Somehow, when I started writing this story, I just could not get Maria Muldaur’s 1974 hit out of my head….”Midnight at the Oasis”. Well, last Sunday morning it was not midnight, but in fact 6:30 in the morning when I was sitting in my hide, waiting for enough daylight to be able to get some photos. The sun did finally show up, and so did the birds. A consistent source of water is always a great attraction, drawing birds and animals alike. Given the importance of water to all these creatures, I do my best to observe, with as little interaction as possible.
This particular watering hole, is actually a small arm of a manmade reservoir, with great cover along the edges, to allow the birds to approach carefully, and mostly undetected. For many of these species, this is a time when they are at their most precarious, out in the wide open getting a drink. Peregrine Flacons, Red-tailed Hawks, Coopers Hawks, and Zone-tailed Hawks are all on the watch around this body of water looking for their next meal.
I stayed in my blind for about 4 hours, and while many of the birds came to drink in locations that did not allow me any chance to photograph them, enough did that it made for a nice series.
The is little doubt about which bird had me the most excited with its appearance, the Greater Roadrunner. Each year we see literally dozens of these fun birds, while driving the roads here on the southern Baja. Out in the field, is a completely different matter. They are very wary, with great hearing and even better eyesight. I was lucky enough to have spotted this bird nearly 75 meters away, slowly picking its way thru the thorny under brush. The last 10 meters seemed to last for ever. I in fact realized that I had almost quit breathing, just to make sure it did not detect me. Finally, it broke into the open, looked around carefully and then its time getting a nice long drink.
I was also quite happy to capture these nice shots of the Varied Buntings as there were several pairs that came to drink during the morning.
There was an unusually large number of Ash-throated Flycatchers hanging around the water, which is pretty normal, but I never seem them actually drink from a water source. At this end of the waters edge, quite a bit of livestock had had been in and out, leaving large footprints in the mud. These prints then all have filled with water, and provide drinking spots, none that I would use, but the birds don’t seem to mind. Here is one of the Ash-throated Flycatchers using one of these spots.
The California Quail used a similar hoof print for their needs as well.
Mourning Doves, White-winged Doves and Common Ground Doves all made an appearance. This Common Ground Dove was the boldest of all, landing right at waters edge, and getting a hardy drink.
There were several Verdin who used this small mossy area as a platform to drink from.
There also visits from some Orange-crowned Warblers.
As well as Cactus Wrens,
A few Black-throated Sparrows,
……and several Pyrrhuloxia. This is not the greatest of photos, but they were very secretive, and I was happy to just get this one.
It is quite common to see Black Phoebes all around this area, as you might guess there are also a few million flying insects.
There were Eared Grebes, Pied-billed Grebes and a pair of Least Grebes….I know, I don’t ever get to see them, and all of the sudden I find them on three straight weekends at three different locations. There were still a few American Coots still hanging around. These birds are here all Winter, but this one posed so nicely for me, I just had to add it.
In addition to the birds from above, I also had the following that came to hang around the water hole: Gray Thrasher, Blue-gray and California Gnatcatchers, House Finches, Hooded and Scott’s Orioles, Lazuli Buntings, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Xanthus’s and Costa’s Hummingbirds, Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Magnificent Frigatebirds, Double-crested Cormorants, and one lonely Royal Tern.