Friday, July 12, 2013

A Walk Through Bird World: The Foot Trail of Sacramento NWR

Place: Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, California
Coordinates: 39.4066, -122.1634
Length of foot trail: about 2 miles.
Difficulty: easy.

After discovering Colusa National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), which is part of  the Sacramento River NWR system, we made it a fixed stop anytime we travel through the area. The largest unit of this system and where the headquarters are is the Sacramento NWR. We visited there several times and the photos I'm showing here were taken on our two most recent visit: on Thanksgiving Day 2012 and on Memorial Day 2013. The close-up bird photos were taken by Papa Quail. I took the wide shots.
November 25, 2012: Red-tailed Hawk, juvenile.
Sacramento NWR is open for visitors year-round and requires an entry fee. (It is included in the America The Beautiful pass). It has a two-mile loop trail the meanders between several habitats. It is great for stretching the legs after a long drive and also for viewing wildlife, of course.
November 27, 2012: White-tailed Kite
Going north from the headquarters, the trail loops around a seasonal wetland. On November it is nicely flooded.
November 27, 2012
Before the rivers going down from the mountains were tamed and Central Valley gone to agriculture, a large area of it used to be a seasonal wetland, flooded each winter. This wetland was the winter home of countless of migratory birds from the North.
November 27, 2012: Snow Goose
Nowadays, less than 10% of these wetlands remain. What is left is managed by several conservation agencies. The Sacramento River NWR system being the most prominent. 
November 27, 2012: Greater White-fronted Goose with Northern Pintail and Mallard
Ironically, these wetlands survived due to the action of hunting clubs that wished to preserve some wild areas for the game.
November 27, 2012: Snow Goose
Hunting is allowed in the refuge areas during Fall hunting season. The game are migratory ducks. Although waterfowl was plentiful, earlier hunters introduced a foreign game bird that is now present year-round: the magnificent Ring-necked pheasant.
November 27, 2012: Ring-necked Pheasant
People aren't the only hunters there. 
November 27, 2012: Bald Eagle, 1st year juvenile
And hunting isn't restricted just to daylight. We were fortunate to spot this night time hunter sleeping, hidden in a tree: a Great Horned Owl.
November 27, 2012: Great Horned Owl
The foot trail crosses the entrance road and continues through a dry prairie. Between the power line poles I got a clear view of the Sutter Buttes to the southeast.
November 27, 2012: Sutter Buttes
Besides the foot trail, Sacramento NWR also has a seven-miles car loop. Wildlife viewing is allowed there from the car only.
November 27, 2012: Savannah Sparrow, adult, Belding's
And we had some excellent sightings on the car ride too.
November 27, 2012: A Raccoon sneaking behind a Great Blue Heron
The car path has a stopping place with a viewing deck. Papa Quail went up to photograph the geese.
November 27, 2012
I rummaged the trunk for a snack for the chikas. We were not the only ones who wanted to eat, though. None of us was harmed. The Quails and the wasp parted in peace.
November 27, 2012
At the end of November the refuge is full with birds We remained till evening and watched the noisy fly-in of thousands of birds getting ready for the night.
November 27, 2012
That was the first day of our 2013 Thanksgiving trip. It was a wonderful day!
November 27, 2012
Memorial Day, and the Sacramento NWR is like a different world. Hot and Dry. The little pond by the visitor center is full year-round. It was covered with red algae.
May 27, 2013: The pond by the visitor center
This visit was the closing hike of our Trinity Alps trip. We were all tired and on our way home. Taking the two-miles easy hike was the perfect break in our long drive.
These days the wetlands are managed by the refuge naturalists who determine the time for flooding and the time for drying. The wetland we saw in the previous Fall was now dry, with only the green tule and other plants indicating the past existence of water there. 
May 27, 2013: Dry wetland
No waterfowl either. Save for a few mallards there was no duck of goose in sight. Still, there was quite a lot of hustle and bustle in the weeds. We even managed to get close enough to some of them :-)
May 27, 2013: Western Kingbird
The local birds were busy with their spring activities:
May 27, 2013: Marsh Wren's nest
They were very noisy too, but hard to see, let alone photograph. Papa Quail has a lot of patience, though.
May 27, 2013: Marsh Wren by its nest
We finished our hike and decided to skip the car tour this time. It was time for us Quails to fly back to our own nest.
May 27, 2013: 3+1


  1. This looks lovely :-)
    BTW, I have a suggestion: when you talk about a place you've already written about, make it a link to previous post. For example, here you mentioned the trinity alps - make that a link to that post.

    1. I thought I did ... I guess I forgot this one. Going to fix. Thanks!

  2. Very nice birds pictures :-)