Here is what the ponds looked like a few weeks ago:
Lots of Snow Geese and White fronted Geese crowded the ponds.But on this day the numbers were greatly depleted. This was the largest gathering that we found on the refuge and you can see there are no Snow Geese in the mix.
But even with out the larger numbers of birds we were rewarded with many beautiful views. The rain had helped everything start to green up, making the trails beautiful.
Shoveler Ducks were the most common duck we saw that day. Their too large for their face beaks make them easy to spot.
With the higher water levels the ducks were often further out into the ponds but occasionally you could find them closer to shore.
But, because there were not huge crowds of birds we were able to easily see the smaller ducks like this female Bufflehead!
I was delighted to watch this Black Necked Stilt pick his way across a sandbar. These small waterbirds are often lost in the huge flocks that come here but are easy to see when the birds are more spread out.
The White Fronted Geese were easy to find, gathered in small groups of 3-4 birds in each area. They always seem to be in a meeting. Like major discussions are happening right in front of me!
But there were far more to be found out in the fields where the camouflage worked for them. I have no idea what got their notice but after a few moments they continued to waddle their way across the field.
And Jackrabbits were everywhere! They would pop out of the brush, to our immense delight, and race to another area and disappear, like magic, back into the bush. Moments like that make you feel like you are a little kid again.
While observing the plover these Turkey Vultures decided to drop in on this bit of fresh pigeon roadkill. These are truly huge birds. With 6 foot wingspans they are rather impressive to see up close. It's a bit disgusting but we never got to see them feed due to another car approaching.
Since there were so many different water areas to choose from, the geese were often in the air traveling from pond to pond.The male Shoveler Duck is a gorgeous bird. Emerald green with hints of royal blue on his head, yellow eyes and rust feathers make him one of the more beautiful ducks you can find.
We both wanted to visit the Black Crowned Night Herons again. Neither of us had gotten over the idea of this nesting area for over 100 birds actually existed and were anxious to see if it was a one time treat.
I'm happy to say that it's not a one time thing! We found the herons exactly where they were before. This time, since it was later in the day than our previous visit, some of the herons were awake so we got to see their full colors.
Most were still hiding in their branch nests up in the trees and while there were not quite as many as before, about 70 this time, the vast number just takes your breath away. They are located at the end of the route on your left. So as you approach the bridge again make sure to look left and find them hiding in their branches!
As with Sacramento NWR, the egrets were everywhere. We had driven past this one on our way into the refuge and he was still in the same place when we were driving out again so I made the joke that I had to take a photo of our "buddy". He stood totally still, posing perfectly, while I took his portrait. He took a step or two right before we drove away but he didn't fly away. Make sure you click on the small image to really see how gorgeous he is in the larger version!
Our last treat before leaving the refuge was seeing the deer. I'm not sure if this was Mama and her two babies but the smaller two still seem fuzzy-furry to me like they are still babies.
While watching two other deer this one emerged from the woods. There is just something so delicate and wonderful about her that she, rather than the other two, is the one who captivated me.We left the refuge and began our journey home. The area is filled with farms and orchards and, with our early Spring arriving, some of the trees had begun to bloom. I love how this barn looks with the bare branch Winter trees.
With the rain greening out the grass of the orchards the bare branches look even more striking. In this area you will find almond and pistachio orchards. In fact, California produces most of the pistachios in the world! In Spring you will find these orchards covered in pink and white blossoms.
This beautiful sight of sun rays ended our day. The clouds were rolling back in again, another storm followed our brief break, but it certainly put on a gorgeous show for us.
This next weekend finds us traveling again. I'm going Whale Watching and can't wait to share those photos and that experience with you all. After that we are headed to the San Luis NWR to see if we can find some Tule Elk! See you next week!