Tag Archives: widgeons

Got to see the Bittern at the SNWR

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Happy Winter Solstice.  I got up about 7:00 AM and headed out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge to see if I could spot some more eagles this time around.  It was cloudy in Sacramento, but by the time I got to Willows, everything was blanketed in a thick fog.  As always, the fog makes long-distance shots pretty much impossible, but helps me focus on things that are closer… and it also fakes the birds into thinking it’s earlier in the morning than it really is, so you get to see some of the birds that usually only come out at dusk and dawn.

One of the first birds I saw along the auto tour route was an American  Bittern.  I’d heard there was one out there, but hadn’t seen it before.  It was actually larger than I was expecting it to be – and it was right out in the open among the tules. Just as I stopped to get some photos, some idiot-woman in a huge motorhome came up on the road behind me and startled the bird. So, I didn’t get as many photos of it as I would have liked.  I stayed where I was an waited for her to move past me before I continued on with the rest of the tour myself.  I did get to see a Bald Eagle, but he was up in a tree over the top of the car, so it was difficult to get photos of him.  He was sitting with his wings hanging down – and I’m not sure what that was about.

I also saw a group of Northern Shovelers all spinning in circles in one of the larger ponds.  I’d never seen that before, so I videoed it for a little while and then looked up the behavior when I got home.  Apparently, I was seeing a “feeding circle”.  The ducks work together to churn up the water and bring up the stuff they eat from the bottom of the pond: water plants, seeds, insects, larvae, and other tiny invertebrates. Kewl!

Here’s a video snippethttps://youtu.be/VeICrgFRjKI

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On my trip today I saw:  Red-Tailed Hawks, Turkey Vultures, White-Crowned Sparrow, American Bittern, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, White-Faced Ibis, Ring-Neck Ducks, Widgeons, Cinnamon Teals, Green Teals, American Coots, Mallards, Eared Grebe, Great Blue Heron, Common Gallinule, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Snow Geese, White-Fronted Geese, Gadwall, Northern Shovelers, Black-Necked Stilt, Ruddy Ducks, California Towhee,  Bald Eagle and Ravens…

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…

Day 3 of the Great Backyard Bird Count

I was up and out of the house with the dog by about 7:00 this morning, and we drove over to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  This was a “free” day because of the President’s Day holiday this weekend.  I did the auto-tour first and then the dog and I walked the middle loop of the wetlands walking path.  I was hoping to see some Ibises there this time around, but ended up seeing only one – and that was at a distance, but I got some close-up of other birds.  The weather was beautiful, but weird for February: 75º, sunny and very breezy.  It was so clear outside, too, that you could see almost every dimple on the foothills, and both Mount Lassen and Mount Shasta were visible from the preserve.

Meadowlarks seemed to dominate the landscape , but I also saw more Bald Eagles than I’d ever seen there: eight, including two near the roadside, four on a little island, and one in flight, and one on another island seen from the freeway.  I saw a lot of Killdeer, too.  One pair was right alongside the viewing deck in the middle of the driving tour area.  They hadn’t built a nest yet (their nests are rings of stone and gravel), but were pacing off the area as though they wanted to build one right there.


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So, today to add to my Great Backyard Bird count list I have: Turkey Vultures, Killdeer, Greater Yellow Legs, Black-Necked Stilts, Northern Shovelers, Ruddy Ducks, Widgeons, Red-Tailed Hawks, Meadowlarks, all sorts of sparrows (mostly White-Crowned. House and Savannah), Brown-Headed Cowbirds, a Ring-Necked Pheasant, Pintails, Buffleheads, White-Fronted Geese, Snow Geese, Coots, Black Phoebes, Cinnamon Teals, Buffleheads, Bald Eagles, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, White-Faced Ibis, Raven, and Goldeneyes… Phew!  Among the geese, I saw a Snow Goose “slumming” with a flock of White-Fronted Geese… and then noticed that in the flock were two geese that looked like hybrids of the two species.  They had the head coloring of the White-Fronted Geese, but their bodies were pale.  Not pure white, but more like pale, pale tan…  The “new” bird for me was a pair of what I think were Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata).  I’m not entirely sure, though, because neither had a red patch on their faces.  They might both have been juveniles.  They swam like ducks, but had “triangular” shaped bills (not flat duck-like bills).

On my way out of the preserve, I stopped to photograph a mule deer browsing along the railroad track by the freeway.  The I headed back home.  The fruit orchards all along the highway are in bloom already; row after row of pretty pink trees.  One orchard, though, was inundated by starlings, on both sides of the road.  There were so many birds that the trees and ground where they were sitting were completely covered, pitch black.  It looked like huge black holes in the landscape.  So odd!

Birds Along Desmond Road on Friday

After work it was still chilly, overcast and hazy outside, but I took the dog over to Desmond Road again, and walked with him for about an hour there.  Saw the hawks and little kestrel there again – and even saw the kestrel flush a much larger hawk out of “his” tree.  The hawks was so flustered, it flew across the road and landed in the wetland field there, right on top of a Ring-Necked Pheasant, who burst up and flew away, further frightening the hawk.  He was not having a good afternoon.  Hah!  It all happened so fast, I didn’t get photos of any of it.  (Dang it.)  I got some photos of the Coots, White-Fronted Geese and Black-Necked Stilts, egrets, sparrows and other birds that were venturing out closer to the edge of the road, and also saw some Turkey Vultures hunkered down on a small “island” in the wetlands area.  While I was walking, I came across other birders who were also cruising down the road, binoculars and cameras hanging out of the windows of their cars… and they all looked like they were in their 690’s and 70’s.  I guess you don’t have a whole lot of time for birding until after you retire…