Tag Archives: seagulls

Red-Shouldered Hawks and a Very Brave Fawn, 01-27-18

While I was driving into the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve, I came across a huge flock of male Wild Turkeys, all big gobblers showing off to one another. Most of them were in nearby front yards, but some of them were right in the middle of the road, and weren’t too keen on moving out of the way. I had to stop the car and then inch it forward to get the birds to move. One persistent one stood right in front of my car and stayed there – even when I was close enough so that all I could see of him was his head looking up over the hood my car – until I honked the horn at him. He finally, if very slowly, got out of the way but then jogged alongside my car for a while as I continued down the road. Goofy birds.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos and videos.

At the preserve itself, I came across that large group of hikers that I’d seen there before: about 15 or 20 of them, all gabbing loudly, scaring off the wildlife… I let them all pass me, and then I turned around and went in the opposite direction of where they were going. As I did this, I came across another hiker who said to me, “They really disturb the peace, don’t they?” That’s for sure! I don’t understand why they can’t do their group walk and SHUT UP at the same time. What a racket they make!

I saw many of the usual suspects on my walk: Acorn Woodpeckers, Lesser Goldfinch, Turkey Vultures, Canada Geese, some Herring Gulls and Common Goldeneye in the river, a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, European Starlings, Golden-Crowned Sparrows, Scrub Jays…

But there were a lot of Red-Shouldered Hawks around including a trio that soared and dashed through the trees chasing one another. One of the hawks even flew down and perched right on the top of an old, weathered skag of a tree. By its coloring and size, I assume it was female. So lovely.

There were also a lot of deer out today, too, including one very curious and brave fawn who came right up to the side of the trail to check me out (while he pretended to browse in the tall grass). He was so close, I could have reached out and touched him. I also came cross a doe who seemed to be intrigued by my hat. She was about 20 feet away, but stepped up to within about 5 feet of me to check me out.

At another point, I saw two does stotting across hillside. Then they made a left turn and came running straight at me, only seeing me at the last second when they veered off sharply to the right to avoid hitting me. I could feel the “wind” of their passing they were so close.

The other cool deer sighting was to be able to see two of the dominant males jousting with one another. I’d gotten photos and video snippets of the younger males head-butting one another, but this time it was two of the largest males – one a four-pointer. I don’t understand how they can wrestle the way they do, antlers locked, without poking each other’s eyes out.

I left a little bit earlier than I normally would – only walking for about 2½ hours instead of the regular 3 or 3½ — because the weather was so nice “everyone” decided to converge on the preserve.

Mostly Bucks in Rut, 12-09-17

Up at 5:30 am to let the dog out to pee, then we went back to bed for about an hour before I got up again and went over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.

It was literally freezing, 32º, at the river, and much of the preserve was covered in fog. The fog was very thick at the river side, which made for some interesting photos, especially as the fog started to lift as the sun came up further in the sky. There was a Great Blue Heron sitting on the bank among some scraggly vegetation. He remained still for quite a while and I was able to photograph him from different sides. He kept an eye on me, but remained where he was, trying to warm up before flying anywhere I guessed.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos and video snippets.

The majority of the rest of my photos today were of the Mule Deer. I came across the big 4-pointer buck who was tailing a female, and later came across three younger bucks (two 2-pointers and one spike buck) all sparring among a group of does (who pretty much ignored the boys). I was able to get some video snippets of the sparring contests, and also got some photos but those were more difficult because when the bucks spar, they drop their heads down close to the ground and shove each other back and forth… and when the vegetation around them is kind of tall, I’d lose the bucks in it. Every now and then, though, the bucks would lift up their heads and pose, looking handsome. I got quite a few of those shots.

On my way out of the preserve I found a spike buck browsing in the tall grass, but close to him, just to his left, was a California ground Squirrel gathering up face-fulls of grass and other vegetation to use as nesting material. This is kind of early for them to be breeding in this area, but not unheard of. In Southern California they start breeding in December, and in the Central Valley they usually don’t start until February and then go through April. Changes in breeding seasons is part of what I’ll be able to study more and understand better after I get certified in the phenology course…

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed back home.

Vacation Day #13: Nimbus Fish Hatchery

DAY THIRTEEN OF MY FALL VACATION… I got up a little before 7:00 am and headed out to the Nimbus Fish Hatchery. I knew they had the salmon gate open, so I wanted to see if I could spot any of them; and I wanted to see if the migrating birds were around there yet. The weatherpeople forecast clouds and rain for today, but when I went out it was mostly sunny and around 53º… and it stayed nice all the while I was outside.

