Monday, January 30, 2012

More Than Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes may have been our focus on our recent birding expedition to the Delta but they certainly weren't the only birds we saw.  Good Crane habitat is good habitat for a variety of species.
Tundra swans and geese enjoy the flooded fields as well.  But what kind of geese?
My first thought was that this goose, right behind the swans, was a Canada Goose although it seemed rather small and stocky.  When I read Eileen's post about the Brants I decided I needed to take another look.  No, not a Brant.  I went to one of my favorite sources, the Cornell site.  Here I learned about a newly recognized species, the Cackling Goose.  This guy seems to meet the criteria, smaller and with a shorter neck and bill than the Canada Goose, and with the white neck band, which is more common with the Cackling Goose.  There were several of these little guys.
In another field I spotted some little ducks in the distance, moving away as fast as there little feet could paddle.  Downloaded to the computer and cropped I saw that they were Ruddy Ducks, the first I have seen this year.  
In the irrigation ditch beside the road was a Snowy Egret.  We watched him as he used his big yellow feet to stir up the mud, looking for food.
Feeding in the same ditch was this Greater Yellowlegs.  He seemed to be using a similar technique to find food.
A Great Egret and Blue Heron took a siesta in a field.
Down the road some Curlews were foraging.

I know I've shared several images of Kestrels but here is one more.  My best yet and I doubt I will ever do better of a Kestrel in the wild.

Your can find more views of our wonderful world at Our World, Tuesday, hosted for us by Arija, Gattina, Lady Fi, Sylvia and Sandy.
Find more birds at World Bird Wednesday, hosted for us by Springman

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sandhill Cranes

We recently took a couple of birding trips to view Sandhill Cranes.  Though I wasn't pleased with the images on either trip, I will share some of the best.
There are several places in the Central Valley of California to view the Cranes in Winter.  One area, called Staten Island, is owned by the Nature Conservancy and managed to benefit wildlife.  Here Cranes, Geese, Swans, Ducks and other birds can be found foraging in the flooded fields.
 Observing behavior is the most interesting part of viewing wildlife.
 It is not just to see the animals but see them interacting with the environment and each other.
If you watch the cranes for any time you are sure to see some interesting interaction.
Not far from Staten Island (an island formed by rivers and canals) is the Woodbridge Ecological Preserve, our next stop.
Wave goodnight, Gracie
 As the sun was setting, it seemed to draw the cranes attention, it was time for them to head to their night time roost.  The crane's foot does not have grasping toes as do herons and egrets so they head to water for the night.  If they stayed in the fields they would be prey for the coyotes and bobcats.
Find more views of Our World at Our World, Tuesday, hosted for us by Arija, Gattina, Lady Fi, Sylvia and Sandy.

Find more birds at World Bird Wednesday, hosted for us by Springman.

If you find yourself in the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta in winter and want to know where to view the cranes, Staten Island is here and the Woodbridge Ecological Preserve here.  Good viewing can be found along Woodbridge road, not just at the view platform. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Take Off

On a recent birding expedition to view Sandhill Cranes I spotted a beautiful Redtailed Hawk.

He was sitting on the cross arm of a power pole.  He looked like a rufous dark morph and was very striking when in flight.  Unfortunately, I didn't capture the underparts in these images but my impression was they were reddish.

As you might expect, he didn't care for my attention.

Get ready
And he's off
I say "he" but it well might have been female for it seemed to be quite large.
Off it soared.  I had a hard time keeping it in my view.  My new 400 mm is not image stabilized and the bird was so close that it filled much of my image.  All that said, I was mostly pleased with this series.
Isn't it a beautiful bird?

You can find more birds at World Bird Wednesday, hosed for us by Springman.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Locke, California

On our way to see the Sandhill Cranes we made a stop at Locke.  My dad had a life-long interest in history and had brought the little town to my attention years ago but I had never had the opportunity to visit.

So, you might ask, where is Locke and what is its historic importance.  It sure doesn't look like much.

The little town sits in rural farmland on the Sacramento river south of Sacramento.  Nearby is another small town, Walnut Grove.

After a fire in the Chinese section of Walnut Grove in 1913, the residents decided they needed their own town.  Chinese faced severe discrimination in the California of that day, much as Hispanics do today.  They had come to America to work; they built the railroads, the levees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and then worked in the fertile fields of California's Central Valley. 

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 had made it almost impossible for Chinese to emigrate to the US.  This meant that men who wished to stay here had little opportunity to marry and start a family.  They were also prohibited from becoming naturalized citizens and in some cases from owning land.

It's not surprising then that they wanted a place of their own.
Under California law, the Chinese community could not buy land for their town so George Locke leased it to them.
Today many of the buildings on Main Street are in very poor condition.
Other buildings have been restored.

