Research: Salt Slough and Hayes Station

While constant travel inspires a thrill of adventure, it’s always comforting to return to a familiar place. I spent six nights at the Basalt campground in San Luis Reservoir last summer, the highlight being a clumsy family of Great Horned Owls. When I returned, the owl pair was still hooting to one another in the…

Research: Tracy Lake and Carbondale

Birds love water. Grapes love water. Oaks love water. And there was plenty of water here. From the satellite imagery, I’d expected Tracy Lake to be completely dry; another casualty of the 100-year drought that’s held California for the past few summers. But perhaps the rain this last winter is finally breaking the spell. The…

Research: Corral Hollow and Tracy

The blissful vistas at Knight’s Ferry seemed a distant memory as I stood on the shoulder of Corral Hollow Road, the roar of traffic and wind blurring all but the most boisterous of meadowlark songs as they drifted in from the brown, barren grasslands surrounding me. When the historic surveyors visited the mouth of Corral…

Research: Knight’s Ferry

The first site of the summer was more breathtaking than any I visited last year. The small town of Knight’s Ferry sits just within the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, along the steep cliffs carved out by the Stanislaus River. How I would have loved to see such green hills last year. The grass covering…

Research: Central Valley 2016

Follow my travels through the California Central Valley, searching for birds at sites originally surveyed over a century ago.

Research: Elk Creek

Though our resurvey efforts endeavor to follow as closely as possible in the footsteps of Grinnell and his colleagues, often times the exact path they walked is obscure or inaccessible. So it was an unusual treat when, at our final site of the summer, we could watch the sun rise over the exact gravel riverbank…

Research: Butte Creek

Rivers, rivers everywhere. And not a drop to drink. But thankfully, plenty to swim in. Because it’s been terribly hot around here. Mountain rivers are the life blood of California. They bring water to cities, suburbs, and farms throughout the state. And here in Butte County, nestled in the northeastern corner of the Central Valley,…

Research: Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

The best ponds are the kind with water in them. That may seem like a self-evident statement. But after visiting countless rivers, ponds, marshes, and even entire wildlife refuges that were bone dry, water seems a thing of myth and beauty. And there was plenty of it here. The entire Sacramento wildlife refuge complex (Sacramento,…

Research: Knight’s Landing and Sacramento

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…