I was in luck this morning. As I began my walk around eight o’clock, the sun slanted almost flat to the ground from the southeast, clear of the cloud layer blanketing the sky above. Barely a breath of wind rippled the glassy surface of the North Basin. From the vantage point of the Virginia Street extension, the water birds enjoyed a broadside of sunshine and a liquid mirror. I had photographed most of these birds before but this golden light deserved a second and third take.
Notable by their absence this morning were the many hundreds of Scaup seen here a few days ago. Not one Scaup appeared in the North Basin. The nighttime temperatures in the low 40s, probably lower on the water, must have motivated these birds to head further south, I thought. But when I rounded the paved perimeter trail on the northern edge of the park, I saw a strip of dark dots in the far distance toward Richmond. In a loooong telephoto shot, these dots resolved as Scaup. Was the water out there in the bay a bit warmer than in the shallow North Basin? Will they come back, or are they staging for a southward hop?
Speaking of migration, I saw several groups of Canada Geese flying northward from the Berkeley Meadow (Sylvia McLaughlin Eastshore State Park). Wonder where they were headed.
Also absent were the Goldeneye. I saw one Goldeneye in the water on December 4. I saw possibly the same individual resting on a rock below the Open Circle artwork ten days later. So far, the expected influx of dozens or even hundreds of Goldeneye has not materialized.
On the east side of the basin, by the glass beach, I saw my first Black-necked Stilt of the season. It seemed to be the only one of its kind.
The good light also swayed me to take pictures of birds like Crows and Gulls that I normally ignore, because they’re always there. Crows aren’t melodious but they’re quite pretty in direct sunlight, and of course they’re very smart. Two of the Gulls this morning were doing the job that Turkey Vultures would do if they frequented the park, namely clean up the carrion. Occasionally a water bird dies, and the Gulls get on it. That’s part of nature.
There still aren’t any Burrowing Owls that I could see. My tenure as a new Burrowing Owl docent at the park has been limited to periodic reports of the birds’ absence. But the migratory season isn’t over yet. Hope springs eternal.
By nine o’clock the sun had risen into the cloud cover. It fought to penetrate cracks for a bit but then the overcast shut it out, and it became a cloudy day, and so I headed home.