With the last of the ice melted from lakes and reservoirs, waterfowl has been on the move north. I popped over to the Wallkill NWR the other day to see what was shakin’. Used to having the place to myself, with perhaps one or two other cars; I was stunned to find the parking lot full. I squeezed the car onto the grass and stomped off to the other side of Liberty Loop. The weeds, reeds and grasses that hide the ponds during the summer were thin and for the most part wind-blown. There were Song Sparrows on every high seed head tuning up their rusty voices. A shimmering mirage of Snow Geese circled the fields to land with a large flock of Canada Geese gorging on tender new shoots. The ponds themselves were loaded with Mallards, Pintails and Green-winged Teals. The resident Red-tailed Hawk sat on the wires and a female Northern Harrier coursed back and forth. The muskrats were swimming between lodges and turtles were sunning themselves. The marsh is feeling the change of seasons.
Looking for ducks this time of year can be scary. Not because of the ducks, of course, but because of the orangemen and I am not talking about Syracuse. While I was home, my sister and I wanted to go see what was shakin’ at Killdeer Plains and Big Island WMAs. As we discussed our plans, with an eye out the window at the pouring rain, a few of the men in the family raised the hunting issue. Apparently it is Goose and Duck hunting season in Ohio and depending on what zone you are in, the season can last until late January. We promised to stay close to the car.
We opted to go birding on Friday thinking there would be more hunters out on Saturday. But as we drove into Killdeer Plains in the morning, there were already lots of trucks pulled off the road and dots of orange moving across the open fields and marsh. Holy Cow. The guys were not kidding. I saw more blaze orange there than I have seen in all my years of living in NJ. We did not end up staying long at Killdeer Plains; the roads were really muddy and rutted and the whole hunting thing was weirding me out. We puttered over to Big Island where there were fewer guys in orange. Both areas look like they would be great places to bird in migration. Or anytime when you were not taking your life in your hands.
We went home shaking our heads wishing we had opted for Hoover Reservoir instead. Oh well, live and learn. To see other birds and not have to take your life in your hands, hop over to Bird Photography Weekly.
Anytime you go birding in Albuquerque you need to include the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park in your circuit. It is close to the downtown and offers a view of a wetland in an otherwise water-starved landscape. The Visitor’s Center has cement wings with peep holes that extend from the main building giving a view of the main pond and a glass-walled observation room that provides up-close-and-personal looks at the waterfowl. There are also various trails around the pond and down to the river.
The main attraction the day I was there was the ducks. Lots and lots of ducks. There were American Wigeons, Gadwalls, Wood Ducks, Northern Shovelers, Ring-necked Ducks, Mallards, Lesser Scaup, Coots, Redheads and Canada Geese on the pond and Sandhill Cranes in the field on the drive up.
BUT, the craziest thing was a coot that was struggling to eat something in the water. We all watched it fascinated. It was whitish and floating. I thought it was plastic until one of the naturalists came in and told us it was a bullfrog, long-dead, killed by a muskrat. The coot had been working it for a while. Um, slimy putrid frog-legs would not be my choice, but then I’m not a coot.
Filed under Photos, Travel