Sunday, February 20, 2011

Oatka Creek Park • February 20

It was a sunny and gorgeous 12F early morning hike in Oatka today. It warmed to 29F by the time I was finished, about two and a half hours later. There was definitely a strong hint of spring in the air today! Many more bird songs appeared in the morning chorus, with cardinal and bluebird songs being the most notable additions. Walking along the dirt road into the woods, I picked up Blue Jays, crows, chickadees, titmice, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, and a singing cardinal. Modifying my route slightly, I entered Black Billed Cuckoo Trail and took the first right onto Brown Creeper Trail and worked my way towards Sapsucker Trail and the creek. Brown Creeper Trail was the domain of very vocal and inquisitive titmice today. With yesterday's snow wiping the trails clean of tracks, I was able to see the fresh tracks of deer, coyotes, and foxes. Once on Sapsucker Trail, I found a pair of flickers, a nuthatch, and a downy woodpecker. The creek was even higher than yesterday, and I could see many portions of Trout Run Trail were still under water. Turning around and taking Gypsum Hollow Trail towards the bridge, it was tricky going with thick ice under a veneer of snow covering the ground. Eventually reaching the bridge, my perseverance payed off as the Hooded Merganser was there again today, just downstream of the bridge. I got a couple of pictures before it launched and flew by me, heading upstream and out of sight. A pair of Mallards followed shortly thereafter. Retreating from the bridge, I took the far side of Warbler Loop and then headed out into the fields of Black Billed Cuckoo Trail. As I neared Bluebird Trail, *loud* and persistent bluebird songs could be heard, originating from the tops of the tallest trees bordering the field with nesting boxes. This is the first time this season I've seen the bluebirds in Oatka initiating an early breeding cycle -- ah, signs of spring! Entering into Bluebird Trail, I spied one or two of the songsters. No one was perching on the nesting boxes, yet. Drumming from Pileated Woodpeckers could be heard in the surrounding woods. Continuing on, I eventually reached White Tail Trail and then headed towards Maple Hill Trail. However, the base of the Hill was underwater, so that trail is currently impassable. Returning to White Tail, I found a White-throated Sparrow and several chickadees eating Staghorn Sumac berries. Continuing on, in the vicinity of the lodge I found a nice pocket of birds with a kinglet foraging on the ground, and many woodpeckers tapping away, including two very vocal Hairy Woodpeckers. Finally returning to my car, I started to open it up when I heard a faint Red-tailed Hawk call. I immediately dismissed it as a jay imitation, especially when I heard a jay a few moments later. As I continued to stow my equipment, I glanced at the private property next to the parking lot, and there in the trees around the field was a perching Red-tailed Hawk. :-) I took a number of pictures before it flew to the ground -- a midmorning meal, perhaps? Great morning!

Hooded Merganser

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

Black-capped Chickadee with a Staghorn Sumac berry

Black-capped Chickadee on Staghorn Sumac

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Hairy Woodpecker

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Location:     Oatka Creek Park
Observation date:     2/20/11
Number of species:     17

Mallard     2
Hooded Merganser     1
Red-tailed Hawk     1
Red-bellied Woodpecker     3
Downy Woodpecker     1
Hairy Woodpecker     2
Northern Flicker     2
Pileated Woodpecker     1
Blue Jay     6
American Crow     10
Black-capped Chickadee     14
Tufted Titmouse     8
White-breasted Nuthatch     3
Golden-crowned Kinglet     1
Eastern Bluebird     2
White-throated Sparrow     1
Northern Cardinal     5

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