I actually had today off but I got up at the regular time anyway to get to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge by 7:00 am. It was about 43° when I headed out and got up to 65° by the late afternoon. Sunny and tiny bit breezy all day… It was gorgeous.
I had planned months ago to take today off because I was able to get a spot in one of the photo blinds there. I picked the blind I did because it’s handicapped accessible. But today it wasn’t… there was too much water around it to get to it, and was flooded inside (not deep, but enough to make it unusable). I also have a reservation for a blind at the Colusa refuge for the weekend, but that one is under water right now, so I won’t be able to get to that one either. Not being able to use the blind today was kind of disappointing, but the day was so beautiful, I just drove the auto tour route – twice – and got to see lots of stuff anyway. I burned through 4 batteries and took over 1600 photos! Yikes!
As soon as a I drove into the refuge, I was a greeted by the sight of a small flock of Snowy Egrets feeding in a shallow pond by the entrance, so I was able to get some shots of them right off the bat. Along with the egrets were a few American Wigeons, and one of the males swam right up within view, so I was able to get some good photos of him, too. That was an auspicious start to my day.
I also saw White-Faced-Ibis, Northern Shovelers, a Flicker, Golden-Crowned Sparrows, White-Crowned Sparrows, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Song Sparrows, a Red-Tailed Hawk, Pied-Billed Grebes, Great Egrets, Gadwalls, Black Phoebes, Black-Necked Stilts, Western Pond Turtles, Green-Winged Teals, Bufflehead ducks, a House Sparrow, Double-Crested Cormorants, nests, Western Meadowlark, Mallard, Snow Geese, Northern Harrier, Great Blue Heron, American White Pelicans, a Yellow-Rumped Warbler, American Coots, Cinnamon Teals, White-Fronted Geese and several California Ground Squirrels. I also got a glimpse of a muskrat. He was in the water along the edge of the road. I saw him, he saw me and poof! he was out of there.
There were lots and lots of jackrabbits out and about, and lots of Ring-Necked Pheasants. I saw a pair of American Avocets in a distant pond, one was in its breeding plumage and the other wasn’t. I’d seen Avocets in their breeding colors before, but I’d never seen a “plain” one, so that was a first for me.
I found some Marsh Wrens weaving their nests among the tules… and lots of the tiny males singing away trying to attract females. I got a little video of one of the males working on his nests, and some photos of him emerging from one of them. Further along the route, I came across a spot where a pair of Bushtits were building their nest, and got photos and video snippets of them, too. It’s that time of year. All of the birds are working on home-building projects.
At the end of the auto-tour route I came across a pair of Killdeer. Mama was sitting down in the dirt and papa was patrolling around her. They were head-bobbing, so I thought maybe they were getting ready to mate. I didn’t think they had a nest there because even the though there was a slight depression in the ground, it wasn’t in the kind of dense gravel Killdeer normally prefer (so their spotted eggs blend into the stones). As the head-bobbing continued, I noticed the female was fanning her tail a little bit, so I turned on the video option on my camera expecting to see a mating… But as I watched, the mama surprised me and laid an egg! Literally. A little grey and black spotted egg. That was so cool – and what a great way to end my day at the refuge! I’m a little worried about their nest, though. It’s very near the auto route and right along a spot where some people hike through to get to the pedestrian trails…
I headed back home and got to the house a little before 3:00 pm.