Yesterday was another fine day for a walk at the Palo Alto Baylands after work, if a tad gusty. Immediately upon exiting my car at the Duck Pond, my ears were assaulted by the sound of hundreds of egrets, the adults squabbling and the newly-hatched juveniles begging for food. It’s really quite a comical sound – I wish I had an audio recorder so I could share it with everyone!
Juvenile Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)
There were a few other photogs out, but I didn’t stay at the rookery for very long, as the lighting isn’t at all ideal in the afternoon. Note to self: go here BEFORE work one of these days to get the best light on the heron rookery!
Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
Walking around the small enclosed wildlife area, there was surprisingly little in the slough – only a few Mallards, a scattering of Black-necked Stilts, two Green-winged Teal, and a single American Avocet. The western side of the Duck Pond is often pretty productive, but not today – other than the usual Red-winged Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Brewer’s Blackbirds, Mallards, and Ring-billed Gulls, there wasn’t much at all afoot.
Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus)
There was, however, a solitary, very small Mallard chick floating all by itself (very dangerous for it, given the huge numbers of Gulls, Egrets, and Herons within a few hundred feet!). It was impossibly tiny, and must have been a very recent hatchling.
By the former harbor area, there continued to be a paucity of birds, with a few straggling ducks and a stand of 20-30 RB Gulls. A Mourning Dove cooed overhead, as they often do right in this area, and I startled and was startled by, a male Ring-necked Pheasant foraging in the brush.
Not many birds, so here’s a scenic of the Palo Alto Baylands
Continuing east along the slough, there continued to be little to see other than low numbers of the expected denizens. One Killdeer flew towards the gravel parking area where they’d been nesting the last time I visited (2 weeks ago), but that was the only sign of Killdeer I saw.
Mallard (Anas platyrynchos)
I’d been hoping to find some Avocet or Stilt chicks in the marsh east of the parking lot by the Interpretive Center, but none were to be seen. A fellow photog I spoke to said he hadn’t seen any either, just adults sitting around (not nesting). Numerous Cliff Swallows zipped by, and unlike most of my attempts, I actually managed to get a couple of semi-sharp photos of the elusive little buggers in flight! An obliging Forster’s Tern also posed mid-air.
Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon phrrhonota)
Heading back to the Duck Pond, I stopped in the picnic grounds next to the ranger station and took at look at the Black-crowned Night Heron nests in the understory. As expected, there were a great many occupied nests, and I got to briefly watch one adult feeding its young, a lovely sight to be sure!
Forster’s Tern (Sterna forsteri)
By now it was rather windy, and wasn’t looking like I was likely to see much else I hadn’t already seen, so I called it a day. This was a below-average walk in terms of the total numbers of birds seen, but there was plenty of variety, and I got some pretty good photographs.
Birds seen (27 species):
– American Avocet
– American Coot
– Barn Swallow
– Black-crowned Night Heron (incl. many juveniles)
– Black-necked Stilt
– Brewer’s Blackbird
– Brown-headed Cowbird
– California Towhee
– Cliff Swallow
– Dowitcher sp.
– European Starling
– Forster’s Tern
– Green-winged Teal
– House Sparrow
– Mallard (incl. 1 chick)
– Mourning Dove
– Northern Mockingbird
– Northern Pintail
– Red-winged Blackbird
– Ring-billed Gull
– Ring-necked Pheasant
– Rock Pigeon
– Ruddy Duck
– Snowy Egret (incl. dozens of juvvies)
– Song Sparrow