Monday, December 12, 2011

San Luis National Wildlife Refuge

The coast and Central Valley of California are on the Pacific Flyway, the migratory route for many species of birds.  Some birds stop and rest in California before heading further south,  others think it is a fine resort and stay all winter.


San Luis NWR serves a double purpose, it is host to many birds but more importantly it is the home of a herd of Tule Elk.
Tule Elk are the smallest subspecies of elk and native to California.  Once numbering in the 100s of thousands, their numbers dropped to 28 know individuals before measures were taken to protect them.  

San Luis was host to the first herd and now there are several more in the central valley as well as the coastal mountains and Point Reyes National Seashore.  There is also a herd in the Owens Valley which I saw often as we traveled up and down Highway 395.

The Owens Valley herd roams freely over land owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power so I was a bit surprised to see the elk penned in by a high fence.  I suppose it is not surprising, the farmers nearby probably don't want the elk grazing on their crops.

Since we visited in early December, the bulls were no longer with the cows.  They still have their antlers, though, they won't loose them until February.  The bull elk were near the fence where we could get a good look and poke our lenses through the wire.





















The cows and calves, however,  were out in the center of the enclosure so even my telephoto lens couldn't get a very good shot.  It did look like there was one bull still with them.





















There was not as much bird life as we would see later at the Merced Unit but I did get my best shot to date of a kestrel.  He flew from fence post to fence post as we drove along, keeping his eye on us from over his shoulder.

Isn't he cute?
























The Ruddy Duck's blue gray bill will turn a brilliant blue come breeding season.























Several female Northern Harriers scanned the ground looking for a meal.  You can just glimpse this one's distinguishing white rump where it wraps around her flank.
We kept looking for Sandhill Cranes, we could hear their distinctive call and knew they were around somewhere.
  There!  We finally spotted a small flock.




On our way out of the refuge I spotted this belted kingfisher.  So far this is the best shot I have gotten of the species.  Actually, it is the only shot.  I've seen them several times but they are shy and fly off before I can get my camera up.

We also saw gadwalls, northern shovelers, black necked stilts, coots and mallards.  We had been told that there was a better variety of birds at the Merced unit so after a picnic lunch we headed there, about 20 miles away.


See more views of our wonderful world at Our World, Tuesday; hosted for us by Arija, Gattina, Lady Fi, Sylvia and Sandy.

See more of the world or birds at World Bird Wednesday, hosted for us by Springman.

36 comments:

Sylvia K said...

Your bird captures are always so delightful! I get to enjoy such wonderful birds "up close and personal" and I love it! The elk are beautiful! We would see so many whenever we took trips around Montana where we lived when the children were growing up and it was great!

Sylvia

biebkriebels said...

You made some great photo's of the animals. I like the one with the bulls, they pose so right as if you arranged them to stand like that!

Diane AZ said...

The birds and elk you found at San Luis NWR are beautiful and fascinating. The kestrel is cute as can be looking over his shoulder like that.

Gary said...

Great post!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

NixBlog said...

Great photos! You have captured some magnificent fauna in its habitat.

Sinbad and I on the Loose said...

What a great assortment you came up with at the refuge. My nearby refuges do not...well maybe they do and it is just me and my luck.

Roberto Machado Alves said...

Should be a beautiful place to walk and stay close to many animals.
Thank you for sharing a little about a place unknown to me.

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Very nice, I had never even thought of an elk herd in California. I don't know why. The state has lots and lots of land.

You are right, your Kestrel is much cuter than the smiling maniacal critter in my post.

Robert Geiss said...

Life felt better after looking at these wonderful images. Please have a good Tuesday you all.


daily athens photo

Arija said...

What a great day Martha with so many sighting! The symmetry of your bull elk shot is as though you had posed them and the kestrel really is a little honey. To top it off you got to see the cranes and got a shot at the kingfisher. I am quite envious of the variety and wonder of it all.

Sandy Carlson said...

All of your photos are a sublime treat. Thank you!

Carole DeAngeli said...

Wonderful photos! I have seen the tule elk at Pt. Reyes and also along 395. It's great that their numbers are recovering. Love the kestrel. It's always a thrill to see them.

Indrani said...

Fantastic wild life captures. The elks look good.

Gaelyn said...

Wildlife refuges are such great places to visit for wildlife. That shot of the bull elk is awesome, as is the leery little kestrel.

ladyfi said...

What great shots! Love those majestic elk.

Stewart M said...

Looks like a great place to visit!

The elk are splendid.

Cheers - Stewart M - Australia

kanak7 said...

Enjoyed going through your images of the elks and the birds.We do see a few kingfishers here but the belted one is new to me. Learning more of the Ruddy ducks now through WBW.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Twenty years ago I lived in Turlock and drove through here to get to Monterey. I never knew you could stop anywhere. The visitor center looks new. I remember seeing huge flocks of tricolored blackbirds. It's so close, maybe it'll be a winter trip for us. I've always wanted to see sandhill cranes.

ps - I've been following this blog for some time. Yesterday, I just discovered you have another blog and joined that one, too.

Sivinden said...

Fabulous pictures of birds and animals!

holdingmoments said...

Great selection Martha.
Love the shot of the Ruddy Duck.

Andrew said...

Wonderful images and many thanks for sharing the Ruddy Duck...
Our government has spent millions culling ours in the UK...
I really miss seing them.

mick said...

It sounds like a great place to visit and your photos are beautiful.

Rambling Woods said...

That is a wonderful habitat for all the wildlife and it's so important that we preserve it...enjoyed this post...Michelle

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

What a great spot that was for animal- and bird-watching. Magic! Kestrels are cute...we used to have one who liked our backyard (when we had our house in Oregon)...the songbirds would scatter like crazy and then we knew the kestrel was about to swoop down.

eileeninmd said...

What a great day, I love all the birds. The Kestrel is cool and the Cranes are a neat sighting too.

Springman said...

An important post! I had no idea that Tule elk where so endangered. That is scarey to think that such a beautiful animal could have been gone.
Nice catch on the kestrel, that is a great look!

Kay L. Davies said...

Fabulous post, Martha. I always enjoy visiting you.

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

Dan Huber said...

very nice post and wonderful photos. Great capture of the Kestrel.

Hilke Breder said...

Wonderful shots, Martha, and interesting info on the Tule Elk - I guess conservation efforts came just in time!

bailey-road.com said...

Wonderful shots! It's good to hear that the elk population is improving. They are magnificent animals!

joo said...

Beautiful post, Martha!

Adam Tilt said...

Great post Martha. Really like the Kestrel which has some interesting head plumage compared to the ones we get here in the UK.

Kay Ellen said...

Beautiful! I have been to this lovely refuge...the sculpture and sign looks new...very nice:))

The elk are huge when you get up close!

Thanks for sharing:)

Kay Ellen

KB said...

Wonderful pics.

Kay said...

That kestrel really is cute.

Judy said...

I like this angle of the elk statue even better than the one I looked at on your other blog! And the kestrel really is cute, when you see him this closeup!!!