Tag Archives: White-Faced Ibises

There are Still a Lot of Birds at the SNWR

American Avocet. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
American Avocet. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

Up at about 6:00 am and out the door by 6:30 with Sergeant Margie to go over to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  I got there right around 8:00 o’clock and had the whole place to myself for a couple of hours before anyone else showed up.  Like the Colusa preserve, some of the wetland areas in this larger preserve are also drained and dried out already, but they have a loop open that lets you drive around some of their permanent wetland area, so although you don’t get to see a ton of birds, you do get to see some… and a few of them are ones that I can’t see along the American River.

The drive started off with good views of Killdeer and some American Avocets (which I think are such pretty birds), Greater Yellowlegs and Red-Winged and Brewer’s Blackbirds.  There were  lots of jackrabbits along the auto-tour route along with some chubby little Cottontails (which look like babies next to the big jacks.)  And lots of ground squirrels.  I didn’t see any raccoons this time out, but I did see a few deer. Oh, and I saw some pond turtles and Western Fence Lizards.

There are still a lot of wildflowers in bloom – mostly Goldfields and Fiddleneck – and the Poison Hemlock is starting to rise along with the Milk Thistle and other weeds.

Marsh Wrens were everywhere in the tules, chattering away and tucking in the loose ends of their nest construction. Between them, the blackbirds, and the Meadowlarks, some spots were really NOISY!  There  were quite a few Ring-Necked Pheasants out and about adding their loud rusty-hinge croaks to the cacophony, and in some places the Double-Crested Cormorants were grunting like pigs.  I’ve gotten so I can tell some of the birds by their sound without seeing them… Speaking of the cormorants: a lot of the breeding adults have their “double-crests” showing now and it makes the birds look like they have really fluffy eyebrows (or very long eyelashes).  Hah!

There were, of course, American Coots all over the place and many White-Faced Ibises among the other ducks: Northern Shovelers, Cinnamon and Green-Winged Teals, a few Buffleheads and a solitary female Goldeneye, and some Ruddy Ducks.  I did see another American Bittern today… and heard another one doing its pumper-lunk call in the reeds… but I couldn’t see that one.  Toward the end of the drive, I came across some American White Pelicans.  But the stand-out sighting for the day (for me anyway) was getting to see a pair of Clark’s Grebes do part of their courtship ritual where they bob their heads at on another then get up and run across the top of the water in tandem.  I’d seen photos and video of that before, but had never witnessed it myself.  I only got a few seconds of it on video but it made my day. I’ll have to get back there in the next few weeks to see if I can see any more courtship behavior. There  were also some Western Grebes and Pied-Billed Grebes out on the water, too.  Most of them were too far away to get any really good shots of them, but it’s still always fun to see them.  It’s sometimes difficult for me to tell the Clark’s Grebes from the Western Grebes because they look almost identical.  The only real difference is that on the Clark’s Grebe the eyes are surrounded by white and on the Western Grebe the eyes are surrounded by black.

Here’s the Grebe videohttps://youtu.be/jpGUjuwigu0

Clark's Grebes versus Western Grebe. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Clark’s Grebes versus Western Grebe. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

Also saw some Great Egrets and Snow Egrets.  And as I was heading out the refuge, I came across a large hawk sitting on a stump – apparently just waiting there to have her picture taken. Hah! – and a Common Gallinule, an adult one sporting a red shield on the front of its face. The red of the shield was so intense that my camera freaked out over it, so all of the face-on shots took on a kind of “glowing” effect.  By that time, too, the sun had been up for a while and things were getting warm, so the camera had to fight through distortions caused by heat waves.  When conditions get like that, it’s time to go home…

I got back to the house around 2:30 pm, cooked up some chicken thighs and an ear of corn for supper, and collapsed with the dogs.

