Saturday, February 25, 2012

Meanwhile, back on the Ranch

I went to McCormick Ranch on Friday to see who was hanging around the ponds. A few weeks ago the place was swarming with Great Egrets, dozens and dozens of them all jostling for space. On Friday there were none, but there were some of Northern Rough-Winged Swallows and Herons, along with the normal Sparrow regimen one expects around the ponds.

There was also this solitary Red-Winged Blackbird, who seemed a little out of it.

The second fun sighting was this awkward Great Blue Heron. It picked a rather cumbersome perch and then tried to make it work for a good fifteen seconds before giving up and flying to another.

Impressive wingspan!

There were some House Finches and Mockingbirds adorning the palo verde trees, and I had to stop and photograph this unusually confident Mourning Dove. It's nice to pause and remind myself what pretty birds they really are.

A little troop of Least Sandpipers was a somewhat unusual sighting for the ponds. These birds are really putting all of their eggs in the "The meek shall inherit the earth" basket. They're so much smaller than other common waterbirds (barely reaching 6 inches), and they spend most of their time with their faces stuck in the mud.

But, if we imagine for a second that the world is shrunk to their size, a troop of feeding Least Sandpipers can become quite the terror! This ferocious gang devastated the local filth deposits and engulfed tiny invertebrates by the score. With their battle cry of "Peeeeeep," they scoured the shoreline and gobbled everything in their path, taking no prisoners and leaving no trace of their conquest. 

 I kinda dig the perspective happening here. It looks like this last Sandpiper's legs are way out of whack with its body. Behold the merciless stare of an omnivorous automaton!

This is probably the last thing you'll ever see if you're a pond fungus, insect larva, or anything else that can fit down the Least Sandpiper's maw.