This monument in a small memorial park is dedicated to the early Chinese residents of California.

The inscription in English and Chinese reads:

Dedicated to the industrious
Chinese pioneers of California
Whose strength and sacrifice helped
Build the Transcontinental Railroad,
Construct the Levees of
The Sacramento San Joaquin Delta, and
Develop the agriculture in the Central Valley
With  Determination and Perseverance
The Chinese built the town of Locke and
Continue to shape California.

This gambling hall museum and another museum at the old Chinese school (some men did manage to bring wives to America in spite of the restrictions) show a bit of the life of the residents. The old boarding house has some displays and a few books for sale but is otherwise empty.
Currently only 10 of the 80 or so residents of Locke are ethnic Chinese.  A Chinese restaurant and this Chinese medicine shop still represent the cultural heritage.

To see more views of our world, go to Our World, Tuesday, hosted for us by Arija, Gattina , Lady Fi, Sylvia and Sandy.

Monday, January 9, 2012

In Search of the Falcated Duck

The birding community of Northern California has been all abuzz about  the Falcated Duck seen at Colusa National Wildlife Refuge.  Birders and bird photographers have been coming from all over California and beyond to view this Eurasian bird, native to China, who somehow found his way to California.
Sutter Buttes
Colusa NWR is less than 60 miles from our home, the other side of Sutter Buttes which I have photographed from my back yard.  Close enough that there was no reason not to go and see for ourselves.
It is so close and so popular with birders that we met others from Lincoln Hills by chance and one of them, Jack Ferrante took a picture of Hubby and me as we photographed a huge flock of geese.
White Fronted Geese
 Geese certainly weren't the only birds we saw, there was an amazing variety of waterfowl.

Gadwall drake
Pied-billed Grebe
Cinnamon Teal

Northern Shoveler transitioning from eclipse to breeding plumage

The birds were by no means limited to aquatic species.  We saw raptors as well.  This Red Tailed Hawk was perched in a tree.

Nearby was this bird which I believe is a Peregrine Falcon.  If I am wrong about this, please let me know.  It is a first for me and I want to be sure.

There were also the usual suspects, lots of coots, a blue heron and another rookery of Black Crowned Night Herons similar to what we saw at Merced NWR.

So, you're wondering, did we see the Falcated Duck?

I must say, he was rather uncooperative and I wasn't happy with the images I got.  When we first arrived the light was good but he was napping with his friends, some American Wigeons, on a log, his head tucked in.  I missed when he jumped off the log to go feed, when I saw him again he was so far away I had to crop the image tightly.  Later he came back to the log to preen, great poses but by then the light was low, his front in shadow.
What does "falcated" mean, you might ask.  Well, it refers to those curved, tapered wing feathers, he is one fancy duck.

We hope to return for another try but first we have an appointment with some Sandhill Cranes at a different refuge in the opposite direction.

See more of our world at Our World, Tuesday, hosted for us by Arija, Gattina, Lady Fi, Sylvia and Sandy.
See more birds at World Bird Wednesday, hosted by Springman

If you are wondering where this refuge is, it's here.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Do You Know the Way to San Jose?

Urban areas are rarely a part of my world but they are part of Our World.  A recent tour of wildlife refuges found us spending the night in San Jose, California.
It is not so much the urban landscape that I don't care for but the masses of people and traffic we often encounter.  I appreciate the man made landscape.  I love the mirror like reflective quality of many new buildings.

I am not particularly enamored with the building on the right.  It reminds me of the uninspired architecture of my youth.
The building on the left is what draws my attention.  It is the old Bank of America Building.  Built in 1925-1926 it is said to be the first earthquake resistant skyscraper.

I like the detail in this Mediterranean Revival-Beaux-Arts Archeticture.  No central air-conditioning here, an eclectic mix of window air conditioners poke through the windows.

The restored Hotel De Anza, built in the 1930s, still sports its Art Deco detail.

The 25 foot high diving lady was first painted on the building in 1951 to advertise the hotel's heated pool.

On narrow city streets, sometimes the best shot of a building is its reflection as with this Beaux-Arts San Jose Building and Loan Association building.
The oldest building in San Jose is the Peralta Adobe built in 1797.  The Adobe is behind the San Pedro Square Market and I didn't see any signs indicating when it might be open for tours.

If one tires of the urban scene the nearby Guadalupe River Park and Gardens is a lovely place to relax.  The Heritage Rose Garden still had a few blooms in early December.

To see more views of our world, go to Our World, Tuesday, hosted for us by Arija, Gattina, Lady Fi, Sylvia and Sandy.