Monday, January 31, 2022

Wood Duck

I've been wanting to see a wood duck for some time. The Wildlife Heritage Foundation calls it "an uncommon yearlong resident in California" that "primarily occurs in the Central Valley and along the Coast Ranges."  As I've looked on eBird and iNaturalist for Southern California sightings of the wood duck I've noticed that they tend to be few and far between. I recently noted that a large number, about 15, were seen at Irvine Regional Park in Orange County on a Friday and visited the next day. The wood ducks were still there and I took lots and lots of photos. 

The male is the most beautiful North American duck. It has a glossy green head with a purple cheek patch, black crescent sideburns, a yellow "V" separating the bill and the forehead, and a red and white bill with a black tip. It has a slicked back crest that freely hangs off the neck like a waterfall, a white chin and throat, bright red eyes with a black pupil, a chestnut breast with variably shaped white spots, a dark back and hindquarters with varying colors, including black, blue and violet, a side separated from the breast by a white and black stripe, a large patch of tan, followed by red, purple and some orange stripes; a white belly and yellowish/orange legs and feet. 

The female is quite drab in comparison. It has a grayish head and upperparts, a gray bill, a distinguishing white "teardrop" around each eye, a white throat, a white spotted brown breast, a white belly, dirty yellow legs and feet, and a chevron of violet, blue and white feathers inserted in the resting wing. 

Some other photos that show this beautiful duck off:

A couple mating.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

IRWD San Joaquin Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary - California

The Irvine Ranch Water District San Joaquin Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, also known as the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, is 300 acres of constructed wetlands (the "Sanctuary") owned by the Irvine Ranch Water District ("IRWD"). San Diego Creek runs adjacent to the east of the Sanctuary, next to Riparian Way, as well as the Michelson Wastewater Treatment Plant owned by the IRWD. The Sanctuary is in the flood plain of San Diego Creek. A series of six large ponds surrounded by bulrushes, labeled 1 through 6, and five smaller ponds, labeled A through E, which are next to the wastewater plant, allow the water to percolate through it, downhill, removing nitrates from the creek water before it empties back into San Diego Creek and into Upper Newport Bay. The wastewater facility owned by the IRWD does not enter into the Sanctuary. The ponds take up most of the east and south portion of the Sanctuary, while additional land planted with native plants designed to attract birds, along with nesting boxes, are situated over the remaining north and eastern portions of the Sanctuary. Construction of the Sanctuary began in 1988 and was completed in 2000. 

Judy and I visited on January 15 and I made another short visit on January 17. Photos of some of the birds I saw follow:
Most of the ducks we saw were in Pond C. Lots of them were cinnamon teals, a duck I've not seen much of. They are spectacularly beautiful. 

Another duck in large numbers in Pond C were gadwalls. I'd only ever seen them once or twice before, from a great distance and got poor photos. This experience helped me get to know them much better. 

Northern shovelers were also in Pond C, but not in as great a numbers as the first two ducks. 

Pond C also had one of the best collections of ruddy ducks I've ever seen. They are more solitary than the ducks above, continually diving for aquatic plants below the surface of the water. 

I saw a few buffleheads on Pond C, this one a female, also a diving duck that disappears below the water on a continuous basis. 

There were just a few green-winged teals among the ducks on Pond C. 

We got there early in the morning and saw Canada geese flying in and out.

We also saw some double-crested cormorants flying out...

...and some white-faced ibis flying out

...and a small group of them standing in Pond D. 

I saw several yellow-rumped warblers. 

A couple of white-crowned sparrows. 

A couple of blue-gray gnatcatchers, a first for me, but the photos were all poor. 

A couple of black phoebes...

...and several song sparrows. 

A bushtit

A common yellow-throat, a first for me, for which I got several horrible photos. 

Several say's phoebes. 

Least sandpipers

A black-necked stilt. 

An American avocet

Several Anna's hummingbirds.

A few American white pelicans. 

Clark's grebe

Western grebes

Several eared grebes.

A pied-billed grebe.

Several red-tailed hawks. 

Peregrine falcon.

A hooded merganser, only the second one I've ever seen. 

A greater yellowlegs.

A number of great blue herons. 

A great egret.

Some long-billed dowitchers.

A few mallards, particularly out in the wooded areas near small streams as opposed to the ponds. 

Mourning dove

And several northern harriers.

I visited again on November 19, 2022 and did not see the same quantity or diversity of birds. I did see a number of birds not seen on prior visits.
Allen's hummingbird was a first for me, anywhere. 

A black-crowned night heron.

Double-crested cormorants.

Better views of the American white pelican.

Great views of some roosting turkey vultures. 

I visited on January 7, 2023. Here are some of the birds I saw:
I saw another Allen's hummingbird, but this one showed me its radiating red neck feathers. 

An American coot. 

American wigeons

Better photos of a blue-gray gnatcatcher. 

Many cedar waxwings. 

An Egyptian goose.

Great egret

Northern pintail

Nesting osprey

Red-winged blackbirds

Snowy egret