Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Monday at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

The American Crows had begun to gather when I stepped into the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary's parking lot. Dozens upon dozens of the cawing, cackling creatures landed in the tall bare trees and added to the late-afternoon cacophony.

Continuing along a manicured trail, I heard the buzz and chitter of a hummingbird. Looking up, I spied a male Anna's Hummingbird presiding over a patch. His head and throat resembled black velvet until the sunlight hit the feathers at a certain angle... then ZOWIE! The iridescent magenta cap and gorget left me dazzled.

Retracing my steps, I walked toward the four ponds. A Pied-billed Grebe dove, then reappeared not much father toward the center of pond A. As it swam, it made a half-hearted lunge at a low-flying insect. It approached the far side of the pond, where Great Blue Herons and Black-crowned Night-Herons stood sentinel in the waterside vegetation. The sun sank below the clouds along the horizon.

Three Northern Shovelers, two males and a female, zipped past overhead. They'd likely just left pond C, which hosted many NOSH and other waterfowl. A male and a female NOSH fed in unison, their heads going into the water and their pointy tails going into the air in tandem.

The light faded even more. The sanctuary closed at dusk, so it was time to retrieve the car from the parking lot. On the trail between ponds D and B, I paused and felt cheated by the fading light. In pond D (for "dapper"), numerous Black-necked Stilts and winter-plumge American Avocets fed in the shallow water. They were easy to see, but the decreasing light and time prevented good looks at the discreet, brown sandpipers at the far end.

Turning to my right, toward pond B, I gasped at the Great Blue Heron standing just off to the right side of the trail. It intently looked into the vegetation while I looked at its blue-gray body with the overlaying white plumes, its velvety-looking grayish-brown neck, its blue-gray plume and its yellow, long, pointed bill. I hated to break its concentration, but the encroaching darkness and the cold breeze convinced me to walk slowly past the heron and toward the parking lot. The bird didn't acknowledge me, just 10 feet away, and offered a wonderful memory at the start of another week.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home