Merced National Wildlife Refuge

Just 20 miles south of the Central Valley city of Merced is a wildlife refuge that hosts the largest concentration of lesser sandhill cranes on the Pacific Flyway.

On Sunday morning I headed out into the cold Central Valley morning to one of the jewels of California’s wildlife refuges.

Twenty minutes later, as I neared the Refuge entrance, the field to my left was covered with geese and cranes.

There are a lot of geese, I mean a lot, at Merced National Wildlife Refuge.

I entered the the Refuge and scoped the flocks from the observation platform. Thousands of Ross’s, snow, and greater white-fronted geese and lesser sandhill cranes. I headed back into my moveable birding blind and started on the five mile auto route.

The rules of the auto route is that you have to remain in your vehicle. Your car acts as a moving blind allowing you to get very close to wildlife without scaring them away.

Lesser sandhill cranes below and lines of geese above.
The bugle call of sandhills overhead is a sound I look forward to every winter.

It was not just about observing feathered creatures. I also spotted a coyote trotting across a levy path with a white goose in it’s mouth. It is the circle of life after all. I also observed a scaled creature in the glassland area of a refuge. It was a beautiful four-foot gopher snake hunting in the ground squirrel burrows.