We made a visit to rural southeastern Oklahoma recently. While there, I was amazed at the number of red tailed hawks I saw. Much of the countryside was pastureland and I imagine it provided a lot of good food for the rodents and, in turn, the hawks. One day, I also saw a bald eagle in the grass, alongside the road.
I regularly take long walks at different sections of the American River Parkway between Folsom and Fair Oaks. At one spot, along Lake Notomas, there is a small pond tucked back but alongside the bike trail. I never know what I am going to find. Last week, I was treated to what is a rare site to me – some hooded mergansers. Their cousins, the common mergansers, stick around all year. I often see belted kingfishers and acorn woodpeckers in that area also.
Acorn Woodpeckers are ubiquitous in this area. For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, their behavior is different from most other woodpeckers. They find acorns and pound them into holes in dead trees. When they can’t find a hole, they make one. Later, they come back and eat them – if the squirrels and other wildlife don’t get them first.
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A couple of weeks ago, I went to photograph sandhill cranes. While there, I saw what I thought was Canada Geese. They seemed a bit unusual though, they were darker in color and instead of a handful, there were hundreds. I took a few images and thought little more about them. I stopped to talk to a person that led a tour I once took. I mentioned the geese. He told me they were not Canada Geese, they were Cackling Geese. I knew that several years ago, the powers that classify birds, split Canada Geese into 2 separate species: Canada and Cackling. All I ever knew was that the cackling geese were smaller. This person told me that there were other indicators: most have a white ring at the base of their dark neck and their call is more of a cackle than the honk of the Canada Goose; thus their name. So, it was a great experience. I learned something that will help me in the future. By the way, this was the Aleutian subspecies migrating to California’s central Valley from Alaska. They’ll start their trip back in January.
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In November and December, the chinook or king salmon migrate from the ocean into the American River. The salmon breed and die. So, along with the salmon, the population of gulls and Turkey Vultures rise greatly. I assumed that what we see are California Gulls. After all, a gull is a gull. What I learned is we also get Herring Gulls. Both are white with a gray mantle, back and wing feathers. The California Gull is a noticeably darker gray, the Herring Gull is medium gray. The California Gull has yellow legs, dark eyes and a black spot on his bill; sometimes there is both a black and red spot. The Herring Gull has pink legs, yellow eyes and a red spot on his bill. Some of those colors change with the winter molt. I understand we also get the ring billed gull but I haven’t seen one.
Sandhill Cranes populate much of the North America. But here, around Sacramento, we live along the Pacific Flyway; one of the primary migratory paths for birds heading to their wintering spot. One of the treats is that we attract large numbers of Sandhill Cranes who spend their nights in flooded rice fields and their days foraging in fields of cut grasses and grains.
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Here is a few shots of some wildlife we saw travelling through various places. The locations are listed with each image.
We hadn’t seen any bears in the wild for several years. Then, on one trip, we saw 2. Unfortunately, the one that got away, was a cinnamon colored one. Maybe someday I’ll be able to photograph one of those.
The tufa in Mono Lake are beautiful themselves but we got a rare treat – an osprey on its nest on top of a tufa.
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Almost every day I see a kettle of Turkey Vultures soaring in search of food. One spot, where I walk up a half mile, 5% grade, there are always a few perched on a tower at the top. I hope you enjoy the images of these stately creatures with their odd looking heads.
We have an active backyard. Several species of birds frequent our feeder and the ground beneath. My wife is always chasing squirrels from the feeder. This afternoon, we had an unexpected visitor – a Cooper’s Hawk. He was very gracious. He hung around for about 15 minutes and allowed me to photograph him. Interesting though, no birds came to the feeder, no squirrels came around. Not a tweet could be heard; not even from the baby starling that has been crying all week. It took about an hour after the hawk left for backyard life to resume.
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