Sunrise over Lower Red Rock Lake

Sunrise over Lower Red Rock Lake
Sunrise over Lower Red Rock Lake

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge - First Impressions

I was really dragging by the time I got to Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  The last day, I had to drive 700 miles, then couldn't find my camp site for hours.  I finally got to bed around midnight. I had been unable to make the buttons on my watch work to reset it back two hours so had to calculate the actual time. On Thursday morning, I overslept and saw it was 6:30 A.M.  I leaped out of my sleeping bag, packed the inside of the tent, pulled down the tent and stuffed it in its bag,  grabbed a quick shower and got dressed for my first appearance at the refuge.  THEN I calculated the time!

Having an extra two hours was a good thing.  I had time get lost again, get a cup of coffee, and stop for a great leisurely breakfast. I even had time to spend a few minutes at Calusa, one of the refuges in the complex, and get a duck and goose fix before reporting in at Sacramento NWR.

I spent most of that day unpacking and trying to fit everything into one room - still an ongoing project but I'm down to one messy corner. But of course, I had to take a few pictures and have taken a few more since I've been here.

The second morning I was here, we had a rainy day and this was the sunrise. 



The CCC built some of the refuge.  This arch is one of the remnants left.


The posts are outstandingly beautiful.




That beauty is due to several species of lichens growing on the rocks.


 

 The sky continuously fluctuates from no birds to a sky crowded with honking geese - both snows and greater white-fronted - and mostly silent ducks.




We have a six mile driving loop.  It's easy to spend a couple of hours going around it once. Here is a little of what can be seen.

I don't understand how pheasants haven't become extinct.  First of all the males are like beacons when the sun is on them. Then, when they see danger, they first run around looking like they are saying, "What to do? What to do? Finally they they fly off low and slow.




I see racoons by the 4's and 5's.  I expect I'm seeing families that haven't yet broken up. 







This is a ground squirrel.  Apparently he doesn't have any better a reputation then his tree-dwelling cousins.




This is a teasel.  It is beautiful alone but the plants form a barrier between the road and the wetlands in many places. No one is allowed out of their cars on the drive, except at the blind/rest stop. This plant might help keep the people in the cars.  It is an invasive species.




Pintails are the most numerous ducks here. After getting to eat a few breasts tonight, I can also say they are very delicious. Some of my housemates - I live with four guys - like them the best of all the ducks. This is very different from Anahuac, where we have relatively few pintails.




There are also more widgeon here than at Anahuac.  And we also have some Eurasian wigeon but I haven't gotten close enough to photograph any yet.




 And most amazing to me of all is that we have deer and wild turkey on the refuge.  The first morning I was working, I was given the auto tour. We saw a young buck spook from the vehicle in front of us and cross a pond, putting up several hundred snow geese. I made yet another vow to ALWAYS carry my camera.



I took this picture at the very end of the auto tour in a field just north of the bunkhouse. The sun is setting around 5:00P and the day is already starting to cool off by 2:00P.  This also feels very different from our longer fall and winter days. But I don't have to be at work until 8:30 so do have some morning hours to be outside playing. The ducks and geese have flown out to feed on surrounding fields, leaving only the coots.