January 2015 included foggy but dry days with the last few weeks having temperatures in the upper sixties and springlike conditions. Wildlife at Sutters Landing Park responded accordingly.
This male American Kestrel was about to be rudely shown who rules the roost between these two!
She flew in and replaced him on his high perch.
Ahh, now that's more like it.
These two male Nuttall's Woodpeckers appeared to be intensely working out who's territory this is. Yours or mine?
They postured and loudly sounded-off about the issue,
and moved the debate to another location,
Suddenly things escalated,
Into this! ……….. Hopefully things have now finally been resolved.
Meanwhile, further down river a group of Northern Flickers spent much of their day feeding in the new grass along the levee bank. The flashy red color on the underside of it's tail and wings, distinguishes the western "red-shafted," from the eastern "yellow-shafted" flicker.
They spend as much time feeding on the ground as any woodpecker I've seen. They almost disappear from sight in the grass. See a third head poking in from the right?
They have a large, distinct white patch on the rump.
You can follow this link to hear the calls of a Northern flicker.
Would you like to see us in action? We'll be around at Sutter's Landing Park and the rest of the Parkway for a while longer before we migrate to higher areas to nest. Hopefully there will be more rain and a snowpack to provide cool water and healthy habitats with lots to eat for all.
Thursday, January 8th, was a busy fishing day for many species of birds at Sutters Landing Park on the American River!
Common goldeneye, Double-crested cormorants & Common mergansers looking things over.
Gulls spend most of the day on the river pirating from diving fish hunters.
Osprey, another fishing expert, flew in from up river!
Blue heron rapidly flew in from down river when the action intensified!
The heron took a spot close by on the bank. I couldn’t focus on it through
tree branches and missed its catch of a sizable fish which I saw going down that looong throat!
A female merganser just caught a big fish (top left)! At times when the flock was in swift pursuit of fish I could hear the water churning far away. That's when herons, egrets & gulls gather close by on the banks.
She’s got the fish by its head. See it’s dorsal & pectoral fens?
I could see just enough of the bright yellow belly and fins to make me think she caught a bluegill.
She held on to this large fish, keeping her back to the others & me.
Just what the gulls were waiting for!
She’s still got it, barely!
As the gull closes in, she lost it!
Was it just too large?
She dove for it again but I lost sight after that.
The fishing party ended when dogs chased the Blue heron from the banks.
Lions, beavers, and otters…oh, my! And a marshmallow recipe.
Wow!!! Three rare and wondrous sightings, plus homemade marshmallows and hills to play on…a fabulous adventure to start the year!!!
We warmed up with cocoa and amazing homemade marshmallows (thanks, Eli!) (recipe available). The walk down to the river felt great in the crisp morning, and then we started seeing wildlife. First, a flock of goldeneyes in the water. Then some disturbance upriver…a dog? With a flipper? It was a friendly sea lion playing with its salmon breakfast, breaking it up by repeatedly hitting it on the water. Several gulls gathered round to help pick up the pieces.
The sea lion moved on after a while, and we continued up the trail. A lump on a log across the river turned out to be a beaver. It stayed in that position the whole time we were there, showing off its best profile. Then, who should swim by but a river otter! We've never seen all three of these celebrity aquatic mammals in one day—trifecta!
In an embarrassment of riches, we also saw a Northern flicker fly into the bailer building (and out again), a pair of courting Anna's hummingbirds, an osprey, plus a female wigeon, Spotted sandpiper, American kestrel, bufflehead, Common goldeneye, Common merganser, Pied-billed grebe, Great egret, many species of sparrows, Yellow-rumped warblers, and a Belted kingfisher.
Meanwhile, a happy pack of kids moved beyond wildlife sightings; they climbed and slid down hills of sand, playing, exploring, and enjoying the wild terrain to the fullest.
Our Sutter's Landing stretch of the American River is fabulously rich in wildlife and their stories, and a place where kids can experience nature and wildness. Join us next month in this ongoing adventure.
NEXT MONTH: Valentine's Day Fungus Hunt! Join us on February 14th to look for mushrooms and other fungi at Sutter's Landing. Ryan LaPorte, our favorite mushroom expert, will lead the group in a search on and under trees, in the grass, and all the other places fungi hide. We'll start at 10 am so you can sleep in a bit. Details to come.
Photos by JoEllen Arnold:
Robert Sewell went back to Sutter's Landing on Jan 2nd & 3rd and got more great photos: