Tag Archives: wood ducks

Lots of Photos from the Zoo, 10-17-18

DAY 12 OF MY VACATION. I headed over to the Sacramento Zoo for a walk there.

Wednesdays are apparently a good day to go to the zoo because there were hardly any people there and I got the first spot in the parking lot (closest to the crosswalk from the lot to the zoo gate). The weather was lovely all the while I was there (about 56º when I got there, about 76º when I left.) Bookends: as I was going into the zoo I saw a squirrel and took its picture, and when I came out of the zoo, I saw another squirrel and got his picture, too.

I had gone specifically to see Coconut again, the baby Snow Leopard. When I first stopped at the Snow Leopard enclosure, the dad, Blizzard, was out, so I walked on. When I came back to the enclosure about an hour later, the keeper was cleaning it out and setting out toys for Coconut to play with. So, I was one of the first people at the enclosure when she opened up the door and let out Coconut and his mom, Misha. I think I took over 200 photos of them. They’re so beautiful, and the baby is so funny.

He’s at the “let’s pounce on mom” stage, and play-attacked her from different angles. Most of the time, she saw him coming and just braced herself for the impact. (She’s really gentle with him.) But, once he came at her from a ledge above her and startled her enough to make her run off a bit. You could almost see how proud he was about that. Hahahaha!

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

As an extra fun moment, baby Cosmo, this year’s only baby Flamingo, was also out and walking around. She’s all gray right now and hasn’t started to pink up yet. Because she was the only flamingo born this year, was rejected by her mom and had no siblings, her keepers are allowing her to bond with them in the hopes that even when Cosmo joins the flock in the zoo later, she’ll still come to them whenever they lay down a little white blanket for her.

They were working with her today where everyone could see her, giving her hugs and praise and a clicker-treat (brine shrimp) when she came to her white blanket (“station”). Later, as the keepers were walking away, one of them had the white blanket with her, and little Cosmo walked right along after her on the sidewalks and paved paths of the zoo (without any enclosure or leash or anything else). It was so cute!

Among the other birds, they have a Plain-colored Amazon parrot who’s learning to “talk” and interact with people. It said “Hello” to me several times and made a “purring” sound. The sign beside its cage suggested that you sing and dance for the birds, but… uh, no. I wasn’t going to do that. Hah!

About halfway through my visit, I stopped at the café to have some lunch: a tri-tip sandwich, fries and a large soda. Their food is always good, but their portions are so large I can never finish it all. The food is expensive, too, but you have to keep in mind that about 30% of the price goes to the animals so… eat and shut up. Hah-2!

Other critters that I hardly ever get to see were also out: The sloth was moseying around in its enclosure, but it’s hard to get photos of it because its in a cage with tiny openings in the mesh that my camera can’t see through. The male jaguar was also out, but he was upset and pacing, so I couldn’t get any clear photos of him either. In the reptile house, though, I had better luck and got pretty good photos of the chuckwalla, Amazon Milk Frogs, and Dart Frogs… and also got to see the Rhinoceros Iguana, which I had never seen before. He was a big dude, about the size of my leg. It would have made a good “dinosaur” in a cheap monster movie.

I ended up seeing about 45 different species and getting some good photos, so I was very pleased.

Found a Robin’s Nest at William Land Park, 06-23-18

I headed out with the dog to the William Land Park for a short walk. And I mean short. We were only out there for about 90-minutes. It was 73º already when we left the house at 5:30 am! and 80º when we got back home.

On our way to the park, I came across a mother Wild Turkey and her NINE poults. They were by an open field right near a bus stop. Mom was on one side of a rickety chain link fence, and the babies, who were on the sidewalk, couldn’t figure out how to get through the fence to meet up with her.  So, they were running back and forth, peeping loudly. Mom finally walked up to where there was a gap in the fence and stayed there until the kids could join her.

In the WPA Rock Garden, there were different species of Mullein in bloom all over garden, yellow and white. Just some fun facts about mullein: it’s a biennial plant; the word mullein, comes from the German language, meaning “king’s candle” because of its scepter-like, candle-straight growth in its second year; the leaves and flowers are edible and make a nice tea. Most of the mullein we see are non-natives and the Woolly species is considered an invasive in California even though it’s not really that aggressive.

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

I also saw signs that the Leaf-Cutter Bees had been busy at work in the garden. They cut out perfect little half-circles in the soft leaves of the Redbud trees to line their nests. I also saw a lot of the ubiquitous European Honey Bees, some Yellow-Faced Bumblebees, some Long-Horned Bees just waking up from their overnight torpor, and a small group of bright red Assassin Bug nymphs on the stems of some Red Poppies of Flanders.

