Red-tailed Hawks, Summer Residents at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge
It was not necessarily the best time of the year to go to a wildlife refuge devoted to protecting winter migrants. In this drought year, there is very little water to spare for the wildlife ponds, and water is life in the Great Valley. But there was indeed life at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge. There was one shallow pond near the auto tour road, and there were egrets, herons, and some sandpipers. There were several owls lurking in the shrubs and cottonwoods. But what we saw more than anything else were the hawks.
The default species around here is the Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), and that's mostly what we saw. There may have been some Swainson's Hawks soaring overhead, but I didn't get good shots of them (they kept refusing to hold still while flying about).
There is a wildlife blind in the middle of the auto-tour route, but it was obvious that these two were having none of that skulking around bit. It's like they were saying "You're kidding, right? We know you're there".
Merced National Wildlife Refuge is going to get very busy over the next few weeks. Flocks of Sandhill Crane, Snow Goose, and Ross's Goose, and many other species will be arriving for their winter sojourn. We will certainly be back!
I always try my best, but I do make amateur mistakes in bird identification. I'm never insulted by corrections!