My 4 Favorite Birds (Twelve Days of Favorites, day 9)
It’s hard to choose a few favorite species out of all of the birds I love to find and photograph, but I’ve chosen four that have special meaning to me and my history as a birder and bird photographer. I could, of course, easily double this list without breaking a sweat.
- Brown Pelican: This may seem like an unusual choice, but my birding life actually started in the 1990’s, when Laurie and I were in Arcata at the harbor doing some photography. Out in the harbor were a number of Brown Pelicans, hovering over the harbor and occasionally doing their fishing dive into the water, then flying back into the air. Something in me clicked, and I found myself thinking how awesome these birds were, and I didn’t realize it at that moment consciously, but I was hooked, and birds and I would have an increasingly important relationship in my life from that moment on.
- Sandhill Crane: In 2007 I went on one of my first group outings with Santa Clara County Audubon, a field trip to Merced National Wildlife Refuge. It was another transformational moment for me. We had a Peregrine Falcon attack a shorebird flock, which took flight in panic, which caused a nearby goose flock to join it, and suddenly we have tens of thousands of screaming birds in the air trying to fly from danger. Later, we found the sandhill crane flocks that winter there and watched the birds fly around and interact with each other. One Sandhill Crane danced for a prospective mate, who watched attentively. And I was hooked, and Sandhill Cranes have been one of the species I am most interested in watching and photographing when I can get out to see them.
- Acorn Woodpecker: These are a fun and interesting bird. They look like clowns in makeup and have a lot of personality. They live in matriarchal family groups, and they’re one of the birds that create winter stores of food by collecting acorns and storing them by drilling holes in a tree and stuffing the acorns in them. It’s a species that I love photographing, and just going out and watching them interact with each other and wander about the forest area they’ve staked out as their communal home.
- Bald Eagle: How can this not be on the list? One of the great recovery stories of all time, 15 years ago Santa Clara County might have had one eagle nesting pair. This winter, we have at least eight. This species like so many were almost wiped out by DDT until they were put under protection and DDT was banned from use. We have pairs that consistently fledge one or two chicks a year, and some of their chicks are now old enough that they are likely some of the birds now nesting and raising their own chicks. Watching a bald eagle on a nest taking care of its eggs, or gracefully flying in the air and dropping down to hunt an unsuspecting duck or coot, is a majestic thing, and these are truly majestic birds. Once very hard to find here in Silcon Valley, now we have a pair literally nesting in a tree at a school ground where, with a bit of care, anyone can see them. How can this not be on my list?
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