Other excellent driving tours at refuges for waterfowl and wildlife include at Colusa, Llano Seco, Yolo Bypass and, in the San Joaquin Valley, the Grasslands.

Large numbers of golden eagles migrate to the East Bay foothills south of Mount Diablo to Sunol Regional Wilderness and the Calaveras Reservoir watershed, where ground squirrels and contiguous greenbelt provide abundant food and habitat all winter.

More likely, perhaps, is that you'll need a break while driving Interstate 5 on a holiday trip. There is no better place than a tour around the Sacramento Wildlife Refuge.

And a lot of bird watchers are turning into hunters.

Duck hunting

"We need weather to move the birds south," said Jennifer Isola, a biologist at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex. "We had a good influx of birds already, and without a lot of water up north (at the Klamath Refuges), it will pick up."

Up north, more than 500 bald eagles spend the winter at the Klamath Wildlife Refuge, where numbers peak from January through March. A dawn fly out of about 100 eagles is common off Keno Warden Road, just off Highway 97.

As storms arrive at points north, waterfowl will head straight for the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, as well as the delta and bay wetlands. Of dozens of marshes and wetlands, the best for sightings are often Napa Sonoma Marsh at high and outgoing tides by kayak, and at low tide Cheap Youth Canada Goose Expedition Parka Navy Nz at Hayward Regional Shoreline, Bothin Marsh in Sausalito, Don Edward San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge near Newark and the Palo Alto Baylands Preserve.

Duck hunting has been terrible across the wetlands and refuges of Northern California, about a 2 bird per hunter average last weekend, worse than that for many, with very few of the prize Drake mallards or Canada geese.

Others of note: Abbotts Lagoon, Point Reyes National Seashore; Giacomini Wetlands, southern Tomales Bay; Five Brooks Pond, Point Reyes; Limantour, Point Reyes; Bolinas Lagoon; Big Lagoon/Redwood Creek at Muir Beach; Petaluma Marsh; Rush Creek/Novato Marsh, Novato; Corte Madera Ecological Reserve; Bothin Marsh, Sausalito; Richardson Bay, Belvedere; China Camp State Park, San Rafael; Marin Islands, San Rafael; Rodeo Lagoon, Marin Headlands

The limit is seven ducks, which may include seven mallards but only two pintail. What you see on the marshes of the Sacramento Valley these days are tons of pintails and almost no mallards. That is a reality from a drought year with poor nesting for mallards last spring in California, but good numbers of pintails migrating from points north on the Pacific Flyway.

Cheap Youth Canada Goose Expedition Parka Navy Nz

The best place to see sandhill cranes, the 4 foot shorebird with prehistoric roots and loud honking call, is Woodbridge Ecological Reserve near Lodi (drive on Woodbridge Road to the south side of the reserve). At dusk, you can often see a flyover of 75 to 100 birds.

Marin: Napa Sonoma Marsh Wildlife Area

A survey at the Refuge Complex conducted by Mike Carpenter in late October reported 940,283 ducks, mostly pintail (often called Sprig), and 441,027 geese, mostly White fronted geese (often called Specs or Speckled Bellies). Another 500,000 birds could arrive in the next month or so.

San Francisco: Crissy Field, San Francisco

Others of note: Coyote Point County Park, San Mateo; Foster City Lagoons; Redwood Creek estuary, Redwood City Harbor; Ravenswood Open Space Preserve, East Palo Alto; Pillar Point Harbor (western side), Princeton; San Gregorio Lagoon; Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve

´╗┐Annual migration slow to arrive in Central Valley

The sighting of a rare species, like the wayward falcated duck two years ago at Colusa, can capture the zeal of millions. In that case, a nomadic teal from Asia or perhaps Russia drew bird watchers to Northern California from across America.

Cold weather, ice and storms probably will push many of those birds south in the next month.

Bay Area bests

With less water across the Central Valley this fall, many privately owned clubs are dry, or started flooding just this week. In addition, with fewer young ducks this year, the older, wiser ducks from past years seem to know exactly which marshes get hunted and which marshes do not. They also seem to feed at night and rest during the day, and in turn, avoid hunters.

Peninsula: Palo Alto Baylands

At the six federal wildlife refuges that make up the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex, last weekend's scores in the hunting zones ranged from a low of 1.4 ducks per hunter Saturday at Colusa to a high of 2.6 per hunter Sunday at Delevan. Other results ranged somewhere in between, with shoveler, pintail and gadwall being the predominant species. Sutter remains closed because of low water.

In turn, hunters are spending more time enjoying the flights of nongame birds and identifying species like White faced ibis, Long billed curlew and the massive swarms of blackbirds that often rise at dawn and fly across the marsh in spectacular dipsy do swirls, as if connected telekinetically.

Others of note: Candlestick Point State Recreation Area; Lake Merced Complex

At the same time, as fall migrations commence, bird watching has turned into a hunt. Bird watchers, just like hunters, are tracking migrations, surveys and sightings to calculate the best areas in the Bay Area and beyond for the most compelling sightings.

Up north at the five refuges that make up Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, Jim Hainline reported an aerial survey at the end of October that counted 290,140 ducks and 25,451 geese. Those numbers include 68,860 pintail, 65,580 Green wing teal and 59,680 mallard. Several designated hunting areas are closed at Klamath from lack of water.

In the Central Valley, roughly 3 million ducks and 750,000 geese, constituting 44 percent of the waterfowl population on the Pacific Flyway, spend the winter at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex. It's the best bird watching driving tour in California; $6, or free with a $15 federal duck stamp. In a 6 mile driving tour, you might see a quarter million birds, 15 to 25 species.