I also found what I thought was a collection of tiny, black shiny insect eggs. I took photos of them and when I blew the images up I realized that the little black things were actually bug nymphs (Pittosporum shield bug, Monteithiella humeralis, I think) just hatching out of their white eggs. Cool!

At the pond, there was a Mallard mama out with her seven ducklings, and also a mama Swedish Blue/Mallard hybrid with her three ducklings. One of her ducklings looked like a Mallard baby, but the other two were black and yellow with light colored bibs like the Swedish Blues. One of those babies also had black feet with yellow toes. So cute!

There was also a lone Wood Duck (a little female who didn’t take any guff from the larger Mallards), a Crested Duck, a pair of Peking Ducks, and some Indian Runner Ducks. No geese, though, which I thought was kind of odd.

High in a tree on one side of the pond, I could see a nest and something moving around in it. The nest was made of twigs and grass, and also had some white ribbon hanging from the bottom of it (which made it easy to spot). For I while I couldn’t tell what kind of bird was moving around it, so I tried looking at it from different angles and different distances from the tree. I then I realized it was Robin’s nest. Mama Robin came by to check on the kids – there were actually three of them in there. I think she’d brought them something to eat, but I couldn’t tell what it was. Papa Robin showed up a few seconds later, and then both parents flew off again to find more breakfast.

Oh, one thing I noticed that I’d never seen before: a mosquito drinking nectar from a flower. I knew the females drank blood, but for some reason it never occurred to me that they (and the males) drink nectar, too.

As I said, we only walked for about 90 minutes and then headed back home because it was already getting too warm outside. It got up to 102 today.

At the West Pond in Davis, 03-07-18

Gene Trapp and his wife Jo Ellen headed up one of their monthly walks at the West Davis Pond site this morning. He thought it might be good spot to bring the naturalist class, but I wanted to check it out first. (I also thought that after a few visits, I can add this to my own walk list here on this site.) It can be found in the city of Davis, California, off of Covell and Denali, where Isle Royale Land and Bryce Lane merge together. Look for the large white gazebo-like structure and park on the street.  (There are no restrooms along the path, but you can find a public restroom in the medical facility across the street from the short end of the trail.) You can see more information at Friends of West Pond on Facebook.

I had never been to the pond before, but was pleased at it was so easy to  locate – with a paved trail that was super easy to walk. Our group was unusually large, though (about 27 people) so that was a lot of bodies moving along a tight walkway all at once. I’d take smaller groups if I go with the naturalist students.

CLICK HERE for an album of photos.

Because it was chilly and overcast outside, we didn’t see much of anything.  I can tell by looking at the area, however, that in another month or so, when things start to green up and the critters all go into mating mode, it should be a very interesting, very pretty place. Lots of trees (including some gorgeous Cork Oaks, Quercus suber) and pretty shrubbery along the route (including some lovely quince bushes). Most of the stuff is non-native, of course, but Gene and Jo Ellen oversee the construction and maintenance of a large native-plant garden along the path as well as a large butterfly garden. They hold a lot of promise for future photo-taking / naturalist opportunities.

I did see some wildlife: Canada Geese, Mallards, Crows, Black Phoebes, Wood Ducks, Scrub Jays, Mockingbirds, lots of Anna’s Hummingbirds and Fox Squirrels, White-Crowned Sparrows, Golden-Crowned Sparrows, a couple of Spotted Towhees, House Finches, and a very red, very wet Purple Finch… things you’d typically see in an urban wildlife area. The not-too-seeable critters included Nutthall’s Woodpeckers, a Hairy Woodpecker and a Red-Breasted Sap Sucker that teased us with their presence, but made photo-taking difficult because they kept flitting around.

When someone mentioned that are sometimes Wilson’s Snipes along the edges of the ponds, a newbie birder who had brought her Sibley’s guide with her tried to look it up. Oddly, there were no Wilson’s Snipes mentioned in her guide even though they’re fairly common in this area. So I opened up the Merlin app on my phone and showed her a picture of it. That app is one of the easiest birding apps to use, and it’s free!

Gene and Jo Ellen were fun to walk with; they have so much knowledge and so many area contacts. Someone found a skull on the side of the path and Gene identified it as a raccoon skull. Very cool.

The walk was a good one, very informative, and I look forward to visiting the pond again.

