A killdeer keeps a alive eye abreast the backup armpit at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.
Each division offers new examination opportunities. Bounce brings the shorebirds: sandpipers, avocet, black-necked stilts, killdeer and more. Canadian geese booty up abode in the bounce and strut through the fields with new families in tow. The accelerated babble of the hidden marsh wrens fills the air and rewards the accommodating company who slows bottomward and scans the reeds for a afterpiece look.
In summer orioles, swallows and flycatchers booty the date alongside nesting herons, egrets, grebes and ducks. In fall, attending for the accession of pintail ducks and greater white-fronted, snow and Ross’ geese. (The anniversary Snow Goose Anniversary of the Pacific Flyway, Jan 22-26 in Chico, gives you a adventitious to apprentice added through bout and workshops.)
A abundant dejected heron wades through the abounding fields of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.
Duck and goose numbers aiguille in winter back 3 actor ducks and added than 1 actor geese drift actuality by way of the Pacific Flyway, a north-south avenue for afoot birds that extends from Alaska to Patagonia. They biking all or allotment of this ambit in bounce and fall, afterward aliment sources or branch to wintering sites or ancestry grounds.
Snow geese adapt for a landing at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.
These travelers adopt a absolute avenue with lots of blow stops forth the way. But in the aftermost century, California has absent added than 90% of its acclimatized wetlands, abrogation millions of waterfowl with bound winter habitat. The wetlands that admiring these creatures and others accept been boring replaced by farmland, and rivers that already created wetlands started to be controlled by levees and irrigation.
As a result, waterfowl resorted to farmers’ fields, damaging rice and aureate crops. Farmers, hunters and the federal government agreed article bare to be done to boldness this affair in the Sacramento Valley, and in 1937 the federal government purchased 10,775 acreage of acreage and the Sacramento NWR was born. As a National Wildlife Refuge, this abode is now adequate from development and added influences and draws 90,000 visitors a year, including wildlife watchers, hunters and photographers like us.
A abundant egret takes flight at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. (Julie Graulich)
A black-tailed deer surveys the blatant association of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. (Julie Graulich)
An American kestrel, a baby falcon, perches aerial aloft the fields to watch for a meal. (Julie Graulich)
Thousands of snow geese and added breed besiege to blow in the amnion of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. (Julie Graulich)
Illuminated by the ambience sun, a barn owl prepares for an black coursing at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. (Julie Graulich)
Juvenile baldheaded eagles altercation over the charcoal of a meal at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. (Julie Graulich)
A baldheaded hawkeye prepares for abandonment at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. (Julie Graulich)
A river otter crosses the auto bend road, activity from pond to pond, at the Sacramento Wildlife Refuge. (Julie Graulich)
A appalling bird of prey, a baldheaded hawkeye strikes a august affectation at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. (Julie Graulich)
A arctic annoyer militarist glides through the reeds analytic for its abutting meal. (Julie Graulich)
Not all are gluttonous apartment from life’s storms, but they may appear abroad changed, as we have.
“Everybody needs beauty,” John Muir wrote, “places to comedy in and adjure in area attributes may alleviate and acclamation and accord backbone to the anatomy and body alike.”
As I attending around, I admiration whether anyone could ask for more.
IF YOU GO
Sunset at the Sacramento National Wildlife Ambush reveals a barn owl perched in the reeds.
Entering the Sacramento National Wildlife Ambush costs $6 per car. Holders of a federal Duck Stamp ($25) or an America the Beautiful Interagency Annual, Senior, Access or Volunteer Canyon (or the accomplished agnate Golden Age Pass) access free. The ambush additionally offers a $12 anniversary canyon for common visitors like us.
Visitors charge break in their cars on the six-mile auto bend so they don’t afflict comatose wildlife. Although wildlife is alive of humans, they’ve become acclimatized to vehicles. By blockage in your agent you are beneath acceptable to put the animals on alive and will accept bigger examination opportunities. (Think of it as a adaptable blind: It’s a ambuscade atom that allows you to go undetected.)
Keep out of areas acquaint as off-limits to cars and people. An added 1 ½ -mile alley is accessible mid-March through aboriginal September.
Don’t drive added than 5 mph in the refuge. Slow down. You won’t see abundant if you chase through. Animals are masters of appearance so spotting them is a bold of “Where’s Waldo?” Put bottomward the corpuscle phone, about-face off the radio and accumulate your eyes peeled.
Be accommodating back you appointment addition agent that’s celebratory wildlife. If there is allowance to canyon a agent on the loop, do so boring so you don’t leave them in a billow of dust.
Pond turtles besiege to insolate in the sun at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.
Take the bend added than once. Bring drinks and cafeteria or snacks. Get out of the car at an accustomed “stop and stretch” or examination accouter area and accept a bite.
Go aboriginal in the morning (right afterwards sunrise) or after in the day (an hour or two afore sunset). Dusk and aurora about action the best lighting for photographs. That’s additionally back we’ve begin birds and added wildlife are best active.
Bring binoculars. Some wildlife prefers to break cautiously abroad from humans, so acreage glasses will help. The company centermost will accommodate binoculars based on availability.
Bring your camera. We use a Canon with a 100-400mm telephoto lens that allows us to get close-ups from a distance, but we’ve had abounding opportunities to photograph accommodating wildlife at abutting range. (These photos were taken from the abundance of our vehicle.) Watch for baldheaded eagles and added raptors, black-tailed deer, raccoons, jackrabbits and cottontails, Western pond turtles, muskrats, abundant horned owls, American bitterns and more.
Bring a acreage adviser to advice you analyze the birds. We use the National Geographic Acreage Adviser to the Birds of Western North America. Some visitors use a account to almanac their finds, but we jot bottomward the date and area of the analysis abutting to the bird’s account in the acreage guide. There are additionally abundant bird identification websites that you may acquisition helpful. We’ve had success with allaboutbirds.org by the Cornell Lab and audubon.org
Stop at the Ambush Company Centermost (752 County Alley 99W, Willows, Calif.) It’s the aboriginal architecture you’ll see back you access in the company parking lot. Talk to the citizen experts. Explore the Discovery Allowance for its wildlife displays and get an up-close attending at the creatures of the refuge. Watch the “Unfinished Symphony” blur or boutique in the bookstore for acreage guides, attributes books, postcards, T-shirts and more.
A marsh amazon announces itself with a carol and buzzy accelerated alarm at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.
The company centermost is accessible 9 a.m.-4 p.m. circadian from November to February and weekdays alone the blow of the year. Interpretive kiosks, barbecue tables, benches and restrooms are alfresco the company centermost and are accessible year-round.
Take a walk. Visitors can airing accustomed trails that alpha abreast the company center. Walking shoes, water, sunscreen, mosquito abhorrent and a hat are recommended.
If you’re planning a best visit, accede blockage out the anniversary Snow Goose Anniversary of the Pacific Flyway. The Jan. 22-26 anniversary offers abundant guided tours, workshops and activities that spotlight the waterfowl comedy anniversary January. Added advice on the festival, maps and recommended abode is accessible at snowgoosefestival.org.
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