I saw my first Wood Duck in Canada at a friend’s place. We were birding at a local area when one old-time birder shows us his photo book of birds he had seen. In among the pictures was a Wood Duck. It was a beautiful male. I couldn’t believe how awesome it was with all it’s different and brilliant colors. So the next morning, we got up before sunrise and headed out to the location he said they were nesting in. We ease the car up to the location, rolled down the windows and got our cameras ready. It was a wait for a short and quick view. We went the next two morning to try and capture more pictures of them.
In learning more about them, I found that they are shy and like to hide and nest in among shrubs and trees. We saw the female only for a few short minutes but I was hooked. When I got home I researched more about the colorful Wood Ducks and found out that Santee Lakes claim they have several pairs that stay year round.
Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve is located in Santee Lakes, California just northeast of San Diego and northwest of El Cajon. It is an unbelievable wildlife area where you can enjoy camping, fishing, playgrounds, picnicking and lots of other things. It also has at least ten (10) pairs of Wood Ducks that are easy to photograph.
If you have an RV or enjoy camping, they have over three hundred (300) spots to pick from. If you prefer clamping, they have ten (10) cabins you can rent. Three of the cabins are floating cabins on the water of lake #7 while the other six cabins are along the far shoreline of lake #7.
There are seven total lakes with small islands in most. It seemed like the Wood Duck preferred Lake #5 and #1. I found them swimming around every morning along on the north side of Lake #5 just past the playground. There are several place to pull over and park all around the lakes. I took my lawn chair and sat near the shore and took pictures all morning long. I was able to capture several males together and several males with females.
They are not hiding or afraid and are easy to photograph right along the shore line. The park also puts out boxes for spring nesting and are very helpful it asked for the best place to observe them. The park also has a host of permanent and wintering water fowl and birds. I’ve seen Kingfishers, egrets, herons, pelican, and various other ducks at the lakes.
I was so thrilled with my pictures I had taken in December, I decided to go back in May to see if I could capture pictures of baby Wood Ducks. I found several males below a tree with one that kept looking up. Then out came a female Wood Duck from one of the nesting boxes about ten feet up in a tree. Much to my delight I found several pairs with babies swimming in several lakes.
So if you are looking for a warmer place to go and would love to see these beautiful and colorful Wood Ducks, Santee Lakes is the place to go. You can spend mornings taking pictures of all the ducks then spend the afternoons sighting seeing around the area. San Diego is close enough to visit and there are several places nearby such as Mission Bay. Just remember it California may be warmer than the east but it is still chilly during the nights and out on the water, so take warm clothing and a jacket.
Here is the Santee Lakes website – http://www.santeelakes.com/
Let me know if you go and what you see.