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Archive for the ‘Nature and Wildlife’ Category

After dropping Rob and friends off at a marina in Rio Vista, I spent a little time walking around this small Sacramento River Delta town. Founded in 1858, Rio Vista has been flooded, burned to the ground and relocated.  It is now a destination for boaters and fishermen with its easy access to the delta.  I was draw to the old neon signs around town, and was sorry that Foster’s Bighorn wasn’t open until 10am — I missed seeing the collection of over 300 big game and wildlife “trophies.”

From here I was on my way to look for Sandhill Cranes near the Cosumnes Preserve. Unfortunately, after a beautiful sunny week, the skies had become overcast and rain was forecast for later in the day.   Despite the less that favorable light, I was determined to see the cranes again – and I was not disappointed.  I drove down Woodbridge Road, and although there were no cranes present at the Sandhill Crane Preserve, there were quite a few further down the road.  There were many flocks scattered across the barren corn fields, and they busied themselves with foraging in the mud for grain, insects, and small vertebrates and invertebrates.

Flock of sandhill cranes in fallow corn field. Woodbridge Road

Sandhill cranes in corn field on Woodbridge road

This area is rich, not only with cranes, but with many other species of birds as well.  This great egret seemed to have a lot to say as it strutted along, and I was thrilled to catch this peregrine falcon on an overhead power pole.

great egret

Peregrine falcon on power pole. High Voltage.

By 3 pm the weather was beginning to deteriorate, so it was time to head home.  In the distance I saw this lovely tree, full of blackbirds and one hawk. It was a good day.

 

Blackbirds, hawk in a foggy tree.

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The drive from Mill Valley to the Cosumnes Preserve had some interesting photo ops. I took a somewhat circuitous route and stumbled upon this interesting juxtaposition.

Old and new.

While I was setting up this shot, I noticed at least a dozen red-tailed hawks  flying overhead, and in the trees.

See the hawk in the tree?

Moments later.

 

 

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The Cosumnes River Preserve, located off I-5 between Sacramento and Stockton, comprises 46,000 acres along the Cosumnes River.  According to the Preserve web site, “It is the only remaining unregulated river on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. In its lower reaches, it flows through one of the biologically richest regions in California’s Central Valley, before merging with the Mokelumne River to flow into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and eventually the Pacific Ocean.”

So why did I plan to go the the Preserve in the middle of January?  Migratory birds – specifically the majestic Sand Hill Cranes.  Although much of the park was flooded, and walking trails closed, there were still many cranes to be found in the neighboring rice fields.  I arrived late in the afternoon when the birds fly back to the fields for the night. However the first bird I stopped for was hovering over the rice fields – and then it landed on a road-side tree.

White-tailed kite.

 

Once I arrived at the rice field, I was treated to quite a show!

 

A courting dance or territorial dispute?

Coming home to roost.

Into the sunset.

The following morning I once again rose early with plans to get back to the field to photograph the cranes as they were flying out for the day. However, the Tule fog once again interfered with my plans.

Tule fog strikes again...

...not so good for birds, but there were some ethereal landscapes.

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I was very lucky to have had a solid day of sunshine at SNWR, because the next morning I awoke with good intentions to photograph the birds at sunrise, only to find that the dense Tule fog had enveloped the region overnight. It was my last day in the area, and the forecast was for some clearing after noon, so I waited and watched birds that were too far into the fog to see clearly.  Still, it was beautiful, and the fog presented different photographic opportunities.

Surprisingly, the snow geese were gone!

Two great horned owls in the fog.

A foggy pheasant.

Black-crowned Night Heron at the Colusa NWR.

 

During this short road trip the sound of gun shots constantly reminded me that birders, photographers, and nature lovers were not alone in their love of this area. It is also duck hunting season.

 

Hunting is allowed in designated areas of the SNWR.

 

In case you don't want to do your own plucking...

 

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As you can see, 2010 was a lost year for this blog, and for the most part, for my photographic pursuits.  I was tackling a more important job — taking care of my husband, Rob, who had been diagnosed in late 2009 with Stage IV lung cancer. As he was a never smoker, this diagnosis, and the initial nine-months-to-live prognosis were devastating.  After a year of various chemo treatments, cancer shrinkage and then renewed progression, Rob is now enrolled in a clinical trial for a very promising new drug at Stanford.  Our lives are getting back into a more normal routine as we wait to see if the drug works, and I have had a bit more time to get back to work photographically!

Last week I was able to spend a few days in California’s central valley photographing migratory birds. I was richly rewarded at the Cosumnes River Preserve, the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, and the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge.

These images from SNWR illustrate the migratory bird traffic through this important stop on the Pacific Flyway,  a major north-south migration route between North and South America.

Snow geese were abundant at SNWR - over 110,00 were counted in December.

Flying in from the arctic tundra, the geese present quite a spectacle!

While snow geese dominated, other species were present as well.

 

Always keeping a watchful eye.

The coots were also resident in large numbers...

...as were the Pintail ducks.

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