Tag Archives: Variegated Meadowhawk

At the Ibis Rookery Again, 06-26-19

It was kind of a whirlwind trip today: left the house at 9:15 am, got to Woodland around 10:15, went to the White-Faced Ibis rookery at 10:30, and left the rookery around 12:30 pm.  Phew!  The weather did cooperate. There’s no shade at the rookery and I was worried it would be too hot there, but it was in the 70’s with a stiff breeze blowing, so temperature-wise it was nice.  The wind kind of played havoc with my birding scope, though, and threatened to knock it over a few times, so I had to put it back into the car.

 I was joined at the rookery by my naturalist graduates Karlyn, Kristie and her husband Joe (and their son-in-law Zak) and three of my current students Alison, Linda and Gina. They had never been there before and were surprised by the number of birds they were seeing right there in the middle of town.

The water in the pond where the ibises were actually seemed HIGHER today than it was the last time I was there and some of the established nests were already underwater.  You’d think the people who control the pond would take that into consideration. I saw several eggs abandoned and floating in the water. So sad.

Along with the large gathering of ibises – talking to each other, gathering nesting material, sitting on their nests, flying back and forth – we also saw a few American Coots (one sitting on a nest and a few with babies), some Killdeer, a female Great-Tailed Grackle, some turtles (but we couldn’t tell if they were the native species or not), Black Saddlebags and Variegated Meadowhawk dragonflies and Familiar Bluet damselflies, including a pair “in wheel” (mating).

Watching the ibises pull nesting material from the bank I was surprised to see that they didn’t go for the dried grass. Instead, they drew up soggy grass from under the water at the edge of the pond and yanked it out by the beakful.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

Video of Ibis Pair on the Nest: https://youtu.be/463dIw919Qs.  At the end of the video you see the male handing the female a stick.
Video of Coot Mama Feeding her Babies: https://youtu.be/h6ayF3sNIJI
Video of a Coot Carrying a Stick to its Nesting Site: https://youtu.be/VM8Ucg-DCp0

At the rookery, we also talked a little bit about the floating nests made by the ibises, grebes and American Coots. According to The Earthlife Web: “Coots build nests which though surrounded by water have a foundation of vegetation, which reaches the ground below. Interestingly the Horned Coot, Fulica cornuta, which breeds on mountain lakes in the Andes where water weed is scarce, build a foundation of stones nearly to water level before building the actual nest. More adventurous are various grebes. Grebes build the nests in shallow water, and though they are often anchored at one or two points they are basically floating on the water. This is necessary because grebes which are primarily water birds are very clumsy on land and find life works better if they can swim right onto the nest.”

I really suspect that the Coot there had actually commandeered the ibises’ nests rather than building their own. Hah!

The students all seemed to enjoy themselves. One of them, Alison, actually did some quick watercolor paintings of the birds while we were there.  A couple of the students also complimented me on the classes and said I was “a natural teacher”.  It was such a nice outing.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana,
  2. Familiar Bluet, Enallagma civile,
  3. Heliotrope, Heliotropium curassavicum var. oculatum,
  4. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos,
  5. Tules, Schoenoplectus acutus,
  6. Variegated Meadowhawk, Sympetrum corruptum,
  7. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi,

Standouts: a Lorquin’s Admiral and a Wilson’s Snipe, 11-03-18

I left the house with the dog around 5:30 am to head out to the Sacramento and Colusa National Wildlife Refuges. It was already 62º there and was windy; not a strong blow-you-over wind, but strong enough so that it kept a lot of the birds hunkered down to keep warm. Neither refuge is at full water capacity yet, so there were long areas of nothing but dried grass and tules. In another month or so, viewing should better.

At the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, the first thing I saw was a Black-Tailed Jackrabbit using a stand of tules as a windbreak. I saw several Red-Tailed Hawks in the trees, saw some American Kestrels on the wing, saw a Northern Harrier on the ground, and lots of Turkey Vultures surfing the wind currents. One of the Red-Tails was so huge, I thought at first that it might be an eagle; the female Red-Tails can get REALLY large. I also heard but didn’t see a Red-Shouldered Hawk.

Lots of Song, Savannah and White-Crowned Sparrows were out along with huge flocks of Snow Geese, Greater White-Fronted Geese, and Northern Pintail ducks. I also saw several Ross’s Geese – which look like Snow Geese, but they’re smaller and don’t have the black “grin patch” on the beak. Among the other ducks were Northern Shovelers (some still in their eclipse plumage), American Wigeons and Gadwalls. The Pintails always out-number the other ducks this early in the season as they’re the first to arrive.

