Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Short-eared Owl and More at Arcata Bottoms

Whew! It's been a ridiculously hectic and stressful several weeks (but I am elated to report that I have recently reached the end of the process that was causing so much stress, hence why I have the time to write this now). This past Saturday, I decided I needed a break, so I went out to visit the Arcata Bottoms, an area of low-lying pastures and fields bordering the bay near my house. I drove slowly along roads behind farms, and I wandered into the marshy fields in a neighboring wildlife area, and it was quiet, full of creatures, and just wonderful.

I drive by this area on the way to work every day, and I'm always astonished by the number of raptors I regularly see here -- perched on fence posts and power lines -- as I speed past. Driving slowly and walking in the fields on Saturday was much more fun, and there were birds of prey everywhere I looked. Northern Harriers coursed low over the fields and picked up furry morsels:

Northern Harriers have such interesting faces, and I'm always glad to meet these sleek hunters:

White-tailed Kites are still an amazingly exotic bird for me, but they're downright common in these fields right now. I saw at least four individuals during my visit, sometimes hovering or hunting but mostly perched on trees:

What an awesome bird:

Fence posts made for especially popular lookout points. White-tailed Kite:

Northern Harrier:

More White-tailed Kites:

Ah! Owl!!

I knew that Short-eared Owls hang out in these fields in the winter, and I was hoping to catch a glimpse of one, but having a Short-eared Owl fly out right in the middle of the afternoon and land ahead of my car -- then proceed to hunt in the field next to the road -- was basically astonishing. My first Short-eared Owl! Oh my goodness.

Owls are certainly amazing, and as far as I'm concerned, days with owls in them are some of the best days. I love this creature's rounded wings, fuzzy feet, and black-eyeliner eyes:

Oh, you wonderful creature:

So that was amazing. Other highlights from the visit include a dainty Savannah Sparrow, a bird I haven't seen since my time on the Connecticut shore:

And around 1500 Cackling Geese foraging in the pastures. Here's a portion of the expansive flock:

This was my first time seeing Cackling Geese fairly close up, and they really do strike me as shrunken Canada Geese. Don't your necks stretch any longer, birds?

The geese made for some striking patterns, especially in such big numbers:

And once again, Northern California continues to amaze me. Even the most normal-seeming places -- fields, pastures -- have awesome wildlife, including lots of creatures I've never seen before (and am not likely to see again any time soon once I leave). The stress-inducing process I mentioned at the beginning of this post was a job hunt, and the end of that process means that I will be relocating yet again over the summer, back to the other side of the country. The eventual (permanent? is that even possible?) location is a very exciting one (for me), but I'll leave those details for another time. For now, I plan to take advantage of my remaining months in Northern California to explore the area as much as possible. There's still so much to see, and I'm so happy to have my outdoors time back!


  1. Good luck to you in your new endeavor and keep the lovely pictures coming. From a Conn. reader.

  2. Wow, such great pictures of the birds! That Short-eared Owl is beautiful, and the last picture of geese is such a neat pattern! Good luck with the upcoming change; hope you get the time to blog more.

  3. I love to watch birds too! Very nice, lovely pics!