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Archive for January, 2012

Raccoon TV: Look who’s been peeking in the window!

Raccoon paw prints on the outside of the family room glass door. Photo by Margaret Elliott, Alamo, CA
1coonprints margaret elliott alamo

Here is a picture of raccoon paw prints on our family room glass door showing that raccoons were looking into our family room while standing out on our deck. Usually the view is from the other side when our cat Puddy is inside the family room, watching the squirrels outside eating peanuts on the deck. Looks like dirty paws!
Margaret, Alamo, California

We’re so busy looking out our windows to see what’s going on in our backyards … we usually don’t bother to check and see who or what might be looking back in … like raccoons, birds of all kinds, neighborhood cats, deer … and who knows what else. It IS a jungle out there, you know. /Gary

Posted on Monday, January 16th, 2012
Under: Raccoons | 4 Comments »

Bird watching with Crazy Bird Lady of Concord’s Ellis Lake

Green heron at Ellis Lake. Photo by Susan, Concord, CA
1green heron susan serventi concord

Today at Ellis Lake I was privileged to see a green heron, a hawk that I think is a red-shouldered hawk and a common merganser (male) duck.  Just one.  I know there’s probably not an answer to this question, but HOW can one duck get lost from the flock and end up in a tiny lake in the middle of Concord?  He looked like he couldn’t decide whether to hang out with the mallards and try to blend in, or float around with the young seagull.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a merganser before, either.
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Posted on Friday, January 13th, 2012
Under: Ducks, Ellis Lake, Hawks | 3 Comments »

White pelicans cruising the skies above the Delta

White pelicans cruising the skies above the Delta. Photo by Dave Harper, Oakley, CA
1pelicans2 dave harper oakley

I have returned to Holland tract area and have included perhaps too many pictures of White Pelicans. About 100 or so are out there now fishing the center shoals or shallow areas of sloughs. They rest out on the remote island among the sand hills and geese as the boat traffic seems to drive them nuts. They must be doing okay looking at their bellies, I have always been intrigued by these magnificent flying monsters.

Snow geese and white fronted geese are filling the skies out there, staying high and above my camera understandably as the occasional shotgun blast can be heard.
Dave Harper, Oakley, California

The Sacramento River Delta is a wonderful place, especially if you like to watch birds, river otters, beavers, mink and who-knows-what-else.

Ah, yes. Those “occasional shotgun blasts.” Duck season. I’d fly as high as I could, too! Great photos, my friend! /Gary

White pelicans cruising the skies above the Delta. Photo by Dave Harper, Oakley, CA
1pelicans dave harper oakley

Posted on Thursday, January 12th, 2012
Under: White Pelican | 2 Comments »

Martinez hummingbirds feed at kitchen window feeder

Hummingbird feeding at kitchen window feeder. Photo by Alice Henderson, Martinez, CA
1hummer alice henderson mtz

We truly love our birds in our yard, feeding them, watching them, etc. I wanted to share my hummers feeding at the window and also the crows that love the peanuts and share them with squirrels and blue jays. All of our hummers love all of our feeders, especially the one on the kitchen window. The hummer eats even when I’m at the kitchen window at the sink.
Alice Henderson, Martinez, California

Nothing stops a hummingbird from eating when it’s hungry. When I refill my hummer feeder and bring it back out to hang up outside, the little male Anna’s hummer that lives in my backyard will sometimes meet me at the back door and drink from the feeder as I’m carrying it in my hand, all the way down to the place where I hang it back up.

That’s a neat window feeder. /Gary

Crow sampling peanuts in Martinez backyard. Photo by Alice Henderson, Martinez, CA.
1crow alice henderson mtz

Posted on Wednesday, January 11th, 2012
Under: Crows, hummingbirds | No Comments »

River otter spotted in Concord’s Ellis Lake

River otter on tree branch in Ellis Lake, Concord. Photo by Susan The Crazy All-Animals Lady of Ellis Lake, Concord, CA.
1otter susan, concord

It’s ME again!
Today I was taking pictures of birds and turtles around noon when I saw something moving faster than usual in the lake — it was a river otter swimming toward me!  It got out of the water onto a tree limb that extends over the water, and STARTED BARKING A ME!  No one else was around until the otter swam off into the drainage pipe that leads to the Bay…  PLEASE SEND NATURE/ANIMAL LOVERS OF ANY KIND, NOT JUST BIRD WATCHERS!
Susan the Crazy All-Animals Lady of Ellis Lake, Concord, California

Proving, once again, that if there’s a nice lake full of fish to eat, even in the middle of a city, a river otter will find it!

