Friday, June 30, 2017

Good Mourning, Summer

The landscape at the refuge changes drastically in the summer. The open fields almost look like they are on fire with orange and yellow grass that has been dried and sucked free of moisture underneath the unrelenting sun.
The dim early morning light is perfect for taking picturesque landscape shots and silhouettes of doves on their perches. 

 There are a few patches of green left, and enough water to keep the summer stragglers happy.
This was only our second time seeing Blue-winged Teals!

During our drive through the auto tour, we saw more doves than ever...
mourning dove

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge California birding hotspot birdwatching
Their soft calls match their delicate beauty perfectly...
(Photos taken at the

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Stages of Adulthood

About halfway through the auto tour at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, we spotted a flock of Cliff Swallows taking a break in the middle of the road.
Cliff Swallow
 This one is an adult with its dark coloring and contrasting white forehead...
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge California birding hotspot
 And these are juveniles!
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge California birding hotspot

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge California birding hotspot
 Their foreheads haven't filled in all the way yet...
Juvenile Cliff Swallow
...and they are stocky, duller in color, and have whitish throats...

How nice of them to sit still for us!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Poolside Birding

Pool 2 Extension
Auto tour

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Summer Stragglers

Even though we're in the heart of summer, we managed to find a little spot of greenery left at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge...
Black-tailed Deer

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge California birding
Cinnamon Teal
 The view from the platform on the auto tour is stunning, no matter what time of year it is!

We see lots of Black-tailed Jackrabbits at the refuge, but whenever I see a Desert Cottontail with its little white cotton ball of a tail, it makes me smile even more!
Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge California birding
Too cute!

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Sheepy Ridge Wildlife Trail

(Or as I could have titled this post: Way Up Here)

When I say birding is an adventure, I mean birding is an Adventure with a capital A. Ready to go on one with me?

Okay, here we go...

Even though we've been to the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Complex a few times before, we've never walked the Sheepy Ridge Wildlife Trail that is directly behind the visitor center. This time we did.
Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges California birding hotspot

Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges California birding hotspot
The brochure describes the trail as "a very steep, 0-3-mile foot trail near the visitor center at Tule Lake Refuge" that "provides a spectacular view of the surrounding area from 150 feet above the basin." (Keep in mind that I didn't read the brochure before we started on the hike and thought a 0.3 mile trail sounded like a walk in the park.)
Looking up at the cliff from the trailhead you can see a little building at the very top on the left...
And there's the moon making an appearance too!
As we were trudging up the trail (hey, what happened to that walk in the park?), my hubby points out the building and says to me "I hope that's not where this trail is taking us." I stopped in my tracks, looked up (my eyes were on my feet because the trail was so steep that I was afraid to lose my footing and fall to my untimely death), and laughed between big panting breaths of air. "There's no way the trail is taking us all the way up there," I replied confidently.
Sure enough, the trail veered left and that's exactly where it was leading us. Meanwhile, I'm thinking to myself that this is some dilapidated old shack and why would anyone build a trail to it.
With my calves on fire and my hubby's fear of heights kicking into full gear, we trekked on. There was no way these birders were going to turn back now!
Did I mention that this trail is on the side of a cliff? Yep, here's looking back at the trail after I hugged my way around the rocks to get by...
*I think it's worth noting that Adventure to us means cruising new-to-us backroads to look for birds and following a sighting tip and going to a town we've never been to to see a South American bird that went waaay off course and somehow ended up in Northern California. (Read more about that particular adventure here.)
Okay, back to Sheepy Ridge. By this point, my calves are on fire and I can't believe I'm clinging to the side of a cliff. What's that up ahead? Oh, it's the shack we'd joked about!
We've reached our destination and now we've got one heck of a story to talk about for the next twenty years or so.
They weren't kidding when they said this trail has a spectacular view!
There's the parking lot for the Discovery Marsh Trail there at the bottom... 
And here's the view to the right. In the distance you can see the water of the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge...
Yay! I made it to the top!
Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges California birding hotspot
Sometimes--okay most of the time, it pays off to keep climbing that hill even when you're not sure what lies at the top. Because it might just be a stunning view that leaves you breathless--not because you just climbed 150 feet up a cliff, but because it's so incredibly beautiful.

Driving away from the refuge, laughing about how we couldn't believe what we'd just done, I looked back at the cliff and had to have hubby stop the car so I could take a picture so you could see just how freaking high up it is.
Until we meet again, Sheepy Ridge. Until we meet again. (Oh yeah, I'm definitely climbing that mountain again next time!)