Spring Lake, Santa Rosa

I love a lot of places around Santa Rosa, but one place I never miss visiting is Lake Ralphine/Spring Lake and I’m never disappointed.  Not only is it a great walk after spending two days in the car, but I see lots of birds I seldom see, like this Great-Tailed Grackle                

that grabbed my attention, though I was really looking for the Acorn Woodpeckers I usually find here. As it turned out, Leslie spotted them high in a tree while I was distracted.

This tree was obviously a granary, so I assumed the woodpecker was either eating an acorn or stuffing one in for later.  

Turns out that these trees serve multiple purposes because as he flew away it became clear that this was a nesting site, though I think it was probably too early for youngsters.

I had to wait a while longer to get a better shot of an Acorn Woodpecker much closer to the ground.  Since this one seemed to be feeding on something that obviously wasn’t an acorn, that made me wonder what they do feed on.  Turns out acorns are only eaten in the winter when preferred foods aren’t available.  In Spring they eat insects and oak flowers and suck the sap out of shallow holes on trees.

I could have spent the day at Lake Ralphine taking pictures of the Acorn Woodpeckers, but I wouldn’t have gotten the exercise I wanted or seen this beautiful Red-shouldered Hawk we located between the two lakes

or this Hermit Thrush waiting for us on the trail around Spring Lake.

It would have been a great visit if Spring Lake hadn’t been nearly covered in aquatic weeds (which are naturally occurring and harmless to people and animals according to the local paper, as it turns out), but seeing the lake like that for the first time ever was shocking and slightly depressing, even if this Pied Grebe didn’t seem deterred from fishing.

Thankfully, we ended our visit at Lake Ralphine where the water seemed crystal clear as this pair of Common Mergansers floated by.

  I prefer to be left with that image than that of the aquatic weeds covering Spring Lake.  

Do You See What I See?

Although the Acorn Woodpeckers took front-stage on our trip around Lake Ralphine and Spring Lake, there were lots of supporting acts. 

Considering how many people walk those trails, I’m amazed at the number of birds I find there this time of year.  Here’s a small sample of what I saw on my walk.

Three male Bufflehead, 

one Swainson’s Thrush, 

one Great-tailed Grackle, 

several Yellow-Rumped Warblers,

and one very camera-shy Night Heron.

Loren loves Acorn Woodpeckers

We had so many things planned on our recent trip to Santa Rosa that, unfortunately, I only managed to get one walk around Lake Ralphine and Spring Lake.  

Luckily it was a great walk which began immediately when we were greeted near the parking lot by several Acorn Woodpeckers. 

The woodpeckers seemed unusually busy gathering nuts.  I think that is because park workers had cut down the tree where they had previously stored their acorns.  But, for whatever reason, they weren’t shy on this visit, ignoring me as they searched for acorns,  

gathered them, 

and stored them away in a nearby tree.

I suspect they were ignoring me because they were hurrying to gather as many nuts as possible before the crowds started appearing. There wasn’t a single woodpecker to be seen when we returned from our walk.

Our Last Day in Santa Rosa

On our last day in Santa Rosa we took a final loop around Lake Ralphine/Spring Lake.  We began by spotting a pair of Double-Crested Cormorants practicing their Tai Chi moves.  

At the end of Lake Ralphine we spotted a Mute Swan paddling around while another swan sat on the shore (nesting?).

Nearby was a Black-Crowned Night Heron hunting for a meal. I wondered if this was where the herons nesting in the Santa Rosa Nursery came to forage while a mate nested.  It seemed a long flight.

Back at the car, we finally caught a glimpse of the pair of Red-Shouldered Hawks that arre nesting in the parking lot.  

Unfortunately, I couldn’t manage to focus on the hawk as it flew from the nest to get the squirrel its mate had brought back.  But after two days of getting nothing more than a shot of a hawk’s head barely sticking up above the edge of the nest, I was quite happy with this shot.