Friday, May 25, 2012

Playing Hooky

Well, I didn't really play hooky; I took a vacation day so I could enjoy a 4-day weekend. Since staycations are supposed to be fun, I decided to go birding. Now, Gentle Reader, I confess I am a terrible birder. I'm always looking at the wrong end of the bird for the identification, and I'm always 2 seconds too late. An example:  it took me years to see a toucan in Belize, because Glenn would say "There's a toucan!" and I would turn, all excited, just in time to see a toucan tuchus. Years it took to see that magnificent beak. But I enjoy my hobby nonetheless, even if I stink at it.

So this morning I undertook two expeditions: one to a local park, and one to a reclaimed water wetlands. I had read on a local bird blog that a wood duck had been spotted at a local park last Friday, and as that park is just a couple of miles from my home, the dogs and I went over at 6:30 this morning to see if we could spot it. True to my birding prowess, we did not. In fact, there were just a couple of ducks, but we did successfully identify 5 Homo sapiens dogwalkerii, four Tennis playersii elderlygentsi, and a flock of H. sapiens exerciseii, all running together as a group. It was still a lovely walk, cool and shady--we hardly ever get that this time of year here in the desert.

After I fed and medicated the boys, I went to the wetlands. And I saw 5 new-to-me birds! Now, when you see these birds, you'll think, "Mossy, these are common birds. Why the excitement?" I remind you I live in the desert. Water birds are generally scarce where there is no water. However, I couldn't figure out which swallow I was seeing, and there are some kingfishers and other birds there I didn't see, so I am tempted to undertake another urban excursion at a more appropriate birding time, in other words, obscenely early, to catch these critters at breakfast. Which means I'll have to ditch the dog walk one morning. The boys will not be pleased.

What I Saw (New to Me)
common moorhen, ruddy duck, American coot, blue-winged teal, fulvous whistling duck (? present in the wetlands, but I'm not confident in my id)
What I Also Saw (Not New to Me):
mallards, red-wing blackbird, morning dove, vermilion flycatcher   

I've linked to online photos so you can see what these birds really look like, but I'm going to post some of my amateurish photos anyway. I believe you can have as much fun birding with lousy binoculars and a point and shoot camera as someone with a 3-ft long telephoto lens and binoculars that weight 40 lbs. The blue-winged teal had such a purple head, I wish I could have gotten a shot of it, and the vermilion flycatcher was just too fast, and the moorhen too far away, but here are some other moments from this morning's urban birding expedition.

Two coots, preening

I know it's just a mallard, but look at the curly tail feathers.

Apparently I was there during the official bird post-prandial bathtime, as this ruddy duck was also bathing. Too bad you can't see his beautiful blue bill.

Even the turtles were bathing.

Closest I'll ever get to a bird book-like photograph.

See his lovely red and yellow wing spot? There were gaggles of redwings this morning.

"Hey, are you taking my picture?"

Turtle, now clean, dries off in the sun while the coot looks for dessert. I admit to sometimes eating dessert after breakfast, too.
The first in my new collection of Bird Butts of North America: Ducks.

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