alaskabirder

Its a Great Day to Bird

California’s Central Valley

December 2, 2016

We woke up to a quiet campground (Buckhorn).   The campground is located overlooking a reservoir amidst scenic rolling hills.  Again, we were the only campers in the campground, with the exception of the campground hosts.  The hosts were in a closed section of the campground however.

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This is oak savanna habitat with lots of rolling hills and oaks interspersed throughout the habitat. One of my favorites.

We decided to take a hike and check out the birds in the campground.  Wow, what a pleasant surprise.  We had 21 different species in the campground area.  In addition to the birds we got to see California Ground Squirrels and Black-tailed Deer.

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Northern Flicker

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Say’s Phoebe (these guys are everywhere and so accommodating for photographs – you will see lots of them throughout my blog)

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All I want to do in the morning is hear you sing, Savannah, Savannah. Never knew that a bird like you could ever sound so sweet Savannah (sung to Rosanna).

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Acorn Woodpecker – what you would expect to see in Oak Savannah habitat.

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Oh deer!!!

The area is beautiful, with Live Oak trees spread throughout the campground and a wonderful trail system.  I would definitely recommend a day visit, if not overnight camping.

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Birds Species Observed or Heard at Buckhorn Campground

  • Great Horned Owl (heart two hooting just before dawn)
  • Acorn Woodpecker (chasing off Oak Titmice)
  • Oak Titmouse
  • Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon juncos)
  • Western Bluebird
  • Northern Flicker
  • Great Egret
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Black Phoebe
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Horned Lark (large flock of 20 or more)
  • Northern Harrier
  • Common Raven
  • Savannah Sparrow
  • House Finch
  • Common Merganser
  • Common Raven
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Western Meadowlark

After a morning of birding,  we  southeast towards our destination for the night – Acorn Campground at Hogan Reservoir.  This Corp of Engineer’s campground is located southeast of Sacramento.

We generally take the roads less traveled as we tend to see more that way.  We don’t enjoy speeding down the highway with everyone else on the freeways.   It is amazing what you can see when you take these back roads.

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We suspect this is a Wild Turkey.  We don’t know how it ended up on this road sign or why no one has bothered to remove it.  Well we didn’t either.  Poor thing.

Along the way we stopped off at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area – managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.  At first we didn’t think this area had much in the way of waterfowl, but we soon realized, once we were on the auto route, there were indeed thousands of geese and ducks making use of the ponds within the wildlife area.

There is a charge of $4.00 per person to drive the auto route, but no envelopes present in which to put our money.  We, along with other drivers, went on the auto route anyway.

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Just a few Snow Geese

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These levees are a great place for loafing

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waterway covered in vegetation

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Close up of the invasive plant species in the waterway – nasty stuff

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Eurasian Wigeon

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The auto tour road

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Yellow-rumped Warblers were EVERYWHERE

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Killdeer

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Black-necked Stilt …

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… with a Greater Yellowlegs. The stilts didn’t like sharing with the yellowlegs and kept chasing them off.

Bird Species Observed or Heard at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area

  • Turkey Vulture
  • Snow Goose
  • Red-necked Stilt
  • Western Meadowlark
  • American Pipit
  • Nuttall’s Woodpecker
  • Black Phoebe
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Great Egret
  • American Coot
  • Cinnamon Teal
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Gadwall
  • Mallard
  • Northern Shoveler
  • American Wigeon
  • Northern Pintail
  • Common Gallinule
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Ross’ Goose
  • Bufflehead
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Eurasian Wigeon
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Herring Gull
  • Golden-crowned Sparrow
  • Marsh Wren
  • Black-crowned Night-heron
  • White-faced Ibis
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Killdeer
  • Tree Swallow
  • Greater Yellowlegs (being chased by the Red-necked Stilts)
  • California Scrub Jay
  • Peep sp.
  • American Kestrel
  • Belted Kingfisher

Not a bad day of birding.  I did find a great map on the internet showing birding hotspots and routes in the Sacramento Valley.

