After sighting the American Avocets on our walk in Broomfield, I started looking for Avocet chicks since I had seen them there on previous visits. I didn’t find any. Instead, I found this Killdeer
that seemed particularly aware of us but didn’t give an alert or leave the area. That inspired me to start looking for chicks, but I didn’t see any for quite a while. Eventually, I sighted this little guy who stood out in the dark-green foliage.
Apparently he hadn’t mastered the art of camouflage as well as his fellow chicks, which turned out to be quite a bit closer to us than he was.
Most of the chicks were good enough at hiding themselves that my Canon R5 wouldn’t focus on them, so I ended up with a lot of blurry shots of foliage. Still, I ended up with a couple of good shots like this
I’ll never know if other chicks were so good at camouflaging that they just disappeared, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if there were.
On our way down to Arizona we stopped at the Sacramento NWR but didn’t feel like we had time to stop at Colusa, just a few miles away from the Sacramento NWR. Leaving from Fresno, though, I thought we would have time to do Merced, Colusa and Sacramento. Unfortunately, birding was so good at Merced that we didn’t see a lot of birds at Colusa that we hadn’t seen a few hours before.
Snow Geese were the most common birds at Colusa, even though they weren’t there in the same numbers as we had seen them in the past.
The Snow Geese at Colusa are distinctive in that they all seem to have rust-colored heads, which must come from clay in the water. Strangely enough, the Snow Geese at Sacramento NWR, just 30 miles north, don’t have those rust-colored heads.
nor do the Greater White-fronted Geese at Colusa, probably because they mostly eat seeds and waste grain in fields, and graze on new growth.
As usual in California, we saw Great Egrets throughout our trip, but this is a nice closeup Leslie took.
The highlight of this visit was the discovery that the Black-crowned Night-heron rookery seems to be coming back.
There aren’t nearly as many Night-heron as there was when we first sighted them several years ago, but there weren’t any on our last two visits. We’re hoping there will be a resurgence by our next visit.
Even though there is a lot of overlap between birds observed at Sacramento NWR and the Colusa NWR, I’ve never seen a Night Heron at Sacramento and I’ve usually seen them at Colusa. On the other hand, I have often seen Avocets at Sacramento, but can’t remember ever seeing one at Colusa. More importantly, we get to see bird we seldom see at home.
When we weren’t seeing birds while out birding, Ruth Sullivan used to say, “All we need is one good bird.” On a good day, of course, you should see hundreds of good birds, not one. These last shots from Fresno were actually taken on two different days.
We actually saw yesterday’s House Finch while trying to get closer to this American Kestrel.
We never did get close to it, and it steadfastly refused to leave the safety of its perch. I’m sure I’ve gotten better shots of Kestrels, but I still love this shot.
After hunting down the Kestrel, I noticed two Acorn Woodpeckers on some adjoining palms. I think this one was actually building a nest since that hole is much too large to hold any kind of nut that an Acorn Woodpecker could carry up there.
We regularly see Acorn Woodpeckers in Santa Rosa, but, since we weren’t able to fit Santa Rosa in this trip, I was particularly happy to see a pair of them.
On a later walk I spotted a Red-Tailed Hawk circling overhead. Whenever I see an eagle or hawk soaring overhead I try to get a photo. Sometimes I get lightheaded and feel like I’m about to fall over. Most of the time I end up with nothing but blue or white sky. Occasionally, I actually capture the bird within the frame, but the breast and wings are completely obscured by shadow.
This one, though, circled me repeatedly and low enough that I wondered at one point if it was about to land. I suspect this might be the best shot I’ve ever taken of a Red-Winged Hawk in flight.
Right after we spotted the hawk, we started walking down a road that was supposed to lead to the trail. Before long a worker came over and told us we were in a restricted area. We had a short conversation and we told him we were just out birding. He asked me if we had seen the Phainopeplas that were nesting nearby. I had never heard of such a bird and had to ask him to repeat the name. He reckoned we could walk a little further down the road where he pointed out this female Phainopepla.
The Phainopepla was apparently used to people because she perched there for a good five minutes while I tried to get a better shot through a thicket of branches.
A quick search after we were home revealed that the male Phainopepla is jet black and much more striking, but it was still exciting to photograph the female.