Monday, January 25, 2010

Yesterday we went back out to the Laundry Pond. The sun rising behind us provided great lighting on the ducks and coots that were floating in loose groups out in the pond. The weather was fairly cool at about 45 degrees F. As we walked through the Phragmites, the coots were making crazy noises out on the pond. The White-headed Ducks moved out to the middle of the pond in a small group of 7 birds. They ride very low in the water, almost like they are in the process of sinking. We had some great views as they stretched and flapped their wings. The males white heads stood out among all the dark plumaged coots. About a dozen Mallards were swimming around and later flew back and forth from one side of the pond to the other. The Ferruginous Ducks seemed to be venturing more into the open water than usual. Mostly they stick to the shoreline and the reeds. The contrasting light and dark pattern of the Male Shovelers made them easy to pick out on the far side.

There is a section of the pond where the reeds have been cut back and a noisy water pump has been installed. The opening is a good vantage point to count the birds in the middle of the pond and to get a closer look at the reedy edges. There were more Common Teal than last week, probably 20 or more. In a muddy area near the reeds we found 4 Black-winged Stilts resting. Later they flew over the pond trailing their long, elegant red legs behind them.

There are large patches of greenery in areas around the pond that were bare a few months ago. The winter rains prompt furious growth of small herbaceous plants in the ditches and open fields around the base. Many are familiar roadside weeds such as dandelion and mustards. There are also quite a few small orange and yellow daisy-like composites and areas of grass. We stopped and found some ladybugs in a patch of low growing compositae. I also saw quite a few small striped hoverflies on the flowers. Other plants, such as the thistles, seem to be just getting going with small prickly rosettes appearing here and there. We can expect a few month more with occasional rain, so I expect at least some greenery to remain into April. After the heat gets going all these plants will be baked into oblivion, until the rains come again in late Autumn. It amazes me how hardy the seeds are, surviving ground temperatures that have to exceed 150 degrees Fahrenheit for month and months.

Since it was getting late we picked up the pace to get back to the truck. In the corner of the pond we found a White-throated Kingfisher hunched up, resting in the Phragmites. It's brilliant blue back and large, bright red bill contrasted with the dull brown reeds.

We found a small group of European Goldfinch in the same bushes as last week.

Out on the airfield, we saw hundreds of Wood Pigeons and Rooks. Large flocks of hundreds more Wood Pigeons were flying around the perimeter fence. A flock of about a hundred small brown birds wheeled around and landed near us. After a good bit of deliberation we decided that they were most likely Short-toed Larks.

No comments: