After work, it wasn’t raining – a little bit of angel spit, but no downpours yet – so I took the dog over to the WPA Rock Garden and duck pond for a short walk.
Again there were no spectacular photo ops, but I did get to get a few close-ups of a female Carpenter Bee napping on a flower stem. I also came across a Flame Skimmer dragonfly and tried to get closer to it to take some photos, but there were cactus all around where it was perched. Smart little dickens. I got some distance shots, but… Arrrgh! I really wanted a close up. While I was watching it, a Jumping Spider came out of its hidey-hole and tried to sneak up on the dragonfly, but – fffffffllllit! – the dragonfly went off again.
I did manage to get a few good squirrel photos, and found another female Wood Duck, this one with about six fuzzy babies all around her. The dog and I left the park, though, just as the clouds were starting to get serious: thunder, lightning and a sprinkle of rain.
Thankfully, the clouds didn’t open up until AFTER I got home.
After work today, I stopped at William Land Park since the weather wasn’t too bad, and walked around the big pond there with the dog for about an hour. There were no spectacular sights today, but we did see a lot of the usual suspects: ducks, geese, squirrels… I also came across a pair of Wood Ducks sleeping on the edge of the pond with two of their babies. Even though I had the dog with me, they didn’t startle when I stepped up a little closer to snap photos of them. At one point, papa Wood Duck goosed one of the babies out of his way so he could get closer to the mom, and then he spent several minutes just grooming mama. This is common behavior between nesting pair, but I’d never actually seen (or videoed) it before, so that was neat.
As the dog were walking along, I hear a woman from across the lawn call out, “Sergeant Margie – !” Hah! My dog is famous. I’d seen this lady several times before, with her little dog Colby, but hadn’t seen her in quite a while. She carries her camera with her everywhere she goes just like I do. We chatted for a bit, and while we were talking I noticed a female Western Bluebird sitting on a nearby bench, so the two of us creeped up slowly on the bench to get some photos of the bird. Then the male Western Bluebird showed up – and the female flitted away for a while – and sat on the armrest of the bench turning this way and that way. “Look! He’s posing for you!” the lady said. Actually, I think he was showing off to the female, making his feathers gleam in the sun, but I still got the benefit of him sitting there so I could take his picture. The lady said that when she first saw him, she though he was a baby Robin because of the reddish blush on his chest, but once he was in the sun she could see how blue he really was.
She remarked to me, “You know, all of these people around here, they just walk right by and don’t even see what’s here all around them.” I totally agreed with her. The joggers and bicyclists racing by, people chasing after their kids or snogging or glued to their cellphones… none of them really SAW the bluebirds or the Wood Ducks or the Tiger Swallowtail butterfly flying overhead or the m’jillion squirrels running around acting goofy… and that’s really kind of sad. And I guess that’s why people like this lady and I take all the photos we do: to capture for all of the rushed and distracted people the beauty and sweetness that was there on that particular day…
Anyway, after our walk, the dog and I went back home and crashed for the day.
Last day of vacation. Both Marty and I got up around 6:00 this morning, and I headed over to the WPA Rock Garden and the duck ponds at William Land Park for my walk.
The garden is starting to really show off; another week and it should be spectacular. Lots of flowers and trees in bloom; layer upon layer of color in some places… LOTS of snails. I know the gardeners hate them, but I like taking photos of them. I like the whorl in their shell, their “nubbly” skin and their stalk eyes… I also found a lot of Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, and one young White-lined Sphinx Moth caterpillar. I was hoping to see some Monarch caterpillars, but… nothing yet. I did see several Ladybeetle larvae and one of them in its pupal stage.
It was 51° outside, so I was a little surprised to see steam rising off the duck pond behind the garden… I was also surprised – shocked actually – to see a Black-Crowned Night Heron fishing along the edge of the larger pond. I had NEVER seen one of those in that park, and was surprised to see it in such an open spot, and out that “late” in the morning. (This is the breeding season, though, and sometimes they’ll hunt during the day when that’s going on.) This bird was pretty bold, too, and let me get fairy close to it so I could get the photos I wanted. When someone brought their dog close, though, the heron took off and set itself down on the island in the middle of the pond. An older couple who were taking pictures with their cellphones saw it when it landed and asked me what it was. When I told them, they then asked me to identify the other birds they were seeing: Turkey Vultures, Chinese Geese, Canada Geese, Mallards, Cormorants, Wood Ducks… I got to do my “naturalist” thing. Hah! When I identified “those big brown birds” as Turkey Vultures, the couple were afraid that the vultures would hurt the ducklings in the pond, but they felt better when I assured them that Turkey Vultures don’t generally go for live prey – they’re carrion eaters. (I didn’t tell the couple that the Night Heron might eat chicks and ducklings, though.)
