Friday, July 25, 2014

One Fine Day of Birding at Jewel Lake

Jewel Lake in Tilden Regional Park is a tranquil, bucolic setting ideal for any number of activities, not least of which is birding and observing natural rhythms of the small, pretty lake, which is really Wildcat Creek impounded. In the heart of the Tilden Nature Area, young and old alike delight in watching turtles sun on logs, spotting occasional snakes and frogs, and wading into swarms of minnows. This rich bio-diverse ecosystem has even attracted river otters from afar. How they make it to Jewel Lake is a thing to ponder. Birds, too, naturally, flock here for good feeding and shelter. It's not uncommon to see Great Blue Herons skittering in for a landing on a fallen tree trunk, or shiny black Cormorants spread-eagling their wings in showy displays of - what exactly? I've seen Belted Kingfishers here, too, but not in two or three years. And, as usual, Steller's Jays are on the prowl looking for picnickers' crumbs. Today's highlights are a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron feeding on minnows, and a spiffy pair of Black Phoebes snatching gnats and damselflies out of thin air. Each is absorbed and deeply engaged in their uniquely respective stalking ways.

The Night Heron, perhaps due to youthful indiscretion, is not afraid or intimidated by my presence, but I stay at a respectful distance. Mom 'n pop must be near by, I'm guessing, unless this guy is old enough and independent / competent enough to do without parental care. Anyone know? Well, he's a stunning bird - I probably take two dozen photographs, for he just keeps on giving the gift of posing perfectly for me for one up close and personal shot after another. Rare indeed.

Nearby, in the willowy brush lining the muddy reed-lined shore, two Black Phoebes sit side by side, then fly off in unison on a reconnaissance mission, and then return together to their sweet love perch. I watch them flit and flutter, masterfully and aesthetically whirly-looping over the shimmering water, then popping back again to sit side by side to survey their world in (what appears to me to be) contented satisfaction. Back now to the Night Heron, who's flown to the other side of the lake to see if pickins are any better over there.

Adding to the lively avian scene are colorful Mallards and other ducks swimming about; a pair of Wilson's Warblers; and emboldened Jays, Juncos and Chickadees. It's a beautiful place to go for a short, quick, get-away to experience some "real" nature. Take the elevated boardwalk winding through a bird-lover's forest, to spot snakes entangled on sun-baked logs and a Northern Flicker or two, among other feathered friends.

Bonus Video: Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron Feeding on Minnows, Jewel Lake, Tilden Nature Area, Tilden Regional Park.

http://youtu.be/drbuYVrV4j4