I was up before dawn yesterday to get my act together so I could do some birding on the refuge. I will be leading birding tours once a week on Sundays while I’m here, and I like to be prepared so I know what’s out there.
My first stop was to check out the ponds. Yes, all those dots on the water are waterfowl. Seems strange in the Sonoran Desert, but ‘my’ part of the desert has the Colorado River running through it. To my knowledge, the public hasn’t been allowed to view the ponds on the refuge before, so I will be very careful on these tours to be sure no one harasses the wildlife.
There are five large ponds that the tours will check out. They’re all fed by the Colorado River. Pond #2 has an algae bloom going on in it right now. I even found some solitary sandpipers out on the algae.
This beaver was casually swimming along as well. That’s another species I didn’t expect to see in the desert. I wonder if I could persuade it to make an appearance every Sunday morning?
I need to do some more studying on desert plants, bushes, and trees. I need to be able to say, “Look, there’s a young vermillion flycatcher in that ________ tree.” I should know it’s name, but I’m just drawing a blank. Often when I’m stumped, a reader will give me the answer. I usually remember it when that happens, so I’m hoping that’s the case tonight.
Right now there are a ton of American coots on the ponds, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many ruddy ducks in one place before. Cinnamon teals are supposed to be here, so I’m hoping to see some of those too. That would be a new bird for me. Seeing this redhead taking a bath was fun though.
After the ponds, I continued on along several wetland areas covered in either cattails or bulrush. These areas are maintained to keep habitat for the endangered Yuma clapper rail. I didn’t see any rails on this trip, but the fields were pretty dried out. Maybe next time.
I had a grand time familiarizing myself with the ‘closed’ area and trying to determine where I hope the tours will be most successful. The tours will be free, but only six people a week will be allowed to attend to keep the disturbance level down for the wintering waterfowl. If you’re in the area this winter and would like to go on one of the tours, give the refuge a call and get your name on the list for a Sunday morning. I can’t promise you’ll see any rare species, but I’m pretty confident you’ll get your fill of coots!
Back at the ranch, the volunteer village is often surrounded by the sound of Gambel’s quails.
I get a real kick out of watching them running around. They do fly sometimes, but mostly they scurry. Those topknots just make me chuckle. I want to get some better pictures of them, but I don’t think they’re too crazy about Emma. She doesn’t chase them or anything, but her quiet “Boof” is enough to send them scurrying on their way. It’s amazing how fast they walk.
Today was an interesting day. I got to do something for the very first time, but I’ll save that for the next post.
Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later, Judy