The Turkey Vultures were hanging around the trees near the edges of the largest pond, and one of them decided it liked a nesting box as a perch. I don’t know if there was anyone occupying the nest box, but the Turkey Vulture looked so “incongruous” sitting on top of it. Lots of people stopped to take pictures of it.
This time of year, it’s always fun to see all the ducklings and goslings around. Along with the Canada Geese goslings, I saw Mallard ducklings and Wood Duck ducklings… There are also a lot of very “horny” male ducks – the ones who couldn’t get a female of their own, I think – that were harassing some of the females even if the females had ducklings with them. There was a Swedish Blue duck that kept trying to get to a female Mallard, and the male Mallards ganged up on him to make him leave her alone. In the garden, I came across a female Cayuga duck being harassed by a male. She ran close to where I was standing and the male backed off, waddling away through the plants. The female hung around me for a few minutes, following me until I went into a part of the garden where she might have felt too “exposed”…
There was one of the big white Chinese Geese pond-side who was harassing people rather than other birds. Its companion, I noticed, was blind on one side, and the big white was hyper-protective of it. I saw it bite one woman, and later attack another woman’s Chihuahua. The Canada Geese hissed at anyone who came near their goslings, but they didn’t “attack” like the Chinese Goose did. When I walked by the Chinese Goose, I kept my camera bag between the birds and my body, so if it bit at me it would get fabric and not skin. It lowered its head and ran at me, but pulled up at the last second and walked back to its companion. Fake out.
There were also lots and lots of squirrels running around. A few of them were “people-friendly” and ran up to me so I could take their pictures. I actually ended up taking over 600 photos throughout the walk, and picked about 100 of them that I really liked to share with you. There are so many that I’m breaking them into two albums (one for flowers and one for birds).
I walked for about 3 ½ hours and then headed home.
I got up around 7:00 this morning and headed up north with the dog to theSacramento National Wildlife Refuge. It was densely foggy between Woodland and Arbuckle and I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to see anything at the refuge, but the fog cleared (although it stayed overcast for most of the day).
I’d left the house without breakfast, so I stopped at Taco Bell to get some coffee and a breakfast burrito. Believe it or not, I’ve never eaten one of those before – and I don’t ever need to eat another one. It was flavorful just… kind of gross to look at. The pale soft tortilla was like “skin” surrounding “entrails” that were yellow, brown, red and green with strings of oozy cheese. Creepy. I only ate half of it. The coffee was surprisingly excellent, though.
At the refuge water levels had risen all over since the last time I was there, and areas that used to be dry were now flooded, so there were lots of birds a lot closer to the road of the driving tour there. I saw a lot of Ring-Necked Pheasants, all males and most of them in pairs. I got a little video of one pair that were eating together; then one tried to challenge the other to a fight, but the second one wasn’t taking the bait… I wanted to see and photograph some of the Ibises that are usually around there, and I saw some in flight… but then they landed too far away from me to get decent photos of them. Grrrr. I also saw grackles, Meadowlarks, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Snow Geese, White-Fronted Geese, Great Egrets, a Snowy Egret… (Several of the egrets, in fact, were posing on logs and branches so they looked very picturesque)… Buffleheads, Northern Shovelers, a cormorant, hawks, Robins, a Peregrine Falcon, Mallards, Gadwalls, Lesser Goldfinches, Jackrabbits, squirrels, and Ring-Necked Ducks (which I’d never seen before)… and then I saw the Bald Eagle.
He was sitting in a tree, but on the side that didn’t face on-coming traffic. I could see his silhouette, but couldn’t get a good shot of him from that angle. The car in front of me on the driving tour path opened up their sunroof, lifted their camera through it, and aimed their camera behind them to get photos of the eagle. My Sebring doesn’t have that, so I was naughty. When I pulled up far enough, I opened the car door and leaned out to get some shots of him. The eagle knew how awesome he looked and just struck a pose for everyone.
After driving the loop of the auto-tour, I left Sergeant Margie out of the car and we walked half of the wetlands paths. Most of that area had been burned to the ground last summer, so the trees are all dead, but the tule and grasses are starting to come back already, and most of the burned area was flooded now, so you couldn’t see the singed earth underneath. By the time we were done walking it was already past 1:00 pm, so we headed back home and made it back to the house right around 3:00 pm. It was a long day, but I got a lot of photos and I felt it was a fun and productive one… and it was nice to have the car back, and running so well again…