Tag Archives: sandhill cranes

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.

Mostly Snipes on Christmas Eve

I did some journaling and checked my email before heading over to the Cosumnes River Preserve

The temperature gauge said it was 38º at the preserve, but it felt much colder than that. My fingers were “freezing” every time I took some photos, and I had to stop now and then to plunge my hands into my pockets until they thawed out again. Brrr!  It remained overcast for the whole day and never got above 50º (lingering around 45º for quite a while).

I walked around the main wetland area near the boardwalk, then crossed the street, and took the wetland path down to the nature center, then back up to the boardwalk area again.  There didn’t seem to be very many birds out, but considering the chill, I wasn’t really surprised.

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

I did get to see a LOT of Wilson’s Snipes; they seemed to be everywhere. And I also got to see some Ring-Necked Ducks which I think are so handsome. The males have an iridescent brown ring around their neck, but you can’t see it unless the duck lifts up its head and stretched its neck (usually to show off to the females). They’re always a treat to see because they’re only in this area for a short time each winter.

There  were also a couple of Turkey Vultures who had found dead stuff to snack on. One looked like it was working on the carcass of a Coot, but the other one looked like it had a goose. The thing was too big for the vulture to lift or move…

On the wetland trail I found some earthball fungus commonly called “Dead Man’s Foot” because it looks kind of like a rotting toe-less foot sticking up out of the ground. The things are gross, but they’re interesting at the same time. As they mature and ripen, the whole thing turns into a huge lump of brown spores…  I also found some mistletoe (how appropriate) that was full of berries, so I pulled down a sprig to get some photos of it… and then left it for the birds and squirrels who love those things.

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed back to the house.

Lots of Sandhill Cranes on a VERY Windy Day

It was VERY windy this morning and warmer than it has been; around 47º when I got up.

I did some journaling before getting dressed and then headed out to the Cosumnes River Preserve for a walk.

The wind gusts were so strong, they sometimes almost bowled me over or pushed me along the trail. And figuring the wind into the temperature factor it felt FREEZING out there! I’d brought my dragon scarf with me, so I wrapped that around my head and face to help keep me warm. ((I have quite a few scarves that I interchange as the mood strikes me. Monica has knit me several pretty, ruffly ones; Marty gave me a knit “infinity scarf” – it’s a loop; and Sara had given me one that looks like an otter. My dragon scarf is red, orange and white and looks like a Chinese dragon.))

CLICK HERE for the photo album.

The buffeting wind also meant that there weren’t a whole lot of birding opportunities around. Al of the birds were hunkered down, trying to get out of the gusts. I saw a small kestrel struggling to fly against the wind. It gave up several times to catch its breath on a fence post.

The one species I saw quite a lot of today, though, was the Sandhill Crane. There were a couple of flocks gathered in the ponds near the nature center. I noticed that in these groups, the immature birds were in the center of the flock where they were more protected from the wind by the adults’ bodies.

I also noticed that one of the crane had a bright green band on one leg (above the “knee”) and a pale orange band on the other. I couldn’t get a clear shot of the bands, though, so I couldn’t read them.

There was a little Black Phoebe that, along one part of the trail, would pose on a twig to let me take photos, then fly on ahead of me, stop and pose for me when I caught up to it, then fly on ahead of me, stop and pose for me when I caught up to it, then fly on ahead of me, stop and pose for me when I caught up to it… I think it did that about five times! When I quit taking photos, it flew off. Hah!

Where the trail was shielded from the wind by the trees, walking was great. I loved the clean crisp air and sunshine. But in other spots, where the wind was gusting fiercely, I couldn’t stead the camera to take any descent photos. The wind kept knocking it around. I walked for about 3 hours and then headed home.

Me and the dragon scarf

Vacation Day #3: Sacramento Zoo… Mostly

DAY THREE OF MY FALL VACATION… Columbus Day; the office is closed.  I got up around 6:30 this morning, and initially headed over to the Cosumnes River Preserve to see if there was any water there yet or any sandhill cranes in the rice fields.  I saw some cranes in the distance, but the preserve was dryer than dry.  I walked for a little bit – to the end of the wooden boardwalk and back – and then I decided to leave the preserve and headed back to Sacramento.

By the time I got there, I knew the Sacramento Zoo was just about to open.  I thought with it being a “holiday” the zoo would be packed, but the parking lot was nearly empty when I got to it, so I spent the morning at the zoo instead.

At the zoo, I spent a lot of time watching the Wolf’s Guenon monkeys. The whole family was out: mom, newborn baby, the two older siblings (by the same mom) and dad. The baby is getting more and more brave, and wants to go searching around their enclosure, but mom is very protective of him and won’t let him too far out of reach. At one point, she had all of her children around her, and the baby squirmed away from her and started to climb down a branch. One of its older siblings caught the baby by its tail and slowed it down enough for mom to get up and scoop up the baby.  Hah!

The male Eastern Bongo was out, but the female and her baby weren’t. While I was watching the male, I noticed some tree squirrels running around, and saw one of them climb a sturdy cane of bamboo straight up into the overhanging limbs of a tree… where the squirrel had built a dray (the name for a squirrel’s nest).

Of the big cats, only the lions and jaguar were out. The female lion was perched on top of the “cat tree” in their enclosure, so I was able to get quite a few photos of her. But the male was pacing, so it was hard to get any good shows of him.  I heard him bellowing later, though, and assumed others got pictures of that. The jaguar there is very “secretive”, so you don’t get to see him at all very often.  Today, though, he was standing right by the fence on one side of his enclosure where there’s a small pond.  He was cleaning himself, licking his paws… I’d ever seen him that close before. His was sitting at kind of a weird angle from me, though, so most of the photos I got of him were from over his shoulder. His coat is soooo gorgeous…

I got to see the baby flamingoes again today and, wow, do they look different from the last time I saw them. All of their white baby fluff is gone, and they’re starting to get their fledgling feathers. They’re a mix of dark gray and pink now.

The zoo has built a new bridge and viewing platform the crosses through the middle of the big pond where the adult flamingoes hang out with many other birds (some of them wild, some of them belonging to the zoo). There were several pairs of Wood Ducks in and around the pond, and I got some photos and a video snippet of one pair as they were grooming one another and nibbling at one another’s bills.

In the Kangaroo enclosure, there were quite a few ‘roos and wallabies out hopping around. Usually, I hardly get to see one or two of the critters; today, they were everywhere.  The Red Panda, in the enclosure across the walkway from the ‘roos, was out, but was sleeping in his tree.

Here are some pix & videos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhnaturalist/albums/72157686030399802

Around 11 o’clock I stopped and had a hot dog, fries and a beer for lunch. After that, I walked through the reptile house before heading out of the zoo.

By the exit, there was a docent holding one of the zoo’s “animal ambassadors”, Tim (short for Timbuktu), a Mali Spiny-tailed Lizard. It was really cool-looking. His dark skin was really loose-fitting on his body, and he’s able to “inflate” himself in defense if he needs to. His tail looks like a major weapon: covered in rings of hard-scale spines… The docent said Tim was about 13 years old.

I got back to the house right around noon.