It seems like that the heavy rain that escorted us home from Willows California has stuck around for the last month and a half. Desperate for a day out birding, Leslie and I decided to go out Monday, the day with the least amount of forecast rain.
When I started to get ready the night, I was shocked that I didn’t know where much of my equipment was. Turns out that I hadn’t unpacked most of it and had trouble remembering exactly where it was all packed.
Judging from the steady rain we’re having today, Monday may well be the best day of the week, but that’s not saying much. Luckily I’m a true Pacific Northwesterner and don’t mind walking among the clouds.
With weather like this, it’s impossible to capture birds in flight and it’s best to shoot for striking silhouettes like this shot of cormorants with mergansers in the background
or black and white images, like this shot of a Great Blue Heron with its feather coat.
By the time we turned around at the mid-point of our Theler walk, it was hard to tell if the clouds had finally decided to rest on the ground or if it was actually raining. Naturally, it was precisely then that this Spotted Towhee
and Downy Woodpecker decided to pose.
Rain is what makes Washington the Ever-Green State, but I’ll have to admit I’m beginning to suffer from cabin fever and am looking forward to a few sunny days when I can plan a trip to Port Townsend or Westport
Although I’ve never seen as many Snow Geese or Greater White-Fronted Geese at the Sacramento NWR as I did on my first visit several years ago, it is still impossible to photographically convey just how magnificent it is to see the sky filled with thousands of Snow Geese, especially when you’re limited by gray skies, but even in low light the camera does a better job than the human eye of freezing the action.
Luckily, it’s easier to set the camera on automatic and take shots of them when they’re standing safely on the other side of a pond.
Ideally, I think a good wildlife photographer strives not to disturb his subjects, but all too often the birds take flight when you point a camera at them, particularly during hunting season.
There aren’t nearly as many Greater White-fronted Geese as there are Snow Geese, and they seem to prefer smaller flocks.
Although they migrate to Canada and Alaska to breed, they seem to bypass Washington, which probably explains why I try harder to get pictures of them than the Snow Geese when I’m in California.
We stayed overnight in a nearby motel hoping the weather would be better the next morning before heading home. Unfortunately, it only got worse. Not only was it cloudy and wet, but there were high winds, and high winds are seldom good for birding.
By the time we left the Merced National Wildlife Refuge the clouds had begun to move in, and they just kept getting heavier the further north we went. By the time we finally reached the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, the skies had already turned gray. With the next day’s forecast even worse, we made one trip around the preserve.
Luckily, there were lots of birds there, especially the Snow Geese and the Greater White-Fronted Geese we had become accustomed to seeing here in the Fall.
The best pictures of the day were definitely ones where the birds were sitting relatively still, and luckily there were quite a few birds that were willing to do exactly that, like the Red-Tailed Hawk,
this American Bittern who might have set a record for pretending not to be there,
this American Pipit,
and these notoriously hard-to-spot Great Horned Owls
Huge flocks of Snow Geese and Greater White-Fronted Geese may be the main attraction at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge this time of year, but seeing the unexpected certainly adds to the overall experience.