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.  

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.

Sacramento NWR

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.  

Sacramento NWR

Way Back Then

Our trip to Santa Rosa seems like a distant memory, but I realized yesterday that I still hadn’t unpacked my camera gear or downloaded the pictures we took at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge — probably because there really wasn’t any shots that I was in love with. I knew before we stopped that it was too early to see many birds, but I find it hard to drive past without stopping. We saw a lot of birds in the distance, like these Black-necked Stilt,

but the only birds we saw up-close and in large numbers was the Greater White-fronted Goose.

And this was the only shot that I really liked.

Unfortunately, we’ve been dealing with a family medical emergency and haven’t had time to get out birding and probably won’t manage to get out in the near future, either.

Moments like this remind us just how easy life normally have been since we’ve retired and will make us appreciate it once again when this crisis has passed. Until then, posts will continue to be reserved for moments like this when I’m sitting home waiting for a package to arrive so I can get back to doing what needs to be done.