The fall birding season is shaping up at Emily Renzell Ponds. With, thankfully, blue skies and cooler temps there’s lots to see. Hundreds of ducks will greet you as you arrive at the north pond and the surrounding baylands. Featured among this feathered population are Mallards and Shovelers; both are commonly seen creatures that prefer our warm winters.
And while the Palo Alto Baylands have had some gorgeous Northern Pintails lately, the ponds are also filled with American Widgeons (often avoiding the Washington winter in favor of the bay’s warm weather), Gadwalls, and Green-Winged Teals (arriving in September and often leaving by early May).
There’s a pair of Cinnamon Teals on the north pond; shy but special to spot. During breeding season, the male sports a shockingly bright rust-colored plumage and a red eye. On the topic of beautiful ducks, I recently saw an Hooded Merganser! If looking for one, make sure to keep your ears open. Their frog-like call can be heard a half mile away!
And lately, a juvenile Greater White-fronted Goose has been hanging out with the Canada Geese! Spending their breeding season in Alaska and Northern Canada, these Greater White-fronted Geese travel great distances in search of warmer weather in California, the lower United States, and Mexico.
During fall migration many interesting bird behaviors can be observed. Hummingbirds spend their time “hawking” insects (flying up to dive and snatch unsuspecting bugs out of the air) and hovering above your head. On the bushes/seed plants lots of White and Golden-Crowned Sparrows flit about, constantly looking for food to sustain them on their 2,600 mile migration from Alaska to San Diego. Even the ducks are funny to watch as the Widgeons and Coots grab greens from each other! As you’re walking you’ll be scolded by the Marsh Wrens and don’t forget to stop and look up! Fly-bys by “Grey Ghosts”, more commonly known as Marsh Hawks or Harriers, are common. Turkey Vultures are often seen circling above, and are frequent throughout the Bay Area.
Soon to be joining the pelicans and egrets, the American Bittern will begin to arrive during the winter months. As they migrate nocturnally and often alone, their migration routes are unknown. It’s Fall-Winter migration time! I hope you go out and enjoy it!
By EVs – Diane McCoy & Madeline Chen
All photos by Diane McCoy