After the driving rain came the warm California sun and the promise of expanding Big Year list. The eleven hours of driving down Interstate 5 and then west on the 505 to San Francisco brought me to the KOA kabin in Petaluma. I didn’t have any trouble falling asleep, except for the swans and wigeon dancing in my head.
The first stop was the famed hot spot of Shollenberger Park from 8am till 10am. The walk around the lake and marshes was slow and thorough. I expected to see more people toting around tripods, spotting scopes, backpacks and cameras but instead there were nice joggers, moms with strollers, an occasional man with lifted eyebrows, and solitary quiet walkers enjoying (perhaps) the surroundings as much as I.
While I took hundreds of photos, most were for identification purposes instead of artistic. I saw 38 different species in a couple of hours. The highlights included several Mute Swans, Black-necked Stilts, American Avocet (in winter plumage), a Lesser Yellowlegs and a Vesper Sparrow.
Later that day I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge (by accident), then drove back to Rodeo Lagoon / Fort Cronkite. This was supposed to be the mother lode of birds. Not so much, but I did get some great views of some amazing birds. The highlights included a few Brown Pelican, Anna’s Hummingbirds, a Say’s Phoebe, a few Western Bluebirds (always fun to see in February!), several California Towhee’s, a Fox Sparrow and some surfers.
The next day I headed to Yreka but first I stopped at a few more hotspots like Lake Solano Park, Colusa National Wildlife Refuge and the Sacramento Wildlife Refuge. The birding trip was far from over.
Lake Solano Park was utterly buzzing with birds. Highlights of this sight were the many Acorn and Lewis’ Woodpeckers, Barrow and Common Goldeneyes, a friendly Swainson’s Thrush and a Northern Mockingbird.
I continued on north in near summer-like conditions. My highlights at Colusa NWR included the Greater White-fronted Goose, Snow Goose, Ross’s Goose, the White-faced Ibis and a lone Marbled Godwit.
At the Sacramento NWR, the weather continued to be very nice. This was to be my last stop of the two day trip and it did not disappoint. The highlights included a nice Ring-necked Pheasant, a Snowy Egret, a Loggerhead Shrike and a Burrowing Owl.
Time: Two days
Big Year List: To be determined.