Smith & Bybee in June

During the month of June, I made a couple of trips out to Smith & Bybee Lakes Wetlands to see what the summer weather would draw in. The small concentration of wetlands and riparian forest did not disappoint me.

The slough along the trail was largely overgrown with what looked like nothing more than slime and algae, but apparently the ducks felt differently. Mostly mallards, with a few shy wood ducks mixed in, swam through the sea of green leaving trails in their wake. A few hens guided (or herded) clusters of ducklings around, frequently turning their heads to check the sky. A red-tailed hawk flew by a few times, justifying their watchful habit.

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Where the slough gets closer to the lakes, the water clears and allows hunters to see beneath the surface. A belted kingfisher called loudly as it swooped along the shore, perching high only momentarily before moving back and forth once more. Even when you couldn’t see it, the kingfisher could be heard for quite some distance on both trips.

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Coming out to the lake itself revealed a glimpse of large, white birds; at first, I thought great egrets, but something wasn’t right… A quick look through the binoculars cleared up the identification question quickly: They were American white pelicans! Excited for this new life bird, I walked briskly up to find a better vantage to observe the huge birds. Dozens were across the lake, but every so often one soared overhead with its roughly nine foot wingspan. It was awesome.

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Tiny by comparison, some other birds managed to get my attention away from the massive pelicans. Several parental birds worked busily to collect meals for their nestlings, and the constant activity was impossible to not pay attention to. One such parent was a Bewick’s wren, whose nest was located in a hole in a tree above the path. She (?) did not seem to mind my presence, neither flushing or scolding me, and I only noticed the nest because of her in-and-out trips. Still, I moved on rather quickly so as not to disturb the family.

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Another was a female common yellowthroat, who popped up several times with insects in her beak. She would perch on the tall plants growing between the path and the lake to survey the area before disappearing out of site again, presumably to go feed her little ones in her carefully hidden nest.

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At one of the covered viewing platforms, a pair of tree swallows had set up their nest. Three gaping, bright yellow maws peeked up over the cusp when one of the parents came up. Although they had chosen a location that likely received a good amount of traffic (and thus, human gawkers), I quickly snapped a few pictures and continued on so as not to stress the parents out with my presence.

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An American robin popped up not far from me with a fat green morsel in his beak, eyeing me carefully before flying away with his prize.

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In the same vicinity as the robin and the swallows, a red-breasted sapsucker was moving in a very routine pattern around the forest; on both trips, this bird was found easily following its chosen path through the trees. The name of these birds is a bit deceptive; although they do sip the sap from the “wells” it leaves in trees, it also eats the insects attracted to the liquid. Hummingbirds often check in on these wells for meals, too.

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A huge variety of other birds were also found at Smith & Bybee; it’s rare to have a “dry” day of birding there. Other species included great blue heron, cedar waxwing, turkey vulture, osprey, bald eagle, red-winged blackbird, pied-billed grebe,song sparrow,brown-headed cowbird, and American crow. Also found were many sunning garter snakes, squirrels, turtles, nutria, and frogs.

To find a little more information about Smith & Bybee Lakes Wetlands and other places for bird watching, including addresses and websites, check out my Birding Locations page.

Be sure to visit my Flickr site for more images from my trip to Smith & Bybee Lakes this day, as well as some of my other photographs.

Comments are always welcome!

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