I only had a little over an hour to spend birding this morning, but it was a very productive time. It was cloudy when I got off work and I decided to drive out to Spring Canyon. Spring Canyon is a good place for rainy mornings because I can take pictures from the truck if needed. I was on call still and this is one of the few places on the Canadian River bed that my pager works. It’s also an attractive place to the birds with several small ponds and a large area of marshy wetlands. It gets good light in the morning as well.
The Red-winged Blackbirds are always one of the first birds you notice. There are always dozens of them perched on the cattails and in the mesquite trees, each one trying to out sing the others. Once you get parked and start listening more closely you start hearing other calls. Northern Mockingbirds and Bobwhites are calls we’ve all heard since childhood and are easy to pick out of the chorus. Eastern and Western Meadowlarks are not quite as familiar, but once you learn the difference (Eastern is simpler, more plaintive and melancholy than the Western) it’s the easiest way to tell them apart. During the winter you can hear the taunting of the Ring-billed Gulls as they assault the Double-crested Cormorants, the haunting calls of Common Loons, and the exuberant singing of Rock Wrens and an assortment of sparrows as you watch the coots and Redheads and teals and other waterfowl forage for weeds and fish in the ponds, all tied together with the tapping of Ladder-backed Woodpeckers hunting for breakfast.
In the last few weeks the squabbling of Scissor-tailed and Ash-throated Flycatchers, and their cousins, Western Kingbirds, and Eastern Phoebes have replaced the gulls’ and loons’ voices. In the last weeks Blue Grosbeaks, Orchard and Bullock’s Orioles, and several different warblers have joined in to create a tapestry of sound that Phil Spector would envy.
A pair of Least Sandpipers flew in as I watched the teals. I’m glad that I saw them arrive or I might have missed them. They are the smallest of the North American shorebirds and the grass at the edge of the pond hid them quite well.
You can view the other birds mentioned in this post in the galleries and listen to their songs here.