Sunday, December 12, 2010

Oatka Creek Park • December 10

It was a cloudy and mild sunrise birding hike this morning at Oatka. At 18F at 8 AM, it felt absolutely balmy compared to yesterday! :-) Things started off quiet as I walked down the dirt road to the woods. An American tree sparrow was the most interesting sighting at first. As I noted a nuthatch, crows, jays, and red-bellied woodpeckers, I suddenly heard the approach of a calling bluebird. I turned to my left and saw not one but *twelve* bluebirds fly up to the adjacent power lines along the road! I worked my way back along the road to get some pictures, though the appearance of a pair of downy woodpeckers sidetracked me. A small flock of robins then showed up and a pileated woodpecker started calling from the woods. After a few pictures of the bluebirds, I resumed my walk to the woods with a flicker adding to the ambient vocals. Once on Black Billed Cuckoo Trail, things quieted down until I reached post #16 at the intersection with Gypsum Hollow Trail. Chickadees showed up in numbers with the sounds of kinglets mixed in, though it would be a few more minutes down the trail before I saw the kinglets. A noisy nuthatch joined the party with a couple more blue jays. A hairy woodpecker then showed up and I got good looks and so-so pictures of its long bill. Continuing down Black Billed, another pileated woodpecker called out, drawing my eyes to where it was, though it was too obscured for pictures. Moments later a small group of kinglets moved next to me, crossed the trail where I was, and then moved on. Entering Warbler Loop, a few cedar waxings reported in, but things remained largely quiet until I reached the creek. As I walked onto the bridge, I noticed an unusually large raft of mallards upstream of the bridge. As I brought my binoculars to bear, a great blue heron launched from right by the ducks and flew through my field of view. I then noticed some of the ducks didn't look like standard mallards. Probably black duck hybrids, since all the ducks acted as a single family unit, I thought. Not satisfied with the pictures from the bridge, I decided to back up and walk down Woodland Trail a short distance and take a fisherman trail down to the creekside for closer pictures. Of course, the ducks knew what I had in mind and weren't about to cooperate. They simply swam further upstream, but did not launch. I decided to give it one more try and returned to Woodland and walked towards the next fisherman trail. However, halfway there I suddenly encountered a *HUGE* mixed flock of birds: 25+ cedar waxwings, half as many robins, and healthy doses of jays, cardinals, chickadees, and kinglets. The zeeing of the waxwings was so loud and persistent, it almost became annoying. I scanned the birds for larger waxwings, looking for Bohemians. The presence of all the robins intermixed in the flock made this search strategy not as useful as it might have been. More bluebirds called from the edges of this flock, and a number of downy woodpeckers also showed up. Eventually this flock moved on and I resumed my duck objective. However, as I slowly made my way down to the creek, the ducks swam further upstream again, so the best pictures I ended up with were the ones from the bridge, anyway. Turning around and returning to the bridge, I crossed over onto Trout Run Trail and headed for the dam ruins which seems to be the center of the winter wren's territory. I was not disappointed, as the wren called out when I arrived. A group of titmice then showed up, probably much more than the two I entered into eBird, but their constant movement made counting difficult. I eventually returned to the bridge and recrossed. As I turned right onto the far side of Warbler Loop, I almost physically collided with five waxwings crossing the trail and landing in a bush six feet away and only about a foot or two above eye level. They looked over their shoulders back at me like *I* was the one who nearly caused the traffic accident. :-) They seemed more intent on eating buckthorn berries than with my close proximity. An isolated starling then gave me a surprise when it briefly landed in the tree nearby and, horribly backlit against the white sky, all I saw was a brown back and a spotted breast --  a woodland thrush this time of year?! No, my camera saw the truth, but my eyes couldn't at the time. :-) Having spent quite some time already on unplanned encounters and having a pretty good list, I decided to abort the rest of my hike and made it back to my car at just under the three hour mark.
 Eastern bluebird

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch

Downy woodpecker

Eastern bluebird

Hairy woodpecker

Hairy woodpecker

Mallards

Mallards

Mallards

Mallards with a possible American black duck hybrid just right of center

Dark-eyed junco

European starling

Location:     Oatka Creek Park
Observation date:     12/10/10
Number of species:     25

Canada Goose     5
American Black Duck     2
Mallard     18
Great Blue Heron     1
Ring-billed Gull     8
Red-bellied Woodpecker     5
Downy Woodpecker     7
Hairy Woodpecker     2
Northern Flicker     3
Pileated Woodpecker     2
Blue Jay     9
American Crow     9
Black-capped Chickadee     10
Tufted Titmouse     2
White-breasted Nuthatch     4
Carolina Wren     1
Winter Wren     1
Golden-crowned Kinglet     5
Eastern Bluebird     14
American Robin     20
European Starling     1
Cedar Waxwing     35
American Tree Sparrow     1
Dark-eyed Junco     3
Northern Cardinal     8
This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(
http://ebird.org)