I don’t like the look of the out-of-focus plants in the foreground, but I was still pretty excited to see this sora, as I’ve rarely seen them in my life, much less had a chance to photograph one. And it was on a morning in which I had started to regret getting out of bed before sunrise, as not much had been visible.
But then I came across some cedar waxwings, had a cottontail hop up to me and sniff my boots, and then when I got to the observation blind, had a female ruddy duck to the front, a nestful of baby coots also to the front, an occasional Virginia rail off to the left, and this sora that popped into view for just a second on my right. And then a Wilson’s snipe also came out briefly to forage.
It wasn’t a great situation for pictures but it was fun seeing so many shy creatures busting out all around me.
I arrived early one morning in late May at Ridgefield’s River S Unit and almost immediately regretted the decision. While the auto tour normally provides a good glimpse of waterfowl and other animals in the marshes, by late May the grass has grown so high that you can’t seen into most of the marshes.
I stopped by the observation blind and figured I might as well take a short look before continuing on, and stopped in my tracks as soon as I got out of the car: a small flock of waxwings was in a berry tree at the edge of the parking area. I witnessed for the first time a mated pair passing a berry back and forth. I had the wrong lens on for pictures, and decided to watch the display rather than try for a picture.
This is one of the birds that was sitting back in the middle of the tree. You can see the waxy yellow tips on the bird’s tail, but not the waxy red tips of the wing that give the bird its name. I may not have gotten any pictures of the berry display, but nevertheless I was thankful I had gotten out of bed that morning after all.
On our first trip to New Mexico, my wife and I spent our first day at Bandelier National Monument. Most of the day we wandered about the cliff dwellings built by the ancestral Pueblo, even putting aside our fear of heights to climb the wooden ladders to a kiva high in the cliffs.
We still had enough time at the end of the day to wander up to the western edge of the park and do a little hiking on the Cerro Grande trail. At the trailhead parking lot, this sapsucker flew up into a tree right next to the wooden fence. The tree was obviously a favorite as it had drilled a bunch of irregular holes on this side of the tree and a regular patchwork of squares on the other side.
It was my first time to ever see this sapsucker, a beautiful little jewel, and I was thrilled to be only a few feet away and watch it work the tree for sap. While we were watching, we heard a loud crashing sound a short ways away in the forest. As we looked up, a tree came crashing down across the trail ahead of us, unusual given the lack of wind.
If we hadn’t stopped to watch the sapsucker, we might have been on the trail when the tree came down, so this little bird became not only one of my favorite wildlife encounters from the trip, but also our most beautiful protector.