Sacramento NWR

Sacramento NWR’s Geese

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.  


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Sacramento NWR

Back to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

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.


Four More from Merced

The few shots I’ve posted on this post and the previous ones don’t do justice to the number of birds we saw at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge, but magical places like this remind us what life must have been in these areas before we drained the wetlands and covered the lands in concrete.

I was a little surprised to see Snow Geese this far south, but I would have been disappointed by how far away they were

if I hadn’t known that I would see a lot more at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge that afternoon.

I was much happier with this close-up shot of a Black-Necked Stilt.

I had a hard time catching a shot of the numerous Ground Squirrels 

perhaps because they knew that if they stayed in the same spot too long that they would become dinner for the raptors we kept seeing circling overhead.