Tag Archive | Great Blue Heron

Mi Vida Loca Photo Series, 9

Life has a way of catching up with you sometimes, and getting crazy busy and a bit overwhelming. So while I devote some attention to it over the next few weeks, I am going to share a few photos of the adventures over the last several months that I haven’t had a chance to post about.

Whidbey-Heron

Great Blue Heron, Whidbey Island, March 2018

Marina Light

It’s that time of year when my commute home is right around sunset…  I stopped at the marina last night and snapped a few pics with my terrible phone camera.

I will never get tired of these views.

 

 

 

Happy Thursday.  It’s almost the weekend!

 

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

Ridgefield’s claim to fame, as near as I can tell, is the Sandhill Cranes that head through on the way to their winter grounds. They come through in November, and we tried to go then, but the weekend that Jon had off it was pouring down rain west of the Cascades, and pouring down snow in the Cascades. Coincidentally, this was pretty much the only snow that the mountains received all winter, but that’s a bit off topic…

So, convinced that it would be a waste of time and money to go see Sandhill Cranes, who would likely be hiding somewhere else, and even if they were out we wouldn’t be able to see them in the deluge, we postponed our trip to our next weekend off together. If you follow this blog, you know that Jon and I typically only get 3 days off together per month, so our next weekend off together was in December.

The weather was very rainy, but certainly no worse than a typical December day in the Pacific Northwest.  I wish I could have gotten better pictures, but it was a pretty dark day, so I did what I could.  As we expected, the Sandhill Cranes were already gone, having moved further south, but we did see lots of other cool birds.

A Great Blue Heron checking us out.

A Great Blue Heron checking us out.

A Great Blue Heron looking for its next meal.

A Great Blue Heron looking for its next meal.

Ironically, Ridgefield wasn’t created to protect the Sandhill Cranes, but rather the Dusky Geese, whose migratory landing spots in Alaska were destroyed by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 1964. Which just goes to show that there really is a big connection when you think about the living world.

A Hooded Merganser at Ridgefield

A Hooded Merganser at Ridgefield

Dusky Geese look like shorter, smaller and slightly fatter Canada Geese to me, with a bit more blurred facial markings, and darker brown chests (that’s called a breast in the bird world). They are actually considered a subspecies of Canada Geese, along with several other subspecies, which are often so similar that even the experts have trouble telling them apart. Apparently, it’s a DNA thing. Which now leads me to wonder if all the Canada Geese I’ve been seeing my whole life are Canada Geese at all. But, if the experts can’t tell them apart, then they can’t really expect me to either.

Dusky Geese - They look a lot like Canada Geese to me.

Dusky Geese – They look a lot like Canada Geese to me.

And we saw nutria! If you don’t know what a nutria is, just imagine a giant rat crossed with a beaver. Or look at the picture below. The good thing about nutria is that a casual observer can tell them apart from rats and from beavers too. Nutria are native to South America, but of course, some moron 100 years ago decided it would be great to bring them here as pets, and then other morons decided it would be a good idea to release them into the wild when they turned out to not be such great pets, and the nutria decided that the climate of northern Oregon and Southern Washington is wonderful and set about eating their way through the marshes here. That’s the short version of what probably is a much longer story.

The first Nutria we saw at the refuge.

The first Nutria we saw at the refuge.

Nutria are actually pretty destructive, but here they are. We saw two that day, waist deep in the marsh, happily chewing vegetation in the rain without a care in the world. Of course, they might have been wondering if those geese over there were Canada Geese or Dusky Geese…

This is the second Nutria we saw - this photo shows his rat-like tail.

This is the second Nutria we saw – this photo shows his rat-like tail.

We also saw one hawk (I wasn’t able to get a great picture), three Blue Herons, and a gazillion Northern Pintails, Mallards, American Coots, Tundra Swans and the aforementioned Dusky Geese.

A hawk at Ridgefield - maybe a Red Tailed Hawk?

A hawk at Ridgefield – maybe a Red Tailed Hawk?

Tundra Swans - They like to do butts up too!

Tundra Swans – They like to do butts up too!

