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Plants and Animals at the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area
Plants & Animals
The skies are alive! More than a million waterfowl winter here, including 100,000 geese. In the fall sandhill cranes arrive at Gray Lodge where they roost and feed. Listen for the calls of gulls and white pelicans in the spring, which give the Area a seaside sound. Day-hunting hawks, eagles and kites give way to barn, screech and long and short-eared owls at night, while great horned owls and burrowing owls hunt either day or night. Burrowing owls live in the burrows left behind by ground squirrels or other animals.
Deer, coyote, rabbits and gray fox may be seen at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area. If you don't see any of these and other Gray Lodge mammals, follow the clues they leave behind: tracks, scat, teeth marks on a tree, scrapings in the dust. Learn to read the "who ate what" and "who was here" stories evident on the ground.
Gray Lodge's 600 acres of riparian woodlands consist of stands of cottonwood and willow towering over an understory of lower shrubs and herbs. Here, blackberries grow, their rich fruits turning from bitter green to sour red to juicy purple-black. Here also, California wild grape grow, their seedy fruits a favorite with birds and wildlife. In the Sacramento Valley, as in many other areas of the state, much of the original riparian habitat was converted to farmland. The woodlands that remain at places like Gray Lodge provide food, shelter and shade for aquatic and terrestrial species like the garter snake, great blue heron, ringtail and river otter.
Freshwater marshes support a diverse array of wildlife. Some freshwater marsh plants have developed air tubes to their roots, buoyant leaves or porous leaf coverings that help them take in carbon dioxide, which they "breathe in" to help turn sunlight to sugars. Wetland plants feed insects and other tiny wetland invertebrates (creatures without backbones), which then feed fish, amphibians, reptiles, waterbirds and mammals. Waterfowl feed on swamp timothy, spike bulrush, pondweed and watergrass of Gray Lodge wetlands. Gray Lodge marshes offer seasonal resting places for waterfowl from as far away as Wrangle Island, near Russia, and the Pacific Ocean.