Colusa NWR Birds

January 21, 2018 at 9:13 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Photography)

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Black-necked stilt

It was another foggy day at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex, but it didn’t seem to bother the birds much at the Colusa NWR to the south.

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Black-crowned night heron

I saw bird species that I hadn’t seen at the main refuge, such as the black-crowned night heron and cinnamon teal. Plus I was able to get much closer to several pintails, which I will feature in a post of their own.

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The auto tour was 3-miles long, and again, we had to stay in the car, which was a perfect blind. The road was a little narrow in spots, making it hard to pull over for people who didn’t want to linger at a particular spot. But there weren’t nearly as many folks there as at the main refuge.

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American pipit

My favorite method of birding-by-car is to keep the front windows rolled down all the way and my camera (Nikon D750 with 200-500mm Nikon lens – a long and heavy beast) on my lap. That way I can aim and “shoot” quickly when I see a bird.

I can blast the heat or a/c to counter the outside weather. If I can, I also turn off the engine so the vibration and the heat waves from the inside/outside air meeting won’t affect the clarity of the images.

I also like to video birds doing bird things, so I have a window mount for my Canon SX-60. It took awhile to find the right mount, which isn’t perfect but allows good coverage while minimizing camera shake. I didn’t do video on this trip, though.

I keep my camera bag on the passenger seat, and if I have another photographer in the car with me it works best to have them in the back seat so we can both have a clear view out both windows.

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American wigeon pair

There was a pond you could park next to at the beginning of the auto tour, and the ducks there were extremely cooperative!

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Red-winged blackbird

So was this red-winged blackbird

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Black-crowned night heron rookery

The black-crowned night heron rookery was seen from the bridge near the start of the auto tour, and you get closer views toward the end, too.

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Black-crowned night heron at rookery

The light was for the most part a bright overcast, which allows subtle colors and details to pop. Sunlight often causes bright highlights and deep shadows that are difficult to moderate, even in Photoshop.

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Great blue heron

As with nearly all of these photos, the birds weren’t close enough to fill the frame, so many of them are highly cropped. Fortunately, the lens I use is pretty darned sharp and can focus pretty accurately.

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White-fronted geese

Even though these refuges were 350-plus miles from home, it was a great way to spend a 3-day weekend.

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Colusa NWR

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

Feel free to reblog or share


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  1. jet eliot said,

    Colusa is such a delight, I am so so happy you had such fortune here, Cindy. 350 miles is a long way to come, and I’m glad you did, because this complex is one of the best in California. I was at Colusa (and Sacto) day before yesterday. How great that you spotted the snipe! That deck when you first arrive is a beauty for photographing, isn’t it? Black-crowned night heron rookery is a joy to find too, but a little far for photos, though your close-up is lovely. Fantastic post, much enjoyed.

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