Honking, quacking, whistling … we’re not talking about a raucous night in the city. We’re talking about an absolute bonanza of bird species when you visit Gray Lodge Wildlife Area
, 50 miles north of Sacramento in the heart of the Pacific Flyway. Every winter more than a million waterfowl descend on Gray Lodge’s 9,100 acres of land. You should too, if you want to see what birding is really all about (aka, all the cool kids are doing it!). Set at the base of the tiny yet mighty Sutter Butte mountain range, Gray Lodge sees high concentrations of raptors (like kestrels, red-shouldered hawks, and kites), snow geese, northern pintails, coots, egrets, and great blue herons. Night herons festoon trees like garlands. Even bald eagles have been known to fly these parts. And of course, there are ducks, ducks, ducks galore! See this amazing variety of species on an easy 2-mile walk combining the Wetland Discovery Trail and Flyway Loop Trail. Get a great vantage of the feathered residence, and residents, from an elevated viewing platform and two “observation hides” (like little bunkers looking out to the wetlands). Waters here are also home to beavers, river otters, and muskrats. Along your walk you’ll hear the primordial sounds of birds like you’ve probably never heard before. If you’re lucky, you’ll spy hundreds of these birds taking off all at once. Feather in your cap.
Gray Lodge Wildlife Area isn’t too far from Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge
and should be combined if you have the time.
Here’s a map to the wildlife area. The recommended walk starts from Parking Lot 14. Dog-friendly!