Sunday, January 20, 2013

Oatka Creek Park •January 20

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.

Pileated Woodpecker

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.

Eastern Bluebird. A flock of about half a dozen bluebirds crossed my path as I walked down the dirt road back to the parking lot. This female was clearly keeping guard duty as it would perch near me and keep a close watch on me while the other birds would fly to more secure perches. Only after the other birds were settled into their new perches would this one move on. This happened two or three times. It was very deliberate.

Eastern Bluebird. The other bluebirds were behind this one, so it couldn't necessarily see any of them. However, it would know exactly when they were settled and would time its movement accordingly.

Eastern Bluebird. By the way, this dirt road has been around for over 100 years as I saw it on a map from 1907 in a book I recently read on the history of the town of Wheatland. Many of the main trails in the park were former roads from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.