A Western Screech Owl and Other Critters, 02-24-18

Brrr.  It was 32º this morning when I headed over to Lake Solano Park for a walk and a pre-field trip photo session.  This is the park where I had fallen earlier this month, so I was very much on my guard while I was there.  I got to the park without any ado, and had the parking lot all to myself when I arrive (around 8:00 am), so I was able to park in an easily accessible place. Score!  The rest of my morning went along well, too… and I didn’t fall down once. Hah!

At the park, I was accosted by a peacock looking for handouts when I first got out of my car, but then I didn’t any of the peafowl again throughout my walk (although I could hear them calling to one another across the park).  It was cold enough there in the early morning that some of shallower water was frozen solid.

Bufflehead ducks seemed to be everywhere I looked in the river, females with males around them doing their head-bobbing thing and bullying each other. I also saw Mallards, American Wigeons, some Wood Ducks and lots of Common Goldeneyes. I saw quite a few Great Blue Herons, including one that was very cooperative and let me walk to within about 10 fee of it while it waded in the water.

There are always Canada Geese at the park, but I was surprised to find a pair that were actually hybrids, crossed with Greater White-Fronted geese, so their coloring was way off. As Billy Crystal would say, “This is what happens when cousins marry.”

Along with the ubiquitous Acorn Woodpeckers, I also saw several Northern Flickers (although I had a lot of trouble getting photos of them because they were up so high in the trees and kept moving around), and some Nutthall’s Woodpeckers (a male in one tree and a female in another). And there were California Scrub Jays all over the place; some stashing food in the ground, some picking up twiglets for their nests.

I also saw a Cedar Waxwing (that wouldn’t turn around, so all I got was the back of its head), several Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets, Spotted Towhees, Golden-Crowned Sparrows (eating the flowers off what I think was a fruitless pear tree), Song Sparrows, Pied-Billed Grebes, a few Hooded Mergansers, several Crows, Black Phoebes, a couple of Myrtle Warblers and a Eurasian Collared Dove.  I was teased by Belted Kingfishers all morning, flying back and forth along the shore of the river, but never on the side on which I walking… and they’re so freakin’ fast! I just barely got some a really bad photos of a female in a tree.

I was surprised and happy to see several Phainopepla in the park, both males and females. But the best sighting of the day was of a tiny Western Screech Owl.  I would have completely missed him if a birder-lady hadn’t pointed him out to me… “See the tree with the blue mark on it?” She said. “Now look up where the knots are on it.” Wow!  Amazeballs. He was sitting with his butt in a hole in the side of the tree, dozing, and opened his eyes just a slit to look at me when I took some photos of him. Think of an owl the size of your palm – that’s how little he was.

Find the owl.

Among the plants I could easily identify were Pipevine, Manroot Vine, Miner’s Lettuce and Burr Chervil, tules, cattails… y’know, the usual suspects.

I also saw my first Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly of the season, and got it to sit on my sleeve for a little while so I could take some photos of it.  I think it like that the coat was WARM on such a chilly morning. I could tell by the amount of blue on her hind wings that it was a female.

Here is an album of photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhnaturalist/albums/72157690848390452

I walked for about 4½ hours, which is way past my limit, so I was exhausted and achy by the time I got back home.

Baby Animal Bonanza at the Sacramento Zoo, 09-09-17

I went to the Sacramento Zoo today because I wanted to see all of the new babies.  Along with the six baby flamingoes who were born a few weeks ago, on Labor Day two of the other animals took “labor” seriously and had newborns: an Eastern Bongo (whose name is Penny), and the mama Wolf’s Guenon, Mimi,  (who already two other babies, Zuri and Kaci, still growing up around her).  The three Black and White Ruffed Lemurs born in May were now finally on exhibit, too.  So it was baby bonanza there, and I wasn’t disappointed.  I ended up taking over 1400 photo and video snippets!

CLICK HERE to see about 200 of them.

I think all of the animals were happy about the fact that it was a slightly cooler morning (around 68º) and were out and about, and I got to see all of the babies.

As soon as I walked into the zoo, I went over to the duck pond and got to see the American White Pelicans snoozing in the sun and the Southern Crested Screamers posing for photos.  There were also Mallards, Wood Ducks,  White-faced Whistling Ducks, some Orinoco Geese and the adult flamingoes.  In the enclosure for the Thick-Billed Parrots there was a Roadrunner rushing around.

