Some Shore and Wading Birds

American Coot
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, Willows, CA; NOV 2020

Today I am sharing some birds we find foraging around the shore of our lakes, ponds, rivers, and sloughs. Some of these birds can be found here in the Sacramento region year-round but most are much more prevalent from late autumn to early spring.

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Spotted Sandpiper, Juvenile or Non-breeding Adult
Wm B Pond Park, American River Parkway, Sacramento, CA; NOV 2020
Sora
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, Willows, CA; NOV 2020
Greater Yellowlegs
Wm B Pond Park, American River Parkway, Sacramento, CA; NOV 2020
Black-necked Stilt
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, Willows, CA; NOV 2020

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Wild White Geese

Snow Geese
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, Willows, CA; NOV 2020

The wildlife refuges in Northern California are one of the wintering over spots  for our two varieties of wild white geese: The Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) and the Ross’s Goose (Chen rossii). They are 2 species that look almost alike and hang around together. In fact they do inter-breed so hybridized geese can be found. There is also a darker morph of both species which can sometimes be found in the flock. The darker or “blue morph” of the Snow Goose is sometimes called a Blue Goose. The head of the Ross’s Goose is smaller and more rounded than the that of the Snow Goose. The Ross’s Goose has a gray patch at the base of its bill. The Snow Goose has dark smile lines on the side of its bill that, I think, look like teeth.

It is amazing site to see these birds lift into the air. Entire fields full of geese will take off at one time making it look like a blizzard of white. On the day we observed them we were treated to an air show by many flocks. Thousands of birds were flying in large “V” formations as far as you could see in all directions. It was amazing!

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Ross’s Goose, Northern Shoveler
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, Willows, CA; NOV 2020
Snow Geese
Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, DEC 2016
Ross’s Geese
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, Willows, CA; NOV 2020

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes
North Staten Island Road, Thornton, CA; NOV 2020

Last week we made the first of our pilgrimages to a spot where Sandhill Cranes winter over. It is still early in the migration and there seemed to be fewer there this year. I caught these images just as the last rays of the sun were setting over Mt Diablo.

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Sandhill Cranes
North Staten Island Road, Thornton, CA; NOV 2020

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Cackling Geese

Cackling Geese
North Staten Island Road, Thornton, CA; NOV 2020

Living along the Pacific Flyway provides a treat; many birds pass through or winter over around here. Our most well known and popular of the winter visitors is the Sandhill Crane. But, in this post, I am going to present another visitor, one less known, the Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii).

The Cackling Goose and the Canada Goose look nearly identical and they are related. Until recently they were considered 2 subspecies of a single species. The Cackling Goose is smaller and makes a distinctive cackle instead of the Canada Goose’s honk. One of the field marks I use to identify them is a white band at the base of the black neck; its not a perfect identifier but it is very good.

While the Canada Goose is ubiquitous year around, I have only seen the Cackling Geese, reliably, in a limited area and only in Late October and November. One birder told me that we get the Aleutian Subspecies; there are several other subspecies.

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Cackling Geese
North Staten Island Road, Thornton, CA; NOV 2020
Cackling Geese
North Staten Island Road, Thornton, CA; NOV 2020

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Scenes from the Eureka Valley

Desert in Autumn
Eureka Valley, Death Valley National Park, CA; OCT 2020

On our last trip to the Eastern Sierra, we explored Big Pine – Death Valley Road. Twenty-five miles from Big Pine, CA, the pavement ends, and you enter Death Valley National Park.  The route took us through Eureaka Valley, over the Last Chance Mountains to Crankshaft Crossing where we made a right to continue on Death Valley Road. That led us to Ubehebe Road then to Scotty’s Castle Road and further to Stovepipe Wells. It was a fun trip through beautiful desert despite the tire shredding rocks and washboard grating on the road. If you ever take this route be careful. Have really good tires and plan your timing; there are many washes that cross the road. They were all in good repair when we took the trip in early autumn. But, they could be bad in other times of the year.

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A Sunrise in Eureka Valley
Eureka Valley, Death Valley National Park, CA; OCT 2020
View From a Wash
Eureka Valley, Death Valley National Park, CA; OCT 2020
A Wash on a Fan; Last Chance Mountains
Death Valley National Park, CA; OCT 2020
Crankshaft Crossing
Death Valley, Death Valley National Park, CA; OCT 2020

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Phainopepla – Pretty Bird, Strange Name

Phainopepla
Sailor Bar, American River Parkway, Fair Oaks, CA; OCT 2020

The Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens), is a bird we see in the Sacramento area, but my experience is that it is not seen often. In fact, “Checklist of the Birds of the Sacramento Area” says they are hard to find in the summer but are a little bit more prevalent the rest of the year. Their range is generally the Southwestern US and Mexico as well as California’s Central Valley.

