A Quick Stop at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

We finally managed to squeeze our long-delayed trip to Santa Rosa in between doctor appointments.  Though I knew most of the birds would have already left the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge for their Spring destinations, I couldn’t resist staying over night and visiting early the next morning before heading out to Santa Rosa.

One of the neat things about birdwatching is that you usually see birds that you wouldn’t see very often, if at all,  where you live.  For example, we were greeted at the entrance by this Western Kingbird.

and by a chorus of Meadowlarks.

We didn’t have to drive much further before Leslie started spotting a Pheasant, a favorite of hers.

Heck, we even saw a small flock of American Avocets

on the backside of the refuge, and they’re one of my favorite  birds.  It was a great start to what turned out to be a great trip.  

Horned Grebes

Spring is the best time of the year for birding.  There are so many great places to bird it’s impossible to hit all of them.  Luckily, one of my favorite places is nearby.  I love watching the Horned Grebes change from Winter plumage to breeding plumage in just a few weeks.  

We noticed that some of the grebes had started changing plumage two weeks ago

and then we were hit with two weeks of nearly solid rain, not ideal weather for birding or photography.

On the first sunny day we headed back to Port Orchard marina hoping that the grebes would still be there.  In the end, we spotted one grebe in the marina in full breeding plumage. 

and another grebe in even darker plumage on the way back. 

I was a little worried, and disappointed that we haven’t seen more Horned Grebes this year, but I’ll have to admit  that I was thrilled to see one in full breeding plumage because I’m pretty sure they will have all moved onto their breeding grounds before we get back.

The Little Things in Life

Even when things don’t seem to be going the way you’d like them to go, the little things in life can lift you up and help to get you through a rough patch.  

Birding hasn’t really been great locally, but I seldom walk Theler Wetlands without finding something to cheer me up.  The Marsh Wren’s patch of reeds was nearly totally destroyed by high tides and late snow, but our little friend was still trying to attract a mate to his single nest.

The Song Sparrows don’t seem at all disturbed by the high number of trees that were knocked down by the snow.  In fact, there might be more than ever.

The Tree Swallows haven’t returned in large numbers quite yet, but this bird seemed ready to praise the virtues of Spring.

I was particularly pleased with this sighting of a Red-Breasted Sapsucker, a bird haven’t seen for a few years.

I’m past ready for another birding trip, and my Cardiologist has said I can do anything I feel like doing without worrying (too much) about my recent aFib incident.  

Spring May Finally Be Here

Spring has taken a real beating here in the Pacific Northwest.  An early start was interrupted by week-long snow and by freezing temperatures.  The snow finally gave way to a week or two of sunshine, but April took a step back with a record 12 days of rain and another week in the current forecast.  

In other words, it’s been hard to tell if Spring was truly here.  On a recent visit to Theler Wetlands, a field full of spiderwebs suggested it must be Fall, not Spring.

The wetlands looked like a spooky Halloween scene.

Meanwhile back at home those Heralds of Spring, daffodils, were shouting that sunshine was nigh.

In truth, my daffodils have held up remarkably well this year, benefitting from a lack of heat and twelve damp, if not soggy, days.

Of course, it’s foolish to depend on foreign imports to indicate if it’s truly Spring in the Pacific Northwest.  The best indicators are native plants like this Trillium 

After reading Robert Pyle’s Sky Time in Gray’s River I’ve decided that the best indicator of Spring is the native Skunk Cabbage 

and they are bursting forth in increasing numbers at Theler wetlands.