The Ojai Meadow Preserve is a veritable cornucopia of ecological systems, one of the most popular and dramatic being the wetlands. Storm runoff which used to pour down the hills and flood Highway 33 is now caught in a nearly year-round pond and two vernal pools. The pools aren’t filling yet but the pond only required only a good Halloween storm to bring back dozens of bird species.
Jesse Grantham led a group last week on a loop around the preserve, here are some of the highlights:
American Wigeon males have the white forehead and bluish-gray bill. Wigeons are “dabblers” who pick for vegetation under the surface of the water, though they are one of the few who will sometimes leave the water to find food.
Mallards are also dabblers, and the male’s bright green heads and white neck rings make them easy to identify. Mallards (usually monogamous) pair in the fall, court all winter before breeding in the spring.
Western bluebirds are actually in the thrush family, and they nest in holes of trees, feasting on insects or berries.
The Greater Roadrunner can outrun a human or kill a rattlesnake. The can also outwit coyotes and the Acme Supply Company.
The Lesser Scaup lives in fresh water, while the Greater Scaup prefers the ocean. They are divers rather than dabblers, even a new-born chick can already dive for a few seconds. Adults can dive for 30 seconds or more.
The Ruby-Crowned Kinglet constantly flicks its wings as it forages in the lower branches of trees, a key identification clue since the “ruby” is rarely visible.
Hairy Woodpeckers resemble Downy Woodpeckers but have a longer, stronger bill. They will often follow other woodpeckers or sapsuckers, gathering any morsels they left behind.
Male Ruddy Ducks are noted for their bright blue bills and white cheek patches. 11,000 year old fossils of Ruddy Ducks have been found in California and Oregon.
The White-breasted Nuthatch gets its common name from its habit of jamming large nuts into tree bark then whacking them with the sharp bill to “hatch: out the seed from the inside.
American Coots will often harass the Ruddy Ducks during mating season. Coots are actually not ducks, but are more closely related to cranes and rails.
Black Phoebes love picking insects off of my swimming pool cover. They use mud to build cup-shaped nests against walls, overhangs and bridges.
The meadow is starting to look incredible, get out there and enjoy.