Sonoma County's Madrone Audubon Society took a trip to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge yesterday, staying overnight to bird nearby areas today. Because of work obligations, I drove up for the day and came back last night, but still got to see tens of thousands of birds (not an exaggeration) that have come down from the north to use the Sacramento area wetlands to overwinter. There were easily 5,000 pintails alone--very pretty ducks (photo above)--and probably 20,000 snow geese or more. Highlights included a couple of bald eagles--one that caught and ate a large duck--and a beautiful peregrine falcon (the best view I've ever had of this bird, photo below). The majority of the birds were Pintails, Snow geese, Ross's geese, Greater white-fronted geese, Northern shovelers, and Coots, probably.
In total, I saw about 45 species. Last year on this trip, I saw seven new species. It's an indication of just how many birds I've seen in the past year that I got nothing new this time around. Still, it was a pleasure to see so many birds--in absolute numbers. Birds sighted were: Western meadowlark, Turkey vulture, Red-winged blackbird, Black phoebe, Red-tailed hawk (about seven in the course of the day), kestrel, American pipit, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Snow goose, Ross's goose, Greater white-fronted goose, Yellow-rumped warbler, Coot, Northern shoveler, Marsh wren, Northern harrier, Cinnamon teal, Blue-winged teal, Horned grebe, Dunlin, Peregrine falcon, Moorhen, Snowy egret, Raven, Great blue heron, Greater scaup, Black-necked stilt, Gadwall, white-crowned sparrow, American wigeon, Eurasian wigeon, Great egret, Bald eagle, California gull, Herring gull, Starling, Ring-necked duck, Ruby-crowned kinglet, Bufflehead, Golden-crowned sparrow, and Ruddy duck (all on the driving tour at the main refuge). At Llano Seco, saw many of the same birds but also Sandhill cranes, a Long-billed curlew, Greater or Lesser yellowlegs (too far to tell which), and Canada geese (surprisingly few of these overall), and, along the road elsewhere, a few groups of Tundra swans.