Northern Pintails (Anas acuta) photos by Larry Jordan (click on images for full size)

It was a dark and stormy night … OK, it was a dark and stormy morning when I got to the photo blind (also known as a  hide) an hour before dawn, as is required by the refuge rules.

The Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex offers four photo blinds on three of their refuges which can be reserved, two on the Sacramento Refuge, one at Colusa NWR and one at Delevan NWR. This is what blind #2 at the Sacramento NWR looks like.

The photo blinds are all extremely well built and clean. This blind in particular is usually good for ducks, geese, waders and shorebirds.

As I said, we were at the beginning of a seven or eight day stretch of incoming storms so I chose to use the blind on the first available day for me which was Wednesday. When I arrived at 6:15 am it was beginning to rain and by the time it was light enough to photograph, it was pouring. As the sun rose somewhere behind those thick clouds, it began to get a bit lighter on the water and I got some pretty good shots of what I think is one of the most handsome of dabbling ducks, the Northern Pintail (Anas acuta). Just look at this drake. What’s not to love about this dude?

His mate is no slouch either! Look at this beautiful patterned plumage.

The Northern Pintail is abundant in North America and is found across the Northern Hemisphere. The map below from Wikipedia Commons shows their nesting area in light green, all year resident in dark green, wintering area in blue and the red X’s where vagrants have been spotted.

Being an early fall migrant, most of the Northern Pintails are paired up by this time of year although I did see several unpaired drakes like the six birds in the top flight photo engaged in aerial pursuit flights. Paired and unpaired males may instigate these pursuit flights by pressing close to the female. The flights are conspicuous because birds fly high, range widely, and can include as many as 16 birds and last over thirty minutes1. These two birds pictured below were obviously a pair.

Here is another view of these handsome dabbling ducks in flight…

and another great reason to support a Federal Wildlife Conservation Stamp!

An alternative income stream for our National Wildlife Refuges would not only help our dabbling ducks but all the non-game species that get lost by the wayside. If you haven’t read about it yet, read my post on the Federal Wildlife Conservation Stamp and look forward to progress on this front as we get serious with our legislators after the beginning of the new year. We want to see more photography blinds and birding projects on our refuges so we can get views like this one taken from blind #2 once the sun came out!

References: 1Birds of North America Online

Written by Larry
Larry Jordan was introduced to birding after moving to northern California where he was overwhelmed by the local wildlife, forcing him to buy his first field guide just to be able to identify all the species visiting his yard. Building birdhouses and putting up feeders brought the avian fauna even closer and he was hooked. Larry wanted to share his passion for birds and conservation and hatched The Birder's Report in September of 2007. His recent focus is on bringing the Western Burrowing Owl back to life in California where he also monitors several bluebird trails. He is a BirdLife Species Champion and contributes to several other conservation efforts, being the webmaster for Wintu Audubon Society and the Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Urban Bird Foundation. He is now co-founder of a movement to create a new revenue stream for our National Wildlife Refuges with a Wildlife Conservation Pass.