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.

Egrets and More Egrets

After seeing so many Egrets on our way to Santa Rosa, I was disappointed when I didn’t get a picture of a single one at Lake Ralphine or Spring Lake. I should have known that I’d get several pictures on the way home at the Colusa or Sacramento National Wildlife Refuges. We didn’t have to wait long, either; this shot of a Great Egret was nearly the first of our shots.


From a distance, and because it was standing in rather light shrubs, I assumed that it was a Snowy Egret, but a close look at the beak indicates reveals it’s definitely a Great Egret.

Through the lens of the camera it’s easy to confuse the two, but when you see them together there can be no doubt which is the Snowy Egret and which is the Great Egret:


the Great Egret dwarfs the Snowy Egret.

Although egrets are becoming more and more common in the Pacific Northwest, I still identify them with California, particularly the Snowy Egret, which is less common the further north you go.


Compared to many birds, they’re a great photographic subject because they’re relatively indifferent to people and because, like the Great Blue Heron, they stay in one place, poised for the moment their prey exposes itself.


As a result, I already have a number of excellent shots of both species. Luckily beauty like this is always striking, no matter how many times you have seen it.