Monday, April 16, 2012

Room for Two?

This week is AIMS week, the week in which my students take lots of standardized tests to tell us and them how they compare to other students and schools across the state and country. These tests are woefully inadequate and fraught with analytical problems, but I'm still not complaining because this means I have very little work to do this week in terms of lesson preparation. That dull anecdote was necessary only to say: I had some time to go birding Sunday afternoon.

I decided to try for a rare double-whammy, first stopping by the Glendale recharge ponds to chase a few unusual birds before quickly heading south to the Tres Rios site. The recharge ponds were a total flop last week, but in the twenty minutes I spent circumventing and surveying the first basin, they more than made up for their previous vacancies. The miniature lake was mostly populated with Black-Necked Stilts and Mallards, while Least Sandpipers lined the shoreline. Amidst these larger and darker birds, it was pretty easy to pick out the Red-Necked Phalarope and Bonaparte's Gull.

While scanning the wide, reflective water basin, the Gull was the first unusual sighting. As is always the case at the GRP, the bird was very far out on the water. Not too far away from the Gull there floated a much smaller bird with just a hint of red on the neck. 

Even at a distance, seeing a new bird is always greatly satisfying, and in this case it was a pretty rare bird too! It wasn't the soul-satisfying view that comes from a close encounter, but I'll take it! The Phalarope seemed to be buddies with this Black-Necked Stilt. It is also possible that the Phalarope was just using the taller bird as a mobile shade.

The Bonaparte's Gull took off pretty soon and, for once, I got my best look of the bird while it was passing overhead. There was a Franklin's Gull also reported in the area, but this bird seems much too light on the wings and there was no discernible red on the beak.

Two new birds is not bad for the first stop on a two-part birding adventure!