Friday, December 10, 2010

Oatka Creek Park • December 9

It was a perfectly clear blue sky and brilliantly sunny sunrise hike this morning at Oatka! The park was a picture postcard of a winter wonderland. Several times I took a break from birding just to admire and take pictures of the landscape. Yes, it was quite cold, around 8F at the weather station on the creek at the park at 8 AM, though I warmed up nicely in the direct light of the rising sun. The birds were out and taking advantage of the rising sun, too, and it gave me a visceral notion of what they were experiencing. There were large numbers of crows in the larger area, again, though there were one or two isolated crows that were sitting quietly in the trees along the dirt road from the parking lot to the woods, warming in the sun. I wondered if at least one of them might be a raven. My pictures, though from quite close range, are inconclusive, though I think they might be crows, ultimately. Of course, one call would have removed the mystery! Starlings were present, as well, near the parking lot. Being in the full sunlight, they looked striking in their spotted plumage, and their mimicry of other bird calls was quite amusing. Blue jays were present in large numbers in the park this morning. Many other birds checked in along the dirt road: goldfinches, robins, white-throated sparrows, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, mourning doves, cardinals, juncos, and flickers. Once into the woods, Black Billed Cuckoo Trail was surprisingly birdy! A pileated woodpecker put on a great show for me with its calls and brief flights from tree to tree. I got a couple pretty good pictures. A pocket of titmice, nuthatches, kinglets, and chickadees moved up next to me for a while. A hairy woodpecker rounded out the group. Moving into Warbler Loop, cedar waxwings joined the cardinals, flickers, and chickadees using the thick shrubs and fruit-laden plants as shelter and food. (I informally inventoried the "larder" and concluded that grapes, buckthorn berries, and staghorn sumac berries were the fruits in most abundance at the moment. A few dogwood berries remain, too. There are still a lot of seeds on the goldenrod and white snake root plants. Of course, the birds have stashed tons of seeds in crevices of trees throughout the park. Chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, and woodpeckers seem to be using these stashes on a regular basis at this point. Finally, there are all the overwintering insects to feed on. With all the small birds, the raptors have a reliable food supply. -- More on that later. -- And for the riparian species, the creek is still quite open and free of ice and will not be freezing anytime soon, if at all. The fish supply seems to be in good shape.) Reaching the bridge over the creek, mist was rising off of the water. I crossed over to Trout Run Trail and eventually found a few mallards, which usually signals the start of the bird activity along the creek of late. Reaching the end of the trail and turning around, I reached the area where I usually find the winter wren. I hung around for a while, as a flock of titmice and chickadees showed up. The sunlight was brilliant and a few titmice broke into "cheeva-cheeva-cheeva" songs and a few chickadees issued forth with "fee-bee"s. At one point I heard one call that sounded like a winter wren, but it was never repeated, so it may have been a titmouse, instead. Returning to the bridge and the far side of Warbler Loop, I eventually reached Black Billed Cuckoo Trail and moved out into the fields. The call of a bluebird greeted me at one point. Eventually reaching Bluebird Trail, I walked through the field of nesting boxes, now clearly visible as that the tall goldenrods have been flattened by the snow. Reaching White Tail Trail and the 10 o'clock hour, the bird activity declined significantly, leaving this trail quiet. I took Maple Hill Trail today and the quiet remained there, too. Returning eventually to Old Burrell Road and exiting the woods, I suddenly encountered a huge pocket of birds along the dirt road!  Cedar waxwings, woodpeckers, cardinals, chickadees, and titmice were all around for several long minutes. More bluebirds flew by, as juncos and white-throated sparrows joined the fun. I eventually moved on towards the parking lot. Just as I was approaching the lot, the "vibe" of the birds suddenly changed. A couple of heartbeats later a small sharp-shinned hawk launched from the shrubs in front of me, flap-flap-glided directly overhead, maybe only six feet over my head, and landed in a close by tree behind me. I began taking pictures as I crept back down the road towards the bird. Of course, with the road covered with a thin layer of ice, there was no way I could be stealthy with each step producing a loud CRUNCH! :-) Before I could really get close, the hawk flew off. Still, I'm pleased with a couple of the pictures I got. It was a great morning all around!

White-throated sparrow

American crow

American crow

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Dark-eyed junco

Dark-eyed junco

Pileated woodpecker

Pileated woodpecker

Warbler Loop

Warbler Loop

Oatka Creek

Oatka Creek

Goldenrod. The ice crystals are more easily seen in the full-resolution image.

Mallards in the mist rising from the creek

Fox tracks in my footprints from the previous day

Blue jay

Blue jay

Northern flicker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Sharp-shinned hawk. You can see that the tail is squared off at the end, and perhaps every so slightly notched in the middle.

Sharp-shinned hawk

Sharp-shinned hawk

Location:     Oatka Creek Park
Observation date:     12/9/10
Number of species:     22

Mallard     4
Sharp-shinned Hawk     1
Mourning Dove     2
Red-bellied Woodpecker     8
Downy Woodpecker     7
Hairy Woodpecker     1
Northern Flicker     5
Pileated Woodpecker     1
Blue Jay     10
American Crow     35
Black-capped Chickadee     22
Tufted Titmouse     9
White-breasted Nuthatch     3
Golden-crowned Kinglet     4
Eastern Bluebird     4
American Robin     5
European Starling     11
Cedar Waxwing     9
White-throated Sparrow     5
Dark-eyed Junco     9
Northern Cardinal     8
American Goldfinch     6

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