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Borrego Springs, CA

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Waterfowl in the desert?

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. 

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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.

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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.

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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? 

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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.

IMG_8905Right 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!  Rolling on the floor laughing

Back at the ranch, the volunteer village is often surrounded by the sound of Gambel’s quails.

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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.

IMG_8771                                                                               THE END!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

25 comments:

  1. Your post today makes me miss my winter home. Love the quail. I've seen them fly and land in tree branches.

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  2. I just love those quails!
    Sounds like they have a ton of faith in your ability to lead the tours through the pond areas.

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  3. We have a lot of those Quail in our yard every day & I did catch a photo of one sitting on one of our narrow ledged bird feeders. They are very skitterish & quickly run away. I've seen them fly out of our yard, across the road & land over at the neighbor's place. It's nice to hear them all clucking & weebling the morning.

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  4. I'm back east and missing the quail.

    Pretty sure that was some type of mesquite.

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  5. Looks like a great place for birding...:)

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  6. It makes me think of a locust tree. We had one with wicked thorns and longer bean pod thingies when I was growing up!

    Take care!

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  7. Water changes everything, doesn't it? Thank you for the heads-up about the tours--we're going to be in the area this winter & would love to see these previously closed areas. The refuge is very fortunate to have someone as conscientious as you are about getting to know 'the locals'. Looking forward to seeing quail. Have fun!

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  8. I also think it is some type of Mesquite. Vermillion Flycatcher- my favorite- thanks for the pic.

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  9. I'm sure you'll have most everything identified by the end of your stay there.

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  10. What a perfect place, desert AND water. You sure know how to pick em'

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  11. seems as though this is going to be a great spot for you. . .look forward to all your finds!

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  12. I betcha that vermilion flycatcher was in an acacia tree....

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  13. I'm thinking you are "young" enough (BARELY) to remember Hedda Hopper, the gossip columnist known for her hats..Those quail running around remind me of her in one of her feathered hats..love 'em!! I never expected ponds there where you are...That makes this stay a multi faceted adventure!

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  14. Looks like some kind of acacia. Not too much left of the Colorado River by the time it gets Yuma-way, but a personal Sunday morning birding tour of the ponds would be better than a CBS Sunday morning with Charles Osgood program! O boy!

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  15. Hi Judy, I'm pretty sure your vermillion flycatcher is sitting on Screwbean Mesquite (Prosobis Pubescens). We also have the desert waterfowl because of the Rio Grande coming through this area, I just did a 'photo-shoot' the other day of them too, they have such pretty colors don't they?

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  16. Not locust nor acacia trees; neither being native to the area where you found it.

    James and Brigitta just beat me to the post, so to speak. The vermillion flycatcher is in fact sitting on a Prosopis pubescens, commonly known as Screwbean Mesquite or Tornillo.

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  17. Yep, I was going to say Tornillo...very familiar with those.

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  18. I agree that the vermillion flycatcher is in a mesquite tree. I sure am enjoying all the photos of the wildlife. thanks!

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  19. I have no idea what anything is other than you sure are in a nice place for the winter.

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  20. I think you must be a vermillion bird catcher with those great pictures. I'd have never guessed there are beavers in the desert. Do the chew down cacti for their dams? ;c)

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  21. I love the quail!! Out at the 'farm' in Culver there were tons and so cool to watch then and their habits. there is a lovely book called Robert, the Quail (don't remember who it is by) about one that was hand raised and lived with the author....

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  22. Can't wait to visit this NWR and to meet you finally.

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  23. Nice Post.Thanks for Sharing this in your Blog

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