California’s central valley is a major winter layover spot on the Pacific Flyway; one of the prime routes for migratory birds. Geese, waterfowl and shorebirds alike make their winter home in the flooded rice patties and grain fields which farmers allow to go fallow for the winter. Some years back, farmers considered these birds a pest and set about destroying them. In one of the grand success stories, farmers, conservationists, and the state and federal government set aside several plots as wildlife refuges for the birds. Farmers can use noise canons and other non-destructive means to chase the birds from their property while the refuges provide the birds a safe place to stay. Bird watchers, duck hunters, photographers and others have benefited.
I visited the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge earlier this week. The day was overcast. I knew birds would be present. I wasn’t hopeful that it would be a great day to photograph them. But, on this day, nature provided ephemeral shafts of sunlight through breaks in the otherwise impenetrable layer of dark gray, stratus, clouds. The shafts highlighted the sky and the ponds, while casting the trees and birds in silhouette. It created a mood that captured the essence of a winter afternoon: the sun providing reassurance to the birds and trees resting and waiting for life to start anew. It was a great day after all.