Posts Tagged With: northern shoveler

Bosque del Apache – 3

“Red, please.” The waitress topped off my mug with more steaming coffee and I had provided her with the answer to the most important question asked at all “authentic” New Mexican eateries:  “Green or red sauce?”.

Earlier, my son and I decided to delay breakfast and arrived at the “Flight Deck” pond about an hour before sunrise in order to get a choice spot along the shoreline in the hope of photographing Snow Geese as they awoke and took off from the surface. The temperature reading on the car’s dashboard said 11 F (-12 C). We were starting to fall into nature’s local rhythm. As the eastern horizon began to lighten we could make out long lines of birds beyond the hills. The distant sky turned blue, then pink, then as the sun was just below the line of mountains it seemed as if the edge of the earth was on fire!

With the growing light, hundreds of Snow Geese less than 50 yards in front of us began to stir and chatter. The long lines of birds we had seen in the distance had now grown to a cloud extending from the far eastern horizon to almost over our heads. The cackling of tens of thousands of geese obscured any other sounds of the new day. Geese on the pond increased the volume of their calling suddenly and significantly. The snow storm of birds in the sky flew in a wide arc and circled over our pond once and moved off to the west in one huge flapping jabbering mass. All at once, hundreds of geese sprang from the water in front of us, seemingly straight up, incredibly loud and flew at first southward, then circled back low over the pond and then westward to join the huge flock still passing overhead. Now, silence and an empty lake.

Familiar with the routine, we packed up and headed for the South Crane Pool where we knew several thousand Snow Geese would be staging before flying to local corn fields to feed for the rest of the day. It was good to be in the warm cocoon of the car. I had dressed warmly but operating two cameras for more than an hour with one glove removed took its toll. The Crane Pool – grab the gear!

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge once again provided a simply outstanding start to a magnificent day!

As the Snow Geese departed the South Crane Pool on schedule, my son and I decided to head about 40 minutes north to the Bernardo Waterfowl Management Area. We had heard this is where large numbers of Sandhill Cranes spend the day. On the way, we stopped in Socorro for a late breakfast. I opted for the “small” burrito with eggs. A very large platter arrived with two pork-stuffed burritos, two scrambled eggs, a huge portion of pinto beans, salsa and you already know what kind of sauce covered all of the above.

Sufficiently warmed by chiles and coffee, we found thousands of Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese at the Bernardo management area. After exploring the small refuge for a couple of hours we returned to Bosque del Apache and wandered around the desert garden at the visitor’s center. There we found a terrific diversity of birds, plant life and a begging bunny. The afternoon found us on the North Loop again where we were dazzled by the amount of wildlife and spectacular scenery. As the sun began to set, the low angle of light provided an entirely different perspective to the landscape.

We remained until dark and returned to the hotel once again deliriously exhausted.

A few of our memories follow.

 

About 40  minutes before sunrise, Snow Geese resting on the “Flight Deck” pond. From this angle you can only see a small part of nearly a thousand birds who spent the night here.

Bosque del Apache

 

Ten minutes after dawn and just after a fly-over of tens of thousands of geese, the Snow Geese in front of us “blast off” to join the massive airborne flock.

Bosque del Apache

 

Thirty minutes after sunrise, hundreds of Snow Geese – and one Northern Shoveler – rest at the South Crane Pool before leaving in small groups to search for corn fields where they will spend the day feeding.

Bosque Del Apache

 

As large numbers of geese take off from the Crane Pool, the noise and motion is exciting to witness!

Bosque Del Apache

 

Our post-breakfast destination, Bernardo Waterfowl Management Area. Here we found thousands of Sandhill Cranes, Snow Geese and even a few other species, such as a Spotted Towhee.

Bernardo WMA

Bernardo WMA

Bernardo Wildlife Management Area

Bernardo Wildlife Management Area

 

Returning to Bosque del Apache, we discovered a small group of Green-winged Teal feeding at the South Crane Pool and I managed a long-distance shot of a male.

