Monday, November 26, 2012

Lots and lots of birds....

Lots and lots of birds... really lots!
Click on the picture above and examine it a little closer.  Go ahead.  It is not the work of some crazy person with Photoshop.  It is actually a picture we took on Friday, as shot from our camera.  There really were that many birds all flying in close proximity.  It was crazy!
Every now and then, instead of eating a bird (Turkey) on Thanksgiving we head off to central California to watch birds.  There are several wildlife preserves there that have literally millions of birds. Now we are NOT big birders or anything like that, but when you get over a million of just about anything in a small area, it often makes quite a spectacle.  This is the case with these birds, mostly Snow Geese, that winter in central California.  We visited three areas, Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, Colusa National Wildlife Refuge and Gray Lodge Wildlife Area.  We saw Geese,  Ducks, Cormorants, Egrets, Herons, Vultures, Hawks, Coots, Grebes and plenty more.  The most amazing thing was the pure number of them.  The noise of the geese was a cacophony of sound that is best described as the cross between a large crowd at a football game, and what it might sound like if you could listen to all the telephone connections in the country at once.  Take a look at the (a bit shaky) video below that we shot, for some idea of what it was like.

Sitting pretty in a pink sunset
The sheer number of waterfowl was quite unfathomable.  Huge flocks were everywhere you turned.  When they were startled, they would take off in greats droves of tens of thousands of birds.  I really didn't understand how they could keep from knocking each other out of the sky as they all scurried honking into the sky.  Many of these birds are visiting from Canada and points north.  They stay here through the winter months and then head back north in the spring.  Many species have been doing this for many years.
Farming in California has taken away much of the natural habitat for the birds (up to 90% of the wetlands), so Department of Fish and Game has devised a system to pay land owners to provide habitat to help substitue for the land that has been lost.  Under this system, extra wetlands are created during the time that these migrating waterfowl are in California (usually during non-growing season) to help accomodate the birds.  That combined with the wildlife refuges, like the three that we visited, have helped to keep healthy populations of these birds thriving despite man's impact on the area.

I was there, and yet I still have a hard time believing there were really this many birds
They were thick like mosquitos

The trip was outstanding, and the only true way to appreciate it is to go visit for yourself.  We tried to capture what we could in photos, but I'm not sure it did it justice.  If you aren't up for a trip to central California right now, you can see a selection of our photos here on Flickr.

With all the birds we saw, I think there even might have been enough birds to make one of Vi Hart's Thanksgiving geometric progressions of birds (just in case you missed her Thanksgiving Diner videos)

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