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Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Sunday's Birding

Tiny King of the Grasslands - Savannah Sparrow

Vernal Pool at Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge
Despite that I couldn’t get to sleep last night without an ├╝ber load of Ibuprofen (Yes, here dwells self pity in action) we were up early for a tortilla breakfast and a fast getaway to Brewer Road. Our quick departure to the Placer County birding haven yielded, appropriately enough – nada. It was a dry winter so hoards of shorebirds and waterfowl did not line the pastures and dry waterways. Poop.

For no good reason, I decided we might as well drive north to the Sacramento Wildlife Refuge. There we did an ensie walk-about which yielded this little froggie on the right. Then we drove the auto tour which was far more fruitful.

There we found Vernal Pools in full golden bloom, bunches of bunnies and more male Ring-necked Pheasants than I’ve ever seen in one place. Don said they were released by some hunting club, as evidenced by our sighting only two hen pheasants, which are not released because only the male birds are fair game for hunters. If you are a pheasant it definitely pays to be a girly. 
Ring-neck Pheasant on the go
Bunny Collage
We found three, count ‘em, three Snow Geese. Don thinks the geese had local family issues so decided not to head north just yet. The highlight of the refuge though was a beautiful Peregrine Falcon. Our view of the bird was spectacular and I must say I never saw anything like it before. The legs on the bird, as Don pointed out, resembled scales, such as you might see on a sculpture or other work of art; amazing creature. 

Branch Hopping Peregrin
Looking like Horus
Our next spot was the Fazio Wildlife Refuge where we saw White-faced Ibis by the sky load. Must have been migrating or loitering, can’t say for sure. Overall it was a pleasant enough day and Don was pleased to have added a good dozen or more birds to his annual bird list for 2007. We celebrated with dinner in Downtown Sacramento at a Chinese buffet that is so authentic in its cuisine that the shrimp and fish dishes still have their eyeballs. I have been there a couple of times for lunch but always wanted to visit the place for dinner. What a treat! I ate like the waterfowl we saw during the day. I had crab, clams, frog legs and loads of other stuff I dished out of dim sum pots and at one point had no more idea what I was eating than had the Ibis I had viewed digging in the mud at the wildlife refuge. Ibis are luckier than me, when they dine it's always 'on the house'. Last thing up, we stopped at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery for a look around. Saw a nice Belted Kingfisher, a Red-shouldered Hawk, numerous Common Mergansers and the usual lot of Double-crested Cormorants. Then Don spotted the crowning touch to the day; a River Otter, lazily making its way downstream. The otter surfaced, chewing with animation before diving much like a whale would - the last thing visable was its tail lashing the air as it submerged. Great ending to a good day of birding.

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