I promised myself that this time I wouldn’t just take pictures of birds. The Water Ranch at Gilbert is so beautifully laid out with seven ponds surrounded by walkways and lush foliage, that I thought the groundskeepers should be honoured too, but when we arrived, having parked in the library lot at the side of the ranch, we found ourselves immediately at the water’s edge and, well, this gorgeous chocolate coloured duck greeted us and who could resist catching this pic?
The pond was alive with the calls of ducks: mostly Mallards and Ringed-necks, but there was also a Muscovy and a Snow goose, and a number of noisy coots looking for snacks. I walked along the paved walk and was about to snap a photo of the neatly manicured gardens, when I spotted this rare beauty. A hybrid, someone said. I’d say she’s more of a trendsetter. Look at that crown!
I was so intent on getting around the pond for a better view that I forgot to show you how there are paths leading away from this body water and circling one of the six other ponds on the property. The birds were flitting about so quickly that I couldn’t stop snapping photos – a hummingbird, a wren, a Albert’s towhee, and a White-crowned sparrow. That’s when a man with a camera approached us and asked what birds we hoped to see.
“All of them!” I said. “We’re from Canada; they are all wonderful.”
So he joined us on our walk, leading us to all the best sighting spots. We saw a cinnamon teal – such rich colour – and ruddy ducks with their beautiful blue bills, and a pair of juvenile Hooded mergansers. We saw verdins and stilts and dowitchers, and finally, I managed to capture the Gambrel’s quail before he spotted me and ran off. Don’t you love their little caps?
“I would like to get a picture of a Green heron,” I mentioned, and our guide went into action, saving our legs by hunting out the prized catch, while Ric and I rested. When he returned with thumbs down, we carried on. I spotted a kingfisher and as I moved into position to shoot it (camera only, I promise), it flew away, but two Green herons flew by…and then disappeared in the brush.
“The Green herons usually come out later in the day, likely in an hour or so.”
Ric and I were wilting. We’d walked a fair bit and even though there were plenty of resting spots, we only have so much energy. I should have taken photos to show you all the lovely shaded benches set up at the water’s edge and along the trails, but while Ric lingered on a bench, I found yet another pond, and turtles. Trying to get my footing on the muddy bank, I was just prepping the shot of the turtles resting on a log when another Green heron flew into the bush behind them, disappearing from view.
“Darn!” I said, but our new friend pointed out that the bird had moved his head and was in view. I could not see it. By now the sun was full in my face, and when I aimed my camera all I saw were dark images.
“Point towards the shiny object in the water,” our Good Samaritan suggested, “and move your lens about an inch.”
I did, but was pretty sure I had only captured brush.
Too weary to take any more pictures, we headed back to the parking lot, and quite apologetically, I have to confess I failed to take one photo of the scenery. Back home, after rest and dinner, I dared to look at my day’s captures – some shareable, some unrecognizable, some unidentified, blurry turtles and this:
Thank you, kind stranger, wherever you are!
Coming up: What was hiding in the bathroom stall, and feathered follies.