Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tids and Bits

Herons are beginning to be present in large numbers at the landfill. The usual Great Blue Herons are around, along with equal numbers of Great Egrets and Black-crowned Night Herons. There are still a few Green Herons around but they have become less common since May. And then there is the one Yellow-crowned Night Heron we see from time to time. The recent rain has filled up most of the wet areas on the landfill to the highest level I have seen them. The Melco Basin is completely full right now with little area for herons to search for food. This time last year the water levels were so low it all but dried up. The herons feasted on the dead carcasses of carp that were left out to dry.

Great Egret

I was able to snap some picks of this funky looking bird I think is an immature European Starling with interesting white patches on its body and wings. I'm not exactly sure what this coloration is called (leucistic?) but he was interesting none-the-less. He seemed slower than the rest and didn't respond when I played the distress call to disperse the birds. Due to his slowness and coloration I doubt I will see this bird again.

Common Grackle

I found this female Hooded Merganser on one of the ponds near the flooded woodland. She was slowly drifting down the pond occasionally diving down for food, oblivious to the loud wood chipper turning yard waste into compost and landfill cover less than a hundred feet away.

Hooded Merganser

Finally, the other night I found a large group of Wood Ducks on yet another pond. The pond was about as far away from the flooded wetland woods as could be. I counted in total 20 birds on this one pond. Around eight females were sitting on the bank and I saw atleast two females with broods following behind them like the birds below. Only one adult male was in the group and he was molting with many pin feathers covering his face. It was a pretty strange sight to me. The most Wood Ducks I have seen at once was two in a flooded woodland. I doubt I will see 20 again in the middle of an open pond anywhere else except the landfill. It is nice to know that despite being in such an urban area, even Wood Ducks are able to raise a brood.
Wood Duck

Horned Lark Photo Shoot

There are a group of Horned Larks at the landfill, the most I've seen at one time is around five. I don't notice them until the place closes and all the trucks and bulldozers are gone. Then they start singing and feeding on the roadsides the trucks use during the days. Most of the roads are gravel and I see them picking up bits of seeds and grit. The males like to find a nice rock to stand on and sing their tinkling song to nearby females.

It's nice to see Horned Larks back at the landfill. During the ice storm in January a group of 200+ showed up on the landfill along with Snow Buntings and a Lapland Longspur. They were at the top feeding frantically on trash and whatever they could find exposed on the roads. Any place that wasn't covered in ice or snow had a Horned Lark on it looking for bits of food. Perhaps the smartest birds found a place under the pair of flares on the landfill that burn the methane generated by the decaying trash. The place was freshly seeded with grass which probably helped a good number of Horned Larks and Snow Buntings make it through the winter. The heat coming off of those flares is considerable and provided a nice warm spot in the chaos created by the winter storm.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

When Breakfast Bites Back

My co-worker Brian caught this sequence of a Yellow-crowned Night Heron fishing. He caught a big tasty snack but got pinched in the process.

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