VALLEY OF THE BIRDS
by and images by Jackie Dale
From the very tiny hummingbird to the Great Blue Heron, San Joaquin Valley is home to an extremely rich and diverse bird life. Far beyond the typical songbird is an entirely different world of birds. An alert eye will notice the spectacular birds that frequent our skies and waterways. It is not uncommon to spot blue or white herons, snowy egrets and cranes in the canals searching for small fish, frogs and crawdads. In the evenings the eucalyptus trees near Wahtoke Lake, northeast of Reedley, are filled with dozens of white herons roosting for the night. At certain times of the year the herons will fly in huge flocks, circling and diving as if in some marvelous avian ballet.
Ponds and city ponding basins are excellent places to see ducks, geese and loons swimming around. Hawks and falcons patrol the skies keeping an eye out for small vermin to catch. It is a memorable sight to see a raptor swoop down and scoop up an unsuspecting field mouse. Turkey vultures, with their enormous wingspan, do a good job ridding our valley of dead stuff. The vultures will circle, descend and clean up the carrion in short order. A true public service! Every year the vultures have an annual migration. The line of birds will stretch on for miles, as far as the eye can see.
At night the barn and screech owls emerge and begin the night shift of hunting mice, gophers and other small animals. Each owl has its own territory and they get angry if another owl encroaches on their space. In an effort to control crop-damaging mice, gophers and voles, farmers will often erect owl boxes to encourage the prolific hunters to live and hunt on their property.
There is no dearth of choices for those who like to hunt game birds. Popular choices for hunters include ducks, doves, pheasant, quail and turkey. Venturing into the foothills might mean catching a glimpse of a bird that is experiencing resurgence in population, the Greater Roadrunner.
If you would like to further explore the exciting world of birds, you can visit the Central Valley Bird Club website at www.cvbirds.org or visit them on Facebook.