Tag Archives: sparrows

Encounter with a Juvenile Turkey Vulture, 09-23-17

I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve and it was 48º when I got there. Fall has fallen. I love it when it’s like this!

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

Saw some deer right off the bat, and a European Starling poking its head out of its tree-cavity nest. I also got to watch an Acorn Woodpecker trying to pull green acorns off of a tree so he could stash them in his troop’s granary tree (the tree where they keep all of their nuts and acorns and winter food).

They drill new holes into their granary trees only during this time of the year, when the sap in the tree is running low, so they don’t kill the tree. Then they find acorns and other food stuff and shove them into the newly drilled holes for the winter. In the spring and summer, you may see them banging on the trees, too, but they’re not drilling new holes then (except maybe for their nesting space); instead, they are moving those nuts and acorns that have shrunk in size from one hole to another to wedge them in more tightly. They’re such ingenious little birds, and funny too. They’re a hoot to watch.

Among the deer I saw a lot of does, some does with fawns (out of their spots and growing bigger), some bucks with their full racks of antlers (no long covered in velvet) and even a young “spike buck” (only one point; so he was around 2 years old).

The highlight along my walk today, though, was coming across a fledgling Turkey Vulture. It was full size but didn’t have all of its adult feathers in yet, and it couldn’t fly very well. It’s face was still grey (not red yet) and its beak was still metallic black (instead of bone white). I spotted it first in the low branches of a tree, and tried to get photos of it through the branches. It worked its way up to a slightly high branch, flew clumsily over my head and landed on a dead skag-tree. It then walked up the naked branches of that, and parked itself on the top of the tree. I got several photos of it and then realized an adult Turkey Vulture was flying in low circles around the skag.

As I watched, the adult flew into the upper branches of a nearby tree, and the youngster flew to it, kind of crashing into a branch just below the adult. The adult then fed the youngster and flew off again. So cool! At one point while I was taking photos of the juvenile, several people came up and looked on. I explained to them that they were seeing a juvenile and what differences to look for between adults and their babies. They all pulled out their cell phones to take photos. A teaching moment. It was fun.

You can see the video here.

On the way out of the preserve, I stopped at the frog pond… and two other “old women” with cameras came up to join me in finding and taking photos of the bullfrogs there. It was obvious that the pond had recently been cleaned out: it was easier to see the bottom of it today than it has been for a long time; most of the cattails were gone; and the pond had been scraped free of a lot of duckweed. All of the full grown, large-as-your-hand bullfrogs were also gone. But the pond was full of minnows, tadpoles and small bullfrogs, so there was still a lot to look at (and all of the remaining frogs seemed to be females).

It eventually became a kind of jovial contest between us old ladies over who could find the best angle on the loveliest frog. Hah! We had more fun there than the kids who passed by did. (This is why I’d rather host nature outings for adults than for kids.)

I walked for almost four hours (phew!) and then headed home.

Looking for Dragonflies

A Widow Skimmer and male Common Pondhawk  face off against one another. ©2016 Mary K. Hanson.  All rights reserved.
A Widow Skimmer and male Common Pondhawk face off against one another. ©2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

I got up around 5:00 am even though I didn’t have to work today.  Forecasts were for temperatures over 100° by the afternoon, so I headed out early to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge before it got too hot outside.  I wasn’t expecting to see a lot of birds; I was looking for dragonflies.  Before I even got near the refuge, I found myself driving through thin “clouds” of dragonflies along the freeway.  It was like a population explosion of Variegated Meadowhawks; they were everywhere… and lots of them hitting the windshield like tiny soft bullets.

The refuge was full of them, too, especially where the water was still standing.  I also saw lots of Widow Skimmers, Blue Dashers, Common Pondhawks (blue males and green females), Green Darners and Black Saddlebags, along with a bunch of blue damselflies.  Despite their numbers, getting clear photos of them was a bear.  They were usually in among the tules and other plants and all of the background “layers” made it difficult to tell if the camera was focusing on the right one.  I snapped off almost 2000 shots and less than half of them were usable.  That’s just how it goes sometimes.  I also saw other insects like honey bees and bumblebees, and loads of Cabbage White butterflies.  There were also some Sulphers, Common Buckeyes, and Painted Ladies.

