Cackling Geese Have Arrived at the San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuge!
Mind you, they may have been there for weeks. I've only had a handful of chances to check the Beckwith Road viewing platform. Two weeks ago I saw a few way off to the south. Today I saw a few dozen, maybe a hundred off in the distance. I turned back and started to look for Towhees and sparrows in the brush, but then a huge commotion broke out in the sky above. I looked up and there were thousands of birds overhead. It was astounding.
Cackling Geese (Branta hutchinsii) are a new species, having recently been thought of as a subspecies of the Canada Goose. They were one of the first species to be listed under the Endangered Species Act, but efforts to rebuild populations have been a success story, and they were taken off the list in 2001. A large percentage of their population spends the winter at the San Joaquin National Wildlife Refuge west of Modesto in the Great Valley.
There are Sandhill Cranes in the region, but we are still awaiting the arrival of the Snow Geese and the Ross's Geese. December and January are noisy times at our local wildlife refuges, and they are a reminder of the rich abundance of wildlife that existed here before 95% of the valley was taken over for agriculture. I'm looking forward to winter!