve gotten so I can tell some of the birds by their sound without seeing them… Speaking of the cormorants: a lot of the breeding adults have their “double-crests” showing now and it makes the birds look like they have really fluffy eyebrows (or very long eyelashes).  Hah!

There were, of course, American Coots all over the place and many White-Faced Ibises among the other ducks: Northern Shovelers, Cinnamon and Green-Winged Teals, a few Buffleheads and a solitary female Goldeneye, and some Ruddy Ducks.  I did see another American Bittern today… and heard another one doing its pumper-lunk call in the reeds… but I couldn’t see that one.  Toward the end of the drive, I came across some American White Pelicans.  But the stand-out sighting for the day (for me anyway) was getting to see a pair of Clark’s Grebes do part of their courtship ritual where they bob their heads at on another then get up and run across the top of the water in tandem.  I’d seen photos and video of that before, but had never witnessed it myself.  I only got a few seconds of it on video but it made my day. I’ll have to get back there in the next few weeks to see if I can see any more courtship behavior. There  were also some Western Grebes and Pied-Billed Grebes out on the water, too.  Most of them were too far away to get any really good shots of them, but it’s still always fun to see them.  It’s sometimes difficult for me to tell the Clark’s Grebes from the Western Grebes because they look almost identical.  The only real difference is that on the Clark’s Grebe the eyes are surrounded by white and on the Western Grebe the eyes are surrounded by black.

Here’s the Grebe videohttps://youtu.be/jpGUjuwigu0

Clark's Grebes versus Western Grebe. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Clark’s Grebes versus Western Grebe. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

Also saw some Great Egrets and Snow Egrets.  And as I was heading out the refuge, I came across a large hawk sitting on a stump – apparently just waiting there to have her picture taken. Hah! – and a Common Gallinule, an adult one sporting a red shield on the front of its face. The red of the shield was so intense that my camera freaked out over it, so all of the face-on shots took on a kind of “glowing” effect.  By that time, too, the sun had been up for a while and things were getting warm, so the camera had to fight through distortions caused by heat waves.  When conditions get like that, it’s time to go home…

I got back to the house around 2:30 pm, cooked up some chicken thighs and an ear of corn for supper, and collapsed with the dogs.

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New Year’s Eve at the Cosumnes River Preserve

Sora. Copyright © 2015 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Sora. Copyright © 2015 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

New Year’s Eve.  It was cold and foggy when I got up around 7:15 this morning.

I put in a load of laundry in the dryer, got the dishes going in the dishwasher and made a pot of coffee before sending off copies of my latest Tuleyome Tales to the local media.  This one, timely enough, is on bald eagles.  I also set up a list of topics for the tales for 2016, and got that loaded up so it’s ready to go in 2016.  All of that took about 2 hours, and by then the dishes were washed and the clothes were dry, so I unpacked those machines and put everything away.

Around 11:00 am, I headed over to the Cosumnes River Preserve for a walk.  It was sunny in Sacramento when I left the house, but was still foggy at the preserve (at least for a little while).  There wasn’t a lot to see today (it was in the 40’s ad a lot of the birds were huddled on the ground).  But I did get some photos of the tiny Dunlins, and I saw the Sora again and got a few photos of it.  I also got quite a few shots of an Eastern Red Squirrel munching on thistles; with its winter coat on, its ears had extra red fur on them that made them really stand out.  I was out there for about 2 hours and then headed back home.

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Early Sandhill Cranes and other Waterfowl

After work, I decided to go over to the Cosumnes Preserve – even though it was hot outside, 92° — to see if any of the birds had started coming in there yet.  They still don’t have all of the wetland area flooded yet, so the bird-watching is kind of nil right now.  A treat for me, though, was when I was walking along the path by the boardwalk area.  I could hear a flock of Sandhill Cranes overhead; the birds have just started returning to the area for the winter.  I watched them for a while and was surprised when about 6 of them whirled their way down to a field right next to the path!  Like all hot days, it’s hard for my camera to focus through the heat-waves coming off the ground, but I managed to get a few good shots.  This was the closest I’d ever gotten to these birds, so I was pleased with that.  I also saw Black-Necked Stilts, Greater Yellow-legs, a Killdeer that was unhappy when he had to share his little mud island in the middle of a shallow pond, some Wilson’s Snipes, a Western Meadowlark, Mallards, Northern Shovelers, including some males in their “eclipse” plumage (the feathers they wear after a full molt before they get their breeding feathers), and a couple of Cinnamon Teals.

