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Oregon to Oklahoma

June 2003

Part 1:  Sacramento NWR

At the last minute I decided to bypass LA and go through Antelope Valley; after getting behind a slow truck and running into road construction, I was beginning to wonder whether this was any faster, but the fact that I’m now in Stockton (as opposed to Santa Nella or Westley) attests to the theory that it is just as fast, and more scenic to boot! (Of course, the Lord keeps reminding me that I left at six as opposed to seven…)  Anyway, it was lovely drive up, and what the Lord gave me to kinda confirm that I had come the right way was a Yellow-headed Blackbird and a Collared Dove, both of which might be county birds! (Los Angeles County, that is…) Going west on whatever highway that is (138, I think) is much prettier than coming east, too, especially as you descend upon Quail Lake (and the sun’s to your back). And going this way, I still get to go down the Grapevine, which is the major reason I decided to go back to going through LA in the first place! Overdid it in the food department, though, unfortunately, but had a good walk here in Stockton in a cute little neighborhood, and am anxious to get on the road again!

Swiped some goodies from the continental breakfast bar and headed north the next morning, and as we passed Willows, I was overwhelmed with a compulsion to stop at Sacramento NWR (it’s kinda like Ramona Pond: it’s right there by the road so you feel compelled to stop!)! So promising myself I wouldn’t hike any trails but just rather do the drive-a-mile-and stop routine, in we went. Standing for a couple of minutes at the entrance kiosk added Western Kingbird, Marsh Wren, Cowbird, and several upset Killdeer to the list. A couple of cars pulled in and one guy asked me if I was with the Audubon group, which I wasn’t of course, but that was a red flag to me to get going before I was overrun by a huge field trip (this was Saturday, after all…)! I needn’t have worried: I didn’t run into anyone else at all on the auto tour; in fact, when I pulled back into the Visitor’s Center to use the restroom all the cars were still there: they had probably taken the wetlands trail first while it was still cool.

  

Along the auto trail at the refuge

Anyway, I zoomed onto the trail, and before I even got to the first stop I almost zipped by a big fat bittern on the side road! Thankfully he stayed put while I slammed on the brakes and grabbed the camera (I neglected to turn off the engine, though; I was hoping the pictures would come out okay, and they did, and noticed that the bird was a juvenile with fuzzy down still on his crown)! He didn’t like the intrusion, though, as he fluffed up his neck feathers and eventually stalked back into the marsh, giving me dirty looks the whole time!

                  

Juvenile American Bittern and Ring-necked Pheasant

Technically, I was cheating: the new rules state that you’re not supposed to get out of your car except at the designated areas, and I didn’t come to a "designated area" until the three-mile mark (how else are you supposed to hear the birds unless you get out and listen? I reason). This was a little overlook that first thing in the morning is in lousy light, but did have a tree full of Cliff Swallows, as well as both Ash-throated Flycatcher and Black Phoebe here. Also had a singing Bewick’s Wren and chattering Bullock’s Oriole and Bushtits. On the drive around had several Red-tailed Hawks being chased by kingbirds, and at the next Designated Stop had lots of Cliff Swallows flying around, but nothing new. They had great little signs that I should have taken a picture of with cartoon pelicans and meadowlarks stretching (meaning this was where you could get out of your car and stretch)! Also had a big flock of funny-sounding blackbirds that I suspect were Tricoloreds, but unfortunately they got away before I could get a definitive look; there were lots of Redwings around, though.

                               

Cliff Swallow and dark morph Swainson's Hawks

Picked up an American Goldfinch back at the Center, plus what must have been a baby Marsh Wren that looked more like a House, but the fact that he was bouncing around the reed beds (and the fat gape mark IDing him as a baby) made him suspicious (and if I really used my imagination, I could barely make out an emerging supercillium and back stripes). But the best bird was just before the on-ramp to the freeway: a dark morph Swainson’s Hawk! I had seen a couple of suspicious-looking raptors on the way up, but could never get a good look, but this guy was obvious! Thank God for those white undertail coverts, but even so you could still just barely make out that typical Swainson’s wing pattern!

That took a little over an hour, but even with that delay I couldn’t believe how fast we got to Roseburg! We could have made it into Eugene that night, but I wanted to stop around three and get my walk in. And get it I did: to get to the "nice" residential area you had to work for it: it gave new meaning to the term "upper class"! Those hills were killers! But picked up a nice new trip bird in the process: Black-capped Chickadee!

But I’m getting ahead of myself: the scenery coming up through Shasta was just spectacular, as always! I just love that stretch of I-5! Picked up an Osprey en route, as well as White-faced Ibis, a couple of White Pelicans, and a whole field full of Black-crowned Night Herons! Made a pit stop on Rogue River where the potties were closed due to vandalism, and on my way to the Best Western across the street I was nearly run down by a little red jeep doing at least 50 in a 25 mph zone I’m sure, followed closely by every law enforcement officer in the state, including the K9 unit (he was barking up a storm, too)! After using the restroom the chase was unfortunately joined by an ambulance and a fire truck; the fugitive had undoubtedly hit someone or something. And the big disappointment was that it wasn’t even on the local news! Went for my walk after checking in and watched the news (picked up a deli sandwich and muffins for the next day at the Safeway next door, too). Ended up going to the Chinese place across the street, which was terrific (I had a change of pace and had the duck)! But I’ll have to go to bed early if I’m gonna hit the coast at a decent hour! I really shouldn’t show up at the hotel until after noon, anyway, and that’ll be a good opportunity to get some coastal things, hopefully.

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