Thursday, April 5, 2018

Northern Pintails at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge

That's an American Coot in the foreground
Birding is not the easiest new hobby to get into. The rewards begin early, it is true, as one discovers that there are far more species in a given area than one ever expected, and the discoveries and first sightings come fast and quick. But then one realizes that there are dozens of species, there are hundreds of them, and more than a few of them are hard to tell apart from one another. And then there is the inexperience that comes of not seeing a particular environment enough to get familiar with the species found there. I'm getting pretty good at identifying most of the birds I see along the Tuolumne Parkway Trail where I go three or four times a week, but the nearby bird refuges, which I might see only once every three or four weeks, are overwhelming. There are so many birds. I'm good with most of the geese species now, but the ducks bedevil still me. In any case, I'm slowly learning, and one that I have little trouble identifying, the Northern Pintail (Anas acuta), is one of my favorites.
eBird starts their description of the bird as "elegant", and it's true. They have such a formal bearing, and the males have gorgeous lines and colors. They winter all across the United States and Central America, and in the summer they head north in large numbers to breed on the tundra. Not all of them move north. The Central Valley of California is one of the southernmost places where they can be found all year. Once the tens of thousands of geese leave to go north, the Northern Pintails seem to become more visible in the open water.

I saw these on the Waterfowl Auto-tour at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge. I was surprised to find that even though I've seen them a number of times over the last three years, and even got pictures, I've never actually posted any of them on the blog. So enjoy their stunning debut!

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