Then it was off to see my favorite Red River Hogs; the whole family was out, scruffing around in the dust. And in the enclosure next to them was the Eastern Bongo and her baby.  OMG, that calf was soooo cute!  It hasn’t grown into its face yet, so it’s all ears and has a wrinkly muzzle.  Every now and then, mom would poke at it with her muzzle or try to herd it by using her horns to steer it around. At only about 4 days old the baby Bongo seems to be able to get around okay on its own, although it did stumble a few times chasing after its mama.  The zoo staff isn’t sure of the gender of the baby yet, and it doesn’t have a name. Same is true of the new baby Wolf’s Guenon.

The whole family of Wolf’s Guenons were out: mom, dad, all of the babies – including the newborn who was clinging to mama’s chest. From where I first saw it, it was hard for me to get any clear photos.  So, I walked around to the other side of the enclosure, and then was able to get some really sweet photos of Mimi and her newborn.  Every once in a while, she’d groom the baby too hard or pinch it in the wrong place while she tried to move it around, and it would give out a loud squealing cheep!  The other youngsters were running around and wrestling with one another, and would stop periodically to look at the newborn, but they never approached it or tried to touch it.  Mama Mimi was very protective of it.

Across from her, the Sumatran Orangutans were out in their enclosure and I got some good shots of them.  Not so with chimpanzees. There were too many gum-chewing ferrets around, and of course none of them have been taught any manners by their moronic parents. I had several of the kids literally shove me out of their way. One of them even elbowed me in the stomach to get past me… And these were “little” kids, maybe 6 to 10 years old (not teenagers)… I hate humans.

Of the big cats, all of them were out except for the Snow Leopard.  The African Lions have a new “cat tree” built in their enclosure with several layers that give them more space to climb and also gives them extra sources of shade.  The male was walking all around it, spraying pee on it and rubbing his face against it.  Hah! Cats are cats… The Sumatran Tiger was out pacing around and at one point jumped up on the ledge in front of the viewing window and scared the crap out of some little kids.  In his enclosure, the male Jaguar was taking a nap.

I then walked over to the giraffe enclosure because I knew the baby Flamingoes would be brought out on a shallow lawn near there, and all of the giraffes were out, including both the Reticulated one and the Masai ones.  The big male Masai was trying to each foliage from a nearby tree, while the others munched on the zoo-provided breakfast of greenery and twigs.

And then, around 10:30 the baby flamingoes were finally brought out and allowed to play in a trio of wading pools.  They were just darling – all these long-legged fuzz balls nattering to one another and jumping around, greeting the group of viewers with wing flaps and little dances. Because they’re so young, they’re still varying shades of white and grey. The keepers said it would take a year for them to fully fledge into their pink feathers.

Among the babies there were four boys and two girls, and all of them are named after cocktails: Tiki, Mai Tai, Bellini, Daiquiri, Blue Hawaiian and Margarita.  The keepers said that eating in the water is instinctual, so they didn’t have to train them to do that. They’re feeding the babies a special flamingo-chow made by Purina.  It has the keratin in it that will turn the birds feathers pink as they fledge out. I stood there, watching them and taking photos of them for almost 30 minutes; they were just so much fun to watch.  Little Mai Tai, a female and one of the smallest in the group, kept going over to this keeper or that keeper, and laid down between their feet.  The keepers said that’s what the babies do in the wild: snuggle down between their parent’s feet to rest. Awwwww.  The babies were also fascinated by the leaves on the ground and tried to untie some of the keepers’ shoes.  Hah! (Oh, and a fun fact: the oldest Flamingo in the zoo is 23 years old; she came as a 2-year old to the zoo in 1996!)

When I was done watching the babies, it was about 11 o’clock, so I had some lunch: a hot dog and a rootbeer float.  While I was eating I watched the giraffes and the Fennec Foxes.  One of the foxes kept moving back and forth against a door on its enclosure, not realizing that there was an open door just a few feet away from it.  It was getting more and more frustrated, but the one by the open door didn’t call to it or otherwise let it know where the entrance was to their “cavern”… The foxes are supposed to have a wide variety of vocalizations, but I’ve never heard them make a peep at the zoo… They’re such pretty little things; I love their faces.

A few of the Straw-colored Fruit Bats were hanging out… but it’s always so hard to get photos of them because you have to shoot through a chain link fence AND deal with the fact that they hide out under an overhang that shades them.

I circled around, back past the Bongo – who was lying in her barn with her baby in the back of her enclosure by that time.  I’m glad I got the photos of her earlier in the morning.  Then I stopped at the Black-and-White Ruffed lemur enclosure.  I saw two of the three babies there.  Most of the lemurs were lying down and resting, so I was able to get some good close-ups of them.  Across from them the White-Faced Sakis were out (but not the Three-Toed Sloth).  The female Saki (who doesn’t have a white face like the male) always looks like she could kick your ass, and today was no different.  She makes me laugh.