Some areas along the auto-tour route were laden with the thick sticky webbing spiderlings use to “balloon” along the landscape. Long strands and bunches of “spider snot” seemed to be everywhere.

Two standouts at the Sacramento refuge were a Loggerhead Shrike and a Lorquin’s Admiral butterfly. The Shrike had posted itself on some dead cattail stems and as I watched it impaled a large insect on a shard along the side of the stem. Then it manipulated the insect a little bit with its beaks and feet before eating it. I think the insect was a big grasshopper, but I couldn’t get a really good look at it. Shrikes are referred to as “butcher birds” and “songbirds with the heart of a raptor” for their hunting and butchering behaviors.

The Lorquin’s Admiral was a huge surprise. It’s very late in the season for them to be out. This is a kind of butterfly that has several “flights” throughout the year, and they feed on nectar from California Buckeye trees, but they also like bird feces. Ugh. No accounting for taste! What’s cool about these guys is that even though they’re basically made out of “fuzzy air”, they’re super-aggressive and will fight protect their territory. Sort of like getting sucker-punches by a paper doll. Hah! The caterpillars roll themselves up in the leaves of willow trees (among others) and overwinter in them.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

At the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, I saw a lot of the same birds that I did at the Sacramento refuge, but the standout was a Wilson’s snipe and flew up right next to the car and walked around the muddy ground there. Every once in a while, the bird would tilt its head to look up at me as I frantically snapped photos of it through the driver’s side window of my car.

On our way out of the auto-tour route at this refuge, I saw a pair of young Columbian Black-Tailed Deer grazing on the berm that was covered with geese and ducks. The deer didn’t seem to mind it when I stopped my car next to the end of the berm to take some photos and video of them, but when another car came up behind mine, they startled. I was surprised when, instead of running away up the berm through the flock of birds, both deer came charging down the berm right toward my car. I was afraid they were going to hit it. But they both veered off, one after the other, and crossed the auto-tour route road in front of my car – kind of using my car as a shield – before they jumped into the trees and overgrowth on the opposite side of the road. Wow. Got my heart going for a little bit. I don’t know what it was about the other car that made them so afraid.

When I was done with the auto-tour route, I parked near the restroom facility and then took Sergeant Margie out on his leash to stretch his legs. ((Dogs are allowed on the preserve, as long as they’re in your car or on a leash.)) I started down the trail that runs along between a large wetland area and a slough (so you have water on both sides) and was happily surprised to see that Sergeant Margie was able to handle walking a half mile in and a half mile back to the car (one mile round trip). He hasn’t been able or willing to do any kind of “long” walk for almost a year.

I think it helped that the temperature outside was comfortable and the trail was flat and covered with soft leaves. His tongue was hanging out when we got back to the car, but he wasn’t coughing or complaining. I gave him some lunch and a big drink of water before we headed back home.

So Many Squirrels, 10-16-18

DAY 11 OF MY VACATION. I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.

On the way out of the neighborhood, I saw what looked like a pair of squirrels or something “fighting” near a sewer grate. I stopped to take a closer look and realized it was actually two racoons trying to squirm their chubby butts through the openings in the grate, so they could get into the sewer. I was shocked but also amused. I thought for sure they were too fat to fit, through the grate, but they actually made it! Hah! So, now I know where the neighborhood raccoons hang out during the day. (When the rains start, they’re going to have to find somewhere else to live.)

My diverticulitis pain was bad (around an “8”) but I thought I could walk it off. No such luck. It actually got worse a couple of times, and the pain referred down into the front of my thighs during those moments, making walking somewhat difficult. Ugh! So, I was distracted by the pain throughout my walk.

It was only about 44º at the river when I got there, and I actually had to wear a jacket for most of the time I was out there. The river was steaming when the sun came up over the hillsides; and at one point, when I was walking the trail, I came across a bachelor group of Wild Turkeys, and could see their breath streaming out of their beaks. Chilly!

I don’t know if the pain-distraction was a factor, but it seemed like I didn’t see much of anything today – except for squirrels. There were a LOT of squirrels: Eastern Fox Squirrels, Gray Squirrels, California Ground Squirrels… They were all over the place – including the babies I’d seen a few weeks ago. The deer; not so much.

I also saw some Cooper’s Hawks and got photos and video snippets of a Red-Shouldered Hawk in the meadow area, both on the ground and in a nearby tree. It was watching the field from the trees and would fly down to grab little things in the grass, then fly back up to the trees again. I think I saw it catch a few Jerusalem Crickets.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

I walked for about 3 hours, but it was a slow walk, and I could hardly wait to get back home to lie down.

