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Stories from the valley

Tour de Valley

Contributed by Steve Beckley

I recently had the chance to show some friends from Southern California some of the Sacramento Valley on a foggy day. I met Dave Wyman at Chico State many years ago and recently got to know his brother Dan. Both are great photographers. Dave’s work is at and Dan’s is at Neither are strangers to the Sacramento Valley, as one of their yearly events is to ride their bikes in Chico Wildflower Century . Dave also spent one summer as writer/photographer at the now defunct “Willows Daily Journal” But I had been telling them they had to come to the valley in the winter and see “The Birds”.

photo credit: Dan Wyman

Our day started with a foggy drive up to Knights Landing and north on Highway 45. As we approached the Grimes area, they started seeing the thousands of geese and other waterfowl that enjoy the amenities provided by the rice growers in Reclamation District 108. They got a little impatient with me as I would not stop at every group of geese, at first I don’t think they believed me when I said, “We would see more”. Near Grimes, I stopped at several fields with thousands of geese. Following those stops, Dan said “I never need to take another bird picture, but I will”.

As they took photos, many times they would process the photos on their phones and tablets and upload to their Instagram accounts which are davewyman and coasterdan51.

photo credit: Sharon Barker

We met Sharon Barker of Willows in Colusa, Sharon is a wildlife photographer and does some photography for the California Rice Commission and she accompanied us on the rest of our tour that took us to the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge and the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge in Willows. Her knowledge of birds was definitely a plus that day.

One of the highlights of the day was the lunch stop at Kim’s County Café in Maxwell. Not only did we enjoy a great tortilla soup, but many photos were taken of the rice and vegetable seed fields, as well as the dogs in the pickups in the parking lot. Kim and the locals enjoyed visiting with two Southern California guys and seeing some of the photos they had taken that day.

After Willows, we headed back south on Old Highway 99, with a more stops along the way for photographs of more geese and rice elevators.

photo credit: Dave Wyman

Personally, it was a great day for me as I got to renew a friendship made at a Sacramento Valley College many years ago and show with pride the environmental advantages of rice farming in the valley. I hope the readers of this blog will take a trip through the area and visit the refuges this winter. We never saw the sun, but we sure saw a lot of birds!