As my friend and I continued our Winter Trip, we planned our second stop to the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area. We were hoping to see some birds as we headed north from Sacramento, California, heading to Medford, Oregon. The wet weather expected in the area was not due until the evening, so we were confident we would have pretty weather for the drive.
The Gray Lodge Wildlife Area is located a little more than an hour from Sacramento, off Highway 99. In some marshy fields a bit before reaching the wildlife area, we saw our first birds for the day. Big birds. In great numbers. Not the expected red-winged black birds, but swans, geese and cranes.
I was ecstatic. It has been a long time since I first started birding and keeping a life list. But today’s sightings were all new birds for that list. Yeah.
TUNDRA SWAN: 45 to 59 inch length, 5.5 to 6.9 foot wingspan
SNOW GOOSE, (Dark or Blue Phase): 25 to 32 inch height, 4.4 to 5.4 foot wingspan
SANDHILL CRANE: 31 to 54 inch height, 5.5 to 7.6 foot wingspan
RED-TAIL HAWK: 18-26 inch length, 3.6 to 4.7 foot wingspan
Feeling that we had already had a great day out in Nature, we continued our drive, still looking for the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area. We found it within a few minutes and were delighted by even more birds.
The Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, located about 60 miles north of Sacramento, is situated along the Pacific Flyway. The Area provides a haven to over 300 species of birds year-round. Its roughly 9,100 acres include reflective ponds, grassy fields, and wooded areas, offering water and shelter for birds and animals. Seeing and hearing all the birds in the area was majestic. I could have spent a lot of time there, just enjoying the experience.
As abundant as the water birds were today, quite a few were not very cooperative about being photographed. For example, we saw Canada Geese, Wood Ducks, and Black-Necked Stilts that would not let us snap an individual photo. But lots of other birds were cooperative!
Actually, the broad, open expanses with so many birds was fascinating, engaging. I could just watch them all for hours!
SNOW GOOSE, (White and Dark Phase): 25 to 32 inch height, 4.4 to 5.4 foot wingspan
GREAT (or COMMON) EGRET: up to 3.7 feet tall, 31 to 41 inch length, 4.3 to 5.6 foot wingspan
LITTLE EGRET: 22 to 26 inch length, 2.9 to 3.5 foot wingspan; black legs and beak, yellow feet
GREAT BLUE HERON: 36 to 54 inch length, 45 to 54 inch height, 5.5 to 6.6 foot wingspan
We saw smaller birds as well. I think these names are correct, but if anyone notices a problem, let me know.
What can I say? This place was incredible! I am already making plans to visit Gray Lodge Wildlife Area again in the Spring to see what birds visit at that time of year.