Lots of Birds and Deer at the Refuge on 12-19-15

Around 7:00 am I headed out with Sergeant Margie to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  I wasn’t sure I’d be able to see anything; it was overcast, drizzly and foggy in Sacramento.  But I was hoping to get some breaks in the storm by the time I got to Willows… and it seemed to work out really well.

Female Ring-Necked Pheasant. Copyright © 2015 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Female Ring-Necked Pheasant. Copyright © 2015 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

Although I hit a lot of rain heading out, by the time I got to the refuge the rain had stopped, and it was hazy but not too foggy.  Still, because of the wet and cold (it was about 43°) I didn’t know if I’d be able to see much.

As I pulled into the preserve, two of the rangers were outside the nature center clearing out some fallen tree branches.  They both greeted me, and asked me I’d been there before.  I told them, yes, I come out as often as I can.  The female ranger said the bird might be shy today because of the weather, and I told her I figured the same thing.  But I also thought that if it was still sort of “dark” and quiet, maybe some of the smaller birds would come closer to the auto tour road (especially if I kept my headlights off)… and with that in mind, I started the tour.

A lot of the larger raptors were up high in the trees and obscured by the haze, but I get to see quite a few… including five Bald Eagles, two adults in flight, two juveniles in flight, and one juvenile sitting in a tree posing for everyone.  He was maybe two or three years old (not into in his white head yet).  That was cool.

It was seemingly a bad day for the Coots.  I saw a Turkey Vulture stand-guarding a dead Coot, watched (and videoed)  a gulls eating another Coot, and then found the carcass of a third dead Coot further along the road (stinking up the place).

Along with the American Coots, I also saw Cinnamon Teals, a Cooper’s Hawk, several Harris hawks (in flight), lots of Eared Grebes, Gadwalls, a juvenile Gallinule, Golden-Crowned Sparrows, Great Egrets, Greater White-Fronted Geese, House Sparrows, Killdeer, a Loggerhead Shrike, Meadowlarks, Northern Shovelers, a Pied-Billed Grebe, Red-Tailed Hawks, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Ring-Billed Gulls, Ring-Necked Ducks, some Ring-Necked Pheasants, a Great Blue Heron, Ruddy Ducks, a ma’jillion Snow Geese, a Snowy Egret, Song Sparrows, Turkey Vultures, White-Crowned Sparrows several White-Faced Ibises, a pair of Wilson’s Snipes and a Yellow-Rumped Warbler.  I also came across a small herd of Mule Deer (one looked super-preggers) and a cottontail rabbit.  So it was good nature-viewing day despite the weird weather.

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I got back home around 2:30 pm, and the clouds were breaking up by then.