As I was leaving the loop around the permanent wetland area, I came across some Great-Tailed Grackles.  One of the males was feeding a juvenile female what looked like a tadpole he’d brought up from the water.  I also saw Kingbirds, Pelicans, Grebes and Red-Winged Blackbirds.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.


Wildlife Refuge and William Land Park

Wednesday; Vacation Day 5.  I got up around 6:30 am today and headed out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  I wasn’t expecting a lot, but I wanted to see how far they’re coming along with the flooding of the wetlands area.  It’s getting there; the place is starting to flood up.  In another month or so it should be great.  I did get to see a lot of geese, Mallards, Pintails, all kinds of sparrows, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets, a Red-Tailed Hawk…  At one point, I just stopped along the auto-tour route and filmed the ducks not so much to get the duck images, but to record the sound: hundreds of geese, ducks, and blackbirds all chattering at the same time.  In some places on the preserve, the noise is incredible.  I only spent about 2 hours at the preserve and then headed back to Sacramento.

On the way home, it was still so nice outside that I took Sergeant Margie over to the William Land Park and we took a walk around the large pond. No “cool” birds out there today, but I got a lot of close-ups of some the ducks and geese.  There was one Mallard there with a tumor on his face, right on his cheek.  It was big enough so that it might interfere with his vision.  I felt so bad for him…

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Zoo Day

Although I’ll have Fridays off for the foreseeable future (thanks to my new work schedule), my body was still awake at 5:00 am.  I slept in a little bit, but was still up around 7:00 am.  I eased into my morning and then took the opportunity to get over to the Sacramento Zoo.  (The “Banana Festival” is going to be in the adjoining William Land Park on Saturday and Sunday, so I figured I should get over to the zoo today so I miss the snarl of traffic and lack of parking spaces the festival is going to cause.)

I got to the zoo just as they opened at 9:00 am, and for the first couple hours I had it almost all to myself (there was just one other family there).  At the chimpanzee house, they’d turned on the overhead sprinklers to make it “rain” inside, and the chimps were NOT happy about that.  Hah!  Both of the orangutans were out – they like the hot muggy weather… I got to the giraffe enclosure just as they were coming out of their multi-story-tall house and heading for breakfast. The boy Masai Giraffe played football with an empty drum, and tried roll it with his head.  He’s so cute… There were two new small birds on display: some Southern White-Faced Owls and the Spur-Winged Lapwing… All of the lions weren’t out yet.  The daddy came out first, and then the mom poked her head out – and then closed the door on their enclosure keeping her and the cubs inside where the air conditioner was running.  Hah!  The male lion is soooo handsome and photogenic, though, that everyone loves to see him.  He poses beautifully, too… I got some photos of the White-Faced Saki eating an apple.  Wow, the teeth on that little guy!  …The Jaguar wasn’t out, but on top of his enclosure was a pair of big fat pigeons.  One kept grooming the other one – and I wondered if they were a mated pair…  Zookeepers have “salted” the Flamingo pen with fake eggs to try to entice the females to start laying.  One of the fake eggs was interesting enough to one of the females that she pushed it around a little bit and then say on it…

A little before 11 o’clock, I stopped to have an early lunch: French Dip sandwich, fries, and a beer… And right around that time was when all the stay-at-home moms arrived at the zoo with their hideous screaming kids.  I avoided them as much as possible, but when I went into the reptile house, they all packed in behind me.  I had to tell some of them to back off because I was trying to get pictures and they kept banging into me – while their stupid mothers just stood by against the wall on their cell phones.  Ugh!  By noon, I’d had enough of their annoying behavior, and I left.


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