Skip to main content

Spring is bustin’ out all over the Sacramento Valley. We’ve said farewell to the geese, swans, and cranes who spend their winters here. Now, we’ve got our binocs trained on the resident birds showing off their glorious breeding plumage while singing and dancing their hearts out in their annual fertility waltz, and on the migrants gorging themselves on the Valley’s bounty in preparation for the rest of their journey to their breeding grounds further north.

Note: lineatus is on a birding adventure this weekend but will be back next Saturday for Dawn Chorus at the usual time and place.

At this time of the year, we start with the Dawn Chorus but someone is singing at almost any time of the day (or night in the case off those show-off Northern Mockingbirds) so it’s more of an All-Day Chorus.

This Song Sparrow lives up to his name.

A Red-winged Blackbird flashing his epaulets.

A Marsh Wren perches in the open to sing.

Funny thing about birds at this time of the year is how much less timid they are than at other times. Birds that would normally fly long before we get very close now seem so pre-occupied with the season that they provide wonderful photo opportunities.

White-faced Ibises, showing off their breeding plumage and facial coloring, let us get within 20-30 ft for photos.

American Avocets aren’t the least bit bashful while performing their post-coital do-si-do across the dance floor – even with an American Coot and a couple of humans watching.

And Killdeer start nesting in any gravel they can find, even if it’s in a parking lot with cars zipping by (yikes).

BTW – we marked this Killdeer’s nest with a traffic cone that we found in the weeds next to the parking lot – hope it helped.

As for migrants, the Sacramento Valley is part of the Pacific Flyway so large numbers of shorebirds pass through the Valley on their way to the Arctic or other points north for the summer breeding season. Birds that show up include Semipalmated Plovers, Western Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, and Red-necked and Wilson’s Phaloropes. Black-bellied Plovers, Dunlins, and Dowitchers, who spend their winters here but leave the Valley before the onset of summer heat, generally molt into their breeding plumage before they depart. Beautiful.

I only have a couple of shorebird photos to share. The first is a Greater Yellowlegs all decked out for the season.

And here’s a blurry photo of a female Ruff, called a Reeve. I’m only including it because, according to Sibley, it’s a "rare but regular Eurasian visitor" that we were very excited to find a couple of weeks ago.

If you’d like to see some really nice photos of Ruffs, click here.

I haven’t even mentioned warblers and hummingbirds, or other migrants that come here to breed (Western Kingbirds and Swainson's Hawks to name two). Suffice it to say that a Spring day (or two - or more) spent birding in the Sacramento Valley would be well-spent.

"So," you ask, "where do I point myself to see some of this Spring Bird Madness?" I live in Woodland, about 25 miles west-northwest of Sacramento, so I’ll highlight a few of my favorite nearby spots:

• One of the best is the Yolo Basin Foundation’s Yolo Wilderness Area (called the Vic Fazio Wildlife Area in the Pacific Flyway link, above; how to get there). There is an amazing variety of birds here (this is where we saw the Reeve) all year really – except when the whole place is flooded in the winter. It’s only about 10 minutes from my office so I can stop by for an hour or two after work now that we’re on daylight savings time.

• The Colusa Unit of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge is where we’ve done the Great Backyard Bird Count for a couple of years – seventy-one species this year. You could also see deer, coyotes, and river otters on any given day.

• The Gray Lodge State Wildlife Area is in a beautiful setting, with views of the Sutter Buttes and lots of walking trails. (Note for next winter – great area for Sandhill Cranes).

• Finally, given that the Sacramento Valley is designated as an Internationally Significant Shorebird Habitat, there are birding opportunities along many roads up and down the Valley, especially in areas with rice fields, almost any time of the year. The maps and indexes in these links (Northern Sacramento Valley Birding Hotspots, The Natomas Basin Conservancy Map) highlight many local, state, and Federal Wilderness areas along with roads where you can expect to see the birds highlighted above, among many more.

So has Spring sprung where you are yet?

Originally posted to tgypsy on Sat Mar 29, 2008 at 06:02 AM PDT.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site