Tag Archives: White-Crowned Sparrows

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.

The Cows Were More Obvious Today, 10-20-18

I had decided to just rest up over this weekend, but I couldn’t resist heading out to the Cosumnes River Preserve in the early morning. The preserve had posted that 90% of their wetland areas had water in them, so I wanted to see what it was like out there.

Uh. If what I saw out there was indeed 90%, then there are huge areas that the public can never see. The slough and some of the rice fields adjacent to the preserve were full of water, but there was no water in the wetland areas around the boardwalk or Desmond Road (which is where the public is allowed to do viewing). So, I was super disappointed as I felt the public had been lied to by the preserve.  Apparently, quite a few other people had also been duped by the announcement; there were cars cruising up and down Desmond and Bruceville Roads looking for birds.

The lack of water also meant a distinct lack of wildlife viewing. I did get to see COWS in some of the fields, and some Sandhill Cranes in other fields (but too far away for my camera to get any good shots of them). *Sigh* There was one Red-Tailed Hawk that was hunting near the boardwalk area and sat on the top of a short tree, so she could see what was around her. I saw her go to ground at one point, but don’t think she caught anything. The only other birds I saw were the common Canada Geese, Greater White-fronted Geese, Mallards, Brewer’s and Red-Winged Blackbirds, and some Bushtits and White-Crowned Sparrows. Nothing special.

I saw a few tiny damselflies that I think were Paiute Dancers, and also came across two large praying mantises, gravid females looking like they were ready to lay their eggs.

But overall, I felt the trip was a bust.

So Many Tree Swallows, 03-25-18

I got up around 7:30 this morning and headed out with the dog to the Cosumnes River Preserve and William Land Park.

At the Cosumnes Preserve, I was surprised to see dozens of Tree Swallows flying all over the place and congregating in large numbers among the tules and on the road! I guess they were sitting on the road to get warm, but I’d never seen Tree Swallows do that before. There were adults and juveniles in the mix. Because there were so many of the Swallows around, lots of the photos I took there had photo-bombing Swallows in them.

CLICK HERE to see the album of photos.

I walked along the boardwalk and around an adjacent pond, and saw a few birds (maybe about 18 species). There were a lot of Long-Billed Dowitchers “slumming” with the ducks, Killdeer, and other shorebirds; and the tiny Marsh Wrens were singing their buzzy songs from both sides of the boardwalk.

I was there for about 90 minutes and then headed to William Land Park.

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.

A Couple of Surprises

I went out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge again for a drive.  I got there around 8:30 am. It was sunny and cool (around 68º) with big sofa clouds everywhere…

There were a lot of the usual suspects out there: jackrabbits, Coots, blackbirds, wrens, etc. Among the jackrabbits, I saw one that kept “pedaling” with is front paws. I think it got a burr or something in its foot and was trying to shake it out. It also chewed on its foot a little bit. Poor little thing…

CLICK HERE to see the entire album.  I’ll be adding a few more videos later.

I came across a juvenile Great Blue Heron who was fishing in a shallow pond.  As I watched it, it caught and ate a little fish and three big crayfish.  One of the crayfish pinched the bird’s face and tongue with its claws, and the heron shook its head, flipping the crayfish across the pond. The heron chased the crayfish down, stabbed it, crushed it in its beak and ate it.  Major repercussions… As the young heron was fishing, and doing really well, an adult Great Blue Heron further away wasn’t fairing so well.  And then a Great Egret, seeing how well the youngster was doing, sidled up next to it to try to steal its fishing spot, but the juvenile heron just stared it down until it walked away.  Hah!

I later saw the heron catch a crayfish, and fly off with it… and later also saw an American Coot catch and eat one. I know the Coots aren’t strictly vegetarians, but it still always surprises me when I see them eating meat.

Two other “oddities” I saw today included an Eared Grebe in its breeding plumage and a Tundra Swan. I see Eared Grebes when they’re not breeding a lot, but this was only the second time I saw one in its breeding plumage. It was pretty far away so I didn’t get a detailed photo of it, but it was cool to see it.  The swan was a big surprise. I’d never seen one at the refuge before…

I drove around for about 4 hours and went back home.

Mostly Jackrabbits, Marsh Wrens and an Eagle

I was feeling pretty burnt out, so I took a mental health day today, and went over to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge with Sergeant Margie. It’s supposed to rain all weekend, so I was hoping it would be nice today… and it was.  It was in the 40’s when I got there and about 59° when I left.  There was a high overcast, but no rain.

At the refuge, there were lots of jackrabbits everywhere and they’re always fun to watch.  And the tules were full of little male Marsh Wrens and their rattling calls, trying to attract females. The place also seemed overrun with young and old White-Crowned Sparrows. They were everywhere! Hah! As I was photographing some of them, I saw a large bird fly onto a pile of broken tules behind the car, so I backed up to see what it might be… It was a handsome juvenile Cooper’s Hawk that posed for me for several seconds before flying off again.

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

There weren’t any big flocks of birds, but there seemed to be a really good variety of them.  I saw  Northern Shovelers, American Wigeons, Gadwalls, Black-Necked Stilts, a few Killdeer, a Raven, several Turkey Vultures, Red-Tailed Hawks, Greater Yellowlegs, Ring-Necked Pheasants, Pied-Billed Grebes, Western Meadowlarks, Red-Winged Blackbirds, White-Faced Ibis, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, several Hairy Woodpeckers, a Great Blue Heron, a pair of California Towhees, Cinnamon Teals, and lots more.

When I stopped to get some photos and video snippets of Eared Grebes, I could see some other movement in the water.  At first I couldn’t figure out what I was looking at: something dark rolling under the surface…  Then a head popped up.  It was an otter feeding in the shallow water!  I got some video of him chomping on something, but he moved so quickly it was hard to keep up with him.  As soon as I focused the camera, he dove down into the water, then popped up somewhere else… It’s always fun to see those guys, though, so I was pleased with the little bit of footage that I got.

The big payout of the day was getting to see a Bald Eagle.  It was sitting in a scag of a tree along the auto-tour route by itself, and was facing right toward the car.  I was able to drive up within about 15 feet of the tree to get some photos.  At one point, the eagle looked straight down at me – just before it flew off.  Neat!

There was also a pond where I could see the gold and silver humped backs of carp… I think they were spawning; swimming closely alongside one another and rolling around.  It’s unusual for there to be carp in there.  They must’ve been brought in with the flood waters from the river and then stranded when the waters receded again…

 

When I was done at the Sacramento refuge, I drove over to the Colusa refuge, but they were still totally flooded and all of the auto-tour routes were closed.  I got out and had lunch with Sergeant Margie at their picnic area, and then walked part of their hiking trail.  Sergeant Margie hadn’t been doing well on walks for a while; he’s slowing down in his old age. But he did really well on the walk and even trotted ahead of me for most of the way. He must’ve needed a “day off” to feel better, too.