Almost Like Home

Our recent whirlwind trip to California included a quick stopover in Santa Rosa which gave me a chance to walk around Lake Ralphine and Spring Lake and see some birds I haven’t seen recently here in the Pacific Northwest.

A Scrub Jay confronted me as I was walking down to the lake.

Although I had hoped to see the Green Heron I’ve seen there many times in the past, I was satisfied to take this Snowy Egret’s picture instead.

Unfortunately, Spring Lake was still recovering from recent flooding, and I wasn’t to able access many of the areas where I commonly see Green Herons and Night Herons. As a result, I saw less birds than usual.

When we returned to Lake Ralphine two swans that I’d seen out in the middle of the lake had moved closer to shore.

Perhaps my favorite shots of the day, though, were these shots of a female Common Merganser,

a male Common Merganser in breeding plumage,

proving Dan Gurney was right when he told me a few weeks ago that I could see them in California even if they were still rare here in the Pacific Northwest.

Colusa Great Egrets

Since discovering the Colusa NWR, we try to stop there after visiting the Sacramento NWR to check on the Night Heron rookery. Things didn’t go quite as planned this year, though. We had read about California’s heavy rains, but we didn’t get a real first-hand look until we headed toward Colusa where we discovered the road blocked by a semi that had gotten too close to the edge and sank in the weakened shoulder. After a officer directed us around the accident, we saw a car that had apparently tried to cross the flooded highway and ended up submerged in the canals next to the road. At the refuge we discovered the road tour was closed due to flooding.

All was not lost, though, because the field leading up to the refuge contained more Great Egrets than we have ever seen there, probably because much of their nearby hunting grounds were covered in water. Egrets stalked the reeds on the far side of the field.

Bolder Great Egrets hunted the grasslands next to the road.

This one came so close all I could get was a head shot with my 400mm lens,

only flying off when I had overstayed my welcome.

Since we seldom see Egrets in the Pacific Northwest, I wasn’t too disappointed in not seeing many other birds.

Final Shots from the Sacramento NWR

Serious birders will drive hundreds of miles to try to track down a particular bird; I’m not a serious birder. I don’t chase birds, though I do look forward to seeing them at certain places. As I noted yesterday, I had hoped to see hundreds of Snow Geese at the Sacramento NWR as I have seen in the past. I’ll admit that I was a little disappointed that I only saw few of them. Truthfully, though, I go to the Sacramento NWR because I love the PLACE. It’s full of life no matter when I go there, even though it’s not always the life I expect to see.

For instance, I can almost always count on seeing Snowy Egret like this one

and Great Egrets, like this one that just happened to be standing right next to the Snowy Egret.

And if that wasn’t treat enough, I got shots of this male House Finch

and this Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

while standing on the same platform.

I didn’t have to drive too far down the road before Leslie caught this shot of a Downy Woodpecker beside the road

and I got this shot of a Red-Tailed Hawk

daring me to cross into forbidden territory.

Snow Geese at Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

Although we didn’t see the large flocks of Snow Geese that we had hoped to see at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, I did manage to get a few shots of them that I was happy with.

The low sunrise light actually seemed to highlight this flock,

setting them off from the grass in the foreground and background.

Unfortunately the clouds on the horizon made for fickle lighting, and the Snow Goose

doesn’t stand out like the geese in the previous shot.

This Snow Goose on the other side of the road, though, seemed perfectly illuminated.

Although I missed a lot of shots of Geese flying directly overhead, I did manage to catch this shot.

Back to the Sacramento NWR

We just got back from a week-long trip to California where we had hoped to get a respite from the Pacific Northwest’s constant rain. After encountering heavy snow and rain near Mt. Shasta, I wasn’t too happy to wake up to a thick fog that made me wonder if it was even worth driving to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. Luckily, a few miles this side of the refuge, the fog began to clear and sunshine broke through the clouds.

The early morning light was both a blessing and a curse, highlighting this Jackrabbit’s ears,

while casting nasty shadows in the background. The ISO for this shot was actually quite high, and the shot had to be pushed to make it this light.

Although much of the surroundings were in deep shadows, the early morning alpenglow made anything it hit seem even more beautiful than it might actually have been. Although most of this pheasant is in the shadows, the feathers in the sunlight could almost be gold.

A few minutes later and a half mile down the road, these Greater White-Fronted Geese seem quite striking to me.

I think the same can safely be said for this shot of a Snowy Egret stalking the drainage ditch that separates the road from the holding ponds.

Pretty Pictures

Generally I try to convince myself that my photographs simply show off the beauty of the birds themselves. Occasionally, though, I share shots because they strike me as pretty pictures and not because of the way they show the birds.

These three pictures all struck me as pretty pictures,

partly because the bird is reflected in the water,

and partly because of the color from the boats is reflected in the water.