On Sunday, while I could have been studying for my upcoming exams, I instead went birding with some friends. This was the right choice to make for many reasons. First, I ended up doing well on my exam anyway. Second, birding is just a lot more fun than studying. And lastly, I had an opportunity to go out into the field with some of the most skilled birders around. Not only did I see a lot of birds, over 60 species for the day including 3 life birds, I was able to learn a great deal from my guides. (A life bird refers to the first time you seen a specific bird species in your life).
We started by heading out to Black's Creek Reservoir. This area has been identified by our local Golden Eagle Audubon Society, of which I am a member, an Important Bird Area. On the way we spotted this Burrowing Owl. These are definitely a favorite of mine.
Arriving at the reservoir, Jay navigated the car through the mud trenches left by other vehicles when the water level was higher. Good news: no pushing this week! Among the sound of gunfire in all directions, official and unofficial shooting ranges nearby, we enjoyed some excellent bird watching. Lots of birds to be expected such as Great Blue Herons, American Avocets, Killdeer, other shorebirds, geese, ducks, and gulls. The highlight was seeing a few new life birds (Least Sandpiper and American Pipit) and getting side by side comparisons of a Least Sandpiper and a Western Sandpiper. I have to admit that I still have some studying to do before I could identify them on my own. From here we moved on to Indian Creek Reservoir.
Indian Creek Reservoir provided much greater diversity for us to see. Maybe because there was no gunfire? Anyway, here we saw a Great Egret:
Also, Long-billed Dowitchers, Long-billed Curlews, Avocets, Marbled Gowits, all three Teal (Green-winged, Blue-winged, and Cinnamon), a large group of American White Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants, Wilson's Phalaropes, Western Grebes, etc. The highlight here would be the new life bird - Semipalmated Plover. Once again, we had the opportunity for side by side comparison with a closely related Plover - the Killdeer. I feel more comfortable with my skills on identifying this bird now.
The rest of the evening we spent checking out other areas, looking for sparrows and warblers. We found a number of each. I am very grateful to my guides, Jay and Heidi, who invited me along, shared their knowledge, and were patient with my abilities.