Merced National Wildlife Refuge

“We should go to Merced. To the Wildlife Refuge,” said Robin.

I looked it up online and wasn’t entirely convinced. The walking trails were very short. The largest “trail” was a five-mile auto tour. That didn’t sound like much fun.

Just a few days later, however, Katherine came home from her volunteer work brimming with excitement about…Merced National Wildlife Refuge. One of Katherine’s co-workers had recently been to the Merced Refuge and loved it–especially the auto tour.

“You need to bring snacks because you will want to spend a lot of time,” her co-worker said. Wow! This was the universe talking to us, since the co-worker didn’t even know that we were (not!) considering going to Merced.

We quickly told Robin we were all in on a trip to Merced. Her husband, Mark, generously agreed to drive. So, at 5am one recent morning, we all piled into their car and headed to the central valley.

As soon as we arrived, we were awestruck by the sight and sound of thousands of birds flying and taking off and landing in the water before us. Katherine took videos (turn the sound up to hear the birds!).

We arrived just as the sun was rising and it colored the fog a beautiful yellowy-orange.

Sandhill Cranes in flight in the early dawn
Katherine’s too huge binoculars

The auto tour turned out to be very cool. We had great views from the car (though next time we would bring a larger car with larger windows). I stepped out frequently to take photos. You aren’t allowed to “walk” on the auto tour but I wasn’t walking; I was standing.

We drove through wetlands (okay, not through wetlands, we drove alongside them), riparian woodlands, grasslands, vernal ponds and croplands. The crops are planted specifically for the birds. The Sandhill cranes and arctic-nesting geese will need to gain weight before beginning their migration north.

Below are just a few of the many birds we saw in the five hours we spent at the Merced Refuge.

Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark singing
Katherine and Mark watching as the birds fill the sky.
Time to practice our bird counting skills!
Greater-white fronted Geese, Ross’s Geese and Snow Geese in flight.

We had an amazing time at an amazing place. We are looking forward to going back and bringing more snacks for a longer visit!

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May 14, 2022 7:38 am

[…] Refuge, like the Merced National Wildlife Refuge (which we visited earlier this year: see this post), has both auto tours and walking trails. We were happy to be able to bring Sam and Sasha who would […]

February 19, 2022 12:39 pm

Amazing. I can’t believe soooo many birds. What a beautiful and magical sight.

February 18, 2022 9:04 am

Finally I get to star in your blog! XO Your Favorite Bird

February 18, 2022 1:36 pm
Reply to  Robin

You deserve it for spotting that owl! Owls weren’t even on MY radar!

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