Shepherding a New Generation

By Jim Morris

Spending quality time in rice country affords me some pretty amazing wildlife viewing. Winter offers the adrenaline-filled sight of a rice field packed with countless thousand snow geese getting some rest and refueling (the Sacramento Valley definition of an airbnb)!

If you are patient, spring and summer can yield some fantastic opportunities. After all, rice fields are where the next generation of many wildlife species are born and, in turn, raise their young.

So, when I got the call from grower Josh Sheppard of an opportunity to view something special in one of his rice fields in Richvale, I jumped at the chance.

After arriving at the farm for the first half of my 174-mile round trip, my next steps were traversing through dense growth on the bank near the rice field that held my prize. The waders went on and I traveled into the field about 15 feet to witness this magnificent nest:

I hope to revisit the nest and will pass along any pertinent updates.

This isn’t my first special encounter with an American Bittern, one of nearly 230 wildlife species that depend on area rice fields. In early June, I photographed and recorded Bittern vocalizations in a Sutter County rice field.

Our rice ecosystem is exhilarating. I can’t think of a better combination that we have here in the Sacramento Valley. The billions of dollars in economic value and 25,000 jobs generated from California rice are huge.

I’m proud that there’s great care and value placed on those four Bittern eggs I saw, as well!


Jim Morris is Communications Manager for the California Rice Commission. Jim has worked in communications for more than 20 years. When he’s not on the job, he enjoys his family, faith, football, outrageous monster stories and running marathons.