It is snowing this morning, and the yucky weather here in southern Minnesota means the wildlife has deserted the backyard (temporarily, I hope). Even the chickadees are absent from the feeders this morning!
So, it’s a good time to reflect back on the adventures of the summer — to warmer times and prettier views. I found a lot of photos from Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge north of San Jose CA that I had never posted. That’s a good excuse to go back a couple of months to October and revisit the marshy pools in southern San Francisco bay
Dowitchers are medium-sized chunky shorebirds that use their very long bills to probe deep into the mud of shallow pools to find insect and crustacean larvae and small molluscs, as well as seeds and even vegetation that is buried there. Extremely sensitive tactile receptors in the tips of those long bills help them discriminate what is animal, vegetable, and mineral. Their continuous up-and-down motion as they probe the mud has been likened to the action of a sewing machine needle moving through cloth.
Unfortunately, despite their names, bill length is not a definitive characteristic! Long-billed Dowitchers are mostly found in fresh water, and the Short-billed species is mostly found in salt water, but the pools here are full of a mix of salt and fresh water depending on the tides in the bay. And in their drab, non-breeding plumage, all their distinctive coloration is missing, so one must rely on their different calls to determine the species. However, I have no memory of what they sounded like, so what else can I use to tell them apart?
Not all of the shorebirds are so difficult to identify. Two species of long-legged wading shorebirds stand out: avocets and stilts.
I can’t resist posting more photos of Wood Ducks — but this time the scene was what made them stand out. We encountered a few ducks foraging in a marshy pond in a residential area of Minneapolis near Cedar Lake. The water was absolutely still and the light was in the perfect direction to highlight the colors of their plumage.
You don’t often get a reflection as perfect as this one (or a shot of a Wood Duck without sticks in front of its head).
Even the water droplet hanging off the tip of Mrs. Woody’s bill is mirrored.
Even the Great Blue Heron fishing for its breakfast had an almost perfect mirror reflection.
But the mirror reflection of the Heron’s head on that extremely long neck got fuzzy in deeper water that was moving.
What if the water where the Heron was standing had been as quiet as that where the Wood Ducks were swimming? Would the Heron’s reflection look more like this?
Great Blue Heron mirror reflection with a little help from Luminar photo editing.