Thursday, May 31, 2012

Oatka Creek Park • May 17

Barn Swallow. This hike would turn out to be another remarkable spring outing. It starts quietly enough with my first Barn Swallow picture of the season.

Squawroot. This parasitic plant is listed as a wildflower. It grows on the roots of oak trees. Later in the season as it dries and darkens, it will look like pine cones.

Scarlet Tanager. Any day with a close encounter of Scarlet Tanagers is a great one!

Scarlet Tanager

Pileated Woodpecker. These females are starting to show up sporadically now. If consistent with other woodpecker species, she is probably hunting up food for her nestlings. I did not find any Pileated Woodpecker nests this year, though I have my suspicions on where some may be. However, they are inaccessible from the trails, so I have not followed up on my hunches.

Yellow Warbler

True Forget-me-nots

Great Blue Heron. These birds are now becoming more common along the creek.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Eastern Towhee. The ever elusive female Eastern Towhee makes a guest appearance!

Eastern Bluebird. Look closely above and to the right of the male Eastern Bluebird: a fledgling! This is the first sighting I have had of the first bluebird brood of the season.

Eastern Bluebird. I have seen at least three fledglings at the same time over the past several days. In the past the first brood has typically produced about four offspring according to the person who maintains the boxes.

Eastern Bluebird. The protective father.

Swainson's Thrush. This is another uncommon sighting! These birds are migrants in our area and this year I only heard or saw them on two consecutive days before they moved on. Note the buff (yellowish) wash on their throat and the buff eye ring.

Swainson's Thrush

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Oatka Creek Park • May 16

American Crow. I enjoy the challenge of getting decent pictures of these all-black birds.

Yellow Warbler

Herb Robert. With the fledging of the nearby Hairy Woodpecker brood, I could now take my time and get my picture of this flower. Now, if I hear anything at all from the woodpeckers in this area, it is just a quick chatter, presumably to alert the unseen fledglings to stay hidden!

Scarlet Tanager. This was a remarkable encounter. First, a couple of males came through the area and passed quite close to me, singing loudly the entire time. Of course, things weren't *that* easy, as they were careful to maneuver so that they were between me and sun, making them hard to see even when just a few feet away. At the same time, a Yellow-throated Vireo started singing very close at hand! Now, I had to make a choice between a difficult picture of a Scarlet Tanager and possibly my first "keeper" picture ever of a Yellow-throated Vireo. Since I couldn't see the vireo, but I could see the tanagers, I chose the latter, though I agonized for several heartbeats.

Scarlet Tanager. Then the most unexpected happened when this female Scarlet Tanager popped up in front of me, twenty feet away, eye level, and unobscured. I had never seen a female tanager before, though I immediately recognized it from studying field guides. I struggled to recover from my startle and get pictures. The tanager popped up a bit into the foliage before I could press the shutter button, but I did get these pictures.

Scarlet Tanager. And then she was gone. I wonder when the next time will be when I spot a female tanager in Oatka? 

Yellow Warbler

Song Sparrow. I had my first fledgling Song Sparrow today! I'll tell that story when I post its pictures. I also saw today another Song Sparrow with nesting material, so the next brood of the season may be started soon.

American Toad

True Forget-me not

Common Yellowthroat. These birds prefer to skulk in the understory, making photo-ops infrequent and usually challenging from a photographic perspective.

Eastern Bluebird

Blue-winged Warbler. This is a rare foray out into the open for this species. Of course, it made sure it was completely backlit.

Blue-winged Warbler

Monday, May 28, 2012

Oatka Creek Park • May 15

Hairy Woodpecker. After this day I decided to not take any more pictures of the Hairy Woodpeckers out defending their nests, even though they were providing some pretty attractive photo opportunities. I would just glide through their areas on the trails, note the sounds of the nestlings and continue on. The second Hairy nest I found this season was silent for the first time today. So, it looks like both broods have successfully fledged. Now, if I can get a picture of a Hairy fledgling ...

Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Though migration continues throughout May in our area with large numbers of migrating individuals still being banded by the BBBO banding station up on Lake Ontario, by the middle of May migration waves are pretty much done in Oatka. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks that were easy to hear and find two weeks ago when this picture was taken, are now rapidly becoming scarce as they begin nesting.

Star-of-Bethlehem. These flowers can't seem to catch a break in Oatka. This flower and its associated group were consumed by the rapid emergence and growth of Stinging Nettles along the creek. However, the Stars come up every year in the same location and I can see pollen sprinkled about in the picture. So, perhaps they accomplished their task and all is well for the next season. There is a second group of these flowers along Old Burell Road Trail that were whacked by the park trail lawn mower. Again, however, they return each year at that spot, so perhaps the wildflowers win in the long run!

Indigo Bunting. These birds still seem to be sorting out the details of territories and mates as regularity in numbers, locations, and appearances indicative of nesting isn't evident yet this season. 

Monarchs. I found a Monarch caterpillar on a milkweed today! I'll save that story for the pictures in a future report.

Baltimore Oriole. Now that these birds are nesting, their number have stabilized and their territories fairly easy to define. This is an oriole from either the Black Billed Cuckoo field territory or the Bluebird Trail territory. There is also a Trout Run Trail territory near the creek. There may be a fourth territory along Brown Creeper Trail, but that area is so birdy (and quite inaccessible off trail due to thick brambles) that I am focusing on other species and haven't made such a thorough oriole evaluation there. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Oatka Creek Park • May 14

Monarch. These butterflies have been back for a week or so when this picture was taken. I'll be watching the milkweeds for caterpillars.

American Goldfinch

Red Squirrel. This is a bittersweet tale, though simply the circle of life. This baby squirrel could fit in my outstretched hand, tail and all. It is also blind in its left eye. A sibling was with it when I turned the corner along the trail and found them both. The other baby squirrel immediately left, but this one couldn't see me and decided to stay and investigate.

Red Squirrel. It's right eye, seen here, is fine, but it's actions suggested it was exploring the world more more by scent and feel than by seeing or even hearing. None of this bodes well for its ability to survive longterm.

Red Squirrel. So, how does it decide to examine me?

Red Squirrel. It climbed my boot halfway, sniffing intensely as it went. Then it decided to retreat.

Red Squirrel. It then made its way away, though without any sense of urgency. I found the same squirrel again the following day at the same location. At that time it looked sickly and like it wouldn't last another twenty-four hours. Perhaps all for the best. When you are out in nature ever day, you inevitably come across a number of such episodes. I usually don't report them, but this one was more personal than most.

Blue-winged Warbler

Hairy Woodpecker. Now, on the other side of the circle of life, this female Hairy Woodpecker was having an absolute FIT and doing everything it could do to annoy me enough to leave the area. It would take a few more days before I would realize I was walking mere feet away from her nest with nestling calling loudly! (Her calls drowned out the sound of nestlings unless I knew to listen for them between her chattering cries.)

Herb Robert. To make matters worse, I found a newly blooming Herb Robert near her nest. I was trying to get a quick picture before leaving, but momma's scolding was becoming maddening, so I got an okay picture and left. One field guide says this flower is named for Robin Hood.

Wild Geranium

Dame's Rocket

Downy Woodpecker

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail


Song Sparrow

Jack-in-the-pulpit. I found this lone Jack-in-the-pulpit along the creekside! However, it was quickly smothered by the rapidly growing surrounding Stinging Nettles.

Tree Swallow. And that just about says it all!

Baltimore Oriole. This female built a nest near the bluebird nesting boxes. I found the nest a week or so after this picture was taken and will have pictures of it in the future.

Yellow Warbler

Blue-winged Warbler. This bird is also carrying nesting material, so we have indications of this species nesting in the park!