Saturday, May 23, 2009

Revisiting Palo Alto Baylands

Heidi and I went back to Palo Alto Baylands at the beginning of the month because I thought we would see the snowy egrets nesting there. But there were none to be found. Nonetheless, there was plenty to see there that day. We saw several red-winged blackbirds, but I had a difficult time finding one that would sit still long enough for me to get a photo.
Over by the ranger's station there were some beautiful rock rose bushes. These are really a beautiful color and they really stood out around all the other greenery.
While getting shots of the rock roses Heidi saw a California ground squirrel and pointed it out to me. These squirrels are so much more wild and wary of humans than our regular gray squirrels we get in our back yard.
At the duck pond area we saw these different looking mallards. Very interesting colors, would you say? At least we think they are hybrid mallards since they have the curly tail and dark colored heads. But the color of their heads is definitely not the typical green you would see on the males. And look at the color of their bills -- rather strange color again.
And speaking of strange, we saw a pair of Muscovy ducks also at the pond. I mentioned to Heidi that as tame as they seemed to be these ducks were probably left here by someone who had them as pets and decided to "let them go." I don't know that for a fact, but they did act tame around people, like they were expecting a hand-out of bread. Now the signs are posted everywhere that we are not to feed the animals. The signs are in three different languages; but no one pays attention to them. How sad for the animals who hang around the pond. They will never learn to fend for themselves, and that makes them more prone to predators.
If you take a closer look you will notice the duck in the back is all white. It also had beautiful blue eyes. Was it leucistic? I surely wouldn't consider it an albino since it still had red on its face and a reddish beak as well as yellow feet.
Right after the duck pond adventure we saw something large fly overhead. It looked like a hawk and landed in a nearby tree about 75 feet from the pond. While we were trying to get a decent angle to take photos of the hawk we also saw a jackrabbit. Watch out Mr rabbit! That hawk might want to try to take you down for his dinner! You do seem to be a fairly good size; maybe you're too much for the hawk to take on.
After getting home Heidi was able to correctly identify the hawk as an immature red-tailed. Here is a view of his back. Click on the photo to get a larger view. Just look at those beautiful feathers. The funny thing about the hawk that we had noticed was that it looked a bit disheveled.
Here's the front view. Notice the disheveled look on his chest feathers? These are still magnificent looking birds anyway.
As we headed back toward the pond we noticed at least one black-crowned night heron (BCNH) in a tree across the path from the pond. So we headed over to get a few shots. As we looked around Heidi noticed there were nests in the tree and there seemed to be more than one BCNH in the tree. Most of them were well hidden behind branches or tucked down in the nests. But this BCNH was more cooperative.
I got this shot of him just as he had landed in the tree.
In this shot, BCNH looks like a sentry, like a guard on duty.
We also encountered this little gosling around the duck pond. At first we thought he was a little stray. We wondered where Mama or Papa was.
And then we saw this as they walked away. Isn't this cute to see -- parent and offspring taking a stroll around the duck pond to show the little one what a big world it is.



Linda in Erie said...

You saw so many fun things on your visit. I just love your last photo. That is so precious! The BCNH is a great find. You got some great photos of him.

Ruth said...

You saw a good variety of birds and animals. I have never seen a BCNH out in the open like that. In fact, I only have pictures of parts of them at a time as they look out from their leafy perches.

Mary C said...

Thanks, Linda and Ruth. Ruth, many of the BCNHs were "hiding" either in their nests or behind leaves. And I didn't bother to post any of those photos.

Red said...

I'm glad you got pics of the parent walking with the gosling. Very cute and easy to remember now.

RuthieJ said...

Oh Mary, that last picture of the baby goose and its mom is so cute!
I loved seeing the jackrabbit too--we used to have them around here, but it's been at least 30 years since I've seen one in the wild.

Zhakee said...

Those whitish ducks certainly look different! Either a cross or an almost albino?

Adam R. Paul said...

Good stuff! Both pale ducks are almost certainly hybridized released/escaped food ducks. The first pair look to have much domestic Mallard in them, as you noticed, the second look like there's some Muscovy Duck in their ancestry.

And a good call by Red on the juv RTHA. A wise birder once said to me "all hawks are juvenile Red-tailed Hawks until proven otherwise" since they're such variable birds :)

Kathiesbirds said...

Mary, how nice to see you again! I have been wanting to visit you. What a lovely day this was for you. The young red tail looks so disheveled because it is newly fledged I believe, so it still has some of its down. What a find that was! Those other redheaed ducks are a domestic something or other I believe. If I find out I will let you know!

Mary C said...

Heidi - it's not often I can get a "winning" photo, but I'm glad I was able to get this one - it's so adorable (and family oriented). ;o)

Ruthie, I'm glad you liked the last photo. I was thrilled that it turned out so well. As for the jackrabbit I was glad to be as close as I was. I've never seen a jackrabbit that close, and to think it actually stopped long enough for me to get a few shots of him.

Hi Zhakee - they sure are different looking, aren't they? I've never seen this kind of hybrid before.

Adam, thank you! That is a good quote to keep in mind!

Thanks, Kathie! I never thought of the RTHA to be recently fledged. But that certainly makes a lot of sense, especially since it looked so disheveled. Now that makes me wonder if mama hawk was somewhere nearby.

Zhakee said...

Your trip to Palo Alto Baylands certainly rewarded you with great wildlife viewings. Love the shots of the night heron. Years ago, my mom lived in Petaluma and there was a nearby tree where an entire flock of night herons roosted for about a month each year. Maybe a hundred of them, noisy things.

Leedra said...

You said the sign stated not to feed the animals, but what about the birds? :) Muscovey ducks are very friendly, think it is just their nature.


Current skin is MC Winter 08 and designed by Red.
Best viewed on Firefox at 1024x768, larger or widescreen.