A Quick Return to the Sacramento NWR

We barely got back from an earlier trip to Santa Rosa before we headed out to Fresno and Phoenix.  It was too far to drive to Fresno in a single day, particularly since we had to wait until the mailman delivered some medications from the VA.  Fortunately, our late start was advantageous because we missed all the rush-hour traffic. Unfortunately, we didn’t reach Willows until nearly 10 P.M. 

Since Fresno wasn’t far from Willows, we had time to take a quick drive around the Sacramento NWR auto tour in the morning before heading out.  Instead of unpacking all our photo gear, Leslie and I shared a single camera, passing it back and forth whenever we saw something worth taking a picture of, so I’m not sure which of us took a particular photo. 

We heard plenty of Meadowlarks singing but didn’t get a single shot of one singing.  Instead, we got a shot of an angry-looking Meadowlark who was obviously tired of being photographed.

We didn’t see the large flocks of Snow Geese that we had seen a few weeks before, but there were small flocks throughout the refuge.

Killdeer are common on the refuge, but it’s a little unusual to see them wading.

We saw about the same number of Black-necked Stilt we saw on our previous visit. and they were obviously used to people taking shots of them, at least when you kept your distance and stayed in your vehicle.

I particularly liked the reflections in this shot. 

The highlight of the day had to be seeing this White-Faced Ibis near the end of the auto tour.  I never quite managed to get a shot of it in the kind of light that makes all those colors iridescent, but I was still pleased to sight one and get a few good shots.   

Seeing the first bird of the season isn’t quite as exciting as seeing one for the first time — a “lifer,” as it were — but it’s still a special moment.  

We still didn’t see the first American Avocet of the year on this visit. But we knew we would have one more chance on our return trip.

A Quiet Walk at Theler Wetlands

It’s been quite a while since we managed to get out to Theler Wetlands, so I wanted to see what was there before we left for another trip to California and Arizona.  If this visit was typical of the last few weeks, we haven’t missed too much.

You know it’s a slow day when I stop to get a shot of a male Mallard, even though I’m always a little surprised how beautiful they are when you really look at them.  That iridescent head is a real knockout. I’m not sure familiarity breeds contempt, but it certainly seems to breed indifference. 

We also saw several pairs of Green-winged Teal feeding along the opposite side of the Union River.

Although there were still some small flocks of Canada Geese, most seemed to have paired off and were loudly claiming their territory when they weren’t feeding.

Luckily, Leslie saved the day, at least photographically, when she spotted our favorite Marsh Wren loudly proclaiming that we were intruding on his kingdom.  

Marsh Wrens are definitely a favorite, and I really liked this shot. 

As the saying goes, “All we need is one good bird.”  And we got it.

Another Walk at Lake Ralphine/Spring Lake

Part of what makes the Lake Ralphine-Spring Lake walk so attractive, besides the good workout, is that you never know what kind of birds you will see there.  On our previous visit, the dock at the beginning of the hike was full of Bufflehead, but on our second walk, they had been replaced by male Common Mergansers in breeding plumage.

I have never managed to get closer to one of these than I have repeatedly at Lake Ralphine.  

I looked for the Mute Swan that is often at the dock, but it was way on the other side of the lake.

We didn’t see any small birds on this walk, but we did see a Red-shouldered Hawk, another bird I’ve only seen here before.   

On our return leg, Leslie sighted a Night Heron, another bird we never see in Washington.

When we finally got back to the parking lot, the Mute Swan was so close that I couldn’t manage to fit it into the camera frame so I had to resort to a close-up of its head.

The many birds we see always make this 3.5 hike a joy — a favorite part of visiting Santa Rosa.

Birding Bodega Bay

We dodged rain and managed to get to Bodega Bay on our last day in Santa Rosa.  It seemed a little bit busier than usual because of how much rain they had recently.  Unfortunately, that meant there were less birds than usual, or at least fewer than I have been lucky enough to see in recent visits.  

Still, I’m never one to complain about a sunny day at the beach, no matter how few birds I might see.  This Willet was the only large bird I saw on the beach, and he insisted on running every time a walker came by.  

We saw far more birds in the wetlands across from the beach than we did on the beach itself, possibly because there were few birders than beach walkers. 

There were several Red-Breasted Mergansers, but this immature male was the only one who stuck around long enough to get his picture taken.

There were several Great Egrets, and they were as indifferent to people as Great Blue Herons are.  

The last photo of our trip to Santa Rosa was this Snow Egret on the docks by the restaurant where we stopped for lunch.