Tag Archives: Meadowlarks

Some Cooperative Birds, Including an Eagle

Wow, it’s been a while since I posted.  There has been so much rain here (8″ in Sacramento just since January 1st) that I’ve been closed out of all of my usual walking spots because of flooding.

I was feeling better on Saturday and after taking some Dramamine to help combat the remaining vestiges of vertigo, I headed out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  The refuge had been closed for most of the week because of flooding, and this was the first day it was open again.

CLICK HERE for n album of photos.

Here is a short video of Bufflehead ducks.

Here is a short video of Snow Geese on the fly.

When I left the house it was in the 30’s and super foggy in Sacramento, and it stayed cold and foggy until I got around Maxwell in Colusa County.  Then it was bright and sunny and about 10 degrees warmer.  Apparently EVERYONE decided to come out there, though, so the place was unusually packed with cars… which can interfere a lot with how many birds you can see up close.  The American Coots were very obliging, and I even came across a spot where Snow Geese were nestled down in the grass along the road of the auto-tour because it was warm there.  Along one of the sloughs, there was a whole grouping of individual birds that also didn’t seem intimidated by the cars, including a Great Egret, a Snowy Egret, a pair of White-Faced Ibises, and — what most people drove right past and didn’t see because he was well camouflaged – a juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron.  The herons sleep all day and hunt at night, so this guy was dozing away, opening his eyes only briefly to look at the cars as they went by.  I can’t believe he got any decent sleep there…

Because of the cold (it was between 48° and 51° while I was out there) a lot of the birds were hunkered down to keep warm, and it seemed like the hawks in the trees were all snuggled in between branches where they were difficult to see or photograph.  I saw two Bald Eagles while I was out there.  One of them was so far away I only got a blurry picture of him. The other was closer (within about 20 feet), but was up in a tree where, again, the branches obscured it a lot.  So, although I got a few close-ups of that one, they all had twigs and branches messing up the view…

I was happy, however, to get  some fairly good shots of Bufflehead ducks in the water.  I never seem to be able to get any good photos of them because they’re usually so far away.  But today a couple of them came up closer to the edge of the auto-tour road while they foraged for food, so I was able to get a few clear shots.

I only made the pass through the refuge once, and headed straight home after that because the Dramamine was starting to wear off and I was feeling a little bit woozy.  I got home a little after noon, and put in a post roast in the slow cooker (set on “high” though, so it only took a few hours to cook properly), and made a batch of brownies before crashing for the day.

It was nice to get outside.

Got to see the Sandhill Cranes at the Cosumnes Preserve

I got up around 6:30 am and headed over to the Cosumnes River Preserve.  It was overcast and 37° when I headed out.  I still have a touch of fever from this flu or whatever it is my body is fighting, but I needed to get outside and get some fresh air.

CLICK HERE to see the entire album of photos, including some of the videos.

The gate to the preserve was still locked, so I drove down Desmond and Bruceville Roads.  There are wetlands and rice fields all along those roads, and sometimes you get to see quite a few birds.  The big draw out there this morning was the Sandhill Cranes. There were quite a few of them eating leftover rice and seeds, including some juveniles that were still in their “rusty” feathers. At one point, I pulled the car off to the side of the road and shut off the engine, so I could hear (and video) the cranes “talking” to one another with their distinctive chattering/guttural calls.  They sound soooo neat… There were also some Great Egrets and a Great Blue Heron out there with them – along with quite a few Greater White-Fronted Geese that were hunkered down in between the cultivated rows in the field to get out of the cold morning breezes.

When a family group – mother, father and adult son – stopped near me, they were trying to figure out what kind of geese they were looking at.  The son suggested Brant’s Geese, but there are no Brant’s Geese this far south, so I suggested he look up the Greater White-Fronted Goose in his guide.  He checked it out. Yep, I was right.  So they followed me around a little bit after that and asked me to identify some other birds they were having trouble with: Savannah Sparrows, American Pipit, and Gadwall ducks…  When that group had walked off, following a different part of the trail, two older women came up and asked me to identify a duck they saw “over there”… A Northern Pintail. I showed them how the male’s tail ends in a sharp point…

So I got to practice some of Certified California Naturalist skills.  Hah!

Here are a few extra videos:

I was out at the preserve for about 4 hours before I headed back home.  I think I counted 21 bird species while I was out there… and I got quite a few video snippets of some of them.  So it was good morning…

Vacation Day 13: SNWR Part 2

California Ground Squirrel. American White Pelican. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
California Ground Squirrel.  Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

Vacation Day 13. I got up about 5:30 this morning. The hotel bed and pillows were wonderfully comfortable, but I just couldn’t get into a sound sleep, so I cat-napped on and off all night. Still, I was feeling pretty energetic, so I packed up all my stuff and was out of the hotel before 6:00 am. I had some leftover pineapple from yesterday and had that for breakfast – and gave Sgt. Margie one of his small cans of dog food before we left. Then I went back to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge (which was about 15 minutes away from the hotel).

I saw a lot today that I saw yesterday, but today I also got my first look at an Eared Grebe in its breeding plumage (which is VERY different than its non-breeding plumage) and I saw some Bullock’s Orioles, but they moved too fast through the trees for me to get any good photos of them. I also saw a Peregrine Falcon and a Bald Eagle. The eagle was perched in a tree, but I couldn’t get close enough to him to get a good photo. I got one shot of him through the windshield but it sucked. Dang it!

Here’s a video on the Eared Grebe: CLICK HERE

Here’s a video of a female Blackbird collecting fibers for her nest: CLICK HERE

Along one part of the auto tour you can see a bare scraggly tree off to the left. Today, I noticed there was a nest on one of the outer branches… and there was a huge Great Horned Owl sitting in it! Cool! I took some photos even though it was pretty distant from the car. I also think I saw the gray-white fluff of an owlet next to the mama. These are the moments when I wish I had a better telephoto lens.

Oh, and I also saw some goslings with their parents, AND the wildly-colored babies of a Pied-Billed Grebe. I’d seen photos of the babies before but had never seen one live. The pictures I got aren’t the best because the birds were moving away from me in the water, but I just loved the pattern on the chicks!

And where there were rabbits all over the place yesterday, today it was California Ground Squirrels. They were out en masse. Some of them are very skittish and shy, but others are bold. There were a couple of them who sat on the ground right outside my car window and posed for me. Hah!

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The dog and I were out of the refuge by about 11:00 and headed back to Sacramento, but along the way I stopped to get us some tacos which we ate for lunch at a rest stop. It was a nice couple of days. Now, I need to forage through the 2000+ photos I took! As we were heading home, the clouds were starting to move in… there’s supposed to be rain coming in for tomorrow.

Once home, I relaxed for a bit with the dogs, and then baked up some chicken and biscuits for supper and had them with fresh asparagus.