Sunday, February 24, 2008

A great trip to the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary! Part 1!

This bright sunny morning we went to the Reifel Bird Sanctuary (a.k.a. the Duck Factory) on Westham Island. It was a great day for birding, worth a few posts. I'll start with the raptors.
Just inside the gate, looking up ahead where the trails split apart, it was hard to miss this pair of Bald Eagles. There were so many eagles around that they soon became unremarkable. I'm sorry, there are too many of you to be admired and appreciated anymore. The Mallard effect.
Speaking of Mallards, it was about here that daughter dropped her paper bag of grain, and we were engulfed.

Great Horned Owl, less interesting aspect.

We took the north-south trail that lies along the eastern edge of the sanctuary. This is a good trail for owls. To find a Northern Saw-whet Owl, watch for a group of people staring into a bush. To find either Great Horned or Barred Owl, watch for people staring up into a tree. Up ahead, there was a group doing the latter. Which is it, I wondered. It was a Great Horned. Asleep. Facing in the opposite direction. Son explained to assembled unknown adults that the owl was difficult to see because it was camouflaged. No one argued. The owl snoozed on, "being boring," so we decided to head down the trail to the spot where chickadees land on your hand if you're holding a palm full of black oil sunflower seeds.

They were shy today, plus a nearby feeder was full, so were reluctant to come to a human hand. One eventually landed on son, but not on daughter, which caused major strife and we had to head out into the marsh to calm down among the ducks, where there was the usual excellent assortment of waterfowl (a later post).

Once settled down, munching on banana bread, we returned to the first trail to check on the owl. Perhaps now it was being less boring.

"Now it's showing us its butt," says son.

Things went downhill from here. A member of our party became adamant about going to a restaurant that I will never mention aloud, or in print. Then somehow we separated along gender lines, with son and dad lagging behind. Good thing, too, because we came across a fellow looking through a scope pointed at the top of a tree. He wasn't sure what he was looking at, but had an excellent scope. Merlin! A Merlin is a smallish falcon, larger than an American Kestrel but smaller than a Peregrine.

Merlin, glancing over his shoulder. Not quite as boring.

Reassembled, we left the sanctuary, which was rapidly filling up with birders with cameras the size of bazookas.

A Northern Harrier was hunting along the road, and we tried to keep pace with it.

It's an adult male (females are brown; juveniles are brown, rusty beneath). Click on the picture and you can see part of the right side of his head, a hint of the owl-like facial disk unique to this species.

So long till next time. Now off to that restaurant.

After getting home, son and I looked through the pictures. His comment: "You sure took a lot of pictures of birds' butts."


Cicero Sings said...

And so you did too ... take bird butt pictures!

Looks like you had a great day at the coast ... glad you were able to get out and about to enjoy.

Now about that restaurant .... maybe you should start working on culinary tastes!!!

pookie said...

On the day you were taking pics of owls' butts, I was seriously bummed at discovering a native NZ owl, the morepork (Maori called it ruru), dead and face down near my newly planted peach tree. He wasn't that ripe, so I was able to examine him closely. I took him to Mike, the designated "bird guy" at the local DOC office to ID him. Mike said that moreporks are common here. He examined the talons and said he thought the owl was an older one. My reading revealed that because of its haunting night call, Maori associated ruru with the spirit world, and sighting one nearby in the daytime meant a death in the family. hmmm. What about finding a dead one? yarks.