Jackrabbit City at the Refuges

Black-Crowned Night Heron. Copyright ©2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Black-Crowned Night Heron. Copyright ©2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

I got up around 6:00 am and headed out with Sergeant Margie to the Colusa and Sacramento National Wildlife Refuges.  It was a little chilly and clear in Sacramento, but in Willows and Colusa it was hazy and the overcast deepened as the day went on.  Got up to about 68°.

I wanted to get to the Colusa refuge early to see if I could get some photos of the Black-Crowned Night Herons in action (rather just sitting in their sleeping trees).  They hunt by night and sleep during the day.  Even getting there around 7:30 I wasn’t there early enough; they were already back “in bed” dozing away in the trees.  Some were a little further out on the edge of the branches than I’d yet seen them so I was about to get a few more clearer photos of them.  I’d really like to see them out on the water, though…

As soon as I drove into the Colusa refuge I saw a large coyote moving across a field and then realized there was another one sitting nearby in the grass.  Further along, I saw two raccoons moving through the marshes and in other areas I saw mule deer napping in the grass.  Lots of other critters out there today, too, including: Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, American Wigeons, Gadwalls, Pied-Billed Grebes, Ring-Necked Ducks, House Sparrows, Ring-Necked Pheasants, Red-Tailed Hawks, American Coots, Black Phoebes, White-Faced Ibis, Ross’s Geese, Northern Harrier, European Starlings, Red-Winged Blackbirds, a Tri-colored Blackbird, Western Pond Turtles, White-Fronted Geese, Northern Shovelers, Pintails, Jackrabbits, Tree Swallows, Western Meadowlark, and some slime mold.  Among all the usual geese and ducks, I also saw a dark-morph/blue-phase Snow Goose hanging out with the other Snow Geese but sticking out like a sore thumb among them.  I’d never seen one of them before.  I also saw my first Tri-Colored Blackbird (sort of like a Red-Winged Blackbird but with a white trim on its epaulet).  Those were cool.

As I was driving along, a guy pulled up beside me with a blue jeep and asked if I’d seen the eagle there.  Eagle?  Uh, no.  I’ve seen them at the Sacramento refuge, but not at Colusa.  The guy said he thought he’d seen an Golden Eagle there yesterday and was looking for it again.  Wow, it would be neat to see one of them around there!

The dog and I also took the sort one-mile trail along the back of the slough and platform area.  There’s another smaller platform you can walk out onto along the way.  It’s all kind of scraggly and messy along the trail, but I understand that they have the detritus along the sides of the trail to keep people from leaving it and going nearer to the water.  It’s a flat, well-marked trail that’s easy to walk so it’s suitable for all fitness levels.

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Then it was off to the Sacramento refuge for more birding.  I didn’t see any eagles, but the first bird that greeted me as I drove in was a beautiful Avocet.  I hardly ever get to see them; they’re such lovely birds.

It was jackrabbit-city along the auto tour there, too.  I saw several large groups, and a few came right up to the edge of the road before zig-zagging away through the grass.  I also saw some large groups of turtles trying to sun themselves in the partly-cloudy light. Nothing else but the usual suspects along the way, but it was still a nice drive.  By about 1:00 pm we were headed back to Sacramento and got to the house by 2:30.