Saturday, January 1, 2011

So, amazing foray Thursday...

Saw SPEC TAC U LAR views of Lewis's woodpecker in AMAzing lighting. That bird is GORgeous. My camera had decided to take a vacation that day, so I'm borrowing this one--you MUST click on it.

Thanks to Alan Vernon for this shot!

This is a great example of bird books (at least mine) doing the actual animal NO justice re: amazing beauty. WOW! Bear assures me I've seen it before, once, but NOTHING like this lighting. THIS is truly stunning and it's a species I'd seen in the bird books for YEARS hoping to see in real life and now really, really have.

What a gorgeous babe of a bird. Yow!

We were in the blue oak woodland foothills above Merced, south of 140. We took Old Highway starting at Mariposa, then White Rock road. We probably saw 5 or 7 of them? Awesome.

Before the Lewis's we saw golden eagles, kestrals hovering perfectly back lit and putting on quite a show, red tails mobbing golden eagles (!), an adult bald eagle soaring in circles, northern harrier, and lots of other lovelies on our decent into Merced. Including a bright and cheery flock of busy goldfinches.

OH, and we were stopped at a particularly watery area (lots and lots of rain means LOTS more water out there than normal) and I was being lazy, staying in the car.

Then I saw a lump in a tree.

Pulled up my binocs and it was a great horned owl! GORgeous and I excitedly totally interupted my chatting friends in a scream/whisper "owl! owl! owl!" It then looked at us directly so we got to see both of his beautiful and dramatically black eye-liner-ed eyes. WOW. Heart pounding.

Then we went to the Merced NWR (check out their nature's calendar: genius idea!). First we'd had to stop in town 'cause we were all starving, so we were concerned we'd get precious little time at the refuge (it was about 3 pm when lunch started!) and I really wanted to be sure our friends saw the cranes.

Info on this image is here, it's Diane Constable's.

Well, we needn't have worried. If you wait until practically sunset to get there, not only is the lighting on what you can see amazing (green-winged teals, black-necked stilts, shovelers, coots, cinnamon teals, etc.), the sandhill crane commute apparently peaks at sunset, so these HUGE creatures fly overhead in variably sized super-Vs (I call them super-Vs 'cause these guys are 4-5 feet tall). Then more. Then more. I have NEVER seen and HEARD than many cranes in that refuge at one time EVER before.

And longer and longer inky-black strings of white-faced ibises also flew overhead. Those guys fly FAST! Even as we drove away we saw hundreds of ibises rocketing overhead.

And some snow/Ross's geese, too. All birds were apparently headed to the same party-zone, somewhere west of us.

As we were reluctantly getting into the car, having been watching the sun set over the wetlands (pink and orange clouds, purple coast range all reflected in the water), more and more cranes flew over head and my friend discovered if you cup your ears and aim them toward where the birds were headed, you heard a cacophony of crane calls--amazing!! There was also a great horned owl not far from us hooting and hooting to add variety to the aural feast.

What a soundscape. And the darker it got, the more the birds called while flying, which is when I got to hear the ibises. We surmised they were chastising the leader for not leaving earlier.

So, had the MOST amazing day. My camera rested and I stared and listened and stared and smelled and basked in the glory that is the Merced National Wildlife Refuge in the winter at sunset.

I will MOST happily pay my federal taxes this next year, thank you very much--this whole experience was FREE. And spectacularly valuable.




  1. Interesting that you conclude by connecting your wonderful experience with the institutes and people who manage the land and your $ contribution. Thanks. I wanna go there.

  2. =) I highly recommend it.

    I probably make that connection 'cause I used to be a federal employee working for a land management agency so I have a heightened awareness of the fact that the ONLY reason this land is there and available for us and the birds to enjoy (vs. farm land) is 'cause it's owned and operated by a land management agency. And I love that opportunity, so try to be aware of and appreciate it. =)


Cool people write inside rectangles....