Birds of a feather

They’re certainly flocking together at Stone Lakes.  What a fantastic place!

We rousted ourselves at 8am, since the preserve is only open on alternate Saturdays, and then only if you get there at 9am for a guided tour with docents.  We found the five of us joined by two jolly bird pros, and a perky Asian family of four.

Ray lent us a small pair of binoculars, (“You didn’t bring any?”) and we spent three solid hours in the preserve.  It’s about a two-mile round trip to the viewing stand, but we only walked maybe 50 yards at a time between the cries of “What’s that?” or “Now look off over on that fence post…”  These guys were so knowledgeable, and so quick to spot interesting things–easier to do with a $4,500 pair of binocs– that the time flew by.  A taste of what we saw:  Great egret, Anna’s hummingbird, buffleheads, sandhill cranes, Canadian geese, golden meadowlark, killdeer, blue heron…

And it’s not just the seeing;  it’s really the hearing of all these birds that’s incredible.  The squawk of the sandhill crane echoes from a mile away.  The sound of dozens of tree sparrows taking off all at once is shockingly loud.  And the cry of the killdeer is unique–it says its own name.

We’d gone to the Vic Fazio preserve on New Year’s day, but having guides who were really into it (“I got started birdwatching in the service.  I’d be sitting in my foxhole, and there’s just nothing else to do.”) makes all the difference.

Ray said the reason the tour was so small was that “people just don’t like to get up early.”  Even though it’s a Saturday, set your alarm.

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