Birding San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge

I knew that I wanted to spend a day birding on my way home from Santa Rosa, but I didn’t think I wanted to just return to the Sacramento NWR when there were so many other possibilities. I remembered seeing large flocks of shorebirds when I drove from Barstow to Santa Rosa in November so I got out the maps before we left to see what was available there. I discovered that the San Pablo Bay NWR was just south of Santa Rosa, right on the way home.

Although much of the refuge was difficult to reach, one pull-out provided a good opportunity to photograph large flocks of birds. It was here that I found a bird that I’ve been trying to photograph unsuccessfully for the last two years, an Avocet.


There were hundreds of them feeding in shallow water and it was easy once I set up my tripod up to get a number of good shots.


Unfortunately, most of them were not in breeding color; in fact, very few had even started to change colors like this one.


The only bird I saw in full breeding colors was further out and was standing with his beak tucked under his feathers sleeping the whole time I was there.


In the distance, beyond the Avocets, I could see huge flocks of Canvasback ducks. If I hadn’t gotten such a good shot at Nisqually the week before I left I would’ve dragged my camera and tripod down the highway until I could’ve gotten one. Considering that I was unlikely to get a better shot than I already had, I felt such dire actions probably weren’t justified.

flock of Canvasback

Still, it was interesting to read that 44% of all Canvasbacks in the United States winter here.

4 thoughts on “Birding San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge”

  1. Great photos!! I really enjoy the images you’re able to capture.

    I was paddling on Tomales Bay today and saw huge flocks of coots and Bufflehead Ducks, bigger flocks than I’ve ever seen before. Friends paddling on Richardson Bay reported seeing large flocks, too.

    1. The Spring shorebird migration will soon begin on the coast, I’ll go spend the day immersed in huge flocks of birds. It’s my favorite way of reconnecting with Nature and life itself.

  2. Avocets are such elegant birds aren’t they Loren? The avocet is the symbol of our RSPB organisation. They used to be quite rare sightings over here but now they are quite common.

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