Sunday, October 17, 2010

Oatka Creek Park • October 17

It started off as a cool and cloudy sunrise birding hike this morning in Oatka. However, it quickly turned to mostly clear skies and warmed up considerably. The park was very birdy this morning with a couple of fun surprises. Again, things started happening just a few steps from the parking lot. In the shrubs along the sides of the dirt road were a lot of birds. Among all the regulars that checked in, white-throated and white-crowned sparrows showed up. Today was Yellow-Rumped Warbler Day in Oatka, with these birds seemingly everywhere. A flock of red-winged blackbirds filled the air with "conkeree!"s from the marsh. In the midst of all this, I had a mockingbird pop up, which was a nice surprise. Jays, cardinals, and a variety of woodpeckers fleshed out the birding scene while walking to the trailhead. Once on Black Billed Cuckoo Trail, more woodpecker varieties called out. Things then calmed down a bit until I reached Warbler Loop. Along the loop I found a golden-crowned kinglet and more individuals from previously spotted species. The creek was interesting, not for the water birds, as there were none today, but for the birds in the trees along the creek. As I just finished crossing the bridge, a song sparrow flew up to nibble on one of the copious seed heads all around now. Seconds afterwards a juvenile eastern phoebe shared the perch with no sense of alarm from the sparrow. Moving down Trout Run Trail, I was amused at the occasional pockets of birds that were all in acrobat mode today. :-) Chickadees and titmice would land on flimsy white snake root plants and feast on the seed heads as the main stalk was bend over so far as to threaten to deposit the bird on the ground! A ruby-crowned kinglet put on quite a show, hovering like a clumsy hummingbird, going from seed head to seed head, snagging a quick tidbit from each. This is all going on maybe three feet off the ground. White-breasted nuthatches noisily called overhead and a pair of yellow-rumps were having some kind of disagreement as they would mix it up, then share a perch, then go at it for round 2, etc., as I watched all these other goings on. At the end of the trail, I heard a late season call from a veery. Turning around, nothing new presented itself on the trip back, and so I headed on out to the fields of Black Billed Cuckoo Trail. As I stopped at the stand of quaking aspens and amused myself with watching the white-throats and jays, I suddenly heard something that sounded like an abbreviated owl call. Alert, I listened in the direction of an eastern white pine that seemed to be the source of the call, but no more sound came forth. I shrugged and discarded the observation as a mistake on my part, and then continued on. However, after a few steps something caught my attention. The pine had a lot of white streaks running down the trunk. Now, I've been fooled before thinking sap was owl whitewash. So, though the tree was set back maybe 15 feet from the trail with no obvious way to get closer without major bushwhacking, I examined the tree through binoculars in close detail and found nothing. For the second time I shrugged and concluded I was mistaken and took a couple more steps when I heard the call again. Maybe a shortened screech owl call? Possibly a shortened great horned owl call? I've seen crows mob owls in Oatka in the past, so I know that they are in the park. Deciding to go for broke, I found a deer trail and pushed my way through the high brush to the base of the tree. I didn't find anything right away, but then some other hikers started coming down the trail, and I thought it best to return to the trail, so my examination of the tree was aborted prematurely. Moving on, I proceeded to White Tail Trail which had lots of birds, though no new species except for a towhee that responded to some general "Who's out there?" spishing. It was quite the fun morning!

Northern mockingbird. It was cloudy and moments after sunrise at this point, i.e., no light for photography!

White-crowned sparrow

White-crowned sparrow

White-crowned sparrow

White-crowned sparrow

Northern cardinal and white-throated sparrow. They are either gleaning seeds from the ground or swallowing some more grit for their gizzards (or both!)

Tufted titmouse. Shots like this make all the other so-so pictures worth it! :-)

Tufted titmouse

Black walnuts. I found someone's stash of goodies. Could it be ...

American red squirrel. ... this guy's? Red squirrels suuuurrre love their walnuts, that's for sure!

American red squirrel. Just bursting with character, don't you think?

Location:     Oatka Creek Park
Observation date:     10/17/10
Number of species:     26

Canada Goose     20
Mourning Dove     1
Red-bellied Woodpecker     5
Downy Woodpecker     4
Hairy Woodpecker     1
Northern Flicker     5
Pileated Woodpecker     1
Eastern Phoebe     1
Blue Jay     10
American Crow     6
Black-capped Chickadee     7
Tufted Titmouse     3
White-breasted Nuthatch     2
Golden-crowned Kinglet     1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet     1
Veery     1
American Robin     5
Northern Mockingbird     1
Yellow-rumped Warbler     8
Eastern Towhee     2
Song Sparrow     1
White-throated Sparrow     25
White-crowned Sparrow     1
Northern Cardinal     4
Red-winged Blackbird     10
American Goldfinch     4

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(