Lovely Day

“Just one look at you and I know it’s gonna be a lovely day.”– Lovely Day from the Bill Withers recording Menagerie.

I slept in this morning.  I was afraid the roads at the lake would be iced over if I got out there too early.  I usually leave just at dawn so I can get that beautiful morning light for my photos but we had a little snow yesterday and the highways were a little icy last night.  Some of the roads at Meredith are pretty steep and I didn’t want to get stuck.

Sheila got up when I did and I invited her to go birding with me.  Her company more than compensated for missing that golden hour at dawn.  It looked to be a perfect day for birding, sunny and very little wind.

We went to Spring Canyon first.  The road down into the canyon is a 15% grade, straight for about 400 meters, with drop offs on both sides for most of that distance.  It was still a little icy but we made it down with very little damage to the seats of the truck.

Spring Canyon is a marshy area just northeast of the Lake Meredith dam.  Before the dam was built in the early 60s the Canadian River flowed through it.  There is a fairly large pond on the north side of the valley and several smaller ponds surrounded by reeds and cattails.  It’s a really good place to see birds up close and the early morning light is gorgeous.

However, this morning we couldn’t see any birds.  We drove along the base of the dam to past several smaller ponds that have had waterfowl in them since last fall–nothing.  The larger pond has had about 12-15 American Coots in it for the last few months but they were nowhere to be seen.  We drove around the northeast end of the pond, parked the truck and got out to walk down the northern shoreline.  There’s a paved pathway there so we wouldn’t have to slog through the mud.  About half way down the path we saw the coots across the pond by the spillway that comes from the main lake.  Other than that, a small flock of White-crowned Sparrows, and a few Meadowlarks, we didn’t see anything.

We returned to the truck and drove back around to the southern side of the pond.  Sheila spotted a Lesser Scaup and a Bufflehead in the reeds.  They were beautiful–especially the Bufflehead, with his iridescent purple and white head.

We drove on to the area of the pond just under the dam and got some good shots of the coots. There were a couple of Song Sparrows in the mesquites there, also.  We were about  to leave when Sheila found a Belted Kingfisher on the fence around the spillway, so we walked out onto the fishing pier so we could see him better.

We decided to leave Spring Canyon and drive back around to the Sanford-Yake area on the other side of the dam.  Just before we started up the road out of the canyon Sheila spotted a couple of Redheads and a half dozen Ring-necked Ducks in the pond nearest the exit.

The Ring-necked ducks evidently have a faint lighter colored ring at the base of their neck.  I’ve never been able to see it.  The real defining feature is the three colored bill.  It is grey near the base, has a white ring and a black tip.  I guess Tricolor-billed Duck didn’t work for the guy that named them.

At the boat ramp at Sanford-Yake there were a couple of  Common Loons and and 3 Great Blue Herons, a few Mallards and Ring-billed gulls.  Across the little bay at North Canyon we could see 2 Bald Eagles, one on a sand bar in the middle of the bay, the other in a small tree on the opposite shore.

If you want to see what I mean about the morning light at Spring Canyon check out the picture of the Loon in the Waterfowl gallery.

When we drove back up from the boat ramp we found a lone Bald Eagle in a tree next to the road.  He let us drive very close and we got some great pictures of him.  It was the highlight of the morning.bald-eagle-320

There are more photos of this fantastic bird in the Raptor gallery.

We finished the morning at Fritch Fortress.  The cliffs there are as high as they are anywhere around the lake.  It is also, unfortunately, nearly the southern end of Meredith now.  The lake is really shallow on this end, with a lot of sandbars around the shore an the southwest side, where Blue Creek used to dump into the lake.  The good news is that this makes a great habitat for ducks, geese, pelicans, and eagles.

There is a colony of about 15 adult and immature Bald Eagles that have been here since last fall.  There is also a mob of about 10-12 American White Pelicans that arrived in mid-January and huge flocks of migratory birds come and go in the fall and spring.

We walked along the cliff edge and watched the eagle fish on the lake for a while.  We saw a coyote and a roadrunner by the boat ramp.  Cracked us both up. I didn’t get a shot of the coyote, but he was as scraggly as the cartoon version.  The roadrunner was on a beached boat dock and couldn’t decide who he should keep the closer eye on, us or the coyote.  He would puff up at us and then look over to where the coyote was last seen.

After a slow start, a lovely day.

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