At the hatchery, there weren’t hardly any waterfowl.  I saw some Mallards, a couple of Great Blue Herons and some Great Egrets, along with several Double Crested Cormorants but no other ducks or geese. There were a lot of different kinds of sparrows out there, though, and I saw House Sparrows, White-Crowned Sparrows, and Golden-Crowned Sparrows. There were also Acorn Woodpeckers around and lots of Starlings. I saw one Starling poking its head out of its nesting cavity… which was too near the Acorn Woodpeckers, and they were fussing about it. The big surprise was seeing a small flock of Cedar Waxwings.

A one place along the trail there was a huge fig tree, and the leaves were dotted with clusters of Assassin Bug egg cases. Yikes!  The fig was just starting to get fruit on it. Coffeeberry trees along the route were burgeoning with berries, though, just in time for the Waxwings (who eat berries almost exclusively).

The raceways were full of trout and salmon. When I was walking around the trout raceways, one of the rangers came up to me and handed me a big (16 oz) cup filled with fish food so I could feed the fry.  “You’re the first kid we’ve had through here today,” he said as he handed me the cup.  Hah! He said there were currently over 3-million trout in the raceways (everything from fingerlings to adults), and in another month or so they’d be pulling them all out and depositing them in tanker trucks to take to the lakes and ponds all over the area. None of the trout form there go into the rivers.

The fish are used to being fed by hand (or by another truck that goes between the raceways and blows food at them like a huge leaf-blower). Whenever I leaned in over the side of the raceways to look at them, they’d all rush to the edge and splash around expecting food. When you toss food to them they all attack it at the same time and it’s gone within seconds.

Also in the raceways were about four Green Herons. The raceways are completely surrounded and covered by chain link fencing, but someone must’ve left a door open and the smart herons rushed in.  Once they’re in there it’s hard to get them out, but there are literally millions of fish for them to eat, so it’s not like they’d starve.

When I went over to the salmon side of the hatchery, I was surprised to find that they were actually collecting and “spawning” the Chinook Salmon that were coming up the ladder. I didn’t think they were doing that until December, so it was a treat to be able to see it so early in the season.

Here are some pix: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhnaturalist/albums/72157686356492352

Video #1: https://youtu.be/6gf0-kdqX-w

Video #2: https://youtu.be/92TwnHBQsgU

When they bring the salmon up to take the eggs, they kill them (because they’re at the end of their life cycle anyway).  There was one hug female in the mix –- she must’ve weighed 40 to 50 pounds – and the rangers said she probably had 10,000 eggs in her belly. (A normal take is about 5,000 per female.) The bodies of the fish that are killed, are tagged and sent to Washington state where they’re used in dog food and made into fertilizer, so they’re “recycled” and not wasted.

I walked around the hatchery grounds and trails for about 3 ½ hours and then headed home.

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…

Vultures and Shrooms at the River Bend Park, 11-20-16

I got out of bed around 7:30 am and headed over to the American River Bend Park for a walk, I’d gone mainly to see if there were any signs of fungi out yet – and there were a few – but mostly I got photos of Turkey vultures who all decided to sit up in the trees over the trail and “vulch” at people. Hah!  The coyote brush is still in bloom all along the river trail, and I also found several snowberry plants with their fat white berries just waiting for the birds to eat them.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

Among the fungi I found Deer Shield, Inky Cap, Haymaker and Veined Parasol mushrooms, and both yellow and brown jelly fungus, among others.  It needs to get a lot wetter before we really see a profusion of ‘shrooms here.

Along the way, I saw some Golden-Crowned Sparrows trying to eat the see clusters off of the old start thistle, but the stems were water-logged and wouldn’t support the birds’ weight. So the birds would fly up the side of the plant, and the plant would bend over to the ground, and they’d eat the seeds off the ground.  Smart little things.

I also saw a Great Blue Heron steal something that looked like a salmon skeleton from a Turkey Vulture on the bank across the river from where I was standing.  I tried to get some video, but I can’t control the iris on this camera when it’s recording – it picks a setting by itself – so the heron was “washed out”… but the Vulture turned out fine.  Weird.  And frustrating.

On the river I saw several Common Mergansers (all females), a female Goldeneye, some Mallards, and a few pairs of Bufflehead ducks.  They’re very shy, though, and wouldn’t let me get too close. I also saw a Double-Crested Cormorant sharing his rock with a couple of Ring-Billed Gulls.

I walked for about 3 ½ hours and then headed home, stopping at BelAir along the way to get some chili for lunch.  It just sounded good…