Sunday, January 27, 2013
Pileated Woodpecker. Today's hike in Oatka was taken during the midday due to the cold single digit temperatures of the morning. The Pileated Woodpeckers were still out and about, briefly calling to each other from different parts of the woods and hammering away at the trees. Though alert to my presence as I made my way through the trees, this female tolerated my approach and never left her perch. She clearly was more interested in excavating the tree.
Pileated Woodpecker. These birds have an interesting investigation technique that I have not noticed with other woodpeckers: first they hammer for a bit, then they turn their heads fully ninety degrees as if to put their cheek on their shoulder. They first turn to one shoulder, and then the other. They appear to be triangulating on the area in the tree they are evacuating.
American Black Duck amid Mallards. Being cold, the shallower ponds of water in the area are frozen over. At these times the raft of Mallards on Oatka Creek grows noticeably. (The current of the creek is strong enough to prevent freezing.) Once you have a dozen or more Mallards, it seems the American Black Ducks and its hybrids will show up, too. This duck looked like a "mostly pure" male American Black Duck. (Due to its frequent hybridization, truly pure American Black Ducks might be hard to find, but see below.) There was an obvious American Black Duck x Mallard hybrid out of shot to the left that wasn't being cooperative photographically.
American Black Duck amid Mallards. Though the American Black Duck is looking away in the background, it is easy to see the differences with the female Mallard in the foreground: the biggest and best difference is the color of the bill - dark yellow for the Black Duck and orange with black for the Mallard. I have heard a lot of talk about American Black Ducks breeding so much with Mallards and other similar duck species that they might "disappear" from the genetic landscape. Cornell's Birds of North America, however, seems to say that is not likely: "Hybridization of an abundant species with a less abundant and declining one can lead to genetic extinction of the species with the smaller population. American Black Duck seems not so threatened because it is not geographically isolated, not limited in habitat, and its losses due to harvest are now decreasing." In other words, American Black Ducks appear to be safe because they are spread over a large portion of eastern North America, can exist in a number of habitat types, and are being successfully protected with hunting restrictions (take limits).
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Trout Run Trail. High winds came to the area after midnight and there were a number of blowdowns in the park this morning. During my hikes I and at least another regular hiker in the park clear what we can by hand on an ongoing basis, leaving the heaviest stuff for the chainsaws of the park workers and other volunteers.
American Beaver. This bittersweet sight greeted me along the banks of the creek. There was no sign of decomposition or predation, so this beaver may have died just hours before. Still, what an opportunity to inspect up close this nocturnal creature! The work of beavers is obvious all along the creek throughout the year with new trees being felled all the time. There were indications of a new lodge being constructed in the creek at this location. There are large beaver mounds upstream near the boundary of the park.
Pileated Woodpecker. The wind continued to blow strongly this morning causing much swaying in the trees. As this Pileated flew across my path and then landed on a nearby tree, it was a challenge to keep the bird in the field of view of my camera long enough to get a focus! For every picture I kept, I probably discarded twenty.
Pileated Woodpecker. This is a female. Perhaps it is one that I have photographed a number of times recently.
Black-capped Chickadee. These birds are no so easy to photograph when they are not sitting in your hand! A flock of four or five were feeding on, perhaps, the only fruit remaining in the park in any kind of abundance: Staghorn Sumac.
Black-capped Chickadee. Staghorn Sumac berries are edible by humans, too. You can break off a head of berries and steep it in boiling water to make a tea reminiscent of rose hips. I had some during a camping trip many years ago.
Saturday, January 19, 2013
Black-capped Chickadee. It was a warm midwinter afternoon, just right for comfortably feeding the chickadees along Birdsong Trail in Mendon Ponds Park!
Long-tailed Duck. This morning Mary Flood and I went on the Rochester Birding Association bird trip to the Irondequoit Bay Outlet and places west along the Lake Ontario shoreline. Approaching midwinter, there should have been a lot of ice in the water, concentrating the overwintering ducks into the channel by the bridge. However, the recent warm snap had melted the ice and the ducks were relatively scarce. There were a few dozen Long-tailed Ducks, perhaps our most common migrating duck this time year.
Long-tailed Duck. This is a female.
Trumpeter Swans. Our most common swans are the Mute Swan. Trumpeter swans have bills that are black and smooth whereas adult Mute Swans bills are orange and have a large knob at the base.
Saturday, January 5, 2013
Friday, January 4, 2013
Eastern Bluebird. The bluebird flock in the park this winter numbers about ten individuals. I have been hearing and seeing them consistently since the end of December. Today I found them along the southern bank of the creek, sheltering from the wind and taking an occasional drink.
Thursday, January 3, 2013
Hairy Woodpecker. It was a cold and snowy morning in Oatka today. As I approached the creek from the south, I could hear a good sized mixed flock approaching and heading north in the same direction I was going. What luck! I quicken my pace, crossed the bridge and planted myself in the path of flock on the northern bank. Sure enough the birds descended onto the trees all around me and began foraging for food. This woodpecker was one of the members.
White-breasted Nuthatch. There were at least two nuthatches in the flock and they were constantly making their nasal sounding calls. Tons of chickadees and a few titmice were included, too, as would be expected.
Brown Creeper. However, what caught my attention at the very beginning when I first heard the approaching flock were the calls and songs of more than one Brown Creeper. Sure enough, as I surveyed the composition of the flock on the northern bank, I found at least three Brown Creepers.
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
White-tailed Deer. A buck! Though the park is filled with deer, spotting a buck, let alone having one hang around for a photo-op, is an uncommon occurrence. True, it was quite some distance away. Still, it stood out in the open and gave me a long, direct stare. It is hard to see the points to count them, but from other photos in this sequence, it may have only been a four pointer, i.e., young.
White-tailed Deer. It was only a few minutes after sunrise on an overcast morning, so the lighting for photography was pitiful! :-)