Sacramento Critters

squirrel Sutter's fort

Tree squirrel at Sutter’s Fort.

We are all aware that many animals share human environments with us. Besides the obvious organisms that take advantage of the fact that we leave behind a certain amount of trash, both inside and outside, there are the ones that live semi-wild in our garden and park areas.

Perhaps the most obvious animals that share the urban environment with us are the birds. However, with my resources these are some of the most difficult animals for me to photograph. Robins, sparrows, swallows, and all their various relatives are familiar regulars in urban trees and bushes. Pigeons are also well-know, and often seem like a nuisance bird. In open areas you will see hawks and other raptors, indicating a considerable but hidden population of ground mammals (mostly rodents). Tree squirrels move around where we can see them, but the rest of those types of animals hide in underground areas much of the time.

Home gardens and park areas may have water features (or regular sprinklers) that support additional animals. These include various amphibians and reptiles, insects, even fish. I should mention soil worms, though these usually only appear when we dig around or after it rains hard. Worms and other soil organisms are an important part of any ecosystem but are another group that does not lend itself to ordinary photography.

We will also see some migrant species come through our cities. Many of us are not particularly aware of which animals are in this category. And there are some birds, like the geese and ducks pictured below, that you might think migrate but might actually be full-time residents. Some of these have lost the instinct to migrate due to being held in captivity over several generations.

geese and ducks at Sutter' Fort

These geese are probably permanent Sacramento residents. I don’t know about the ducks. This is at Sutter’s Fort.

Yesterday (Saturday 1 July) I visited a little museum on Auburn Blvd near Watt that has been known as the Discovery Museum, but will be known as the Powerhouse Science Center when it moves to its new downtown building (an old electric power station). This museum specializes in exhibits for children. Its original emphasis was probably the natural sciences, but it is moving into “hard” technology in a big way, with a “space mission” experience for kids, a planetarium, and more technology-related exhibits in the offing.

The museum grounds include a park and pond. The pond is kept aerated by a fountain. Aeration is important for most urban ponds, as they are usually quite shallow and warm up a lot in summer, which deprives them of vital dissolved oxygen. This particular pond was probably seeded with many of the animals that now grow in it. It has a lot of turtles for just one pond and is teaming with developing frogs (tadpoles / polliwogs). I also saw many dragonflies and a hummingbird. I asked the flying animals to pose for photographs (a habit I’ve taken up, as it sometimes works) and a few dragonflies consented to do so, but the hummingbird would not stay put long enough for me to get a proper photo.

turtles sunning themselves

Turtles sunning themselves at the Discovery Museum pond.

tadpoles in pond

Tadpoles were teaming in this pond.

dragonfly at pond edge

The dragonfly that posed for me.

Some of the first “wild” animals I ran into in Sacramento were ground squirrels at the Marconi-Arcade light rail station. I noticed them many times running across the tracks between their burrows and the public waiting areas. They are a bit nervous and so hard to photograph, but I got a few shots of them finally.

ground squirrel near its burrows

One of the infamous track-jumping Marconi-Arcade ground squirrels.

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