Date: July 5 and 6, 2017
Place: Modoc National Wildlife Refuge and near area, Alturas, California
Coordinates: 41.461836, -120.508371
Length: about 1 mile
We came out of Pine Creek Basin fairly quickly. Although at the tail of a 4-days backpacking trip we were energized still and ready to see more. Besides, it was still very early in the afternoon when we made it back to Alturas. So after eating lunch and reserving a hotel room for the night we headed to the Modoc National Wildlife Refuge to see what we can find there.
It was nice to see all the ponds full of water.
|The Pond is Full|
We started on the auto tour sitting in our usual arrangement: me at the wheel, cPappa Quail beside me with his camera in his lap, and the chikas in the back, the younger trying to engage the elder in some sort of discussion and the elder hushing her because she is looking for birds. The first animal that we stopped for, however, wasn't a bird but a muskrat in the canal near the road.
The muskrat didn't linger around and after it went away we continued our slow drive with the windows rolled open.
We've been at this refuge once before. It was April and spring has just begun at the Modoc Country. Many of the birds we saw then were wearing their courtship plumage. Sandhill cranes don't have special courtship plumage but they were busy nonetheless. On that visit we got to see a mamma crane sitting in her nest on a tiny weeds island in the pond.
|Sandhill Crane Family. The colt is the bird on the left.|
Uo close the water surface didn't look as impeccable. Birds were swimming in it, creasing the surface and sending ripples that bounced off the floating vegetation.
|Pied-billed Grebe with a snack|
We got back in the car and continued to drive around the large pond.
As we were approaching the visitor center area Pappa Quail called me to stop with great excitement: there, on an island go tule in side the pond were two sandhill cranes. Next to them was something tiny and orange that was moving - a baby!
The young colt was bobbing up and down between the reeds and its parents and it was difficult to get a clear view but Pappa Quail did a fine job of capturing a photo/ Meanwhile I had to fight my elder chika over the single pair of binoculars that we had with us. Eventually I prevailed (Muahahaha). Not to worry - she got a good long time looking through the binoculars at the baby crane.
|Sandhill Crane Family|
|Silvery Lupine, Lupinus albicaulis|
|Northern Harrier, male|
We sure did see pronghorns there. A bunch of them - adults and juvenile.
|California Quail, male|
|Common Sunflower, Helianthus annuus|
The canal was fenced and on a fence pst was a red-tailed hawk. Behind it were a couple of sandhill cranes. All three were pretty far off. What was closer though was horned lark that perched on the fence just ahead of us.
|Canada Geese in the field near the refuge|
We completed the auto tour and after a quick lunch in town we started southwest toward Lassen Volcanic National Park, where we planned to stop on our way back to Redding. When we arrived at Fall River Mills it was time to fuel the car but we stopped less than a mile short of the gas station: once again there was an eagle in the sky and this time it was a bald eagle.
By the time we arrived in Redding my mind was already busy planning the next camping trip. But at night I closed my eyes and let my mind take me back once more to the Warren Peak and to Pine Creek Basin, and to the sight of cranes in the fields of Modoc Country.