Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bird haven: Colusa National Wildlife Refuge

Place: Colusa National Wildlife Refuge.
Coordinates: 39.1719 -122.044

American white pelicans (May 2008)
This post is not about hiking. There is only one foot trail there, and it is less than a mile. I do include it, however, because we quails love birds and a place that has so many of them is always worth telling about. This post is all about wildlife we've seen in Colusa - at least those we've got good photos of.
Great blue heron on a log (May 2008)
We discovered this place when we took a long trip along interstate 5 and were looking for a place to stop and stretch our legs. The little green square on the road map caught my eye and we went inside, Ever since, Colusa National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) has been a pilgrimage site for us. We always go there whenever we take a trip that goes, even vaguely, in that direction.
Common moor hen (May 2008)
Colusa's refuge is part of the Sacramento NWR complex, along the Sacramento river. These were founded to provide a safe haven to all kinds of wildlife, but to migratory birds in particular. These refuge areas are small islands of almost wilderness in a vast sea of farmland. Over the blooming mustards to the east looms the hazy silhouette of the Sutter Buttes.
Sutter Buttes over blooming mustards (May 2008)
Our first visit to Colusa NWR was late in the spring of 2008. Most of the refuge area was still flooded and in the first pool across the bridge we had our first ever sight of Cinnamon teal.
Cinnamon teal (May 2008)
Just before the bridge over the first canal there is the trailhead of the little trail that goes along the canal. The canal was populated mostly with plants, that 4 years later I remembered to photograph too:
(May 2012)
We didn't see many birds there, but plenty of cotton tail rabbits hopped before us as we walked.  We also saw some lizards. Here's one that stayed to pose:
Western fence lizard (May 2008)
We quickly finished our little hike and returned to the car. The main path in Colusa NWR is dirt road for vehicle use only. Visitors are not allowed to leave the car as to not disturb the wildlife. We had to photograph through a rolled down window and remind the chicas in the back to remain quiet during the slow drive along the 3-mile car loop.
Black-winged Stilt wading in a flooded field (May 2008)
Northern shoveler (May 2008)
Some of the areas had already dried out. In one of those dry fields we had a glimpse of color. After waiting patiently, it came out from behind the reeds - a ring-necked pheasant. This pheasant isn't native to America but was brought from China through Europe to be hunted.
Ring-necked pheasant (May 2008)
Swallow tail (August 2008)
We returned to Colusa NWR later that summer and found the place nearly completely dry. Still, there was plenty to see. These pelicans, for example.

American white pelican (August 2008)
The muddy fields supported a number of sickle-beaked birds - white faced ibis.
White faced ibis (August 2008)
The next set of photos is from last May. We saw many Jack Rabbits sitting or hopping about.
Black tail Jack rabbit (May 2012)
A turtle basking in the sun (May 2012)
Where there's water - there's life. A pair of Killdeer roaming a vegetation island. 
Killdeer (May 2012)

Ready to cross the road - American bittern. 
American Bittern May 2012
Already crossing the road - a mourning dove.
Mourning dove (May 2012)
May is a good month for breeding Here's momma mallard hiding behind her brood.
Mallard female and ducklings (May 2012)
I just love the sight of wetland. So lush and rich with life! 
May 2012

With all the bird and rabbits roaming around, we were bound to see their predator. One of them, anyway. 
Prowling Coyote (May 2012)
And in the pool at the entrance we saw this rusty pair. Maybe the same from four years ago, who knows?
Cinnamon teal (May 2012)
A sign post is (almost) as good as a tree (at least when it comes to being an observation point.) 
Western Kingbird (May 2012)
The best time to visit there is during winter and early spring. Most of the refuge is flooded and the place is teeming with life. Ironically, the only time we were the area during the right season we visited the main Refuge of the system - the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, which is not only bigger, but has a proper hiking trail. Sacramento NWR merits its own blog post.

I am posting this now because bird migration season is upon us! Soon the rains will flood the fields again and it would be time to go on another trip to bird haven :-)  


  1. very nice:-)
    I'm happy you took us there too

    1. Thanks! Next time visit during the winter :-)

  2. this is a lovely place, and I'm so happy you took us there 3 years ago :-)

    1. Thanks! I'm glad you liked it. We can revisit there, you know ...

  3. כמה יפה!
    יופי של רעיונות לטיול צפונה :-)