Got to see the Bittern at the SNWR

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Happy Winter Solstice.  I got up about 7:00 AM and headed out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge to see if I could spot some more eagles this time around.  It was cloudy in Sacramento, but by the time I got to Willows, everything was blanketed in a thick fog.  As always, the fog makes long-distance shots pretty much impossible, but helps me focus on things that are closer… and it also fakes the birds into thinking it’s earlier in the morning than it really is, so you get to see some of the birds that usually only come out at dusk and dawn.

One of the first birds I saw along the auto tour route was an American  Bittern.  I’d heard there was one out there, but hadn’t seen it before.  It was actually larger than I was expecting it to be – and it was right out in the open among the tules. Just as I stopped to get some photos, some idiot-woman in a huge motorhome came up on the road behind me and startled the bird. So, I didn’t get as many photos of it as I would have liked.  I stayed where I was an waited for her to move past me before I continued on with the rest of the tour myself.  I did get to see a Bald Eagle, but he was up in a tree over the top of the car, so it was difficult to get photos of him.  He was sitting with his wings hanging down – and I’m not sure what that was about.

I also saw a group of Northern Shovelers all spinning in circles in one of the larger ponds.  I’d never seen that before, so I videoed it for a little while and then looked up the behavior when I got home.  Apparently, I was seeing a “feeding circle”.  The ducks work together to churn up the water and bring up the stuff they eat from the bottom of the pond: water plants, seeds, insects, larvae, and other tiny invertebrates. Kewl!

Here’s a video snippet

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On my trip today I saw:  Red-Tailed Hawks, Turkey Vultures, White-Crowned Sparrow, American Bittern, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, White-Faced Ibis, Ring-Neck Ducks, Widgeons, Cinnamon Teals, Green Teals, American Coots, Mallards, Eared Grebe, Great Blue Heron, Common Gallinule, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Snow Geese, White-Fronted Geese, Gadwall, Northern Shovelers, Black-Necked Stilt, Ruddy Ducks, California Towhee,  Bald Eagle and Ravens…