We had a most excellent day Friday, strictly devoted to birding. We got up early and bailed out of the motel before seven. I made Dino stop at the roadside so I could snap this shot of prototypical California farmland.
After that stop, we headed for the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge. This is one of the spots Dino went to last week for one of the field trips during the bird symposium. At the Beckwith Platform area, we were treated to the promised clouds of birds, mostly the Aleutian subspecies of Cackling Goose. There were Ross's Goose and some White Pelicans in the mix as well. This refuge offers a built up wooden platform so visitors can look out over the wetland area to see the birds. There was a man there who evidently works for whichever agency maintains the place, as he was doing some cleanup work around the area and was kind enough to spend some time talking with us. He estimated there were about 30,000 birds. It really was a sight to see and a noise to hear.
We stopped at the Pelican Nature Trail, part of the same refuge, before lunch. There we didn't see so many birds - the noontime doldrums apparently - but took a nice 5 mile walk on the trail, enjoyed the scenery and ate our lunch following our perambulations. After that we headed to the Merced Wildlife Refuge, stopping a number of times on the way to look at birds. On one of these roadside stops we saw some White-faced Ibis, which I'd never seen before; that was the most exciting one for me of the day. We were also visited by a Fish and Game warden while we were stopped at one point; I guess he wanted to make sure we weren't going to shoot anything. He was a fresh-faced young man (they all seem to be young nowadays), but I don't think I'd want to be on his bad side.
At Merced, we ran out of daylight and decided against doing the full five mile circle and put it on our to-do list for another day. We did spend about a half hour at one spot watching and trying to figure out what the heck kind of bird those little peeps were; small sandpiper types, difficult to identify unless one is really knowledgeable about shorebirds which we are definitely not, although Dino's working on it and studying assiduously.
We identified 41 species: American Crow, American Kestrel, Belted Kingfisher, Black Phoebe, Black-crowned Night Heron, Black-necked Stilt, Brewers Blackbird, California Quail, Canada Goose (Aleutian Subspecies), Cattle Egret, Common Raven, Coot, Double-crested Cormorant, Eared Grebe, Golden-crowned Sparrow, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Greater Yellowlegs, Killdeer, Lesser Goldfinch, Mourning Dove, Northern Flicker, Northern Harrier, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Shoveler, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-winged Blackbird, Ross's Goose, Sandhill Crane, Say's Phoebe, Snowy Egret, Steller's Jay, Turkey Vulture, Western Meadowlark, Western Scrub-jay, White Pelican, White-crowned Sparrow, White-faced Ibis, Wrentit, Yellow-billed Magpie, Yellow-rumped Warbler