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June 19th, 2011
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Sweetwater Wetlands

Despite the heat and plethora of closures, Deb Finch, Ed Tobin and I wanted to get out and do some birding, so we made an early morning trip to Sweetwater Wetlands.

The birds were all fairly predictable. We spent over an hour scouring the recharge basins for the Bobolink seen by Jerry Bock the previous day without success, but plenty of other birds there kept us busy. The lush vegetation was teeming with blackbirds, the KILLDEERS were squabbling and a pair of BLACK-NECKED STILTS dropped in.

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Red-winged Blackbird

The most unexpected species was a somewhat drab male WOOD DUCK on the keyhole pond. We enjoyed watching a pair of PIED-BILLED GREBES busying themselves around a nest, and elsewhere AMERICAN COOT and COMMON MOORHEN were doing the same. A couple of HARRIS’S HAWKS were near the nest on the usual perch.

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Wood Duck

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Pied-billed Grebe

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Common Gallinule

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Common Gallinule

The main highlights, however, were reptilian. POND SLIDERS are common at Sweetwater, an introduced species which can often be seen swimming or basking on the shore. I’d never encountered them on the trails though, so the first one we saw was a surprise. I helped it back into the water. Later we saw two more, one of which gave us the reason for their unusual wanderings. She had dug a shallow hole with a deeper chamber in the center, and she was laying eggs. We couldn’t see the eggs but we could see her positioning herself over the hole and then push the eggs down using alternate rear legs. It was fascinating. Ed returned 20 minutes later to find that she was gone, as was the hole which was impeccably camouflaged.

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Pond Slider

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Pond Slider

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Pond Slider

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Pond Slider

Soon after the sliders, we found a snake, a six foot COMMON KINGSNAKE of the California Kingsnake variety. Unfortunately it didn’t hang around for many photos but it was nice to see. Amazingly, this was the first live snake I’d seen this year. Hopefully it won’t be the last.

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California Common Kingsnake

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California Common Kingsnake

Dragonflies were also a feature. As well as the usual BLUE DASHERS, MEXICAN AMBERWINGS and FLAME SKIMMERS, I got photos of a dragonfly which wouldn’t land but seemed unfamiliar in flight. It turned out to be a WANDERING GLIDER, a new one for me.

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Wandering Glider

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Blue Dasher

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Blue Dasher

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Blue Dasher

 

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