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Sacramento, Delevan Wildlife Refuges celebrating birthdays
Two local wildlife refuges couldn't have had a better birthday.
Saturday's celebration marked the 75th anniversary of the development of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge in Glenn County and the 50th anniversary of the Delevan refuge in Colusa County.
"There was a lot going on in 1937 in the way of conservation," said Dan Frisk, refuge manager. "Agriculture was expanding in the area, so there was a real need to protect wetlands for the millions of waterfowl that migrate along the Pacific Flyway."
More than 3 million ducks and 1 million geese migrate to the Sacramento Valley every fall, with about 40 percent stopping at the area refuges.
The refuges become the winter home to about 600,000 ducks and 200,000 geese, Frisk said.
The refuge is also home to several endangered plants and animals, including transplanted colonies of palmate-bracted bird's-beak, several species of fairy shrimp, vernal pool tadpole shrimp, giant garter snake, wintering peregrine falcon, bald eagle and breeding tricolored blackbirds.
Resident wildlife includes beaver, muskrat, black-tailed deer, and other species typical of upland and wetland habitats.
In addition to their ecological importance, the refuges attract more than 70,000 visitors per year, including hunters and bird lovers.
"We read about the celebration online and thought it was important to be here," said Ellen Anderson of Elk Grove. "This is one of our favorite places to be, especially in the winter."
Anderson said she and her family are avid bird watchers, and visits the Sacramento refuge several times a year.
Last year, the family made several additional trips to the Colusa refuge when the falcated duck was in residence.
"There is nothing like seeing thousands of cackling geese take off and fly into the refuge, but I love just watching a single duck paddling in the water," Anderson said. "I can understand why people say if they can come back as any animal, they would come back a bird. They are fascinating creatures."
Matt Wolder, 13, and Emily Wolder, 12, of Willows, visit the refuge about six times a year. Their dad, Mike Wolder, is a refuge biologist.
While watching the birds fly off is always fun, Matt said the aquatic wildlife at the refuge is more enjoyable.
"I like catching frogs," he said.
The 10,800-acre Sacramento refuge consists of about 7,600 acres of managed wetlands, uplands, riparian habitat and vernal pools.
Personnel from the US Fish and Wildlife Service were available Saturday to talk to visitors about the work and equipment used to build and maintain wetland habitats.
The Wildlife Service also demonstrated the use of its airboat, which is typically used for banding and monitoring birds for disease.
The airboat, which can operate in very shallow water, is also used for search and rescue, said equipment operator Chris Swihart.
During the celebration, children climbed on the heavy equipment and tried their hand at games, while adults enjoyed browsing the Junior Duck Stamp art and the bookstore.
Bird watchers and photographers enjoyed special behind the scene tours of the Sacramento and Delevan refuges, which took them to areas not generally open to the public.
On the auto tour, volunteers met visitors at the platform to help with the identification of birds and other wildlife.
First-time visitor Gladys Moule of Sacramento said she was amazed at the sights and sounds of the refuge, but said it was just one bird sitting on a grassy knoll that made her heart go "pitter-patter."
"I saw a bald eagle," Moule said. "Can you believe it? It's our national bird. I'm 82 years old and I don't recall ever seeing an eagle in my life. Not even at the zoo. He was pretty majestic."
Young brothers Mario and Charlie Giannini of Chico also enjoyed visiting the refuge for the first time, although they are from a family of avid birders.
Among their favorites spotted Saturday were the Wilson pharlarope — a pretty shorebird — and the march wren — a small, long-billed song bird.
The boys hiked along the walking trail with grandmother Marvey Mueller, before enjoying the activities at the visitors center.
Jim Morris, California Rice Commission communications manager, and son R.J. spent the morning at the Sacramento refuge, while wife Leslie enjoyed the three-hour photography tour.
"I can't think of a more perfect place to be on a Saturday," Jim Morris said. "This is a great place for families."
CONTACT Susan Meeker at 934-6800 or email@example.com.