Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area Pt2

I'd like to start today's post by saying Hello to all my Facebook Friends. I see a lot of you coming over and checking out my blog. Feel free to book mark the blog, and check back often. I try to post once a week. You will find that not only am I an Antique Geek, but also a Bird Nerd. I write most of my posts about two things, antiques (and my wife's antique store) or about my birding trips with the kids. Occasionally I do post on vacations or out of town trips, but those are few and far between.

Today's' post is another Bird Nerd post. With both the kids sick, one getting better and the other just starting to get sick, I snuck out the house and went to one of my favorite birding spots here in the Sacramento Valley. The Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area is along the Pacific Flyway and a very important resting and breeding area for birds here on the west coast.

Today was one of the best trips out for me. The weather was very nice, I was able to get out while the sky was some what clear. We have had rain here for the past two days, and it looks like another storm is moving in again tonight.

Upon arrival to the area, I noticed quite a few more cars than I am accustomed to seeing. Apparently it is duck hunting season. Not being a duck hunter, I didn't realize it was hunting season. Now let me just say, hunting does not bother me. I don't hunt because I never had the opportunity, but had it presented itself, I am sure I would have gone. I do fish, so I am not against killing animals and eating them. Besides, believe it or not, if it wasn't for the duck hunters, most of the land at the Yolo Basin Wildlife Area would not be available to birders such as myself. It's through the hunters efforts of having some where to hunt and the fees that they pay, that people like me get to enjoy large areas of open land for birding. The end justifies the means in this case. The hunters hunt in areas that are off limits to visitors, so visiting now is still safe.

Once I started the auto tour, I could tell right away, that there were a lot more birds than when I was here on Christmas. I took the long route today on the auto tour. I also drove the truck because I figured it would be plenty muddy with all the rain.

I guess not too many people were driving the long route today. These guys were undisturbed until I showed up. The first egret let me get pretty close before he flew off.

Along the back side of the area, heading toward the hunters area, this American Kestrel paced me for quite a few minutes. He was just begging to get photographed. Unfortunately, most of the pictures came out dark. I tried to lighten them up, but they are not that great.

Just as I finished taking these pictures, I head about twenty feet and looked over to my right. There he was, just sitting in the trees, taking a nap. A great horned owl. Talk about making my day. I love raptors. I have never seen any owl while out birding, so this was definitely the highlight of my day and a great start to the new year. Again the photos are not that great, but I will post a couple anyway.

After seeing the owl, I continued through the rest of the area. I saw some American Avocets in their winter plumage.

I spotted an American Wigeon in with some Northern Shovelers and Cinnamon Teals. The Wigeon is on the right end of the island. He has the green head with the with stripe on top. His bill is tucked in.

I also saw this Northern Harrier cruising along in the same area I saw one last time

This Northern Pintail was about the only decent picture I was able to get today.

This Western Meadow lark stopped and posed for me.

I spent about 3 hours out at Yolo today. On the way out this White-Tailed Kite was cruising the levee. I was able to take a few pictures of him.

I heard and saw this Killdeer at the bottom of the ramp as I came out of the Bypass.

On a side note, I didn't see all the black crowned night herons here that I saw at Christmas. They were near where the owl was at.

Well that was today's trip to the Yolo Basin Wildlife Area.

I took these pictures of some Purple Finches in the back yard.

Backyard update Sunday. As I was talking to my mom on the phone, a Sharp-Shinned Hawk landed on the back fence. At first I thought it was a Coopers Hawk, but after consulting my field guide,based on size and his tail shape, I believe he was a Sharp-Shinned Hawk. Here are some pics

He hung out for about 15 minutes, then flew up and through the trees chasing after a purple finch!

Thanks for stopping by


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Bike Riding along the American River Bike Trail

Today was a gorgeous day for a bicycle trip with my daughter Abbey along the American River. So we loaded up the bikes on the BMW and off we went.

We parked at the Aquatic Center at Nimbus Dam and road our bikes up toward Folsom. Man what a great day, perfect for riding. With temps in the low 60's it was just cool enough to keep from sweating when exerting yourself on some of the uphill parts of the bike trail. There were plenty of other bicyclists on the trail so Abbey had to learn a little trail etiquette to keep from getting run over. People coming from behind always pass on your left, so she needs to stay to the right. However this didn't stop her from doing a little solemn course action on the stripes dividing the trail.

We saw quite a few birds on our trip today, including this large group of merganser ducks floating on the Lake Natoma . There had to be well over 100 ducks.

We also saw lots of Acron Woodpeckers while riding along. They are quite noisy, so you are sure to notice them when riding.

We rode almost to Folsom and then turned around and road back to the rest are near the Aquatic Center, and had lunch. You can't beat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when out riding your bike! Whie eating our lunch we saw quite a few ducks, geese and seagulls looking for handouts and there were a couple people more than happy to oblige them.

After lunch we rode down river toward the Nimbus Fish Hatchery.

With the sad state of our salmon fishery, it was suprising to see people still down by the river trying to snag salmon. Abbey and I stood and watch some guy with an oversized treble hook casting across the spawning beds trying to snag a fish. Even though there is no salmon fishing on the American River right now, the steelhead are running, so people can still fish for them. We were standing next to the DFG (Department of Fish and Game) warden while the guy down below was trying to snag a fish. Lucky for him, he never got one. She had her binoculars and was watching both sides of the river.

It was really pretty cool to stand above the river and look down and actually see salmon spawning and even see a few steelhead come in and try to eat the salmon eggs.

This first picture is taken on the American River just below the hatchery at Sailor Bar. The fish on the right is a dying salmon, that might still be laying eggs. The darker fish behind her is a steelhead trying to eat those very same eggs.

in this next photo there are 2 salmon and a steelhead and you can see the tip of the snagger guy's fishing pole and fishing line

We also saw this fisherman hanging out earlier down by the water. He later flew up into this tree. A Great Blue Heron.

Here he is earlier giving a little stretch

We also saw these guys down near the spawn beds.

Barrow's Golden Eye

Female Merganser

Male Merganser
Before leaving we did actually go into the Hatchery. Here are some fry, about 12" in length in one of the pools

I did see one fish out on the river jump out twice just below the Hazel Bridge. And Abbey and I saw one fish at the very top of the fish ladder just swimming against the current. The fish ladder is open but the gates across the river to direct the fish into the ladder are currently not in place. There were a few people also fishing just below Nimbus Dam, but not the shoulder to shoulder like you would normally see. Those guys below the dam are fishing for steelhead.

For all you Tattered House fans, I did manage to make it over there today also and take some picture for the new year. I will be posting those in a couple days.

I hope you all enjoyed my bike trip and I highly recommend taking a trip to the Fish Hatchery if you can. It is an amazing journey that salmon make in their life time, and the hatchery has a very nice museum with displays and history of the journey.

Talk to you all soon