Eagles and Ospreys on Lake Sonoma, April 1, 2016

What a difference eight days can make.

Eight days ago when I came to Lake Sonoma, the lake was several feet higher and almost empty of other users. (40,000 acre feet have been released in the past 3 weeks. One wonders why.)

Eight days ago, I had been alone on my way up the Dry Creek arm of the lake. That was on a Thursday and it was cooler.

Today when I returned to explore the Cherry Creek arm of the lake with my wife, it was a Friday and at a little more than 70°F, noticeably warmer.

There were many other people on the lake today—mostly men fishing all by themselves, and some guys fishing with a buddy.

There was plenty for us non-fisherfolk to see.

Near the launch ramp at Yorty Creek is a snag where this pair of Double-crested Cormorants perched 3 meters above the lake.

Double-crested Cormorants

Double-crested Cormorants

Soon after entering the Cherry Creek arm, my wife pointed out a Bald Eagle circling high overhead. It gained altitude rapidly in a very strong thermal. In less than two minutes it was beyond the reach of my camera. (I took 5 photos at full zoom of this bird in 100 seconds. It gets discernibly smaller and more pixellated in each photo.)

Bald Eagle 4:1:16

Bald Eagle high in sky and climbing quickly

By far the most abundant bird was the voluble, but elusive Acorn Woodpecker. They prefer to work the back side of a limb or trunk so they can stay out of sight. They also flit from tree to tree often and chasing and scolding one another through the trees. Like Kingfishers, Acorn Woodpeckers are very hard to catch on film, er, in pixels.

Acorn Woodpecker Again 4:1:16

The elusive, garrulous, Acorn Woodpecker

Turtles were plopping into the water, too. A week ago there was much more noise from wind whistling through the trees and from streams tumbling into the lake. Today the calmer conditions allowed the turtles to hear our approach and take cover fast. One guy, though, was either braver than the rest, or, perhaps hard-of-hearing. I got his picture.

Tortuga 4:1:16

Turtle in the Sun

Osprey Sex and Sashimi

A pair of Ospreys provided the best birdwatching of the day.

On our way to our lunch stop we passed this couple. They had spent some time studying a nest from a perch on a tree that was nearby and above it.

Mama Osprey 4:1:16

Mama Osprey overlooking her nest

After we passed by they both flew down into the nest to make sure it will be a suitable place to raise their young.

Osprey Couple 4:1:16

Mr. and Mrs. Osprey, an Amorous Couple

We went on our way to find a place to have our picnic lunch. About an hour later, having finished our own lunch we came upon the nest again. As we paddled by, the male mounted the female and they mated.

It was a quickie. He finished before I could wrest my camera from its case.

That done, he flew off, winging his way down the main arm of Cherry Creek. He returned minutes later with a sashimi lunch.

Papa Osprey 4:1:16

Osprey with fish 4/1/16 He sought more privacy for eating than for sex. And his meal took a lot more time.

This bird caught in a few minutes a fish that weighed, perhaps as much as a quarter of his own weight, a full meal for him and his sweetie. Although every human fisherman I asked told me he’d had a good day fishing today, I don’t think anyone had a better afternoon on the lake than this Osprey.

It will be fun to visit again later this spring to see their nest with hatchlings in it.

 

 Map of Friday’s Trip:

 

 

 

 

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