Despite the rain that fell the whole time we were there, and got all over the doors of the car and my camera when we had the windows open to take pictures, we had a good time. Jon’s favorite sighting of the day was the nutria, and I have to admit, I enjoyed seeing them too. I also liked seeing the Northern Pintails, especially when they go “butts up!”

A male Northern Pintail doing butts up!

A male Northern Pintail doing butts up!

Have you been to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge?  What was your favorite animal?

California Road Trip: Point Reyes National Seashore Wildlife

The next day of our trip was devoted to Point Reyes National Seashore.  Jon had visited Point Reyes Station (the town nearest to the park) when he lived in California, and was so struck by the little town that he wanted to visit again.  Of course, when he first told me, I thought he meant he had actually visited the National Seashore and not just the town, but that’s neither here nor there.  I was interested in seeing the National Seashore, so onto the itinerary it went.

Point Reyes National Seashore is one of ten National Seashores in the National Park System.  It was authorized in 1962 by John F. Kennedy, who sadly didn’t live to visit it.  Californians were concerned about protecting their coastline as early as the late 1920s, and encouraged the federal government to take steps to create a park, but the Great Depression got in the way.  So a private group began buying the land and deeding it to Marin County.  This private protection of pieces of the land continued until the late 1950s, when legislation was finally proposed federally to create a National Seashore at Point Reyes.  This park does not disappoint.

We drove from Petaluma on a scenic two lane highway – it was a gorgeous sunny day, so we followed several convertibles with their tops down.  There are also a million bicyclists on the roadway, so if you go when the weather is nice, watch out!  And try to be more patient than Jon about bicycles…  Once we got there, we stopped in at the Bear Valley Visitor’s Center and got a map and figured out where we would be headed.  There were a million school kids there, but they largely disappeared once we were actually in the park.

Outside the Visitor’s Center, I got my first wildlife photos of the day – a blue heron was hanging out in the field outside the Visitor’s Center.  I watched him for a little while, and then noticed a quail couple making their way across the field.  I love quail!  I was able to get several good photos of the pair, and was so pleased to have seen them.

Great Blue Heron at Point Reyes National Seashore

Great Blue Heron at Point Reyes National Seashore

Female California Quail at Point Reyes National Seashore

Female California Quail at Point Reyes National Seashore

Male California Quail at Point Reyes National Seashore

Male California Quail at Point Reyes National Seashore

First, we made our way to the McClure’s Beach Trailhead, and the Tule Elk Reserve.  We had spotted some elk in the Redwood National Forest, but we were zipping along on the highway and I didn’t have a chance to get a picture.  Also, the elk in Point Reyes National Seashore are Tule Elk, where the elk in Redwood National Park are Roosevelt Elk – Tule Elk are smaller and lighter in color.  Along the way  to the elk reserve, we passed several dairy farms, which seems unusual, until you know the story.

Back in the mid 1800s, an attorney owned most of the land on which Point Reyes National Seashore now sits.  He divided the land into 26 tracts, named them with each of the letters of the alphabet, and rented them out to tenant farmers from all over the world, including farmers from Switzerland, Portugal and Ireland.  The farms are still there, passed down from generation to generation and all are marked with their original letter name and the year that they were established.  We saw farms that dated anywhere from 1852 to 1869.

Near the McClure’s Beach trailhead, we found the elk that we were looking for, and watched them for a little while, and got some photos.

Tule Elk at Point Reyes National Seashore

Tule Elk at Point Reyes National Seashore

The elk were cool, but once we started to head back down the road we got the surprise of a lifetime.  Jon spotted a bobcat!  He was walking across the field, away from us.  I was really surprised, because I didn’t think that bobcats were active during the day, but there he was, just minding his own business!  The photos aren’t great, but I did manage to get a picture of him.  He was so neat!  That was the first time I have ever seen a bobcat in the wild.

Bobcat at Point Reyes National Seashore

Bobcat at Point Reyes National Seashore

After seeing the bobcat, we continued our drive to the other side of the park to visit the Point Reyes Lighthouse.  I’ll tell you about that next!