About a week ago, I told myself I could no longer be surprised by anything in this valley.
Then I arrived at my next site near Knight’s Landing. And it was one fire.
A controlled burn, at least – apparently a yearly effort to clear the dry grass along the Sacramento River, thus preventing larger wildfires. It’s a necessary management strategy in this ecosystem that is adapted for frequent fires. And yet, as I stood there that morning observing the still smoking piles of charred vegetation, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bitter at the flawless serendipity of timing.
Fortunately, the birds didn’t seem to mind.
After all, small fires just clear the earth, leaving it filled with seeds and exposed bugs to fill the bellies of finches and sparrows. And the surrounding trees were left untouched – a line of oaks on one side of the river, and on the other, an orchard of large walnuts that was humming with finches, doves, and even our first Lazuli Bunting of the summer.
In fact, the diversity we found on our transect came as a big surprise. The surrounding landscape is rather barren, and has probably lost quite a few trees since Storer was here in 1912. But compared to Storer’s 35 species, we saw 47 packed into the narrow riparian belt.
The giant field of sunflowers right next door probably helped. Talk about a finch heaven.
In the afternoon, we made the delightfully short journey to explore Sacramento. An actual city. And the state capitol to boot.
We visited the zoo.
Took a tour of the gorgeous capitol building.
Roamed the old-timey streets of Old Sacramento.
And enjoyed a much-needed break from our usual camp food.
On a final note, to my repeat blog readers – I’ve finally updated my about page, complete with links to all my past field work and travel blogs. Plenty of birdy adventures to read about!