This is the first of numerous posts I’ll write over the next week (or two or three about my recent trip up to Portland, Oregon, and back down the lovely Oregon coast.
We loaded up the car, filled up the tank ($3.65/gal for 87 octane in SF), and hit the road at 8:30am. The drive to the Central Valley was uneventful and mercifully traffic-free, so we made good time to I-80, then I-505, then I-5. This drive takes us right past Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, which I can never pass without stopping by.
Sac NWR has a driving loop of several miles with a lookout platform in the middle, and typically has excellent birding. This time, being midday in summer, is far from the peak (typically Dec-Jan), but we still saw some good birds. A juvenile Great Horned Owl flew by and perched on some dried reeds, giving us pretty good, but distant, views, and several dozen White-faced Ibis grazed in the wetter areas.
Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
The NWR management drains most of the ponds during the summer, leaving only a few permanent ones, which, predictably, has the most wildlife in them. At the viewing platform we saw many Great Blue Herons, as well as a line of what looked to be Greater White-fronted Geese, with a lone Snow Goose. Although both of these species are common (really common, as in tens of thousands of them!) here in winter, I was surprised to see them mid-summer. As we walked down the platform’s ramp, an unusual birdsong caught my attention and I soon spied a Blue Grosbeak (LIFER!). This lovely blue bird sat and sang for us for a minute then went on its merry way.
Blue Grosbeak (Passerina caerulea)
We’d been hoping to catch a glimpse of the resident Bald Eagle, which has called Sac NWR home for years, but we did not. A flock of Western Kingbirds flycaught along the riparian corridor, and a scattering of Western Meadowlark browsed the dry bushes where the winter ponds used to be.
Western Kingbirds (Tyranus verticalis)
A rustling in the bushes turned out to be a couple of female game birds of some sort. Although they didn’t look much like the female Ring-necked Pheasants I’ve previously seen, I’m sure that’s what they were, as Pheasants are very common here.
Geese that should have migrated quite a while ago!
Other than that things were pretty quiet, but I was happy to get one life bird, and several year birds – hopefully I’ll make it back in early December when the Sandhill Cranes, Tundra Swans, and Snow Geese are in full force!
- American Avocet
- American White Pelican
- Black Phoebe
- Black-necked Stilt
* Blue Grosbeak
- Great Blue Heron
- Great Egret
+ Great Horned Owl
- Mourning Dove
- Ring-necked Pheasant
- Snowy Egret
- Turkey Vulture
- Western Kingbird
- Western Meadowlark
+ White-faced Ibis
+ = year bird, * = life bird
From Sac NWR, we continued north, refueling the car and ourselves in Redding ($2.99/gal for 87 octane) , then north north north. Past Redding the scenery gets very pretty, with the slightly snowy top of Lassen Peak, then the dominating 14,000′+ snow-capped summit of Mt. Shasta to the east, and rolling hills all around. Unfortunately in the several times I’ve done this drive, I have yet to find anywhere good/safe to pull over to take a photo of this majestic mountain.
A couple more hours of rolling hills brought us to Ashland, Oregon, our destination for the night. After checking in at our hotel, the Flagship Inn of Ashland, we drove downtown and walked along the main street, stopping here and there at the stores along the pretty downtown drag. After a tasty, authentic British dinner at The Black Sheep, we returned to our hotel and called it a night.