Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Birding Trip to Colusa National Refuge, Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge and Gray Lodge

n and coastal scenic areas. Since the forecast was for a weeks worth of storms, Christin and I changed plans. Our new friends Bill Keener and Nance Becker offered to drive us up to birding country for a guided tour around the flooded rice fields and different wildlife refuges that inhabit an area near Williams, CA. We set out to view the flocks returning on their annual migrations. It turned out to be clear weather and the experience simply amazed our senses repeatedly. We have never been birding before, but we do identify some of the local birds here on our trips out to west Marin. Here are some of the impressions and photos from our trip.

THE DRIVE UP... Our adventure started out about 2 hours from Marin by exploring the back County roads en-route to Williams. There were abundant duck hunters, so we knew the birds were around and soon after we encountered a rare flock of about 300 Tundra Swans. Bill said this was very rare. The sounds of their chatter made us smile. Continuing our search we came across a bridge over the Sacramento River that produced a classic river landscape that I might paint someday.
DAY-1... We saw all types of Hawks everywhere, as well as Falcons and other raptors who frequent the trees and telephone poles along the roads. There were Red-Tailed Hawks, Red-Shouldered Hawks, Shrikes, American Kestrals, Northern Harriers, Ferruginous Hawks, Cerlews, White-Faced Ibis, Snow Geese, Canadian Geese, and Pheasants. First day we logged in 17 species in a couple of hours. After we drove to Granzella's Inn, a Williams landmark. We dined at their restaurant and had meals covered with gravy.

DAY-2... The next morning we hit the road early and went to Colusa National Wildlife Refuge and took the 3 mile auto tour through the marshlands. Saw Pintail Ducks, Shovelers, Cinnamon Teals, Buffleheads, Ring-neck pheasants, Curlews, Mallards, Kingfishers, Galanools, Pipits, Snow Geese, Gadwall, Red-Bill Geese, lots of Snowy Igrets and Blue Herons and an amazing sight of 45 Night Herons all nestled together in a bare leafed thicket by the canal (see photo). Next we drove past the Crested Buttes rising high above the Sacto Valley, a fog shrouded the sight but eventually opened up to an incredible and unique landscape. At one field, we passed a group of Sand Hill Cranes whose throaty calls were straight out of the movieWinged Migration. We drove on to Gray Lodge Wildlife area and it was magnificent. A large marsh with all kinds of migrating groups. We added Ross's Geese, Pipits, Cranes, Ruby Crowned Kinglet, Blue Winged Teals, Green-Winged Teals, Cooper's Hawks, Peregrine Falcon and the Bald Eagles. Here are a few amazing highlights. First, we saw a few Cinnamon Teal ducks sleeping right next to a large Turtle... almost on top of the Turtle. Second, a Bald Eagle landed in a tree and shared it with a Peregrine Falcon just 4 feet away. They stayed like this while we feverishly shot photos. Bill said he has never seen this before. Both birds are high on the food chain and quite territorial. The OMG moment of the trip was when we were standing by the marsh photographing a group of white Tundra Geese of at least 3,000 birds. All of a sudden ALL of them took to the air screaming loudly because a Bald Eagle was circling with talons extended at the west end of the marsh. We just stood there with our mouth's wide open. It was something extraordinary and Bill said in his 30 years of birding that he had never seen an episode like this.

We had dinner that night at Louie Cairo's restaurant where the garlic bread was completely covered with fresh sauteed garlic. We joined Michael and Marlene Rosenthal, Greg Lyon and Kathy Duffy, and their other friends. In the morning we decided to have breakfast and drive home after a short trip to the Colusa Refuge once again. Everything was quiet and fogged in.

Although our intention was to scout painting locations, which we certainly found, our eyes were opened to the excitement of birding and how much life travels through California on the annual migrations of both faraway and local birds. Quite simply, you've got to experience this.

No comments: