Lab meeting at Yolo Basin – science should be fun …

Was both a very good and a very bad day yesterday.  I will leave out the bad here other than to say that a close relative was diagnosed with a very bad cancer.  Fortunately, I had already planned to have my lab meeting (in picnic format) out at Yolo Basin Wildlife area and so I had to soldier on.  I scouted out the Yolo Basin in the early AM (after dropping my mom off at the airport).  And during the scouting trip I saw all sorts of cool wildlife.  Some of the pics are below:

Coyote hunting rodents off in the distance

Ring necked pheasant

And then I headed on over to where we were going to have the picnic (to make sure they were not doing any construction work near there as I had seen trucks there a few days before).  And on the way to the parking lot I saw some otter poop in the road.  It seemed very very fresh.  So I slowed down (to even less than the 15 MPH I was going) and then I saw them.

Two otters.  Just a few feet in front of me.  Playing.  They eyed me suspiciously, and then headed into the little channel.

After a brief swim they headed out on the other side.

And then they eyed me from the safety of the other side and sniffed around, scratched, pooped and did many other things.

And then I guessed they decided it was time to go back in the water.

It seemed like they were egging each other on and then decided to both go in at the same time.

And then they swam around, mostly ignoring me and headed off.

What a wonderful sighting.  And then I headed on out of the park to get some picnic food.  But I went slowly and took some bird pics along the way.  Some very nice lighting as it was still early in the AM.

Lots of avocets, which are very photogenic

And lots of white faced ibises, which, depending on the angle relative to the sun can seem drab or glorious

And a slew of other birds including ducks, herons, etc. Here are some highlights

Breeding colors for egret (see green on nose)


Ruddy duck couple
Ruddy duck couple
And then off to buy food and then back to Yolo Basin to meet up with my lab.  
We had a picnic.  I was too distracted to take too many pics.  Here are some I took. Will try to post some from people in the lab too.

and then went for a hike.  Didn’t take too many pictures of that but here are some.  Good that 

Otter prints

Black shouldered kite
And then headed out, not before taking some more pics on the way such as this one

Oh and of course, there was some chatter on Twitter about lab meeting … see the Storify here.

And in response to some comments on Twitter – here are a few pics with plants featured. Mostly, I note, I was focusing on animals because I had my telephoto lens on the camera and did not switch until the very end of the day to a macro lens.

Good day at Yolo Basin – Birds, Otters and more

I love Yolo Basin Wildlife Area. Only a 5-10 minute drive from Davis or a 20-30 minute bike ride.  It is phenomenal.  For more about it see the links below:

I drove over there there yesterday as a way of clearing my head after a bit of a rough day the day before.  Drove around the gravel roads in the park for a bit and got out a few times to look around.

First sighting of something of interest – off in the distance
A little far away for a good pic – but nice American Kestrel

Kestrel again
Some flowers out

Ruddy duck just off the road

Another ruddy duck

A group of Northern shovelers

More Northern Shovelers

Northern Pintails

Northern Pintails

Northern Pintails
Northern Harrier (a lot of Northern things I guess)

Coots (they are everywhere in the park)

Northern shoveler

More pintails

Kingfisher off in the distance 

Forster’s tern (I think)

Forster’s tern (I think)
Forster’s tern (I think)

And then the best moment – there in front of me, running across the road – river otters. They
caught me by surprise but I got this pic through my windshield.  Six of them in total.

I went to where they crossed and looked around for 3-4 minutes
and saw nothing.  As I was getting ready to go I saw
some rippling in the water.  And then ..

One crossed the road.

And off to the other side.

There was a little trail of water in the road.

And then another crossed.

And another

And off into the bushes to the water.

And they then hung out clicking at each other and maybe at me.

They had left a little gift by the side of the road. 
I kept watching 

And then I realized maybe they were waiting for the other three. So
I backed away and looked across in the water on the other side and there they were.

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Overall a good day at the Basin.