The sea mist rolled away and the sun came out during an amble around Reifel Bird Sanctuary today. The Sandhill Cranes were calling constantly to one another; there seemed to be at least 9 although since they kept flying from one pond to another it was difficult to keep track. The cranes have become very tame because of all the grain handed out by enthusiastic visitors.
Hordes of Mallard followed me down every trail, convinced I was going to feed them. Instead, I enjoyed a picnic of my own, sitting on a warm bench on the outer dyke trail. Facing the sun, it felt like April rather than February. A female Mallard just couldn’t cope with the concept of a human who didn’t have a store of seed for her.
There were about 100 Northern Shoveler in the west ponds, scattered in small groups. This was a good number of this dabbling duck, which is not as common in the delta as the Mallard, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail and Green-winged Teal (the big four). The males looked lovely and bright in the sunshine.
All the waterbirds are looking very spiffy in their clean new plumage, particularly the pintails, Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers. No sign of courtship behaviour yet, they were all intent on feeding. However, the Red-winged Blackbirds were all singing near the entrance, so they obviously think spring is here. One of the four Black-crowned Herons woke up and took a brief bath. These birds are a favourite with the photographers, but all too often have their heads tucked away. This one showed off the two thin white plumes on the back of his head.
I don’t have a long lens camera, just a point and shoot with a 12 x zoom, but it was fun to stroll around for a couple of hours, watching all the familiar winter birds and taking a few photos in the beautiful light. No rare birds showed up but there was plenty to see. The trees were looking particularly fine.