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.

Back on Track

Literally. I walked 3+ miles on the track, rowed for 20 minutes, and lifted weights for another 20 minutes this morning — just about what I was doing regularly before we left for our 10 day trip to Santa Rosa. After my workout I came home and took an hour nap; I was exhausted. Hopefully, it will go better tomorrow.

Somehow we managed to dodge most of the fires and smoke blanketing the west on our trip. Our first stops were at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge and the Colusa National Wildlife Preserve. Birding wasn’t especially good, particularly at Colusa, where they were just beginning to fill the fields with water, but we did get to see some birds we seldom see around home.

At the motel we saw a small group of firefighters who had just mopped up earlier fires nearby and were headed north to fires in the Trinity Alps. There were billboards thanking firefighters posted everywhere we went on our trip. The waitress where we stopped in Middleton said that a week before flames surrounded the community. Little did we know that a week later the place would be destroyed by another, even worse fire.

Obviously I spent far too much time riding around in a car, though I walked a fair distance on at least three of the days I was in Santa Rosa, including a beautiful walk at Bodega Bay. I managed to walk around Spring Lake twice and get a few shots. We spent one day at the Heritage Fair, where I got a chance to take shots of the award-winning Dahlias.

I spent a lot of time sampling local wines and eating excellent food. The blistering temperatures limited the distance I wanted to walk. It was much cooler at the Avenue of the Giants in the Redwoods, but I wasn’t thrilled when we were greeted by fog, rain and mid-seventy temperatures at the Oregon Coast on the way home as I’d hoped to get some late afternoon/sunset shots there. We still would have stayed overnight at the coast if we could have found a room, but apparently a weekend in mid-September is very popular on the Southern Oregon Coast and every motel we saw was full.

Instead we drove inland and spent the night at Cottage Grove. Running early, we decided to visit the Swan Island Dahlias. I really didn’t see too many dahlias than the ones I see at the Pt. Defiance Dahlia Garden, but there was certainly a lot more than I see there.

It’s going to take me awhile to sort through all the pictures I took, but hopefully I can get started on that tomorrow, once we have settled back in.

Theler’s Shorebirds

Although there are less of some birds at Theler since they removed the dikes and flooded the fields, I’ve enjoyed seeing a lot more shorebirds at Theler since the changes. Because the numbers are so much smaller than during migration at the beach, you get a better chance of observing single birds than you do at the beach.

Sometimes you even get to see them much closer, like this Yellowlegs that I observed in the small pond at the beginning of the walk. He glanced at me once and went back to the business of finding a meal.


This Dowitcher hung around Theler for nearly a month, giving me multiple opportunities to photograph him.


A small flock of Western Sandpipers hung around several weeks, too,


providing opportunities to get them from unusual angles as they foraged under the bridge that spans the new creek bed.


I’ve already spent hours photographing from that bridge. Like the birds, I’m growing fonder of what I’m seeing at Theler since the major changes.