By Steve McGovern
The Pacific Flyway for migratory birds encompasses the western United States (from Alaska to California and parts of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Arizona), western Canada, and Mexico. Millions of birds make the trek every year from the northern areas of the flyway in the fall and winter and back in the spring. Hundreds of thousands (millions?) of these birds winter in the Central Valley of California and other areas of our state with mild to relatively mild climates.
Lake Almanor, where we spend part of the year, is in the middle of that flyway. Many of the migratory birds either winter here or pass through on their way south. Typically, we will see many varieties of ducks (too many for me to identify), geese (I’ve seen Canada geese, and greater whitefronted geese), tundra swans, and sandhill cranes. Of course this is in addition to the larger birds that live here year-long like white pelicans, grebes, mergansers, and others.
Anyway, it’s a little early for migrating birds to reach this far south, but I thought this picture of Canada geese taking flight was interesting more for the background than the geese themselves. By the way, if you’re a “birder” you have to travel to the Sacramento valley in mid-winter. The ponds, lakes and rice paddies there accommodate a wide variety of migratory birds and it's worth the trip just to see hundreds, if not thousands, of sandhill cranes flying around. The Carrizo Plain, about 60 miles east of SLO, is another hotspot for sandhill cranes, though I’ve never been there in the winter.
[A political note: Our President and his Secretary of the Interior are exploring the possibility of allowing mining in the Carrizo Plain National Monument, the largest protected habitat for migratory birds in the Pacific Flyway. According to the Nature Conservancy, the Carrizo Plain supports "the highest concentration of threatened and endangered wildlife in California…” I know Trump couldn’t care less what we think in California, but it might be nice to stop that.]