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Posts tagged ‘Great Blue Heron’

A Little Jaunt to Monterey

It has been quite some time since I took a little vacation in Nature. Not just because of COVID. The last two springs, wildflowers have not been extensive. In fact, it felt almost like Nature had been holding her breath and waiting for the world to get back to normal—like everyone else.

Last week, I finally decided I really needed to get out and about. My car was in good shape, I was fully vaccinated, and the state was slowly opening back to business as usual.  I drove to Monterey, CA, just to spend some time enjoying the ocean—and maybe seeing some flowers and redwoods too.

The hotel offered some pretty flowers around the grounds.

My first goal was to take a drive along State Route 9 to Big Basin Redwoods State Park.  My review of online information suggested the park was accessible, even if camping was not an option. However, the drive was beleaguered by extensive construction delays that eventually closed access to the park itself.  I did see a few glimpses of the forest area from the road, including some evidence of the fire that wracked the area not long ago.

The best part of this trip was enjoying the power and beauty of the ocean.

This Great Blue Heron welcomed me early in the day.

This Black Oystercatcher was hanging out on the rocks. It took me a minute to notice him out there.

Of course, across from the coast there were hills and flowers–and even some Mule Deer that refused to pose.

As usual, Cormorants hang out on Bird Rock, along with an occasional Brown Pelican. The Pelicans were flying by all afternoon, but they refused to alight anywhere and pose.

California Gulls were around as well.

The ocean views and crashing waves are always wondrous and mesmerizing.

The sunset was glorious too.

Nature always brings me peace, a spiritual connection with all of life.


The first time I visited Gray Lodge Wildlife Area north of Sacramento was in February 2019.  It was a great day with lots of birds:  geese, ducks, herons, egrets and even sandhill cranes and swans.  Since the area is a wetlands that supports birds all year long, I figured the best way to really know the area is to visit it several times throughout the year.

This time, I visited in early October.  The area showed the beginnings of fall colors across the landscape.  There were some birds, but nothing like the numbers from my earlier visit.

Still, it was a great leisurely afternoon! I saw a few others out at the site, but mainly I was on my own on the dirt road scenic drive.

Birds were around, but most were either overhead or out on the water.

Sometimes, my closeup lens would let me get some birds in focus, even though the colors often stayed muted.

Northern Pintail

Common Egret

Great Blue Heron

I did not notice the spider until later

Snow Geese Dark Phase (I think)

Black Necked Stilt

This green algae was all over one of the waterways

This Great Blue Heron was hard to spot even with a closeup.

American Coots

A Common Egret playing hide and seek.

Lesser Yellowlegs

I don’t know what there are, but they sure are pretty!

I dropped by Sutter National Wildlife Refuge thinking I might see some more birds, but the road at this access point was roped off.  The area did have pretty golden fields.

It was a great afternoon.  I’ll have to visit again, maybe in winter–or early spring.


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.

Northern Pintail

Bufflehead Duck

American Wigeon

Ruddy Duck

American Coot

Northern Shoveler

Ring-Necked Pheasant

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.


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