I was up and out of the house with the dog by about 7:00 this morning, and we drove over to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. This was a “free” day because of the President’s Day holiday this weekend. I did the auto-tour first and then the dog and I walked the middle loop of the wetlands walking path. I was hoping to see some Ibises there this time around, but ended up seeing only one – and that was at a distance, but I got some close-up of other birds. The weather was beautiful, but weird for February: 75º, sunny and very breezy. It was so clear outside, too, that you could see almost every dimple on the foothills, and both Mount Lassen and Mount Shasta were visible from the preserve.
Meadowlarks seemed to dominate the landscape , but I also saw more Bald Eagles than I’d ever seen there: eight, including two near the roadside, four on a little island, and one in flight, and one on another island seen from the freeway. I saw a lot of Killdeer, too. One pair was right alongside the viewing deck in the middle of the driving tour area. They hadn’t built a nest yet (their nests are rings of stone and gravel), but were pacing off the area as though they wanted to build one right there.
So, today to add to my Great Backyard Bird count list I have: Turkey Vultures, Killdeer, Greater Yellow Legs, Black-Necked Stilts, Northern Shovelers, Ruddy Ducks, Widgeons, Red-Tailed Hawks, Meadowlarks, all sorts of sparrows (mostly White-Crowned. House and Savannah), Brown-Headed Cowbirds, a Ring-Necked Pheasant, Pintails, Buffleheads, White-Fronted Geese, Snow Geese, Coots, Black Phoebes, Cinnamon Teals, Buffleheads, Bald Eagles, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, White-Faced Ibis, Raven, and Goldeneyes… Phew! Among the geese, I saw a Snow Goose “slumming” with a flock of White-Fronted Geese… and then noticed that in the flock were two geese that looked like hybrids of the two species. They had the head coloring of the White-Fronted Geese, but their bodies were pale. Not pure white, but more like pale, pale tan… The “new” bird for me was a pair of what I think were Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata). I’m not entirely sure, though, because neither had a red patch on their faces. They might both have been juveniles. They swam like ducks, but had “triangular” shaped bills (not flat duck-like bills).
On my way out of the preserve, I stopped to photograph a mule deer browsing along the railroad track by the freeway. The I headed back home. The fruit orchards all along the highway are in bloom already; row after row of pretty pink trees. One orchard, though, was inundated by starlings, on both sides of the road. There were so many birds that the trees and ground where they were sitting were completely covered, pitch black. It looked like huge black holes in the landscape. So odd!