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There were lots of dragonflies and damselflies around, too.  I was watching one mated pair of damselflies trying to lay eggs by the water.  They got their act together and the female was laying eggs along a leaf that was half-in and half-out of the water… until a small fish came up to eat the eggs.  D’oh!

I hung around there for about an hour and then headed back to the house.

Vacation Day Three: Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Day Three of my Vacation.  I got up at 6:30 this morning and headed out with the dog to visit the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  It was about 53° when I left, but got up to 79° by the time I got back home around 2:00 pm.

At the refuge I saw a lot of White-Faced Ibises, along with Killdeer, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Redwing Blackbirds, Brewer’s Blackbirds, Meadowlarks, Ring-Necked Pheasants, sparrows, Widgeons, Northern Shovelers, Green Teals, Cinnamon Teals, hawks, White-Fronted Geese, Greater Yellow Legs, and other birds.  There were also quite a few jackrabbits and cottontail rabbits, Blue Belly lizards, and Painted Lady butterflies.  I also saw a lot of dragonflies along the auto tour, so I was looking forward to maybe getting a lot of photos of them on the “wetlands walk” foot trails… but the wet areas along the trail are all dried up already, so… no dragonflies there.

One of the Great Egrets I photographed had just come out of the water so all his mating plumes (aigrettes) were matted together, but he still has his neon-green mating face going on…  And I’d stopped the car at one point to get a photo of a thistle outside the window that was in bloom.  Just as I took the photo, a Painted Lady butterfly landed right on top of it!  Hah!  Kewl shot!

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It was a nice day over all, and as I mentioned I was home again by 2 o’clock so that was great.  I crashed for the rest of the day with the dogs…

Day 3 of the Great Backyard Bird Count

I was up and out of the house with the dog by about 7:00 this morning, and we drove over to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  This was a “free” day because of the President’s Day holiday this weekend.  I did the auto-tour first and then the dog and I walked the middle loop of the wetlands walking path.  I was hoping to see some Ibises there this time around, but ended up seeing only one – and that was at a distance, but I got some close-up of other birds.  The weather was beautiful, but weird for February: 75º, sunny and very breezy.  It was so clear outside, too, that you could see almost every dimple on the foothills, and both Mount Lassen and Mount Shasta were visible from the preserve.

Meadowlarks seemed to dominate the landscape , but I also saw more Bald Eagles than I’d ever seen there: eight, including two near the roadside, four on a little island, and one in flight, and one on another island seen from the freeway.  I saw a lot of Killdeer, too.  One pair was right alongside the viewing deck in the middle of the driving tour area.  They hadn’t built a nest yet (their nests are rings of stone and gravel), but were pacing off the area as though they wanted to build one right there.


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So, today to add to my Great Backyard Bird count list I have: Turkey Vultures, Killdeer, Greater Yellow Legs, Black-Necked Stilts, Northern Shovelers, Ruddy Ducks, Widgeons, Red-Tailed Hawks, Meadowlarks, all sorts of sparrows (mostly White-Crowned. House and Savannah), Brown-Headed Cowbirds, a Ring-Necked Pheasant, Pintails, Buffleheads, White-Fronted Geese, Snow Geese, Coots, Black Phoebes, Cinnamon Teals, Buffleheads, Bald Eagles, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, White-Faced Ibis, Raven, and Goldeneyes… Phew!  Among the geese, I saw a Snow Goose “slumming” with a flock of White-Fronted Geese… and then noticed that in the flock were two geese that looked like hybrids of the two species.  They had the head coloring of the White-Fronted Geese, but their bodies were pale.  Not pure white, but more like pale, pale tan…  The “new” bird for me was a pair of what I think were Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata).  I’m not entirely sure, though, because neither had a red patch on their faces.  They might both have been juveniles.  They swam like ducks, but had “triangular” shaped bills (not flat duck-like bills).

On my way out of the preserve, I stopped to photograph a mule deer browsing along the railroad track by the freeway.  The I headed back home.  The fruit orchards all along the highway are in bloom already; row after row of pretty pink trees.  One orchard, though, was inundated by starlings, on both sides of the road.  There were so many birds that the trees and ground where they were sitting were completely covered, pitch black.  It looked like huge black holes in the landscape.  So odd!