Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Although I knew that this wasn’t the best time of year to visit the Sacramento Wildlife Refuge and that first light isn’t the best time for lighting, I can’t imagine not stopping by the refuge on our way to Santa Rosa. It’s that delightful even in off-season and ridiculously early in the morning.

We got this shot of a young buck just after sunrise,


and if it wasn’t for the quality of light I would have just deleted it without a second thought.

Much of the refuge hadn’t been filled with water yet, but the areas that did have water were certainly filled with large numbers of ducks that seemed aware that hunting season is near.


No matter how I early I get out birding at home, I’m never serenaded by a Meadowlark,


a great way to start any day.

Although we didn’t see some of the rarer birds, like American Avocets, we did see several Snowy Egrets, one of my favorite birds to photograph.


We even saw a single Night Heron.


The best shot of the day, though, came at the end of the tour when we sighted this Peregrine Falcon


posing in ideal sunlight while both Leslie and I shot away. Although I’ve managed to get shots of Peregrine Falcons even at home, I’m pretty sure these were the best shots we’ve ever managed to get — even if it was Leslie who actually captured the shot.

In the Morning Light

With a long drive in front of us, I wanted to get an early start on our last day in California and get a last look at The Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge even though I knew the light wouldn’t be ideal at that hour.

We finally got to see the flocks of Snow Geese that we hadn’t yet seen, though the orangish, sunrise light gave them a different look than I’ve seen before.


The same light gave this male Northern Shoveler an almost surreal look.


We didn’t see a single Avocet, but this Black-Necked Stilt


appeared almost as pinkish as Avocets do.

Later, I wished that we had the same light when finally got to Mt. Shasta,


but by then the sun had ducked behind the clouds, giving it a very different look.

Days like that give you a real sense of just how subjective light and the resulting colors can be.

Colusa National Wildlife Refuge

We’ve gotten used to seeing Snow Geese, Avocets and White-Faced Ibis in previous visits to Colusa National Wildlife Refuge. This time, however, we didn’t see a single Avocet and only saw two or three White-Faced Ibis,


and had to wait until the second day to see any Snow Geese, and had to settle for some nice shots of Greater White Faced Geese


which we also seldom see here in the PNW.

We did enjoy seeing the Night Heron Rookery we discovered on our first visit, but when we visited this time they were all roosting in the heavy brush, making it challenging to get a good shot.


Luckily, when you don’t find what you expect, you often find other birds that you didn’t expect, like this Northern Shrike


that Leslie got a nice shot out her window, and this Marsh Wren


announcing Spring to the world.