Friday, January 22, 2016

Greater White-fronted Geese and Friends at the San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuge

Greater White-fronted Geese at the San Joaquin NWR
Between storms this week, I made the drive out to the viewing platform on Beckwith Road west of Modesto, on the San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuge. It wasn't easy! The roads were flooded in places, and mud covered parts of the access road. But the birds were certainly there.
Greater White-fronted Geese and Aleutian Cackling Geese
There were thousands of them, but unlike earlier visits, they were spread out and were intermingling with each other. There weren't the flocks of tens of thousands of a single species. It might have been the time of day, but I think there was an element of resources. Most of the maize fields have been cut down now, and they seem to have eaten most of the food. That may have caused them to spread out and graze much closer to the road, where the corn hadn't yet been completely consumed.
Greater White-fronted Geese. The name comes from the white patch behind the beak.
The birds I noticed the most were the Great White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons). They are winter migrants, breeding far to the north in the Arctic. They were mingling with Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens), Cackling Geese (Branta hutchinsii), and Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis).
Greater White-fronted Goose and a Snow Goose

Conditions weren't the best for photography, given the overcast and late afternoon, so the pictures are a bit more fuzzy than I would like. But who cares, really? I was away from the hustle and bustle on campus for a few precious minutes, seeing beautiful creatures.
Sandhill Cranes at the San Joaquin NWR

It's still January, but I'm already feeling like they'll be gone soon, headed back north for the summer. I'll be hanging on to the precious moments while I can.

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