Thursday, January 19, 2012

Warm Weather and Waterfowl

We’ve been enjoying the warm weather here on the coast – most days are in the 70s, and although often overcast, we’ve had little rain.  It’s been “top down” weather, and we’ve been having a great time exploring the coast.  This is the home for many migratory waterfowl and shorebirds, and the marshes, ponds, and fields have been full of winter residents.  One of the Pelicans on Parademost prolific is the White Pelican – it’s rare to find a body of water without a group of them, strung out in a line as they herd baitfish into shallow water.  There’s so interesting to watch – almost clownish, yet still graceful the way they move through the water.  We stopped at a fishing pier cleaning station where several fisherman were throwing pieces of fish to a group of White Pelicans with a few Brown ones mixed in.  As the fisherman would raise his hand to throw, all of those huge beaks would rise together as if choreographed. 
Pelicans at Fish Cleaning Station
Willett (non-breeding)There are dozens of state and city parks on the water that provide great places for birdwatching, and there’s always a group of 5th-wheel hauling pickups in the parking lot of each, with license plates from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and other northern states.  This is non-breeding season for birds and waterfowl, so most, like this Willett, are not very colorful, although some, like the Roseate Spoonbill, still manage to show a hint of their beautiful rose hues.Roseate Spoonbill
Green-winged TealAt one large pond, we were amazed by the number of ducks – Northern Shoveler, Green and Blue-winged Teal, Ruddy, and Red-headed ducks were everywhere, mixed in with Cormorants, both Double-crested and their smaller cousin, the Neotropic.  The Green-winged Teal were very colorful, but it was a Northern Shoveler, preening himself that caught our attention with his vibrant colors.
Northern Shoveler
The water isn’t the only place to see waterfowl – drive down almost any rural road and you’ll see hundreds of SnowSnow Geese in Field Geese in the fields, grazing alongside cattle.  We stopped to watch one large gaggle, and when I got out of the car to take a picture, the field erupted with hundreds of noisy, wing-flapping,  quacking geese as they took off.  It was an awesome sight, but naturally my camera wasn’t handy to capture it. 
We’ve become enthusiastic wildlife watchers and have come a long way from our working days when we identified birds as “Robins and all others”, and ducks as “Mallards and all others”.  It’s been a wonderful part of our post-working life, and our thanks to Bob and Deb at Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge (our first volunteer location), for their patience in helping us appreciate the magic of “birding”!
We’re also exploring historical sites, backcountry roads, and of course, restaurants, so check back and see what we’ve found!

1 comment:

  1. I admit to being one who classifies birds as robins and "others" but I love reading blogs written by those who know the difference. One day I will know more. Beautiful pictures.