Sunday, November 6, 2011

Reifel Bird Sanctuary

We rose early Saturday morning and headed to Reifel Bird Sanctuary. I've put this photo first, because I think it may be my best one of the day.  For sure, having only seen a few Pileated Woodpeckers in my life, it was a great thrill to spend some time watching this very handsome and very active fellow.
Some of the photos were quite poor, but here's the rundown of our sightings.  Before going into the sanctuary, we saw this bald eagle land on a pylon by the Westham Island Bridge.  
We walked along the dyke with Black Jack first, as she wasn't allowed in the sanctuary.  This hawk (maybe a Northern Harrier?) was hunting, but was far across a field, so..  
 my long lens had to work quite hard to pick it out.
This was the only negative in a wonderful day.  Even at Reifel, we could hear the constant sound of gunshots very close to the sanctuary's borders.  
At first, I thought these were Snow Geese, but in fact, they were Trumpeter Swans (longer necks and no black in their wings).
We saw three Sandhill Cranes hanging out near the ticket booth at the entrance to the sanctuary. "That look" from this one left me feeling a bit guilty.  I guess it expected us to pay for the photo, but we were empty-handed.
The American Coots always make me laugh.  
I think that has something to do with their huge, green feet, shiny red eyes, and comical way of moving.  However, this site informs me that they are much more complex birds than I have perhaps realized.
The crane posed one more time and then we continued on.
Three Black-crowned Night Herons were just a few feet further on.  Normally, they are asleep during the day, but this one opened its eyes slightly.
This one opened its eyes quite wide, and then..
I think it yawned.
A-ah..  there were the Snow Geese.  We didn't see many - perhaps a total of about ten or twelve for the day.
This squirrel was so busy, it didn't even bother stepping out of the path as we came by.
There were a few feeders along the way, and the chick-a-dees (and other smaller birds) were most appreciative.
There were lots of beautiful, red berries.  Bill pointed these out.  I think they are holly.
This crow was enjoying a snack, but I couldn't tell what it was.
This Song Sparrow was getting ready to enjoy some berries too.
I wasn't sure what this bird was at first,  
but then it fluffed its wings, and I thought it must be a Red-winged Blackbird. Its colours looked a bit more muted than they do in Spring.
Here, the water was very shallow, and the American Coots' mirror images made their gait seem even more comical. 
I'm wondering if these shorebirds were Dowitchers or perhaps, Snipes.
There was quite a number of them near the observation tower.
I was challenged all day by hazy light, but I thought it brought out the magic in this tree.
I think the most abundant species at the sanctuary would be Mallard Ducks.  Their colours seem a bit more muted to me in Fall than in Spring.
One more photo of the shorebirds.  Perhaps they were thinking deeply. 
Bill and I both heard the woodpecker at the same moment, but it was Bill who first spotted it.  At first, my camera's autofocus seemed quite confused, and the woodpecker was so busy hammering his head at insane speeds into the wood, I thought I might never get a decent photo.  

This photo appears to be upside down, but it was just the way the woodpecker leaned back before attacking the tree.
I rotated this picture to make it a bit easier to study the woodpecker's face.
It flew into a different tree, where my camera had to make a valiant effort to get past the branches to the woodpecker.  I found this quote at a Wikipedia site, describing the adaptations that keep woodpeckers from harming themselves.
To prevent brain damage from the rapid and repeated decelerations, woodpeckers have evolved a number of adaptations to protect the brain. These include small brain size, the orientation of the brain within the skull (which maximises the area of contact between the brain and the skull) and the short duration of contact. The millisecond before contact with wood a thickened nictitating membrane closes, protecting the eye from flying debris.[5] The nostrils are also protected; they are often slit-like and have special feathers to cover them.
This robin was sitting at the top of a very tall tree.
We were convinced we were seeing Trumpeter Swans here, but I learned after inspecting..
the pictures more carefully, that we were actually seeing the Sandhill Cranes in flight (a first for me).
 Blue highlights in this mallard were brought out by the sun.
We only saw a few Blue Herons.
This one was carefully ignoring the ducks.
 Bill asked this American Wigeon to turn around, 
 so that we could admire the lovely green in its head,
and its striking, light blue bill.  It kindly obliged.
These birds were very high up. I'm wondering if they could be Cedar Waxwings.
I'm not sure what this bird was, and it didn't help me out by giving me a closer view.
 I'm not sure what this bird was, but I think the beak looks finch-like, and it seems young.
A Black-capped Chickadee was my last sighting before we left the sanctuary.
We drove just a short distance, when I spotted this heron in a field and I thought I also saw a hawk flying overhead.  Bill, ever obliging, stopped. 
We were both surprised to see so many houseboats.
I liked the windows in this one.
Black Jack was happily exploring the ditches and sniffed out this mallard pair.  They weren't impressed.
 The hawk might even have been..
an owl, but never came close enough for a positive identification.
 The heron left, and we got back in the truck.
 Our last stop for the day was to take a photo of this Bald Eagle pair through the window of the truck.
I zoomed in on the one on the right.  I couldn't tell if it was the female or the male.
That was our outing.  I loved it.  Thank you, Bill.  Enjoy your extra hour of sleep, everyone.


  1. What wonderful pictures! The woodpecker has won my heart, too. The first picture of him is amazingly detailed, I think I can even see a bit of what he is eating! We dont have many of these birds in the UK so it is nice to see them here.

  2. I'm not much of a birdwatchers (except those who visit here) but this was a lovely sequence of an amazing variety! Your photos do instill in me a little bit of your fascination. [And I think you're right that the last "hawk" might very well have been an owl...}

  3. I'm not much of a birdwatchers (except those who visit here) but this was a lovely sequence of an amazing variety! Your photos do instill in me a little bit of your fascination. [And I think you're right that the last "hawk" might very well have been an owl...}

  4. Carol, what a wonderful array of birds. I have never seen the night heron before so it was a real treat. The pilliated woodpecker shots are great, they move so fast it is hard to get clear shots of them, but yours are wonderful. Loved the stare down by the sandhillcrane to. Thanks for taking us along. :)

  5. The brilliant tuff of red on the bird’s head in your first photo really stands out among the rest in this wonderful collection, Carol. But I confess to not giving the brain of a woodpecker a single thought until now. Isn’t it amazing how nature seems to provide a protective mechanism to all creatures so they can function in the way they are meant to. Also love the water reflections of that tree … it has the look of a painting. As always glad you shared this part of your journey. :)