Before I left the zoo, I stopped in at the reptile house.  The snakes were unusually active today.  Usually they lie around with their heads tucked into their coils, but many of them today were stretched out and showing off.  I got photos of the Honduran Dwarf Club-tailed Iguana, Madagascar Rainbow Sand Lizard, Madagascar Tree Boa, Madagascar Flat-tailed Tortoise, the Smooth-fronted Caiman, Prehensile-tailed Skink, a Brazilian Rainbow Boa, Pacific Gopher Snake, Ball Python, a couple of European Legless Lizards, a Northern Pacific Rattlesnake and a Sidewinder, a Fiji Island Banded Iguana and a Common Chuckwalla.  I was also there when a keeper fed a tiny pinkie-mouse to a Giant Garter Snake.  In other terrariums were a Mexican Red-kneed Tarantula, several Blue Poison Dart Frogs, California Tiger Salamanders, Golden Mantella frogs, Phantasmal Dart Frogs, and Yellow-banded Poison Dart Frogs.  Phew!

The only part of the zoo that I didn’t get to – because it was getting too hot for me outside – was the Australian section where the ‘roos and wallabies are (along with the Red Panda exhibit and the Hornbills). Next time.

Testing Out My New Camera, 07-08-17

Around 5:30 this morning, I headed out to the William Land Park to try to get a walk in before it got too warm outside… but it was almost too late to avoid the heat. When I got into the car the outside temperature was already at 77º! There was also a little bit of an overcast, so it was humid, too. (It’s supposed to get up to 106º today. Climate Change sucks the big one.)

I’d gotten a new camera (a Nikon one that’s about half the price of my beloved-and-now-deceased Fujifilm camera) and I was anxious to check it out. All of the buttons are in different places than they were on my Fujifilm but the functionality is about the same. The focal depth for macro (super close up) shots is a little better on the Nikon than it was on my other camera, so I’m actually able to get in closer than I could before, but I need to work on just HOW close “closer” can be. [Some of the close-ups turned out awesome; some were fuzzy because I was “too close”.]

I also have to learn all over again, how to get the camera to focus on what I WANT it to focus on (and not on what the camera wants to focus on itself.)

The WPA Rock Garden at the park is a good place to work on stuff like that, because it offers a wide range of close up and distant photo opportunities.

You can see the album of photos here:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhnaturalist/albums/72157683856518290 

I got some awesome “bug” photos of a Yellow-Faced Bumblebee, Praying Mantis, a Longhorn Bee sleeping on the face of a sunflower, and a Wolf Spider whose eggs were hatching (and the hatched-out little spiderlings were clinging to mama’s butt.) I also came across a large Bold Jumping Spider, and wanted to see if I could get a photo of its iridescent blue-green fangs – and I did, but the focus wasn’t right, so I ended up with the petals of the flower in focus, and the spider in a soft blur on top of them. Gotta work on that.

The telephoto capability of the Nikon is slightly better than my old Fujifilm camera, too. (It’s a 60x, and the Fujifilm was a 50x.) The Nikon is a little “sluggish”, though, in moving the lens to the correct position, so if the subject isn’t sitting still, the camera has trouble tracking it and adjusting the focus. Practice will help me figure that out, though, I think. I tried “chasing” several hummingbirds around… That was humorous. Blurry fuzzballs everywhere.

There was a young Anna’s Hummingbird that was testing out its wings and trying to drink water from the leaves in the garden (which must’ve been watered overnight; the paths were totally muddy). When it sat down on a branch, I was able to get some pretty good shots of it (at about 20 feet away), along with a video snippet of it preening itself. I didn’t know how to set the speed for the video capture, though, so it came out in slow-motion. I’ll have to read up more on that…

I checked out the garden’s milkweed plants – they have Narrowleaf and Showy Milkweed growing in there – but didn’t see any signs of Monarch eggs or caterpillars. Maybe in another week or so…

I also came across some Wood Ducks with babies, a gaggle of Canada Geese that included some fledglings who were half-in and half-out of their baby fuzz, and a Green Heron that was fishing along the edge of the small pond. The heron wasn’t using lures, but it was using a great “stealth” technique (getting down almost on its belly along the edge of the pond to sneak up on tiny fish). It was pretty successful; caught at least three fish and a tadpole while I was watching it… And, of course, there were the ubiquitous Black Phoebes everywhere, and an American Robin with a beak full of bugs for her babies…

I’m so glad to have a camera again!

I walked for about 2 hours and then headed home.