Saturday: It rained during the night and the morning dawned slightly overcast, but the cloud cover burned off and by noon the sun was shining unobstructed. We packed up and disconnected, then headed out for a day of exploring the delta.
Our campground on Brannon Island is surrounded by levees that keep the floodwaters out (as long as they don’t break) and the farmland on the island protected. A lot of corn is raised here and hawks and owls of all varieties abound. Our first sighting was a big red tailed hawk. The raptors like to sit on the telephone lines, or on the tops of the poles where they have a good view out over the fields. You can drive up and park next to them, but soon they will take to the air with a scolding screech and fly away.
The loop drive follows he tops of the levees, and it gives a good view of the landscape, which is pretty flat if you don’t count the levees. Houses built behind the levees are often on a three or four story structure that raises them up to where they can see. This keeps the house dry if the levee breaks, and gives the inhabitants a view they would not otherwise get.
In ten miles the road rejoined the highway, and we drove south along the Sacramento River to explore Brannon Island State Park, one of the state parks that is scheduled for closure. The so-called ’conservatives’ with their manufactured ‘debt crisis’ have convinced the population that the only way to save the country is to destroy everything the government once provided for the people. This, of course, is so that the billionaires can accumulate more and more and MORE of everything. Fortunately the country seems to be waking up to the scam, and those lies are getting harder to sell.
By mid afternoon we arrived at Woodbridge Ecological Reserve a few miles off I-5, which is home to the Phil and Marilyn Isenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve. On the way in we started seeing Sandhill cranes almost immediately, feeding in groups in the fields. Unlike herons and egrets, cranes are very social birds, and they congregate in large flocks that fly, travel, roost and feed together.
The Reserve has a nice observation platform and there were a lot of people coming and going to see the cranes. The platform overlooks a large pond area that hosts a lot of species of water birds. There were many varieties of geese and ducks, as well as herons, egrets and tundra swans. There were some cranes on the pond, but most were still out feeding. The key event takes place around sunset, when the crane flocks return from feeding, and fly back to their watery roost.
Several volunteers do crane tours and we had hoped to sign up for one, but the website said they were filled. When we got there, however, a nice man put us on a ‘waiting list’ and when time came for the tour to take off he included us in. After a good lecture on the cranes at the viewing platform, we caravanned to a blind where we were treated to a spectacular show of the crane flocks returning.
The group was asked to limit their talk and stay in the blind so as not to disturb the birds. Cranes have a very distinctive call, and we could hear them coming before we saw them. They return in groups of anywhere from four or five, to fifty or more. They land on the water, and roost there for the night. To make it a perfect evening, the volunteers even provided cranberry oatmeal cookies. We were asked to leave in a group and not to let our lights shine out over the water. We were the only RV in the caravan, but we fit in easily, and we had a great time. The drive back to camp was an easy one, and we fixed a late dinner and turned in for the night.