Yolo Basin Wildlife Refuge

This is a convenient location for bird photography for those local to the Davis and Sacramento region. The best opportunities exist between September and March with the peak time during the winter. It is also adjacent to a duck hunting preserve, so during the duck hunting season around October and November, some areas are off limits.  You will notice the birds become much more edgy after the hunting begins, so approachability of some birds species for photography can be more difficult. During the summer season, it is also a popular location for viewing bats. The bats come out by the hundreds of thousands from underneath the west end of the Yolo Causeway bridges.

Flock of EgretsYou get here from the exit off of Interstate 80 closest to the western edge of the causeway that runs between Davis and Sacramento. The entrance is on the south side of the freeway just east of the fruit store. It is up and over the dirt levee road. There is gate that is controlled by the fish and wildlife personal that is typically opened at around sunrise but can vary, so plan accordingly.

Birds you may find here include: Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, White-faced Ibis, Norther Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Swainson Hawk, Virgina Rail, Common Moorhen, Sora, Northern Pintail, Blue Winged Teal, Green Winged Teal, Cinammon Teal, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Eurasian Wigeon, Lesser and Greater Scaup, Canada Goose, Snow Goose, White Pelican, Black Crowned Night Heron, Green Heron, American Bittern, Lesser Bittern, Avocet, Black necked Stilt, Long billed Dowitcher, Greater Yellowlegs, Pied-billed Grebe, Eared Grebe, American Coot, Marsh Wren, Red-winged Blackbird, Tri-colored blackbird, Western Meadowlark, California Quail, Killdeer, Horned Lark.

Yolo Basin refuge mapFavorite locations that have worked for me include:

- On the west side of the road just past the entrance (marked 'A' on the map). This generally only is good when the area on this west side is sufficiently flooded.

- Follow the from the entrance to where it makes the first bend to the left and take this.  Then as you drive due east, look through the tules to your right (marked 'B'). There are some exposed areas here that can provide some nice opportunities.

- Make the next right and drive about 1 mile further south. You should see a parking area on your right that also has a porta-potty (marked 'C' on the map). This is a good open spot for some of the more flooded areas.  With a big lens you can pick-off quite a few different species from here.  It is also a nice location to setup for at first light in the morning when some species first take flight. It is not unusual to see egrets, ibis, geese, and sometimes cranes by the dozens in air at fairly low altitudes from this location.

- Next follow the road further south to where it will fork to the left or loop back to the right. During hunting season, the road is closed (marked purple) that provides access further to the south and west, so you will end up having to loop back here to the right.  But if the road is not closed, then location 'E' on the map provides some nice opportunities for more waders and some of the shyer birds such as Bitterns and Rails.  You may also find some of these birds on the edge of some of the reed thickets back in area 'B' on the map.

- At the bend back to the north, the flooded area to your right is nice for black necked stilts, avocets, Ibis, and various sandpipers. These tend to be more aloof and somewhat easier to approach.

While out here, also keep an eye out for beaver and river otter that also frequent the sloughs between some of the flooded areas.

For more detailed information about the Yolo Basin wildlife refuge follow the link found here.

To see more high quality bird related images, you can visit my bird gallery here:  Bird Gallery