Bird Journal Entry #6:
Location: 38.0257, -122.5176 approx.
This week we went to a water sanitation plant in San Rafael. This area was filled with many waterbirds and we were able to see species interacting with one another that we have not seen before. The area was filled with reeds and small bushes floating in the water, but many of the spots we observed were unobstructed, so the species were easy to observe. We were focused on the water, but also observed some species in the sky. The weather was cold and partly cloudy throughout the whole excursion. The main species we observed were mallard (20), American White Pelican (3), Snowy Egret (3), American Crow (14), Black-crowned Night-Heron (3), House Finch (3), White-crowned Sparrow (5), Golden-crowned Sparrow (3), Red-winged Blackbird (300), American Coot (3), Green-winged Teal (8), American Wigeon (4), Northern Shoveler (3), Blue-winged Teal (2), Common Merganser (2), Killdeer (2), and Canada Goose (2). These species were the most observed out of all of the ones we saw throughout our excursion. I was excited to see a great variety of species in close quarters with one another.
The species I enjoyed seeing the most this week was the American Wigeon. I had seen them many times before, but never had the ability to identify them before. There is a duck pond by my house that has many of these birds, so now I am able to easily spot them along with other members of the Anseriformes order. They are medium sized birds with somewhat short bills. These birds are very versatile in where they obtain their food from. They can feed on land and in the fresh water habitats. We saw the species both sitting on land as well as foraging in the water. Since they can look for food in multiple locations, they eat plant material, but also insects and grass occasionally. I didn’t view any of this species during flight, but the presence of their brown and black feather made from melanin prevent deterioration. One quite interesting thing I noticed was how vocal they were. It was as though they were the loudest ones in the pond with their dominating calls.
This week we ventured to an extremely calm area with little noise other than birds around us. Little did I know this was the last group excursion we would go on for the semester, but I am grateful to have seen such a variety of species in the outing. We traveled over the bridge and got to the area around 9 a.m. The overcast made seeing some views hard because there was some extreme backlighting that didn’t allow us to make out the colorings in trying to determine what species of bird we were observing. I had presented on the Anseriformes order earlier in the week, so I thought that this excursion was my time to shine. I was extremely excited to see Northern Shovelers because they have such a brightly colored green head. Their head is very striking and they also have a certain rufous coloring on their main body. In the middle of the water there were a few islands and any birds were lying on the shore or swimming around in search of food. We observed the American Wigeon paddling around near the island and my favorite part of these birds are their light blue beaks. Their overall coloring is somewhat drab, but the light blue coloring is a great contrast to the brown and white coloring of the rest of their body. As we walked around the pond-like bodies of water we passed by some people who were walking and they were very curious as to what we were doing. There was even a woman looking for specific birds because she had heard that there were a few in the area. We used the scope for some the time because we were observing birds that don’t travel at a very fast pace. With this we observed the blue-winged teal which has a striking white ring on it’s nose as well as the common merganser which was cool to see because it has some long feathers on it’s that look like hair. We walked more and saw many birds we had seen before as well as the largest pack of red-winged blackbirds we had ever recorded. After about 2 1/2 hours we left the sanitation area and headed back across the bridge to USF.
E-Bird List Link: https://ebird.org/home
American Wigeon. (2019, October 22). Retrieved from https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/american-wigeon
American Wigeon Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Wigeon/id
Caption: Two Canada Geese standing on the shore