Sunday, April 1, 2012

Gettin' Fat on the Mud Flats

I found myself in the east side of town this weekend and decided to revisit the Gilbert Water Ranch. It was a very nice morning of birding, with lots of regulars and some new migrants totaling 74 species in all--not bad for a single location in the suburbs!

That being said, it wasn't a particularly photogenic morning. The vegetation at the Water Ranch has really filled in, and it's becoming increasingly difficult to get clear shots of the birds as they enjoy the springtime foliage.

Yes yes, what a hard life we birders have that leaves and twigs cause us such problems. Luckily, there are always a few places around the water's edge where the vegetation curtails and the birds are more visible. The trade-off is that the birds also tend to be less colorful. But hey a bird is a bird and we are compelled to watch them!

A pair of Canada Geese, along with some Least Sandpipers and Killdeer were all romping it up in the mud flats along the Water Ranch ponds. It was an all-you-can-eat buffet (the best buffet) of invertebrates, roots, and other muddy delectables. Much like at human buffets, the objective was to eat as much as you can as fast as you can, no matter who's watching or taking pictures.

In my book, the Killdeer wins the award for having both the most beautiful eye ring and the most annoying call in the avian kingdom.
Canada Geese, on the other hand, are thoroughly cool, even if they do pronounce some words kinda funny.
The Canada Geese and Killdeer can be found around most ponds and fields throughout much of North America. The Least Sandpiper is not quite as public, though it is still pretty common. That being said, I have a really hard time getting proper focus and exposure on these humble little birds. Their coloration can be challenging, but white and dark brown is by no means an unusual combination for a bird. For me, it's getting good definition on the beak and, when visible, the feet. Since they tend to keep their heads towards the ground, it can also be hard to get a nice catch light in the eye.

Least Sandpipers are very methodical. They seldom stray from their anxious darting routine as they feed. But every once in a while...Woosh! Dynamic Action Pose:

Eventually the grazers all moved on, and it was time for me to get some lunch of my own. Even if they don't pick the nicest scenery, it's nice to have these down n' dirty birds doing their thing while all the pretty warblers stay high up in the trees.