That otter started out in the Sacramento River Delta. It swam down the river to Pacheco Creek at the base of the Benicia Bridge … swam up Pacheco Creek to Willow Pass Road … and then somehow made it approximately three-quarters of a mile over dry land and up and down city streets and through yards to Ellis Lake. Think about it. That’s pretty amazing. It reminds me of the beaver a bunch of years ago that followed the same route … past Willow Pass Road … continuing through Walnut Creek, turned down a tiny tributary creek, climbed out into a backyard on Newell near Kaiser Hospital … and cut down a tree that almost took out the homeowner’s back patio. There’s no escape from wildlife. (There’s more from Susan in a previous entry, below, about the birds of Ellis Lake.) /Gary

River otter swimming in Ellis Lake, Concord. Photo by Susan The Crazy All-Animals Lady of Ellis Lake, Concord, CA.
1otter2 susan concord

Posted on Tuesday, January 10th, 2012
Under: Beavers, River otters | 3 Comments »

Time to go bird watching at Ellis Lake in Concord

Great blue heron at Ellis Lake. Photo by Susan the Crazy Bird Lady of Ellis Lake, Concord, CA
1great blue heron susan cyberspace

Please send some bird watchers to Ellis Lake in Concord.  There are so many interesting birds living there and/or passing through, I can’t do ALL the bird watching alone! I am turning into The Crazy Bird Lady of Ellis Lake!

In the last two months I have seen: an immature Great Blue Heron, two Great Egrets, a Snowy Egret with its black legs and “Golden Slippers,” Green Herons, Belted Kingfishers, eight Black-crowned Night Herons and twice, one immature Night Heron, Western Bluebirds, Woodpeckers, Flickers, what I think are Black Phoebes, Cormorants, two pied- billed Grebes, many ringed-billed gulls, Mallard Ducks, Coots, and couple of cross-bred Mallards(?), many Canadian Geese with two cross-bred.  (One looks like a cross with a Snow Goose, the other looks like a cross with a common gray goose.)
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Posted on Friday, January 6th, 2012
Under: Concord | No Comments »

Sandhill cranes! Time to watch them in the Delta!

Sandhill cranes have arrived at Holland Tract in the Delta. Photo by Dave Harper, Oakley, CA
1sandhill cranes dave harper oakley

The sandhill cranes have arrived on Holland Tract, along with winter!
Dave Harper, Oakley, California

Now is the perfect time to head out to Holland Tract (
and other parts of the Sacramento River Delta area to see the many migrating waterfowl that have arrived to spend the winter. Be sure and take your binoculars and your bird identification books! And a lunch and something to drink. You’ll have a great time birdwatching (while keeping an eye out for beavers, river otters, mink and who-knows-what-else you might run into. I love that place! /Gary

Posted on Thursday, January 5th, 2012
Under: Sandhill crane | 3 Comments »

Turkey vultures and hawks enjoy the skies together

Turkey vulture (l.) and red-tailed hawk (r.) flying together. Photo by Greg Merritt, Vallejo, CA
1hawk vulture greg merritt vallejo

I had to write to you to ask a question: Just thought it was curious and a little bizarre to see our red-tailed hawks soaring in formation with our local turkey vultures, with all of them getting along just fine!

In this picture I’m including above, it’s a red-tail soaring along with a vulture. I have several pictures of them soaring along together, and they were not fighting at all. If anything, they seemed to be enjoying the day, and each others company. It was quite weird.

I have several others with 5 or 6 vultures and a red-tail and a peregrine all flying in formation … and trust me, it’s the oddest thing ever … they obviously enjoy each other’s company …  I think it’s just a little bit odd. (Alfred Hitchcock would be proud!) Is this common behavior?
Greg Merritt,Vallejo, California

Yes, hawks and vultures will often cruise around the skies together. They don’t compete with each other, or prey on each other. We probably see them flying around together a lot more often than we realize, since they can look so much alike when they are up there circling above us. /Gary

Posted on Wednesday, January 4th, 2012
Under: Hawks, Turkey vultures | No Comments »

Is this a turkey vulture, or a California condor?

Immature turkey vulture taking a sun bath. Photo by Frances Rice.
1turkey vulture frances rice

While vacationing at a hotel near Marina Dunes State Park near Monterey, CA,  on Dec. 12, 2011, my husband and I noticed two turkey vultures on the top of sand dunes sunning themselves. A few minutes later another vulture-like bird landed on the sand dunes near the other vultures.

We immediately noticed that the newly arrived bird was not only larger than the two turkey vultures, it also had different coloring around its neck and head. Luckily, we had our cameras ready and started taking photos. The newly arrived bird opened its wings to sun itself as the turkey vultures were doing. It’s wing span was much larger than the size of the turkey vulture’s wing span.

We have researched on the Internet and in bird guides trying to determine what kind of a vulture this is. I’m wondering if it’s a juvenile California condor. I’m emailing a photo to you. Is this a condor? If so, what is their range now?
Frances Rice in cyberspace

The bird in your photo is an immature turkey vulture. That’s why the head is black, not red. California condors are actually MUCH bigger. All California condors also wear large wing bands with special identifying numbers which can be seen easily from above and below. This helps researchers to keep track of them. Best place to see a condor in California is in the Big Sur area. Here’s an Internet file that tells you the best spots to view these enormous birds:

You can get a good look at some condor photos here so you can see what they look like:

Hope this helps! /Gary

Posted on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012
Under: California condors, Turkey vultures | No Comments »