According to All About Birds from Cornell Labs, they are a silky flycatcher, not related to other North American Flycatchers. They eat insects and berries, especially the berry of the desert Mistletoe. Though they have their own call, they sometimes imitate the calls of other birds.

The name Phainopepla, comes from the Greek: Phain Pepla, meaning shining robe, likely referencing the shiny black feathers of the male. They have red eyes but I have noticed while photographing them the color varies to black and yellow depending upon the angle and strength of the light.

Cornell Labs, All About Birds: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Phainopepla/overview

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Phainopepla
Sailor Bar, American River Parkway, Fair Oaks, CA; OCT 2020
Images of the Phainopepla, a beautiful bird with a strange name.
Phainopepla
Sailor Bar, American River Parkway, Fair Oaks, CA; OCT 2020
Phainopepla
Mississippi Bar, American River Parkway, Orangevale, CA; OCT 2020

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Autumn in the Sierra

A Walk Into the Aspen
Along Route 108 near Sonora Pass, CA; OCT 2020

Travelling from Sacramento to the Eastern Sierra are provides many wonderful photo opportunities. Here are two I captured on our recent trip.

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Cloudy Dawn in the Foothills
Latrobe Road Eldorado Hills, CA; OCT 2020
Regeneration
Lee Vining, CA OCT 2020

This stand of Aspen was killed some years ago in a fire. But Aspen are survivors. Though they do produce seeds, they also send up sprouts from their root system. So, the roots allow the next generation of this stand of Aspens to grow again.

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Some Recent Bird Sightings

Common Raven
Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, CA; OCT 2020

Our trip to the Eastern Sierra was primarily to photograph landscapes. But, we saw some interesting birds also.

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Loggerhead Shrike
Death Valley-Big Pine Rd, Big Pine, CA; OCT 2020
Sage Sparrow
Last Chance Mountains, Death Valley National Park, CA; OCT 2020
Loggerhead Shrike
Death Valley-Big Pine Rd, Big Pine, CA; OCT 2020

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Alabama Hills

Mt Whitney through Mobius Arch
Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, CA; OCT 2020

The Alabama Hill in Lone Pine, Ca, is a geologically unique rock field from the same period as but separate from the Sierra Nevada mountains. It is formed by large rock formations that have eroded into rounded shapes and arches. The trip on the Arches Loop Trail is magnificent. These hills are set below Mt Whitney and sunrises there are beautiful.

This rugged terrain has been used as a set for many movies, particularly westerns from the 1920’s through 1960’s. It was even used in a Star Trek film. As you drive or hike through the hills you can envision the bad guys “holed up” in the rocks shooting down on the good guys.

According to Wikipedia, the hills were named for the CSS Alabama, a Confederate warship. Confederate sympathizers named their mines in the area after the ship and the hills derived its name from the mines.

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Break of Day in the Alabama Hills
Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, CA; OCT 2020
Pathway to the Heart; Heart Arch
Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, CA; OCT 2020
Dens
Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, CA; OCT 2020

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.

Scenes From Big Pine – Death Valley Road

Sunrise From Death Valley Road
Death Valley-Big Pine Rd, Big Pine, CA; OCT 2020

We spent some time exploring Big Pine – Death Valley Road. Along the way, we found some interesting things: A beautiful forest of Joshua Trees, and a wonderful White-tailed Antelope Squirrel. All of this set against the scenery of desert mountains. It was beautiful trip.

Be aware though, if you decide to explore this road, we have read that is one of the most dangerous roads in the country. We found the route to be in good shape but there are some things to consider. We found a lot of tire shredding rocks. There are numerous washes that cross the route so it could be flooded, or the road surface washed out. With photography stops, it took us 7 hours to get from Big Pine to Stovepipe Wells.

This post shares some images from the section between Big Pine, CA and the entrance to Death Valley National Park. I’ll share images from Eureka Valley and Death Valley in a future post.

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A Fan of Joshua Trees
Death Valley-Big Pine Rd, Big Pine, CA; OCT 2020
White-tailed Antelope Squirrel
Death Valley-Big Pine Rd, Big Pine, CA; OCT 2020
Joshua Trees at an Outcrop
Death Valley-Big Pine Rd, Big Pine, CA; OCT 2020

Please visit my website, www.earthwatcher.us to see my collection of landscapes and wildlife.

These and other images are available to purchase by contacting larry.klink@earthwatcher.us.