Bosque Del Apache

 

A stop at the visitor’s center was informative (wonderful staff!) and we really enjoyed the well-maintained desert garden where we saw:

A Verdin, the only North American member of the Penduline Tit family.

Bosque Del Apache

 

Panhandler rabbit, obviously used to getting a treat from tourists. You can tell from his frown what he received from us. (Our thanks for posing!)

Bosque Del Apache

 

Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay, only recently (2016) named a separate species from the California Scrub Jay.

Bosque Del Apache

 

I had never seen a Gambel’s Quail and was stumped when we heard one calling. Once we discovered who the sound belonged to, we were quite surprised!

Bosque Del Apache

 

Back to the main refuge, we set off around the North Loop again. Almost immediately, we came across a Greater Roadrunner. Fantastic desert birds!

Bosque Del Apache

 

No matter where I see them, the Red-tailed Hawk is simply a magnificent raptor!

Bosque Del Apache

 

Since I am a native of sub-tropical flat Florida, I was easily impressed by the arid mountain landscape.

Bosque Del Apache

 

Speaking of easily impressed, I am always fascinated watching raptors hunt. This hen Northern Harrier glided over the grass, subtly changing direction by a small shift in tail or wing position. Gracefully elegant!

Bosque Del Apache

 

My first Mountain Chickadee!

Bosque Del Apache

 

My first White-breasted Nuthatch!

Bosque Del Apache

 

My first Steller’s Jay! (Sensing a pattern yet?)

Bosque Del Apache

 

I had no sooner uttered the phrase: “That smells like a skunk”, than my son pointed out the source. A Striped Skunk rooting through the leaves less than 100 feet from us. We “carefully” took a few photos before retreating to a safer distance.

Bosque Del Apache

 

Snow Geese, Sandhill Cranes and a variety of ducks enjoy the corn grown throughout the refuge and surrounding areas.

Bosque Del Apache

 

Almost sunset. The low angle of the sun lit up the cottonwood trees at the “Flight Deck” pond giving it an entirely different look than we saw before dawn this morning. Soon, Snow Geese will begin settling in for another chilly night.

Bosque Del Apache

 

One more image as the sun’s last rays brush against a mountain peak.

Bosque Del Apache

 

 

Tomorrow will be our final day. Tonight, a hot meal, a hot shower, a long talk with my lady who I am missing terribly and lights out. See you in the morning.

 

Additional Information

Bosque del Apache NWR

Friends of the Bosque del Apache NWR

Bernardo Waterfowl Management Area

Categories: Birds, Photography, Travel, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Fall In The Outfall

Once more I swiped the lenses of my binoculars in a futile attempt to dry the moisture of our early morning humidity. They immediately fogged up again. I was scanning the marsh before dawn hoping to spot a light-colored shape coasting just above the reeds. Two years ago a Barn Owl had materialized from a fog bank and just as quickly disappeared. To say they are uncommon in this area is a gross understatement.

Our last visit to Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands was in mid-September (Doldrums) and it was hot and humid. There was an abundance of mosquitoes. Now it’s late fall, winter is almost here. It’s hot and humid. There is an abundance of mosquitoes.

Although the weather was very similar, the birding was quite different. In September our total species tally was 40 and this time it increased to 56. Much of the difference was due to fall migration. Ducks, raptors and warblers really like the marsh habitat. I didn’t see the Barn Owl this morning, but was amply rewarded with six duck species, stilts, avocets, harriers, eagles, warblers, sparrows and a speedy falcon.

Enjoy the marsh.

