“There’s the white goose that was reported on the Rare Bird Alert,” I heard someone say. I had just arrived at the blind by the parking lot pond at the Rio Grande Nature Center to join the Thursday Birders. The person who had posted the sighting had speculated that this bird was a Canada X White-fronted Goose.
After studying my photo of the bird, I thought that it is probably wise to remember David Sibley’s warning, “It is possible for two people to look at the same flock of geese and come away with very different impressions of the ‘average’ appearance of those geese.”
There were perhaps close to 200 geese on the pond, most of them Cackling Geese.
Someone pointed out a scaup. “It is hard to tell the head shape. Is it a Lesser?” I asked Karen. “That is always the discussion,” she responded with a laugh.
Other waterfowl plying the waters included Ruddy Duck, American Coots, Mallards, a couple of Buffleheads, Northern Shovelers, and Northern Pintails.
Great-tailed Grackles strutted amongst the willows around the edge of the pond.
We wandered over to the back side of the Visitor’s Center. Along the way, we spotted a Northern Flicker, Spotted Towhee, Mourning Dove and White-crowned Sparrows.
As we stood at the eastern edge of the Observation Pond, we saw the immature female Greater Scaup that had been hanging out since early November. The Wood Duck drakes were stunning with their stained-glass feathers, most swimming with their white-masked mates. There was a large group of Ring-necked Ducks.
“I hear a Song Sparrow calling,” Rebecca announced, pointing to some nearby willows.
A flock of Red-winged Blackbirds flew into a nearby tree. Most were females.
As we walked on the path towards the open space, the ducks and geese rose up en masse, swirling around and around. We searched for the raptor that must be disturbing them. Pretty soon a Peregrine Falcon zoomed through the flying flock, almost snagging a duck. Undaunted, it kept trying, its powerful wings barely flapping as it flew. The waterfowl finally felt safe and settled back down on the water.
In the distance a Red-tailed Hawk circled and then we saw a Northern Harrier flew low over the nearby fields. A group of Sandhill Cranes busied themselves feeding on the downed corn. At the far end of the field, an American Kestrel sat on a fence post, a Say’s Phoebe watched for insects, and some saw a Ring-necked Pheasant.
Next to the irrigation ditch, a Black Phoebe periodically flew out to catch a bug over the water.
White-breasted Nuthatches and House Finches flew in and out from the feeder in the Herb Garden.
After a good morning of birding we were off to the home of one of the group members for our annual holiday potluck.