Saturday, October 13, 2007

A short hike and a few birds

Last Sunday around 2 p.m. I decided to walk to the percolation ponds located about a mile from where I live. These ponds are a small portion of a larger area known as the Los Gatos Creek Trail, a part of the Santa Clara County Park System. As I was walking over the overpass of Hwy 17/Hwy 85 I could look down into the first few ponds and I saw these double-crested cormorants sunning themselves.

Reaching the first three ponds I saw this snowy egret in the middle pond.

As I was watching the snowy egret I noticed a large bird flying around about twenty feet above me. It looked like it was wanting to "land." Well, I guess it was picky where it wanted to land. As you can see from this picture the great blue heron chose to land here next to a snowy egret. What a great opportunity for a photo shoot, comparing the sizes of these beautiful birds. I couldn't imagine these two birds "socializing" with each other. Mmmm. But wait, there's something else in this photo that has me wondering. Take note that the snowy egret's bill is a pale color. Why is that? Is this a juvie? Is that why the bill is a pale color? But all the guides I checked on say the immatures have black bills. I'm really confused on this one.

As I looked across the way on the other side of the trail I saw this great egret. Looks like it just sat there waiting for its picture to be taken.

A little while later the great blue heron decided to move, and flew over to a brushier area, but still close to the pond. Another perfect photo moment. This bird did much the same as the great egret - it seemed to be posing. And it stood there for the longest time, so I was able to get shots of it from various spots. But this was the best shot of all. Isn't this an elegant looking bird, just as elegant looking as the great egret?

In another pond was this Canada goose - all by itself. I guess this bird wanted it that way. But again, I was given another good photo moment. The only problem I had was that this bird was dipping into the shallow water for whatever it is that they eat. So I would have to try and catch this bird in an upright position each time it came up for a breather, which was less than 2 seconds each time. Doesn't that water look serene? And to think there is this noisy freeway about 50 yards to the east of this "serenity."

Off the side of the pond where the Canada goose was I spotted this (I think) ring-billed gull - all by itself. He/she caught a small flat fish and was "playing" with its food. It was fun to just stand there and watch this bird. It would hold the fish in its bill, then drop it, then peck at it (even though it was totally dead), then pick it up and hold it its bill, drop it, and peck at it again, etc. You could say I was being totally entertained by all these "solitary" birds.

I then decided to walk the trail a little further, heading north. And on the trail I came across quite a few scrub oaks. And here is a shot of their fruit. I guess you can say it's fall around here - we have subtle ways of seeing the seasonal changes around here.

As you walk further down the trail it's like you are straddling between the ponds and you are on a higher road where the vegetation is drier, and the water is farther down the hill on each side. There are some power lines crossing over the trail and there are always some birds perched on these wires. Across the way were these double-crested cormorants. I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it for myself. There were at least a dozen cormorants spread out, perched on the wires. Closer to me, just above me, were about the same number of rock pigeons. As I'm standing there taking pix of the cormorants I sensed something else flying around out of the corner of my eye. I stopped to see if I could ID the bird. Well, it finally perched itself in the top of a tree. The tree was about twenty feet ahead of me. I caught a beautiful sight of (I think) a sharp shinned hawk in my binoculars, but when I went for my camera, by the time I focused in on the bird.... Yes, we've all had these stories -- kind of like a fisherman's story of the big one that got away. ;-) Meanwhile, I looked up at the pigeons and told them that one of them will probably be his/her dinner for the evening.

I guess another good sign of fall around here are all the places we find lots of spider webs. I saw this on the trail not far from the power lines. This whole area of vegetation was full of webs. How about that blue sky for a background?

And here is another form of fruit from another plant growing in abundance on the trail. I think it is so attractive, even though it did have quite a bit of webby material around it. Click on it to enlarge to see the webby material.
In addition to the birds mentioned above, I also saw pied-billed grebes, mallards, American coots, killdeer, one black phoebe, several song sparrows, and a few red-wing blackbirds. Overall, I saw a total of 14 species. Not bad for a two-hour walk.


Red said...

wow... good pictures mom!

mon@rch said...

That sounds like my kind of walk! So many great birds for sure!

Ruth said...

You got some terrific pictures. I love the one with the Snowy Egret and the GBH.

Q said...

Your photos are fantastic!
I felt like I was walking right with you.
So many different birds in such a short period of time. Wonderful you live so close to them.

Mary said...

You live in a very birdy area, Mary. Wonderful! In two hours, you saw more than I see in a week!

GBH - one of my favorites. Thanks for that elegant photo.

RuthieJ said...

Wow, Mary, all those great birds in just 2 hours and how wonderful that they all wanted their photos taken. Such a wonderful job you did with the photos!

dguzman said...

Nice photos and what a nice walk.

Your acorns look different from ours up in the northeast. Funny, that. I would love to go birding out west sometime--but I'm sure I'd be lost for IDs except for maybe GBH, GE's, and robins....

Mary C said...

Red- thank you!
Mon@rch - yes, it was fun. I even lost track of time.
Hi Ruth - yes, that's my favorite pic, too.
Hi Sherry - I'm glad you enjoyed walking with me.
Hi Mary - It's funny you mention about living in a birdy area. The birds I saw at the perc ponds are not usually seen in my back yard. And my back yard birds are not seen at the perc ponds.
Hi Ruthie - I actually felt that's what the birds were doing - posing for me - when I went on my little hike.
Hi Delia - yes, these acorns are different looking. I think they are blooming from what is known as a scrub oak, which is more of a shrub - definitely not a tree. And as for birding out here in California, I'm sure you would do very well - especially seeing my back yard birds, and even quite a few of the others like you mentioned (egrets, herons, etc.) If you should ever come out this way, let me know. I'd love for the two of us to go birding together. And, BTW, I'm still a beginning birder, too. I think I'll always consider myself a beginning birder - there's always so much to learn.

LostRoses said...

Nice birdwalk, Mary, and some great photos! We live between two reservoirs and it's a joy to watch the great blues flying majestically overhead from one water source to another.

Mary said...


These are awesome photos. I didn't know that you had killdeer. We have them here in southern Ontario.

Lots of good information here. I love the photo of that pink plant. Do you know what it is?

I've enjoyed exploring your blog. Thanks for dropping by my treasures to me blog and commenting on the photo of Meeko. Your Kody sounds like he was a fabulous companion. I love those northern breed dogs.

Have a great day.

Larry said...

Nice descriptions and photos! I especially like the side by side pic.As for the variation in bill color-I'm not sure but it could just be the lighting.

Anvilcloud said...

That's quite an amazing place that you have to ramble around in. I've seen many Blue Herons but have yet to get a decent picture. They're always too far, too quick to move, or I am without my camera.


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