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Birds and Jumping Spiders, 09-20-17

Had a rough day. I knew I needed to get out into nature, get the aggravation out of my system and find some joy.  It was still pretty nice outside – 79º, overcast and breezy, so I went over to the WPA Rock Garden and duck pond for a short walk.

Here is an album of photos and videos.

I was only there for about an hour but got some photos of a Green Heron at the duck pond doing his stalking thing, and some hummingbirds sipping nectar from the Torch Lilies. On one of the lilies there was a very pregnant female praying mantis.  I got some photos of her and video snippet of her grooming her claws. That was cool to watch.  On my way out of the park, I saw a tiny Jumping Spider on one of the sunflowers and then found another one in a nearby Prickly Poppy.  They’re such ferocious little things.  I got a fairly good close up of one of them, and he’s staring right at the camera…

When I got back home, both dogs were happy to see me. It’s nice to have doggies and nature around.

More Photos from the Effie Yeaw Preserve

I was able to see several deer, including a pair that were foraging along the banks of the river.  There were also a lot of Red-Shouldered Hawks flying around: parents teaching their kids how to hunt.  And I also came across a mama California Ground Squirrel who gave out a sharp alarm call when I got too close to her burrow.  I was sure there were babies around there, but I didn’t see any of them…

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

About halfway through my walk I remembered that a Facebook friend of mine, Charlotte G., said she had a Nikon camera like mine and suggested I try the “birdwatching” setting for some great photos.  My  camera is so new I hadn’t gotten around to trying the special settings yet, but I tested out the “birdwatching” setting and was REALLY impressed by it.  (Thanks for the tip, Charlotte!)  It goes beyond the regular telephoto settings of the camera, makes the focal point tight, and lets you “ratchet” in to get closer and closer and closer to your subject.  For example, using the regular telephoto setting I could get the whole body of a Mourning Dove in a tree about 100 feet away into the viewfinder and focus on it.  With the “birdwatching” setting, I could get the camera to tighten up the image even more until only the bird’s head was showing in the viewfinder but still entirely in focus.  So cool!  It’s like getting a telephoto boost.  (And, of course, it works on other critters, too, not just birds.)

On my way out of the preserve I came across a male Wild Turkey that was standing in the sun, chin down on its chest, like it was sleeping.  As I got closer to it I realized the posture may have meant the bird was in a lot of pain.  Its whole face was swollen, and the eye on one side was damaged.  There were signs around some of the trail warning everyone about ground-dwelling Yellow Jackets in the preserve. It looked to me like this turkey may have blundered too close to one of those nests and the wasps attacked its face.  I felt so bad for it; it must have been in soooo much pain. (When I got back home, I emailed photos of the bird to the preserve to see if their rangers could help it.)

There is a disease called mycoplasma which can affect turkeys and cause swelling of the face, but its associated with the sinuses. This looked more “hot” and painful than that…

 

 

 

 

 

It was Hit and Miss at the Refuges on Saturday

I was going to sleep in today, but the dogs got me up a little before 5:00 am, and then I couldn’t get back to sleep. So, I just got up and headed over to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge for the day.

When I drove into the refuge I saw a Turkey Vulture sitting on the edge of the sign at the mouth of the auto-tour. It let me walk up pretty close to get photos of it before it flew away. I think those are the coolest birds… I heard some Bitterns “pumper-lunking” but only saw a few in flight, and didn’t get any photos. The bullfrogs were doing their ninja thing, too: I could hear their deep cello-calls, but couldn’t see or photograph any of them…

Click here for the full album of photos and videos.

I did get some good photos of Clark’s Grebes and a few other birds, though.

There was a male Great Tailed Grackle in the tules around the permanent wetlands that was performing for the females. He went through a variety of different calls including its high-pitched “peep”, deep-throated “clap!” and loud echoing “yeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!” I got some video of him, but was interrupted a few times by other drivers along the trail who crept or rushed past my car. One lady parked right next to my car and yelled through the open window, “Did you see the owl?!” Uh, yes… but I’m trying to film a grackle right now… Guh!

I also came across a family group of otters, a mom and dad and two babies. They were one of the permanent ponds but moved so quickly, it was really difficult to get any clear shots of them. I did manage to get a little bit of video, though… until dad saw me, snorted loudly and turned his family around.

When I was done at the Sacramento refuge, I headed over to the Colusa one. I hadn’t been there in quite a while because they took the brunt of the flooding earlier in the year, and were closed to the public for months. It was kind of a waste to go there today, though, because now they’ve drained off a lot of the water (so the surrounding rice fields can have it), and most of it is just a big dirt hole with flowers growing here and there.

One pond was filled with dead carp – stinking bodies everywhere – and others that were slowly dying as the pond evaporates. The carp come up with the flood waters, and when the flood recedes, they get caught in-land and can’t get out. I was surprised that the refuge allows them to suffer slow deaths like that; surely there must be some way to collect them and relocate them.

Where there were spots in the refuge that still had water in them, the water was shallow, and the banks were overrun with water primrose… One interesting thing, though, was that in some of the waterless ponds there were crayfish chimneys, structures the crayfish make by piling up little balls of mud. The bottom of the chimney opens into water (when there is water), and the top opens to the air. They use them to hide in when they’re breeding and getting ready to lay their eggs…

My visit to the Colusa refuge was also kind of ruined because there was a biplane from one of the neighboring rice fields flying around. He’d circle over the refuge, fly down really low, and dump seeds and pesticides on the fields next door. The noise was horrible… You can’t “relax and enjoy nature” when there’s some guy buzz-bombing the place every few minutes. It was ugly… I won’t need to go back there at all for the rest of the year…