A trip to Sandy Ridge Reservation!
Let me say, first off, where has this place been all my life? It's only 10 minutes from my house and yet houses so many great birds. I don't know where to begin! Within 30 seconds of entering the trail, I sighted an immature Red-tailed Hawk attempting to catch a squirrel. He was flapping noisily along the ground as the squirrel scuffled around him. It was amazing and amusing at the same time. The squirrel eventually chased him away! We also saw a snake in the woods...oooh...
Then, we emerged from the woods about 5 minutes later to find a Great Egret, followed by a soaring pair of Red-tails. Then...the Bald Eagle! Sandy Ridge is famous for its nesting pair of Baldies, and I'm glad to have seen one.
Then, the most ADORABLE Wood Duck swam out from the vegetation and started spurting across the water and vocalizing. It was pretty fun to watch.
(She is so cute...)
Next, the 'flats', or sand bars, with sandpipers galore! Killdeer, Yellowlegs, and some other sandpiper species that I've yet to identify. The Killdeer were surprisingly tolerant of us photographers coming close and snapping a few pics.
(EDIT: Pectoral Sandpiper. Thanks Dave!)
(It's so cute!)
Looking up from the close Killdeer, I saw a very close GBH... as the people started coming towards her with cameras and binos, I knew she'd fly away. I had time to get this one photo before she flew:
Then came the SECOND close encounter with a raptor! An accipiter (Sharpie or Coops, who knows?) burst from the bushes wheeled around in front of me and another woman taking photos (our cameras weren't ready, of course!) and landed for a few seconds on a dead tree before swooping off again. It took us all by surprise and left us (and the blackbirds) breathless!
At the overlook, we saw a fishing Great Egret with no luck dinnerwise. Green-winged Teals (life bird) foraged alongside Yellowlegs and Killdeer:
(Did somebody say aquatic invertebrates? Yum!)
As we headed back, I saw a striking woodpecker and raised my binos. A juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker! Life bird! I snapped a few shots during the brief seconds she was on the visible side of the tree before it started to drizzle. But-- don't rain yet!! I need to get a photo of this awesome sandpiper that I just found! I ended up getting a few shots of the close-up sandpiper before it really started raining.
As everyone ran for the trees, I heard a strange sound and looked to my right. Wahoo! A DC-Cormorant! I watched it for a few minutes before stubbornly following everyone into the woods.
Here comes the BEST part! When we were heading to the car, I saw the immature Red-tail perch on a handicapped parking sign! Woah! I've never seen a wild raptor that close; this was incredible. He just looked around, seeming to not notice as I (and another young birder) got closer and closer with our cameras. Finally, after a few minutes, he moved to the next sign (a Stop sign). Shaking with excitement, I reluctantly climbed into the car. Then, he flew onto a post right above our car! I rolled my window down and got a few more shots, while hearing some other regular visitors talk about this 'resident Red-tail who is learning to hunt'. So that's why he was so inexperienced with that squirrel.
(Look at those talons!)
(You know what's coming...watch out below!)
I'm visiting SR Reservation tomorrow morning with my grandparents and, with any luck, I'll see my new fine-feathered raptor friend again.