Happy New Year birders!
We visited the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve south unit on New Year's day to try to see the SANDHILL CRANEs fly-in at sunset.
On the approach along Woodbridge Road around 3:30 PM there were plenty of Sandhill Cranes foraging in the fields to the right (north).
We parked at the south unit and watched the birds from 4 PM to 5 PM from the observation deck.
We were treated to a spectacular sunset over Mt Diablo.
The partly cloudy skies were tailor-made to add great color to the sunset.
Around 4:30 PM, the cranes started flying in.
They all landed on the far side of pond and our spotting scope came in handy to get good looks.
They came in a slow trickle and gathered momentum as the sun set.
By 5:15 PM when we departed, there must have been hundreds of birds on the far side and more were still coming.
Only a few landed closer to the viewing deck in the water providing good photo opportunities.
Overall the cacophony was memorable.
As soon as the first cranes landed, two COYOTEs popped up from nowhere and were stalking the cranes the entire evening.
These were the puffiest coyotes I've ever seen. They were either very well fed or had very long fur.
In the meanwhile, there were the usual assortment of ducks and shorebirds in and around the pond.
Among the numerous American Wigeons, I also spotted a male EURASIAN WIGEON with its characteristic reddish head.
A NORTHERN HARRIER was actively hunting the area.
One PERGRINE FALCON flew over without stopping nor stooping.
As a grand finale, a SHORT-EARED OWL flew in front of the viewing deck but only gave us a fleeting glimpse before it dove into a ditch and disappeared in the dusk.