Disappointing at the Cosumnes Preserve, 10-08-18

DAY 3 OF MY VACATION.  I left the house around 7:00 am to go to the Cosumnes River Preserve to see what it’s looking like these days.  It was about 59º when I got to the preserve; by the late afternoon it was about 80º.

I knew the Sandhill Cranes were starting to move into the area, and I wanted to see if the preserve had water in it yet to support them. Nope. The slough along the side of the road was full, but there was no water in the wetland area yet.  Several flocks of cranes flew over the area, but none of them landed (because of the lack of water). I only got a handful of shots of other birds like Red-Winged Blackbirds, a Song Sparrow and a White-Crowned Sparrow.  On the way home, I spotted two White Tailed Kites sitting in a tree in an empty field. I stopped to get photos of them, but they were too far away for my camera to focus on them correctly.

I also saw a dark animal moving along the slough at a distance and thought maybe it might be a mink or an otter… but it turned out to be nothing but a tortoiseshell cat searching for mice and voles in the grass.

It was kind of a frustrating morning; not a lot to see or photograph. But the air was fresh and cool, and the temperature was comfortable, so it wasn’t a total waste. I only walked for about 2 hours, though, before heading home again.

CLICK HERE to see the puny album of photos.

That Phainopepla was a Surprise, 09-29-18

I got up around :30 this morning and headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for my walk. The weather was just how I like it: cool, in the 50’s, partly cloudy, a tiny bit breezy. Loved it!

The first thing I saw was a small herd of Columbian Black-Tailed Deer: all does and fawns. One of the fawns was the little one with the roughed-up neck that I’d seen several times before. The other two fawns were a little older, out of their spots but still “snack sized”. One of them was very jaunty. He was jumping and running all over the place. He tried to engage the other fawns, but they weren’t interested in his high-energy antics. After bouncing around for a while, the wired fawn took off like a shot across the preserve. I didn’t see him after that, but I’m assuming her found his way back to his mom.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I also came across two young (2-pointer) bucks who were play-sparring. I tried to get photos, and got a few, but the boys’ sparring matches were so short – one of them giving up almost immediately – if was hard to get any good head-butting photos.

There were also a lot of squirrels out today: California Ground Squirrels, Eastern Fox Squirrels, and Western Grey Squirrels. Most of them were either eating or caching nuts and acorns. It’s that time of year. At one spot, there was a female Eastern Fox Squirrel eating from the shrubs, unaware that in a tree right over her head there was a Red-Shouldered Hawk. The hawk saw the squirrel but didn’t go after it and flew off after a little while. In another tree nearby there were three Turkey Vultures trying to warm up before breakfast.

The surprise of the day was spotting a male Phainopepla near the river. That’s a kind of bird. The males are a shiny midnight blue color with red eyes and a stiff crest on the top of their head. I heard the bird first. It’s one of the few birds whose call I can mimic pretty well – mostly because it’s a single note. Hah! He called, I called, he called, I called… then I saw him flit away form the top of a tree, circle over my head and land back in the same spot again. I was able to get a few photos of him before he took off.

I walked for about 3 ½ hours, and then headed back to the house.

A Gorgeous Coyote, 07-27-18

I headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk. It was about 61º when I left the house and got up to 103º by the late afternoon. The air throughout Sacramento County is dense and hazy with the smoke from the 45,000-acre Carr Fire (more on that later) even though the fire is about 180 miles away.

At the preserve, I was at first kind of disappointed that I wasn’t seeing very much, but then Nature “opened the doors”, and I got good shots of a Red-Shouldered Hawk, a mama deer and her twin babies, dragonflies, and a mama coyote and glimpses of two of her pups.

I saw the young coyotes first. They were “hunting” along the trail in the tall grass. They’re so cute when they do that: standing still with their ears pricked forward and then play-pouncing on whatever they found in the grass. I was only able to get some very short video snippets of them; when they saw me, they took off. Then a little further down the trail, the mama coyote came out and crossed the trail right in front of me. I was able to get quite a few still shots of her as she paused periodically on her way across a meadow to look at me. She was soooo beautiful.

CLICK HERE for the album of photos.

When I saw the mother deer and her babies, I again saw the babies first. They came bounding out from behind a tall brush pile of downed trees and twigs, feeling their oats and playing, and mom followed after them. The fawns came running out toward me, but then when they realized I was another animal, they went bouncing back to mom. Made me smile.

I didn’t see the fawn that had the cough today, although I did see his mom browsing in her favorite spot. I worry that he didn’t make it… but the preserve is about 100 acres wide, so maybe I just missed him today…

I walked for about three hours and headed back home.