Sunday, December 23, 2012

Oatka Creek Park • December 23

Winter Wren. Our first winter storm of the season left barely an inch of snow on the ground in the park this morning. I got out a couple hours later than unusual, so morning bird activity was reduced even more than normal. The Winter Wren along the creek broke the silence at one point, however.

Winter Wren. When this bird arrived during the nice weather of late autumn, it was inclined to play with me a bit. Now that the winter has taken some of the fun out of finding food, the bird stayed well back in the tall grass, calling with its characteristic "dit-dit"s.

Winter Wren. It didn't disappear, however, just stayed concealed. I knew if I had tried to close the range, however, it would flee. So, I contented myself with a few pictures and then left it in peace.

Gray Squirrel. This hole is significant in that it is the entrance to a perennial Pileated Woodpecker nest. This squirrel, however, it just looking for concealment from my detection. Suburban squirrels who are acclimated to humans don't seem to have concerns with such close encounters. However, in Oatka such acclimation does not seem to exist and the squirrels there are highly cautious and evasive of human approaches.

Northern Mockingbird. As I was walking down the dirt road back to the parking lot I was admiring the flock of American Goldfinches perched at eye level on either side of the road. Through my binoculars I noted that despite the drabness of their winter plumage, their heads were still a sunny yellow. Then, they suddenly scattered as a bird twice their size dives into their midst and into my binocular field of view: the resident mockingbird.

Northern Mockingbird. This bird was, perhaps, defending "its" buckthorn berry bush from the flock of goldfinches. It has certainly stayed extremely close to this area for some time now. My earliest picture of this bird in this area was in mid November. How do I know it's the same individual? See the next picture ...

Northern Mockingbird. This bird has a "crossed bill", which is an abnormality. True, there are species of birds called crossbills that use such an arrangement for prying open pine cones and similar seed pods to get at the seeds. However, mockingbirds have no such dietary habits. During the winter they are significant fruit eaters with multifloral rose fruits being their favorites according to Cornell's Birds of North America. The crossed bill is probably of no impairment whatsoever to the bird, though it gives us humans an easy means for identifying this individual.