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Chico Snow Goose Festival

The Sacramento NWR Complex, home to the Chico Snow Goose Festival, is an amazing resource for migratory birds and photographers. The area around Chico, California holds parts of the refuge including the Llano Seco NWR and Colusa NWR in addition to state wildlife refuges like Gray Lodge Wildlife Area and private property with conservation easements like the 18,000 acre LanoSeco Ranch. In addition, local rice fields provide an excellent food source for Snow geese and Tundra swans. Located on the Pacific flyway, all of these resources are holding areas for many species during the winter months.

The Chico Snow Goose Festival celebrates the migratory Snow geese which are here by the thousands, but are only one of many species that over winter in the area including eagles, hawks, Canada geese, White-fronted geese and multiple duck species. I made a second trip to the area for the festival this year after scouting the area last winter and had a great time. Learned a lot too during the many workshops led by expert birders and the occasional photographer. Every day was spent on a field workshop and I still didn’t get a chance to see everything I wanted to. Highlights of the trip included a visit to the Llano Seco NWR with professional photographer Jeffrey Rich who has spent 40 years photographing birds in particular as well as other wildlife and has written an excellent book about bird photography, “The Complete Guide to Bird Photography” available on my A-store at Jeff is an excellent teacher and writes in a very readable style. His book is crammed full of excellent advice.

Below are some of the photos I captured during my workshop with Jeff: Snow geese with 14,180 foot Mt Shasta in the background. White-fronted geese with a lone Canada goose. Black phoebe. A flycatcher and a new species for me. Northern pintail duck. And Snow geese by the thousands at sunset.

Snow Geese and Shasta
White-fronted Geese Plus OneColusa NWR Chico, California

Black Phoebe
Northern Pintail
Snow Goose Sunset

Another workshop was spent with birding expert and Swarovski technical expert Bruce Webb who taught us about raptors and where to find them. We saw many species of hawks and learned how to identify them, but sadly they were all a long ways away even in a spotting scope. We saw 20-30 eagles that day mostly soaring and a few perched at great distances. But the highlight of the day for me was this bird:

Burrowing Owl on Fence Post

A Burrowing owl perched on a cattle chute, a quintessentially western location. This definitely made my day as Burrowing owls had been on my to do list for quite some time. They are incredibly small owls with a length of 9.5 inches according to Sibley and well concealed except for their brilliant yellow eyes. So, I felt fortunate to see one let alone photograph one as they tend to nest in brushy areas where they are well concealed. This was another great adventure where I learned some new birds and some new areas to explore further next winter. Thanks for reading and commenting. Don’t forget to listen to my “Photographing the West” podcasts too.