Vacation Day One. I got up around 6:00 am and took off to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge with the dog. It was supposed to be overcast and wet all day – and it was, but in Willows the rain was mostly a very light “mizzling” rain (heavier than mist but not really a drizzle) that turned itself on and off throughout the day. I only had to close the car windows once to keep heavier rain out, and even then it was just for a few minutes. The rest of the time, I was able to keep the windows open. Because it was cool – around 53° — I also had the floor vents in the car open and the heater on blowing warm air onto my tootsies. The cool thing about photographing when it’s overcast is that you don’t have to deal with glare and deep shadows, and that puts everything on the same “scale”.
The wildflowers were starting to winnow away at the preserve, and the grasses, vetch, teasel and other thistles, toyon bushes and other plants – like Hemlock – are starting to build up and bloom… in some places I had Killdeer running alongside the car on the gravel auto-tour road. They make nests out of the gravel and their eggs look just like little stones. I worry that some of them are building nests on the road, and they’ll get squished by the cars. I guess it comes down to “survival of the smartest”; the birds “stupid” enough to build nests in the probably won’t generate many (if any) offspring… There were Jackrabbits in abundance, too. In one place there were five of them all running and hopping around together. Since jack’s are generally solitary animals, I assumed the group was a mom and her nearly-grown offspring… Meadowlarks, Marsh Wrens and blackbirds were singing from everywhere. I got a little video snippet of the Meadowlark song… Among the blackbirds, I also saw my first Yellow-Headed Blackbird – a female who was hunkered down in the tules trying to keep warm… It was such a shock to see her among all the Red-Winged Blackbirds that at first I didn’t know what to make of her… And I think I spotted by first Loons, too, but they were so far away the photos aren’t all that good. I think they were whether young Common Loons or Pacific Loons. They had brown heads…
Saw a couple of Red-Tailed Hawks, and several American Bitterns, including one walking through the tall grass toward the tules, and I heard several other Bitterns give out their “pumper-lunk” calls from amid the overgrowth. I don’t remember ever seeing (or hearing) this many of them before. I wonder of “climate change” has dumped them all into this area this year… Came across a Striped Skunk running through the grass alongside the road. He came out of nowhere and was moving so fast I hardly had a chance to get my camera on him and ended up with a bunch of blurry photos. Sigh. I need to be “faster than Nature” to get good shots sometimes… And there were Ring-Necked Pheasants everywhere.
I also saw Double-Crested Cormorants, a few Snow Geese, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, several Kingbirds (Cassin’s, I think, rather than Western, because the head was kind of a dark charcoal gray), loads of American Coots (of course; they’re kind of ubiquitous), several Western Pond Turtles, Cinnamon Teals, a Purple Finch (They are actually red, not purple.), a few Mourning Doves, House Sparrows, some Long-Billed Dowitchers, Greater Yellowlegs, Mule Deer, Clark’s and Western Grebes, some Green-Winged Teals, Turkey Vultures, and a few Northern Harriers. So, even though the weather wasn’t the best, there were a lot of things to see and photograph. I think I ended up with something like 550 photos!
By the time I was done in the refuge, it was already around 2:30 pm and I wasn’t looking forward to the 2 hour drive back to Sacramento, so I drove in to Williams and the dog and I did an overnight at the Ramada Inn there. We shared a Subway sandwich and then hit the hay.