(see: https://www.fws.gov/uploadedFiles/Region_8/NWRS/Zone_1/Sacramento_Complex/Sacramento/Uploaded_Files/Maps_and_Brochures/Visitor_Services/Birding_Maps/SacValley%20Birding%20Map%202012.pdf)

December 3, 2016

We wanted to get to two refuges today, and we had a two-hour drive from our campground to the first refuge, so we got an early start.   The first refuge we stopped at was the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge.  We have visited this refuge several times in previous years.

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge

This refuge, established in 1966, encompasses 26,800 acres of wetlands, riparian forest, native grassland, and vernal pool habitat.  A population of the endemic tule elk can be observed along one of the three auto-tour routes.  We actually saw the elk from our vehicle and at the visitor center.

We chose to take an 8.5-mile auto tour route and one of several hiking trails.  The auto tour route took us about 3 hours to complete.  So what’s that – almost 3-miles per hour.  Okay we did drive a little faster, but made frequent stops to check out the birds.  Luckily it wasn’t a busy day even thought it was Saturday.  Lots of great birds along the way, plus we did a 1.0+ loop trail hike on the Sousa trail.

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Well used sign

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The auto tour road

In previous years this refuge has been very dry – not much water.  Not surprisingly considering the drought California has been experiencing.  However, this year there seemed to be plenty of water making great habitat for the birds.  We saw several hundred Lesser Sandhill Cranes, some of which may be Homer birds.  But alas, they were too far away for decent photos.

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Good – doing prescribed burns

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Red-tailed Hawk – Juvenile

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Oh Daddy…

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California Towhee

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Cottontail Rabbit

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Northern Mockingbird

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Jack spotted three Great Horned Owls along the auto route, which was a treat.  And we got to see 9 Wilson’s Snipe, one of which was just off the road feeding.  The Wilson’s Snipe is one of my favorite birds (I know you hear and read that a lot right?).

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“HOO” you looking at?

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Wilson’s Snipe

We stopped a hiked the Sousa Marsh Nature Trail.  Lots of great birds and beautiful habitat along the way.  They have a nice observation platform where you can check out a large pond, which was loaded with ducks and a few shorebirds.

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Didn’t see this sign until after we finished walking the trail. Yikes!!!

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Nest box for a duck, I presume

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Greater Yellowlegs. This bird was feeding along side Long-billed Dowitchers and Black-necked Stilts.

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Black-necked Stilt with lunch

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American Pipit

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Kept hoping to see a Wood Duck – no luck.

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Bird Species Observed or Heard at San Luis NWR

  • Great Blue Heron
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Black Phoebe
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Northern Harrier
  • California Scrub Jay
  • American Kestrel
  • Greater Yellowleg
  • Long-billed Curlew
  • Western Meadowlark
  • Great Egret
  • American Coot
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Mallard
  • Savannah Sparrow
  • Song Sparrow
  • Killdeer
  • Red-necked Stilt
  • American Pipit
  • Least Sandpiper
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Greater White-fronted Goose
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • White-faced Ibis
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Northern Flicker
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Nuttall’s Woodpecker
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Wilson’s Snipe
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Northern Pintail
  • American Widgeon
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Redhead (one)
  • Gadwall
  • Swainson’s Thrush
  • Say’s Phoebe
  • Tundra Swan
  • Mourning Dove
  • Golden-crowned Sparrow
  • Spotted Towhee
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Long-billed Dowitcher
  • Tricolored Blackbird
  • Snowy Egret
  • California Towhee

It truly was a great day to bird.  So much so we didn’t get to the second refuge we had planned to visit today – Merced National Wildlife Refuge.  We have been to this refuge in the past too.

Next stop (after a short visit with my sister in Clovis California) is the Salton Sea.

It’s A Great Day to Bird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

  1. So what is that nasty invasive plant? Nina >

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