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Lots of Birds and Deer at the Refuge on 12-19-15

Around 7:00 am I headed out with Sergeant Margie to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  I wasn’t sure I’d be able to see anything; it was overcast, drizzly and foggy in Sacramento.  But I was hoping to get some breaks in the storm by the time I got to Willows… and it seemed to work out really well.

Female Ring-Necked Pheasant. Copyright © 2015 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Female Ring-Necked Pheasant. Copyright © 2015 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

Although I hit a lot of rain heading out, by the time I got to the refuge the rain had stopped, and it was hazy but not too foggy.  Still, because of the wet and cold (it was about 43°) I didn’t know if I’d be able to see much.

As I pulled into the preserve, two of the rangers were outside the nature center clearing out some fallen tree branches.  They both greeted me, and asked me I’d been there before.  I told them, yes, I come out as often as I can.  The female ranger said the bird might be shy today because of the weather, and I told her I figured the same thing.  But I also thought that if it was still sort of “dark” and quiet, maybe some of the smaller birds would come closer to the auto tour road (especially if I kept my headlights off)… and with that in mind, I started the tour.

A lot of the larger raptors were up high in the trees and obscured by the haze, but I get to see quite a few… including five Bald Eagles, two adults in flight, two juveniles in flight, and one juvenile sitting in a tree posing for everyone.  He was maybe two or three years old (not into in his white head yet).  That was cool.

It was seemingly a bad day for the Coots.  I saw a Turkey Vulture stand-guarding a dead Coot, watched (and videoed)  a gulls eating another Coot, and then found the carcass of a third dead Coot further along the road (stinking up the place).

Along with the American Coots, I also saw Cinnamon Teals, a Cooper’s Hawk, several Harris hawks (in flight), lots of Eared Grebes, Gadwalls, a juvenile Gallinule, Golden-Crowned Sparrows, Great Egrets, Greater White-Fronted Geese, House Sparrows, Killdeer, a Loggerhead Shrike, Meadowlarks, Northern Shovelers, a Pied-Billed Grebe, Red-Tailed Hawks, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Ring-Billed Gulls, Ring-Necked Ducks, some Ring-Necked Pheasants, a Great Blue Heron, Ruddy Ducks, a ma’jillion Snow Geese, a Snowy Egret, Song Sparrows, Turkey Vultures, White-Crowned Sparrows several White-Faced Ibises, a pair of Wilson’s Snipes and a Yellow-Rumped Warbler.  I also came across a small herd of Mule Deer (one looked super-preggers) and a cottontail rabbit.  So it was good nature-viewing day despite the weird weather.

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I got back home around 2:30 pm, and the clouds were breaking up by then.

Vacation Day Three: Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Day Three of my Vacation.  I got up at 6:30 this morning and headed out with the dog to visit the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  It was about 53° when I left, but got up to 79° by the time I got back home around 2:00 pm.

At the refuge I saw a lot of White-Faced Ibises, along with Killdeer, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Redwing Blackbirds, Brewer’s Blackbirds, Meadowlarks, Ring-Necked Pheasants, sparrows, Widgeons, Northern Shovelers, Green Teals, Cinnamon Teals, hawks, White-Fronted Geese, Greater Yellow Legs, and other birds.  There were also quite a few jackrabbits and cottontail rabbits, Blue Belly lizards, and Painted Lady butterflies.  I also saw a lot of dragonflies along the auto tour, so I was looking forward to maybe getting a lot of photos of them on the “wetlands walk” foot trails… but the wet areas along the trail are all dried up already, so… no dragonflies there.

One of the Great Egrets I photographed had just come out of the water so all his mating plumes (aigrettes) were matted together, but he still has his neon-green mating face going on…  And I’d stopped the car at one point to get a photo of a thistle outside the window that was in bloom.  Just as I took the photo, a Painted Lady butterfly landed right on top of it!  Hah!  Kewl shot!

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It was a nice day over all, and as I mentioned I was home again by 2 o’clock so that was great.  I crashed for the rest of the day with the dogs…