My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Making Old Birds New Again

There's nothing better than a new bird except getting to show old birds to new birders. I got to guide a van full of new birders (although one grandfather was a duck hunter and rice grower) thru Colusa NWR yesterday, and had probably the best time of everyone.

I had already seen that there were way too many people on the refuge to expect to see the falcated duck so, after I gave everyone binoculars and a guide to waterfowl, and gave them a little discussion of what ducks we would see, we drove the auto tour.  We started out by checking out the over-sized feet of the coots in the road and discussed how they differed from ducks. Then we saw a big bird that wasn't a duck sitting on a little island.  In the binoculars, it turned out to be a peregrine falcon which then tried to fly off with its coot.  But it dropped it and then circled around several times for our extra enjoyment.  I thought it was circling back again but realized we had a harrier coming through.  We got to see another harrier later in the trip and some of the group could already call it. What brilliant students they were. 

We learned gadwalls, shovelers, mallards, and ring-necked ducks before we even got to the bridge.  Then we enjoyed two great egrets and a great blue heron sunbathing.  Soon everyone could decide what duck they were seeing. We found lots and lots of greater white-fronted geese, and got one good, albeit distant view of a male bufflehead.   We stopped to look at some golden-crowned sparrows and watched a couple of pie-billed grebes. Then we got to see a two cock pheasants and a deer in short order, and almost immediately after the deer crossed the road in front of us, we found an American Bittern sitting out in the open.   We rounded the last corner and enjoyed a close-up view of a red-tailed hawk, got a glimpse of a red-shouldered hawk, and got several looks at a kestral. And then I had to stop because I saw a single long-billed curlew on a levee. We also got distant looks at snow geese, none close enough to be able to find Ross's geese. Finally we enjoyed all the night herons in their roost just before the bridge.

The sunning great blue heron - (thanks for snapping the picture Charles)

Immature female red-tail hawk

Same bird front view

We got back to the viewing platform about  3:00 P.M. and were told by the other twenty or so people there that the falcated duck was actively feeding.  So I set up the scope and everyone got to see it and also enjoy closer views of the ducks and geese we had already learned.

Me and the birding group minus the photographer

The viewing platform after I removed the nine of us

It was hard to break away but I had strict orders to get back to Sacramento NWR by 4:00 P.M.Otherwise all of us were ready to continue birding until dark.