Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Western Bluebirds on a Foggy Cold Morning

We'll get back to the ducks from the Sacramento NWR shortly, but I was getting out of my car this morning when I realized that there were warblers and bluebirds flitting about in the deodar tree under which I had parked. I've been missing these little songbirds this year, so I grabbed the camera. A few of the Western Bluebirds (Sialia mexicana) were nice enough to land on the signs nearby and pose (or stare balefully).
It was a cold morning, and we're starting to see our hated foggy days. Such gray days can get old quickly, so it was nice to see a flash of color in the gloom!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Gadwalls at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

I have to learn birds one group at a time. I've been pretty slow at getting around to the ducks because I don't see all that many in my bird travels. So I still have to take the picture and then look it up, although the Gadwall (Anas strepera) has appeared on these pages before. They aren't flashy like the Mallards and the Cinnamon Teals, but I find the intricate pattern of the feathers on their breast to be fascinating. Any duck hunter knows of them; they're the third most hunted of the ducks.
We had made a stop last week at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge near Williams in California's Great Valley, and the ducks were kind of center stage (the Snow Geese were in another part of the refuge). We also saw a great many Cinnamon Teals (see this post from last week), Green-winged Teals, and Northern Pintails (more posts to come). The 6 mile long auto tour is one of our favorites (along with the one at the Merced NWR).

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Snow Geese, Cackling Geese, and Ross's Geese at the San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuge, Pt. 2

It's an incredible sight to see the migratory geese making their winter home in the Great Valley of California. As noted in the previous post, we were watching the geese swirling into the fields for the night at the Beckwith Road viewing platform in the San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuge. The first video showed them arriving. They're a fractious bunch though, and it takes some time to settle. Once in a while, thousands of birds will suddenly take flight, only to land a few moments later. That's what the second video shows. If the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz gave you nightmares in your childhood, you might want to cover your eyes! There is some extraneous noise on this one; a couple of teens decided to practice skateboarding on the platform while I shot the video. Oh well...


Snow Geese, Cackling Geese, and Ross's Geese at the San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuge, Pt. 1

I fell for the ruse. I was duped into Christmas shopping on a Saturday, because it included a quick trip out to the Beckwith Road viewing platform at the San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuge west of Modesto in the Great Valley. It was a decent trade-off. When we pulled up, it looked like we would be disappointed, as the fields were almost empty of birds. But then the magic started...the sky filled with geese coming from all directions, all spiraling towards the field west of the viewing platform. There were dozens, then hundreds, and then thousands of them.
The Cackling Geese arrived first, and the few Ross's Geese looked a bit confused and lost, but the tornado of white birds expanded, and more and more of them arrived. It was an astounding sight. I took a few videos. The first is below. I'll post the second in a few moments.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Cinnamon Teals at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

The Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge near Williams in California's Great Valley is a serene place at times. If you are in an area where the Snow Geese are roosting, it can be raucous and loud. But if they're off in some other part of the refuge, the scene can be peaceful and quiet. A lot of birds will be spending their time resting.
The Cinnamon Teal (Anas cyanoptera) is making a first appearance here at Geotripper Birds. We saw quite a few of them at the "park and walk" area on the southeast corner of the autotour. The males are a striking shade of, well, cinnamon, with fiery orange eyes.
The Cinnamon Teal has an interesting range. In summer, they are found across the entire American west from Texas to British Columbia. They migrate into Mexico for the winter, although year-round populations are present in central California. There is an entirely separate population in South America, mainly in Argentina.
The Cinnamon Teals are dabbling ducks, tipping into the water to get at vegetation and insects. Their numbers are not known, although they are common enough to be hunted regularly. The Cornell Bird site suggests that their numbers have declined in the last forty years, which is not a surprise, given the loss of wetlands across their habitat.
I'd like to know what these two were arguing about...
Our day was rich with ducks, so look for more pictures soon...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Letting Sleeping Owls Lie in the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

We had a long drive home from Oregon this past weekend, but we couldn't just pass up the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge near Williams in the northern Great Valley. There's a six mile long autotour that rarely disappoints. As we passed a lone tree along a section of the tour, a tree called the "Owl Tree", we were surprised beyond measure that it contained a pair of Great Horned Owls (Bubo virginianus). Neither one seemed overly concerned that we were driving by (and babbling with excitement).

It was a good day at the refuge. Look for a few more pics before long...

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Great Blue Heron at Ashland, Oregon

I guess I have to admit that I like Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias), since they've been profiled here six times now. including a life-and-death struggle with Bald Eagles on Vancouver Island a year ago. We were taking a short break this afternoon at the roadside rest near Ashland, Oregon, when Mrs. Geotripper spotted a heron in the nearby field. I snapped a few pictures, as well as a video of the heron hunting. It's fascinating to watch how they hold themselves so steady as they walk forward. Although it didn't catch anything while I filmed, I can't doubt that some kind of amphibian or bug became a meal tonight. They seem very patient...