Ample Water, More Wildlife

Yesterday I drove to the ranch to do some clean-up. With camera in hand, I stopped a few times to take photos. The day started with an encounter with turkeys just past the first gate.

The sun was high, but one photo stood out over the rest, despite the imperfect light.

DSC_0833 cropped hen and gobbler

Down the road a ways, a pair of mallards were doing their version of reproduction. With all the rain, one would think the local mallard crop will be good this year.

DSC_0835 mallard pair

At a pond near the second gate, bullfrogs were warming in the sun at the water’s edge.

DSC_0853 bull frog cropped

Enemies of many native species, including native frog species, bullfrogs dominate any pond they inhabit. Fortunately we don’t have bullfrogs on our ranch.

DSC_0859 plain titmouse cropped

As I walked turned to step into my truck, I was distracted by a tree swallow landing in an oak tree nearly overhead. After several attempts to photograph the tree swallow, I realized that I was getting nowhere. Then this plain titmouse appeared and posed for a photo. Seems like there’s a titmouse pair for each oak tree.

Wildflowers were looking good. With the cooler-than-average weather, the annual grasses have not dominated and the broad-leaf plants will win the battle for sunlight this year. They’ve off to a good start.

DSC_0898 guarding the waters edge coped

On the way home, I couldn’t resist another bullfrog photo. These guys are the guardians of the water’s edge. Their legs also fry up nicely.

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Looks like two young bucks and a doe peeking at me from below the road.

Red-tailed hawks were on the prowl. Some in the air and others hunting the easy way.

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Maybe it’s the extra water that has more than normal numbers of Canada geese hanging around the local ponds.

After leaving the gravel road, I passed through some local vineyards to see what might be available. Found a lone pair of hens, avoiding the crowd and then a big crowd of gobblers strutting aggressively.

It was a great day to be out and about.

It’s Strutting Time

Turkeys in bunches. The breeding season is in full swing. This is the time that often frustrates turkey hunters. You can hunt all day without finding a callable bird.

The turkeys I found today were in two groups. Got a few decent photos. Should have got more, but things kept going wrong.

To get really good turkey pictures everything has to go right. These are the best of the day. The best shots came in the late afternoon when the sun was lower in the sky.

In a couple weeks, the gobblers will be easier to call in. Maybe I’ll get out the camo and box call. Haven’t shot a turkey in a few years.

 

The Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered hawks seem to have increased their range over my lifetime. This is an observation and may or may not be true. They are most often seen in riparian areas. They are very vocal and their call is loud.

They are a member of the Buteo family of raptors and their wings appear a bit stubby, apparently to help them fly through trees and brush while pursuing their prey.

Here are a couple of my best red-shouldered hawk photos. These pictures are of the same hawk, that flew to a pond where I was standing with camera in hand.

 

Ranch Photos in late February

Drove out to the ranch last Saturday to do some cleanup around the yard. Took photos on the way in and the way out. Here are a few of them. Click on them to read the captions.

 

 

Delta Goose Hunt

Last weekend found me back in my old haunts. Webb Tract.

img_6579 1-13-19 at ferry

Forgot to take any photos while hunting so Rob snapped one at the Ferry. The three specs I shot were old birds and large.

Brother, Rob, and I returned to the site of our first duck club where we still find very good hunting for ducks, geese and pheasant.

It was approximately 40 years ago that we saw an advertisement in the Sportsman’s Corner of the SF Chronicle Sporting Green. Saturday was not unlike many trips to Webb. In Byron there was a sense that fog could be forming.

On Cyprus Road, just shy of Bethel Island, fog was visible. On Jersey Island Road, the fog thickened and by False River, visibility was down to about 100 yards.

But, it didn’t last long. By the time I’d driven across the island, watched geese, unloaded my gear, changed clothes and had a bite to eat, the fog was on its way out. Didn’t matter. I was happy to be surrounded by thousands of geese and ducks knowing that something good was about to happen.

Rob showed up shortly after me and we took turns hauling decoys out to our respective blinds. He chose a water blind with the idea of hunting sprig and I chose a semi-dry field in search of specs.

The goose hunt was good with some minor exceptions. Once ready in the blind, with my decoys exactly the way I like them, it wasn’t 15 minutes before I heard specs calling from my left. They came into sight about 150 yards out in the dwindling fog. Right away they spotted the white-front goose shell decoys I’d placed along the edge of the field.

I called softly, they were close and turned away towards the decoys. Slowing, they put their feet down and helicoptered downward. This was too good.

When about 10 feet over the decoys, they came to their senses and flared off the plastic birds. I called again and they turned towards me flying low, about 30 feet in the air. They were about to pass less than 30 yards from me when I stood and fired….whoops….I mean almost fired. My semi-auto clicked. Yes, a mechanical malfunction.

There were better moments to follow and despite more malfunctions, I did manage to bring down a spec before the afternoon was over and also bagged a couple in the morning. Both hunts were exciting and three specs is enough to motivate me to go back again before the season is out.

On Sunday, three more small groups of specs worked the decoys and call – passing by in range. I managed to bring two more birds. Lola made great recoveries on all three birds. By recovery I mean she chased them down and held them at bay. She might have retrieved them, but at 12 I’m giving her a break from heavy loads.

Without her I might have lost any of the three birds that went down as they were all very lively.

I’ve got an appointment to get my shotgun professionally cleaned on Friday.

dsc_0749 1-12-19 gbh on false river cropped

This adventurous great blue heron was floating False River towards the ocean on a boat made of water hyacinth. Photographed him from the Ferry on the way home.

December 29 at the Kerry Club

The barbecue on Friday night was great. Had my son-in-law Brett with me as a guest.

The sunrise was nice.

Not many ducks. Came in with three green-wing teal and a shoveler.

Lots of time to take photos. Here are a few.

IMG_6534 (2) sunrise at blind C cropped

The sun came up bright-hot.

IMG_6539 Lola with first teal cropped

Lola came in with the first teal.

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There were lots of swallows, but not lots of ducks.

IMG_6547 swallow flying with reflection cropped

This swallow was very close.

 

That was about it. Stayed too long. Kept thinking something good would happen.

Brett got a few ZZZZs in the blind.