Sacramento NWR, 1/24

Denise and David Hamilton

Hi all,

We made our annual visit to Sacramento NWR yesterday in perfect weather. Highlights at the refuge include:
- Merlin- at the beginning of the route; Peregrine Falcon by the observation platform; adult Ferruginous circling around toward the end of the auto route, close to I-5.
- Bald Eagles- at least 6 adult birds, and several imm.
-1000's of Snow Geese (several "Blue" morphs) and Greater White-fronted Geese, & Ross's Geese mainly on the later half of the tour route.

We then drove the backroads stopping and checking flooded fields. Along Road Z and Seven Mile Ln. there were plenty of Tundra Swans, but spread out all over. What amazed us was the number of Pintails- the most numerous duck everywhere!

At the Sacramento River NWR Llano Seco Unit, the tiny islands were covered in Dunlins. Scoping from the platform, we saw at least 4 male Eurasian Wigeons. There were also Cackling Geese. Some Sandhill Cranes were across the road, back aways along a ditch.

We continued driving around in hopes of seeing more cranes and weren't disappointed. We ended up on Afton Rd. west of Aguas Frias Rd. and came upon Howard Slough. Even though the water was muddy brown, it looked like an excellent spot for Wood Ducks. We stopped to check it out and sure enough there were at least 20 ducks and one Orange-crowned Warbler.

Around 3:30, we continued down Afton Rd. and right at the intersection with Rd. Z there were the Sandhill Cranes. We watched as they continually flew in- we estimated several thousand of them! It was getting too late to work our way over to Gray Lodge, so we started back toward I-5. On Butte City Hwy ( Route 162) we drove over the Sacramento River and noticed a NWR sign below us. So we stopped and turned right back to the Sacramento River NWR Sul Norte Unit. There is hunting there (disabled access), so not sure how much hunting goes on, and apparently the place can be under water this time of year. But there was only one other vehicle in the parking lot, so we walked down along the wide gravel trail along a scrubby edge of blackberries, willows, oaks, etc. We picked up most all the usual oak woodland birds there to help pad our day list to 91 species.

Misses: White-tailed Kite (!) and Yellow-billed Magpie.

Best birding,
Denise & David Hamilton

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