Sacramento NWR

Usually on our visit to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge we are greeted by rabbits, deer, and coyotes.  On our most recent visit we were greeted by songbirds like this Meadowlark

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and this Red-Wing Blackbird.

Try as they might, the two could not drown out the song of the White-Crowned Sparrows

though the immature sparrows seemed more interesting in foraging than in joining the choir around them.

The House Finches high in the trees weren’t exactly silent but weren’t nearly as loud as the other three,

while the Black Phoebes seemed satisfied to flutter out and back silently.

Disappointingly, there were surprisingly few Snow Geese and the birds seemed more easily spooked than usual, flying away before we could stop and get pictures.

At Ocean Shores

It was a beautiful day at Ocean Shores, but as often the case when there are blue skies there were very strong winds, as shown by the surf breaking over the jetty.

Although I gone to the ocean to see the loons we hadn’t seen on our Port Townsend trip, we got a pleasant surprise when we encountered Surfbirds (turns out they were probably Black Turnstones, a similar bird), a bird that I spent five years searching for before ever finding one. Not coincidentally, it was exactly at this spot that I first spotted one.

On this trip it was quite clear where they got their name from.

Black Turnstone walking on rocks

I suspect that the high surf might have driven them in closer to shore than usual. We sighted a small flock of them on the rocks near the shore.

They would start of the rock and eat their way down to the beach, feeding on crustaceans

When the waves came crashing in they would instantly fly back to the top of the rocks to start feeding all over again, once again working their way back to the bottom of the rocks.

Merced National Wildlife Refuge

Although we didn’t get to see the Sand Hill Cranes we were hoping to see at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge, it was a great start to our trip home from Fresno.  Best of all, the rain predicted held off until we finished our visit.

Birding, like fishing, is unpredictable.  Although I saw shots of Sand Hill Cranes taken a few days before we visited, we didn’t see a single crane on our visit.  Luckily, other birds tried to compensate for their absence.  We were greeted near the entrance by a large flock of White Pelicans

that cooperated by flying in a giant circle around us.

There must have been hundreds, if not thousands, of American Coots at the refuge.  It was tough getting a shot with just one coot in it.

I don’t think I ever realized just how small a Spotted Sandpiper is until I got this shot of one standing in front of a pair of Gadwalls.

As I focused on a small flock of Northern Shovelers, I noticed two small birds in the middle of the flock.  Apparently my camera had as much trouble focusing on them as I did seeing them because no matter how hard I tried to focus on them and not the Northern Shovelers or the reeds on the bank, I only got two out a dozen or so shots where they were in focus.

I think I love seeing Wilson Snipes so much because I looked for them for nearly four years before I ever saw one (though I later discovered two in the background of a shot of Dowitchers I had taken two years before I officially noted them).  When you actually see a snipe, you definitely know you’re paying attention to what’s in front of you.