At the Sacramento and Colusa Wildlife Refuges

I got up around 6:30 this morning, set out breakfast for the dogs, and then headed out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge with Sergeant Margie.  It was about 46° outside when I left, and by the time I got back home it was around 72°… so weatherwise it was a beautiful day.  On the way to the refuge, I stopped in Woodland to put some gas in the car and get a few snacky things to eat on the road…

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

At the refuge, they still need to flood quite a lot of it, and there isn’t a wide variety of waterbirds out there to see yet, but in another month or so, it should make for better viewing there. Today, I mostly saw a lot of White-Fronted Geese. I saw a couple of areas where there were swarms of Swallows eating midges out of the air, and I even got a little video snippet of them. The best sightings of the day were: (1) an American Bittern feeding among the water primrose in one of the sloughs. When it saw my car come close, it lifted its head up to expose its striped throat and froze. (Other people drove right by and didn’t see it.) It sat like that until I drove off again, so I was able to get a lot of photos of it. (2) A Great Egret sitting in a tree in the shade right next to the road.  It was sitting on a tree that was growing out of a gully, so it was right outside my passenger side window. After a while it flew out and landed on road right on the edge of the gully, so I got photos of it in both locations.

I also saw White-Crowned Sparrows, a Belted Kingfisher, Columbia Black-Tailed Mule Deer, Northern Pintails, a Northern Harrier, some  California Ground Squirrels, Coots, a Red-Tailed Hawk, a Savannah Sparrows and  Northern Shovelers. There were also some last-of-the-season dragonflies around including some Pondhawks and Green Darners.

The extra loop around the permanent wetland area was closed, so the drive took less time than it normally would, so I left that refuge and drove back down the highway to the Colusa Wildlife Refuge off of Highway 20.

That refuge was almost bone dry, so there wasn’t a lot to see there either, but I did get to see some more geese and duck, some Cattle Egrets, White-Faced Ibis (and I think I also spotted a Long-Billed Curlew among them) some Common Gallinules, Snowy Egrets and Black-Crowned Night Herons.  So I got to see  fairly good smattering of birds today, but I’m anxiously waiting for more to arrive so I can get some better photos…

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Mary K. Hanson is an author, nature photographer and Certified California Naturalist living with terminal cancer.