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Delta Wanderings I – May 2018 -- “Spring into Summer"
After a winter of out of town travel we returned mid-May to some gorgeous Delta Spring weather. Our first few days back on the water were amazing, virtually no other boats on the water and creatures of all sorts doing what they do undisturbed by the dozens of boats that will soon be filling our sloughs. The rains have stopped, the days have started to warm up while the evenings continue to cool down. I always wonder what I will find when uncovering the boat after 6 months of hibernation and to my joyful surprise the boat was relatively clean and more importantly the engine started right up after a short turn of the key. So for the next few nights we ventured out on our usual “Sunset Wine Cruise Safari” in search of the many creatures who call the Delta home, we of course were armed with some chilled sauvignon blanc and light snacks. With a full moon only a few days away we had some extraordinary low tides right around sunset, perfect timing as the exposed mud flats are a magnet to all sorts of creatures wandering about in search of a meal. All photos taken over the last week.
(A periodic photo blog of our Discovery Bay and Delta Wanderings)
Great Blue Herons
Great Blue Heron with a large catfish, notice how he stabbed the fish with his long sharp bill. Turned out the fish was a bit too big to swallow, so the Heron let it go and went on to find a smaller delicacy, a crayfish
Great Blue Heron with a Crayfish.
Great Blue Heron taking flight
Snowy Egret on the prowl for a meal.
It's easy to distinguish the Snowy Egret from their larger cousin, the Great Egret. Snowy Egrets are smaller, have a dark bill, black legs and yellow feet. While the larger Great Egret has a yellow bill with black legs and feet. They are both wading birds which seek their main prey of fish and crustaceans by wading in shallow water or hunting from docks, branches or other objects that over hang the water. These guys are often most active during low tides which exposes all sorts of small yummy creatures.
Great Egret with a Crayfish
In spite of many yards of empty shoreline these Great Egrets sometimes fight over a perceived good hunting spot.
It's not all about the birds as we have several species of aquatic mammals in the Delta. We have Muskrats, Beavers and River Otters often all living harmoniously in the same ecosystem.
Muskrats are the smallest of our three semi-aquatic mammals. Their name comes from the "musky" odor they mark their territory with. These members of the rodent family have a round head and body, with a long roundish (or more accurately vertically flat, opposite of the flat tailed Beaver) hairless tail covered in scales. While their rear feet are semi-webbed they mostly use their tails for propulsion in the water. On land they drag their tails making their tracks easy to identify. Muskrats normally live in groups consisting of a male and female pair and their young. In our area they live in burrows dug into the mud banks usually with an underwater entrance, although at low tide their den entrances are often visible. Adults are 16-28 inches long and weigh 1-4 pounds.
This male Muskrat just emerged from his burrow. While they are omnivores they feed mostly on vegetation and are most active at night or near dawn and dusk.
Like most rodents, Muskrats are prolific breeders. Females can have two or three litters a year of six to eight young each.
Copulation can occur on land or in the water.
After doing his business this guy was hoping for a cigarette.
Unlike the short compact body of the Muskrat our River Otters are truly aquatic creatures built for swimming with a narrow head and a long streamlined body, long whiskers, webbed feet and a long tail covered in fur. These guys are fast agile swimmers very comfortable in the water. They are 26-42 inches long and weigh in at 11-30 pounds with sharp predatory teeth feeding mostly on fish but with an active appetite for clams, mussels, frogs, lizards, snails, turtles and crayfish. They also make their homes in burrows in the mud banks. These guys often wander far from their burrows exploring the waters and often climbing on docks and boats.
This River Otter is munching on a Crayfish, trying not to get nipped by the Crayfish's claws.
A baby Beaver swims by. Found in nearly every state the Beaver is the largest North American rodent and the only one with a broad, flat, scaly tail. Weighing in at 30-60 pounds these guys are much bigger than our Muskrats and Otters. They are true herbivores and while best known for their small tree felling skills and building dams our Delta Beavers live in burrows in the shoreline banks and mostly munch on tule roots, hyacinth, cattails, and other marsh plants. When alarmed or annoyed they will loudly slap their big flat tail on the surface of the water as they dive down below.
Garter Snakes can often be found in the rocks along the levee or in your garden. Their diet consists of almost any small creature they are capable of overpowering including: worms, slugs, lizards, amphibians, minnows and small rodents. While some may find their presence alarming they are actually very good garden visitors.
While harmless these guys when threatened or picked up will discharge a malodorous, musky-scented secretion from a gland under their tail. They will often flatten their heads and strike out at any threats making them seem much more threatening then they are. They are easily pinned down with a stick and can be picked up by grabbing them right behind the head. They do have small teeth and their bite can be more alarming than hurtful as they have pretty small mouths.
Often found on branches overhanging the water Flycatchers can often be seen swooping down from a branch to catch a fly, moth or small flying insect. Flycatchers are part of a large family of birds with over 400 types.
Barn Swallows sometimes called Mud Swallows are very agile flyers often seen at dusk swooping over the water snagging little insects. They like living near water as they build their nests out of mud under building overhangs, under bridges and here in Discovery Bay often under dock ramps.
Killdeer while truly a shorebird can be seen without going to the beach, they are graceful plovers common to lawns, golf courses, athletic fields, and parking lots. In the Delta you will often see one or two scurrying back and forth along the shoreline most often at low tide.
The Green Heron can be found at the water’s edge often on the rocks or even on docks as they patiently crouch incredibly still waiting for an unsuspecting fish or small crustacean to swim by. Then with lightning speed they extend their necks really long to grab a meal with their dagger like bill. If you find the shells of Crayfish on your dock it was probably the leftovers from a Green Heron’s meal. The Green Heron is one of the world’s few tool-using bird species. It often creates fishing lures with bread crusts, insects, earthworms, twigs, feathers, and other objects, dropping them on the surface of the water to entice small fish
Adult Black-Crowned Night Heron with two juveniles. Compared to their long-limbed Heron relatives Night Heron's are stocky birds who are most active at night or at dusk. They are social birds that breed in colonies of stick nests usually built over water and can be found in fresh, salt, and brackish wetlands and are the most widespread Heron in the world.
Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron
Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Herons
This Brewers Blackbird was walking across the algae scum plucking the little weed flowers.
Great Egret taking flight
Great Egret in flight
Canada Goose with Goslings (previously known as Canadian Geese)
Canada Goose with some adolescents
This year's invasive weed season looks like we took a giant step backwards. I have never seen such blockages at the entrance to Discovery Bay
Tough getting boats off these docks
Little by little though some enterprising young folks are helping out.
The other night it was high tide when we went out so the wildlife was a bit lighter, instead though we had no wind, glassy calm waters, great reflections and some crazy light with ominous clouds
Windmill farms in the distance
Indian Slough at the entrance to Lido Bay
A clear sign that summer has arrived, more boat traffic.
Coming and Going
Full Moon over Lido Bay
Happy Boating, Bye for Now
If you missed my last "Delta Wanderings -- 'Summer's End" blog post check it out at: "Summers End -- 2017"
For more photos visit Bill’s Discovery Bay & Delta website: http://DiscoveryBay.me
© Bill Klipp 2017
http://www.videos.wkimages.net / All Rights Reserved Bill Klipp
* Any use of these images requires the prior written permission of Bill Klipp the photographer, no other uses of any kind including print or electronic are permitted without the prior written permission of the photographer.
Amazing. I wish we could use these amazing images in bringing awareness to the treasure the Delta is to stop the tunnels.
Awesome wildlife pictures. Thank you!
Bill, your photos are incredible!
Thank you so much for openingly sharing them!
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