Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Oatka Creek Park • December 14

It was a snowy and cold (12F) sunrise morning birding hike in Oatka this morning. The birds weren't up and about until about a full hour after sunrise. What birds I found early on were still mostly resting in flocks. Crows, of course, were the exception as they streamed across the sky. White-throated sparrow "seep" calls were about and a couple "early birds" white-throats did pop up along the dirt road leading into the woods to snag a few staghorn sumac berries. A flock of 20+ starlings rested in a tree between the lower soccer field and the lodge field. A pair of downy woodpeckers flew in and started to work the trees along the road and the first chickadee of the day called out. Once in the woods and on Black Billed Cuckoo Trail, the snow became largely a nonissue due to the sheltering of the trees. This fact was not lost on the birds as many were found along this normally quiet stretch. Jays called out, as did a red-bellied woodpecker. A pair of cedar waxwings filled the air with their calls, making them sound like more than two birds. A tufted titmouse and a trio of robins checked in. As I approached the intersection with Warbler Loop, a pileated woodpecker called out, as did a flicker. Warbler Loop was relatively quiet this morning, with a cardinal and a few more woodpeckers. Once along the upper creekside, activity picked up as chickadee "fee bee"s and titmice "here here"s were added to the mix. Odd, I thought, as there was neither warmth or light to trigger the songs. Many chickadees, titmice, robins, and white-throats formed an active mixed flock that streamed across the trail in front of me as I approached the bridge. A few cardinals were mixed in, too. I saw a red squirrel with a walnut that seemed as big as it head scamper along a branch before finding a hiding place to enjoy its meal. It was only a moment later before the characteristic gnawing sound of the walnut being "processed" became apparent. :-) As I crossed the bridge, the snow and wind made it hard to keep one's eyes open, despite wearing glasses. No birds were seen on the creek. Once on the other side and in the shelter of Trout Run Trail, another interesting mixed flock filled the trees on either side of the trail: nuthatches, a kinglet, more white-throats, chickadees, and another cardinal greeted me at the start of the trail. Moving on down to the dam ruins, I heard the "cheer, cheer" call of a Carolina wren, as a hairy woodpecker also checked in. A few skittish mallards took to flight from the creek as I approached. On the way back I came across a group of seven cardinals and a river of crows sailed overhead. It seemed to dwindle away after I counted 100 crows, but that was only a pause as another wave began afterwards, though I turned my attention to other birds at that point. Recrossing the bridge, I turned towards Gypsum Hollow Trail. Along the way, a pair of bluebirds called out, though there have been typically two to three times as many silent bluebirds as calling bluebirds in the flocks I've seen recently in Oatka. Once inside the edge of Gypsum Hollow, bird activity exploded all around me and didn't really diminish for the majority of the trail. A mixed flock of downies, chickadees, red-bellies, titmice, nuthatches, kinglets, and a brown creeper were all around me. I was admiring the evergreens at the edge of the creek when a male kinglet flew up to me and dipped its head down so that I could see the intensely orange center of its crown, surrounded by equally bright yellow and outlined in bold black. I shot more than a dozen pictures of this kinglet as it moved around just a few feet away from me, but was always a second too late as it moved out of the picture or blurred to a gray smudge. :-( I eventually moved on and came upon another creeper, another kinglet (female this time), and a few more cardinals. The "zeeing" from waxwings were all around me, though I couldn't find the main flock until I turned a corner and there they were, eating some viburnum-looking red fruits. There were 20+ waxwings in a very small area which included a few robins eating the grapes interwoven with the red fruits. It was a scene I usually go to Zoo Road in Durand Eastman Park to witness. After taking my fill of pictures, I slowly moved down the trail so as not to unduly disturb the birds. (These fruit trees were right on the trail, which is relatively narrow at this point.) Reaching Black Billed Cuckoo Trail, I worked my way back to the car as the snow diminished almost to a stop and the sun nearly broke though enough of the clouds to cast faint, momentary shadows. Birding in the falling snow is turning out to be pretty fun! :-)

 Black Billed Cuckoo Trail

The woods along Black Billed Cuckoo Trail

White-throated sparrow

White-throated sparrow

White tail deer

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Oatka Creek from Gypsum Hollow Trail

Gypsum Hollow Trail

Northern cardinal

Brown creeper

Brown creeper

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwings

Cedar waxwings

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing and American robin

Cedar waxwing

Location:     Oatka Creek Park
Observation date:     12/14/10
Number of species:     21

Mallard     6
Red-bellied Woodpecker     4
Downy Woodpecker     4
Hairy Woodpecker     1
Northern Flicker     2
Pileated Woodpecker     1
Blue Jay     2
American Crow     108
Black-capped Chickadee     19
Tufted Titmouse     8
White-breasted Nuthatch     3
Brown Creeper     2
Carolina Wren     1
Golden-crowned Kinglet     4
Eastern Bluebird     2
American Robin     10
European Starling     20
Cedar Waxwing     35
White-throated Sparrow     14
Northern Cardinal     12
American Goldfinch     2

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(
http://ebird.org)