Merced-San Luis Refuge System

December 17, 2019 at 6:50 pm (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Wildlife)

Snow geese coming in for the night

I had a few hours over the weekend of Dec. 7-8 and visited the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge complex, starting with the San Joaquin River NWR. Wasn’t able to get close to the noisy flocks of geese to see the Aleutian Cackling Geese, as the roads are off-limits.

San Joaquin River NWR

So I went to the San Luis NWR – the light was amazing but didn’t get as close to the birds as I had hoped.

San Luis NWR, late afternoon

I did see a pair of juvenile tundra swans.

Tundra swan juvenile

I got to the Merced NWR just as the sun tinted the dramatic cumulus clouds building over the distant Sierras. Really really really wanted the sandhill cranes silhouetted against them, but they came in long after the color had drained from the sky. I did get some snow geese, though.

A clear night

The next morning was foggy and drizzly. Which is what the weather usually is when I visit. I always choose the wrong time.

Sandhill cranes

The sandhill cranes had mostly left before dawn, and this small flock didn’t linger too long either. Not sure which fields they went to for grazing, but I didn’t have time to go look for them either.

Sandhill Cranes

I drove around the auto tour road about three times, each time seeing something different.

Northern harrier
White pelicans

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

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  1. Jet Eliot said,

    I really enjoyed this visit to the Merced-San Luis NWR, Cindy. The abundance of migrating water foul at this time of year in CA is such a rewarding and awesome experience. Although I have visited the Sacramento NWR every winter for 25 years, I have never been to this one — really enjoyed it here with you. Fortunate that you saw so many different bird species. You did a good job of showing the sheer abundance of geese, what a thrill. Really liked those cumulus cloud photos too.

    • Cindy McIntyre said,

      With impending hip surgery, I am greatly limited as to what I can do, so most of my photography has to be from or very near the car. The wonderful thing about many wildlife refuges is the auto tour that allows us to immerse ourselves in nature’s wonders – including those who are handicapped. Merced is closer to my home in Paso Robles than is Sacramento, but for the greatest sandhill crane experience, I hope you can go to the Rowe Audubon Sanctuary in Nebraska to see them during spring migration (coming soon!)

      • Jet Eliot said,

        Thanks so much for the tip about Rowe Audubon Sanctuary, Cindy. I can never ever get enough of the sandhill cranes. My best to you with the hip surgery.

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