Hiking the  San Joaquin River Gorge Special Recreation Area with Jeff and Debbie

Leslie and I decided that while we were visiting Bill and Alice in Phoenix we should also visit Jeff and Debby for two or three days on our way there. Jeff and Deborah decided we should take our first hike of Spring/Summer at the  San Joaquin River Gorge Special Recreation Area.  (At least it was warm enough that it seemed like summer to those of us from the Pacific Northwest where the temperature has yet to reach 70 degrees so far this year.  

The view of the Gorge was quite spectacular, 

but the real highlight of the hike, for me, at least, was the flowers, which ranged from the delicate beauty of this Dodecatheon,

and these Cowslip

to this huge Silver Lupine, which dwarfs the Lupine we are used to seeing in the North Cascades.

That’s Leslie and Deborah on the left, showing just how big this plant was.

However, the Lupine seemed small in comparison to the Red Bud that lined both sides of the canyon.

This might not have been a very challenging hike if I were hiking it in the middle of summer, but I’ll have to admit that I was sweating on the way back up the trail and my knees were a little sore by the end of the hike.

Luckily, it was beautiful enough that I didn’t feel tired until we were almost back to the car.  

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 On our previous visit, the dock at the beginning of the hike was full of Bufflehead, but on our second walk, they had been replaced by male Common Mergansers in breeding plumage.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.

You Choose a Favorite

Hopefully visitors to this site realize that all they’re seeing is highlights of our birding expeditions.  I’m sparing the visitor from having to see all the bad shots that have to be taken before I can get a shot worth showing to others.  On the other hand, sometimes the visitor doesn’t get to see excellent shots that were arbitrarily deleted by the writer/editor/ proofreader/me.

Taking the photos is the fun part of this job; sorting through them, deciding which to delete and which to keep, and fine-tuning those chosen for publication is the hard part of the job

Sometimes deciding which photo to use can be the hardest part of all, particularly when I like all the photos in a sequence. For instance, I took 22 shots of the Snowy Egret that landed right in front of me on the swimming hole at Spring Lake as I waited for Leslie. Unfortunately, I loved all of them.  Not a really bad shot in the whole group, but I’m certainly not going to polish all of them up.  So,  here are six of my favorites from that sequence.

Birding Santa Rosa

The weather in Santa Rosa was not very cooperative with heavy rains for at least two of the days, but I did get out and walk from Lake Ralphine to Spring Lake twice, though the best birding area on Spring Lake was closed because of flooding. 

I’m definitely not going to complain when the days it wasn’t raining were bright and sunny.  There were lots of birds and in general they seemed to be accustomed to having people around and it was easy to get good shots of them. I do see lots of female Bufflehead around home, but seldom as close as this one was.

The males seemed particularly bold, though, perhaps because there were a lot more males than females, and the males had to seem courageous to attract a mate.

It takes nearly perfect light to capture both the black and white feathers of the male Bufflehead. It had to be tweaked in Photoshop, but I was really happy that the white feathers weren’t washed out.

There were a lot of birds singing along the trail between the lakes, but it was nearly impossible to locate them.  I felt lucky to get this shot of a Yellow-rumped Warbler.

This Spotted Towhee was hard to miss as it posed for its shot instead of disappearing into the underbrush as they usually do.

My favorite shot of the day, though, was this shot of a Western Bluebird which posed even longer than the Towhee. He posed patiently while I circled him to get the best angle.  

I’m always amazed by the number of birds I see at Lake Ralphine and Spring Lake despite the considerable number of people walking and riding bikes there.