(Burrowing Owl Update Below)
Encouraged by reports of additional bird species in the storm ponds in the Berkeley Meadow, I paid a return visit this morning. I was not disappointed. The Mallards and American Wigeons that I saw a couple of days ago were still there. Thanks to some sharp-eyed birders on the scene who helped me spot them, I saw and was able to film the amazing Northern Shovelers, and I got a few images of Green-winged Teal, both rarely seen. Familiar waterbirds like Bufflehead, Horned Grebe, Canada Geese, and American Coot also occupied the ponds, and in the shrubs and trees I saw a pair of White-tailed Kites, three kinds of Sparrows, a Black Phoebe, and a pair of Yellow-rumped Warblers. I also saw a magnificent Great Egret, which I’ll show another day. I did not see a reported Northern Pintail.
My video, above, is dedicated to the Shovelers. With one glance at their outsize schnozzes it’s obvious how they got their names. It turns out, though, that they don’t use their proboscis primarily for digging. Rather, they use it to filter the water and take in little bugs, larvae, snails, and other invertebrates.
They also seem to have a hair-trigger temper. I saw two of the males charge at each other repeatedly like medieval knights, rushing past each other with wings beating. Then the females also got into it with each other, although not with the same persistence. It was hard to tell at this distance who was who, but it seemed to me that two of the males were like guys in a bar fight, knocking each other silly and then being the best of buds.
Shovelers breed up north around the globe, though not in the high Arctic, and some have been spotted breeding in California. The northern breeders migrate south in winter and can be found from California south into Mexico and Central America. They always seek out water and do not go foraging on dry land, unlike many other ducks.
I was particularly pleased to see the White-tailed Kites here. They perched on opposite sides of the same tree. Kites have been in the Meadow for years, and it’s good to know that the American Crows haven’t bullied them off this territory. Let’s hope this is a breeding pair and they’ll have chicks.
The Yellow-rumped Warblers hopped around in the reeds over a shallow pond, no doubt snagging bugs in the air and other bugs that climbed up the dry stalks to get off the soaked ground. The warblers also look like candidates for nesting and all that.
Burrowing Owl Update
The Burrowing Owl in Chavez Park this morning at around 9 am hunkered down in Perch B. Even from the top of my tall tripod I could only see the bird’s upper half. During the 20 minutes that my video camera ran, the bird did nothing besides look left, up, and right, in an alert but relaxed manner. Since regular viewers of this blog have seen this routine behavior before, I’m skipping owl video today. A photo will tell the tale. As a park visitor remarked, the owl looks like it survived the storms just fine.