This is the weekend that my van is getting new brakes so I decided to leave it at home and walk to the lagoon. Not having to wait for the gate to open for parking at the San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center, I can walk in early when the lighting is at its best. I pick up my pace as I am eager to get to the beautiful lagoon hoping that there will be lots of bird subjects today.
As soon as I walked down the stairs of the west entrance to the lagoon nature trail, I noticed that the water in the tide channel was dark brown like over-brewed coffee. Must be from the runoff caused by the last rainstorm the other night running out to the ocean with the outgoing tide. As I walked towards the visitor center, I passed several native plants starting to bloom. Here is a delicate pink beauty.
Another native plant is blooming by the visitor center, I believe this one is called Galvezia speciosa also known as "Island Bush Snapdragon"...
Getting closer to the first lookout by the visitor center, I can see lots of ducks still sleeping and preening on shore across the way but there are three ducks that immediately caught my attention and put a big smile on my face. Three male Cinnamon Teal ducks just getting into the water. Time to get my camera focusing... Hoping they will swim closer, they are still quite a distance away even for my 400mm lens.
Cinnamon Teal, Anas cyanoptera measures 16 inches long with a wingspan of 22 inches. They are the largest of the Teal ducks.
These three males are in full breeding plumage. Beautiful cinnamon colored body with the wing markings almost identical to the Blue-winged Teals. The Cinnamon Teals are just slightly larger, longer and heavier billed with thicker necks and shorter wings than the Blue-winged Teals.
A male Green-winged Teal in full breeding plumage swims across the channel towards the Cinnamon Teals.
Green-winged Teal ducks are the smallest of the Teal group measuring only 14 inches long. As the Green-winged Teal swims behind the Cinnamon Teal, we get to see the slight difference in size. You can see the true color of the water in this photo.
Even though the water is dark brown, the reflection from the blue sky really makes it look beautiful today.
The drakes swim back towards their resting spot on the shore. I was really hoping to get a flight shot but another photographer told me that they are reluctant to take to the air once they settle in and prefer to go hide in the reeds to get out of danger than to fly.
This has been a great morning to be able to see three Cinnamon Teals at the San Elijo Lagoon. It's been quite a while since I have seen one in this area of the tide channel.
Walking past the boardwalk looking for more bird subjects, I spot a Sora walking out into the open. I alert several of the birders nearby and we all got a great look at this secretive bird.
Sora, Porzana carolina... measures 8.75 inches long with a wingspan of 14 inches. It walks by, foraging and finding a tasty treat.
He was out in the open only for a few seconds but all the photographers had their cameras snapping away as fast as they could. He soon disappeared into the reeds.
Walking back to the lookout I noticed what appeared to be a first spring male Hooded Merganser with his bill already turning black. The Merganser swims towards the lookout deck, I search the area hoping to see a male in breeding plumage. I keep a lookout for the
striking black and white hood.
Bingo!! There he is... I finally get to see a male Hooded Merganser with his crown raised making that beautiful striking hooded outline.
The "Hoodie" swims by displaying his beautiful crown. Hooded Merganser, Lophodytes cucullantus measures 18 inches long with a wingspan of 24 inches. They are the second smallest of the Mergansers and the only merganser restricted to north America.
Only the male has the striking black and white color crest. The female is plain brown in color.
Here is a shot of a male and a female Hooded Merganser swimming side by side. The crest is lowered and ready to dive.
The male swims by and soon starts diving for crabs. They hunt underwater by sight and can change the refractive properties of their eyes to improve their underwater vision. What an amazing bird! They also have an extra eyelid called a nictitating membrane which is clear and protects their eyes much like swimming goggles. All info from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.