 

Even the Black-necked Stilts had a hard time opening their little red eyes this morning. That blanket of warm fog was really comfortable.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Black-necked Stilt

 

Nothing like having unexpected guests for breakfast. This poor stilt had Long-billed Dowitchers drop in – literally – to his dining room.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Black-necked Stilt, Long-billed Dowitcher

 

The dour dowitchers paddled around noisily and stabbed at the water a bit and flapped off into the marsh. They didn’t even offer to wash the dishes.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Long-billed Dowitchers

 

A dainty American Avocet is either wading up to her waist or floating or swimming in water deeper than that to which she is accustomed.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

American Avocet

 

I didn’t do very well at photographing a Peregrine Falcon cruising the shore for bagels and ducks. Any hints on how to slow these bullets down a bit for a portrait?

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Peregrine Falcon

 

This is not the only bare tree in the whole marsh, but it sure has something attractive to Anhingas and Double-crested Cormorants. I had the impression this might be Mother Nature’s version of a Christmas Tree.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Anhinga, Double-crested Cormorant

 

Open water areas of the wetlands were filled with ducks today. Well represented were Northern Shovelers. This female trio kept a nervous eye on the skies. A good idea, what with falcons and eagles darting about.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Northern Shoveler

 

American White Pelicans gather on and around Lake Hancock during the winter and some years can number in the thousands. I counted about 80 this morning as they flew in small groups from their roost within the wetlands to the lake for a day of fishing.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

American White Pelican

 

It seems everywhere we go this year, we see high numbers of Eastern Phoebes. It’s warmer than normal so far this fall so many may be lingering here instead of continuing on to South America. Hope they don’t get caught in a sudden freeze.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Eastern Phoebe

 

Large size and bright red bill are diagnostic for the Caspian Tern, largest tern in North America.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Caspian Tern

 

A bit of shade is provided to a Black-necked Stilt by a Great Egret. He isn’t called “Great” for no reason!

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Black-necked Stilt, Great Egret

 

One of the only moths in Florida to be active throughout daylight hours is the brightly colored Bella. It’s a challenge to find one perched in the open.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Bella Moth (Utetheisa ornatrix)

 

Another fall visitor is the Northern Harrier. Their characteristic low flight over the marsh and lazy wing flap, along with an owl-like face, make them easy to identify. This female headed straight for me as I lay in the grass.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Northern Harrier – Female

 

Mottled Ducks have interbred so widely with Mallards that it’s difficult to identify a truly wild one. Most will show some mallard trait. This one flew by too fast for close examination so we’ll just call it a probably, possibly, maybe actual Mottled Duck. And that’s final!

20151206 Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands 00232.jpg

 

A pair of Blue-winged Teal abruptly lift off the surface as a Bald Eagle passed overhead. Hundreds of ducks in the adjacent pond followed suit.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Blue-winged Teal

 

The hunters. An immature and an adult Bald Eagle. It takes an eagle about four years to achieve totally white feathers on its head and tail.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Bald Eagle – Immature

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Bald Eagle

 

Palm Warblers do not breed in central Florida but they certainly do like to spend the winter here! Every yard, field and tree is covered with the little bug eaters. This one has claimed a rock for his throne.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Palm Warbler

 

The Hooded Merganser is a really good looking tourist which loves our quiet ponds. The male with his large white crest usually gets the attention, but the female exudes her own special beauty.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Hooded Merganser – Female

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Hooded Merganser – Male

 

A pair of Great Blue Herons have selected a nesting site among the colorful (but invasive) Brazilian Pepper bushes along the lake shore.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Great Blue Heron

 

It’s good to see sparrows return for the fall. This Savannah Sparrow blends in quite well with the brown reeds of the wetlands.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Savannah sparrow

 

The Double-crested Cormorant doesn’t usually get mentioned in a discussion of beautiful birds. Until you get to those eyes. Wow.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Double-crested Cormorant

 

 

No Barn Owl. Humidity at 100%. Temperature 92 F (33.3 C) at noon. Mosquitoes. It’s fall in the Outfall! It just doesn’t get any better than this. (Until winter.)

Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

 

See more birds at:   Paying Ready Attention   (Check out Wild Bird Wednesday.)

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments

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