Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Oatka Creek Park • June 2

Gray Catbird. This was another drab day, weather-wise. The hike started off quietly enough.

Alder Flycatcher. There was not much going on in Warbler Loop, other than this flycatcher.

Great Blue Heron. Things got more interesting as I walked out onto the bridge over the creek. In the distance a Great Blue Heron was hunting. As I stood still, it started walking towards me. I've seen this before and knew if I simple stood still and waited, the bird would eventually walk right next to the bridge, which is a prime fishing location.

Great Blue Heron. It only took five minutes for the heron to walk up to me, though it seemed more like fifteen. Nothing much seemed to be going on the whole time when all of the sudden ...

Great Blue Heron. SPLASH! The entire bird except for its outstretched wings is underwater! 

Great Blue Heron. The heron has caught a Brown Trout!

Great Blue Heron. I began taking dozens of pictures. The bird was right under my nose, though I didn't dare stop taking pictures and adjust the exposure setting lest I miss something.

Great Blue Heron. The trout put up quite a fight for some time.

Great Blue Heron. The fish is still struggling mightily at this point. For a very long minute, according to the picture timestamps, the heron just let the fish wind itself down.

Great Blue Heron. The fish is now done. I've been in a hyper vigilant mode for the past few minutes and had to relax for a moment. I had seen a juvenile heron last fall get to this point and then struggle for some time to get the fish in exactly the right position and then work it into its mouth and down its throat. So, I felt now was a good time to take a few breaths ...

Great Blue Heron. Wrong! This is an adult and the flip and swallow took literally two or three seconds. Add my startle reflex time and there is nine seconds between this picture and the previous one. I have subsequently read somewhere that juvenile herons are characteristically clumsy when swallowing a big fish, but adults have it down to a science.

Great Blue Heron. This sudden fluff and shake seemed to part of the final swallowing process.

Great Blue Heron. I wasn't about to move until the heron indicated the fish was safely and entirely "down the hatch". After a few more moments it spread its wings and flew off.

Eastern Towhee. Everything was now anticlimactic, but there were still some things of note.

Eastern Bluebird. This female was bringing nesting material to this box. It is not clear now a week or so later, however, if the bluebirds are ultimately using that box. Stay tuned!

Cedar Waxwings. The Baltimore Orioles built this nest earlier in the season, but it has been disintegrating rapidly which makes me wonder if it failed for some reason. (While I find orioles daily in this area, I have not seen any activity around this nest. Perhaps there is another one in the area they are using.) These waxwings may be a breeding pair looking for a potential nesting location.

Field Sparrow. My suspicions about hearing Field Sparrow nestlings in the fields along Bluebird Trail were confirmed yesterday when I saw my first Field Sparrow fledgling. Pictures in a future report!

Monarch. There are milkweeds throughout the park, but the patch along White Tail Trail near the lodge seems to be favored by Monarchs as caterpillars can now be found there on a daily basis. I have not noticed Monarch caterpillars at any other location in the park.