Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Owl Woods • March 26


Northern Saw-whet Owl. Today's saw-whet was in an odd location for a saw-whet: 3+ feet from the trunk and practically on the trail. (Normally they are much closer to the trunk.) It was nestled in a cavity of spruce needles. Look closely and you'll see it is sitting on something that is furry and mostly white with a black border. This is probably a deer mouse. In this picture the owl's eyes are partially open.

Northern Saw-whet Owl. However, after a few moments the owl closed its eyes and went back to sleep.

Northern Saw-whet Owl. Another of our team's owl spotters saw a saw-whet yesterday that was in this very location and also with prey. Is this the same owl two days in row?

Northern Saw-whet Owl. The owl is near the center of the picture, but practically impossible to see, so ...

Northern Saw-whet Owl. This is where it is!

Here is a video of today's owl: http://youtu.be/TymXl7v7pww

Monday, March 25, 2013

Oatka Creek Park • March 25


American Robin. Staghorn Sumac is about the only fruit that is left in the park for the birds. It feeds many birds, like this robin, here. In years past, I have seen it feeding the catbirds in May.

Brown Creeper. It was a profoundly quiet evening in Oatka until a large mixed flock descended upon me creekside. My target bird for such events in a Brown Creeper, and I was not disappointed today!

Brown Creeper. This bird must have been hungry, for it tolerated my proximity a bit better than most creepers.

Brown Creeper. According to Cornell's Birds of North America, the diet of the Brown Creeper during the winter is a "variety of insects and larvae, spiders and their eggs, ants, and pseudoscorpions; [also] a small amount of seeds and other vegetable matter. ...Will visit seed and suet feeders in winter."

Species Seen
Canada Goose
Turkey Vulture
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
American Robin
Northern Cardinal
American Goldfinch

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Oatka Creek Park • March 24


Song Sparrow. I had my first photographically cooperative Song Sparrow of the year today.

Song Sparrow. Its song is a sure sign that winter's grip is finally loosening!

Song Sparrow. Soon there will be up to half a dozen Song Sparrows spaced along the creek, singing their hearts out!

Species Seen
Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
American Robin
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
American Goldfinch

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Oatka Creek Park • March 23


Northern Cardinal. It was a partially sunny morning filled with singing cardinals at Oatka today. The sunlight was paradoxically disadvantageous for photography as the birds hid from being too easily seen in the bright light.

Northern Cardinal. Though it was interested in declaring its territory, this cardinal stopped singing when it spotted me.

Northern Cardinal. Okay, I'm clearly being told to move it along. I'm going, I'm going!

Bald Eagle. This bird appeared briefly over the fields of Bluebird Trail. I originally thought it was a Black Vulture. However, this poor picture suggests it was an immature Bald Eagle. I have sent this picture out to some local bird experts. We'll see what they think!

Species Seen
Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Bald Eagle
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Carolina Wren
American Robin
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
American Goldfinch

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Owl Woods • March 20


Northern Saw-whet Owl. When I spotted today's saw-whet, it was on an unusually low perch, unusually far away from the trunk, and unusually close to the trail's edge. The mystery was finally explained when I looked at the pictures on my computer: the owl is sitting on a freshly caught meal! It looks like a rat. Well, a rodent at least. (Click the picture for a larger version and make your own guess!) The alert posture with open eyes is likely due to the hunting experience and not my approach. (Though I am unintentionally disturbing its meal.) Since it was hunting, that might explain why another team member did not find it when they made their pass earlier, as it may not have been perched.

Northern Saw-whet Owl. The owl is pretty much dead center and directly in front of the trunk. Click on the picture for a larger version.

A video of this owl is at http://youtu.be/vtzeBO3GHP8 .

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Oatka Creek Park • March 16

Snow Geese. Snow geese are now moving through our area by the thousands. They are headed for their breeding grounds in the northernmost reaches of Canada.

Canada Geese. I see this scene from time to time in the early spring in the creek. Are they trying to escape detection?

Brown Creeper. The creepers continue to sing more and more in park as spring approaches. I can now use their song in addition to their trilling call to find them as they pass by me.

Skunk Cabbage. More colors of spring! In one of the swampy areas near the creek I checked up on the large colony of Skunk Cabbages and found them well advanced.

Skunk Cabbage. The leaves (which appear above the ground after the flowers do) have now equaled the size of the flowers. Shortly they will expand into huge leafs of green, dwarfing the flowers.

Skunk Cabbage. One of the spathes has either broken open or partially eaten to expose the inner flower.

Northern Mockingbird. The cardinals are routinely singing up a storm now. When will the mockingbirds start to sing?

Species Seen
Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Ring-billed Gull
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Carolina Wren
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
American Goldfinch

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Oatka Creek Park • March 12


Pileated Woodpecker. When I stepped into the woods along the southern bank of Oatka Creek, I heard a brief call from a nearby Pileated Woodpecker. I saw it quickly fly off to an unknown location and I simply shrugged my shoulders in response. Missed that bird. I walked on and after I had gone 100 feet or so, I saw the woodpecker fly back to a tree that near the route I had just taken. I crept back to take advantage of the second chance.

Pileated Woodpecker. Apparently the bird had just found a good source of food when I had first shown up. It overcame it annoyance with my presence to resume its meal. I quickly took my pictures and left the woodpecker to finish its dinner in peace and quiet.

Skunk Cabbage. The first wildflower of the year! March looks like it may both go in and go out as a lion, but the skunk cabbage breaking through the soil surely signals the warmer days of spring are on their way, even if they are taking their own sweet time about it!

Species Seen
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
American Robin
European Starling
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
American Goldfinch

Owl Woods • March 14


Northern Saw-whet Owl. Today was another big day in the Woods with two saw-whets and an unusually cooperative Long-eared Owl. When I took the picture of this saw-whet, I thought it was sleeping. However, upon reviewing the picture on the computer later I could see it had its eyes open slightly.

Long-eared Owl. Everything about this owl's perch broke with convention! First, it held its perch despite being seen. Second, it perched at eye level rather than 15+ feet in the air. Third, it perched right next to the tree trunk rather than a good distance out on the limb. We were very cautious around this owl and did not approach it any closer than absolutely necessary. So, there were not a lot of degrees of freedom around finding a good camera angle. Fortunately, the wind was blowing a bit, which meant that the owl's cover would occassionally part and allow a slightly better view. Look into those eyes and get lost forever!

Long-eared Owl. See what I mean?

Long-eared Owl. Here's a slightly different arrangement of the spruce branches!

Long-eared Owl. This was probably the least obscured picture I got.

Need more looks at the Long-eared Owl? Check out the video! http://youtu.be/BFk4UdKqR_o

Long-eared Owl. The Long-eared Owl is practically dead center, though impossible to see in this picture. Another owl roost survey team member was standing with me at this point. We never approached the owl closer than this.

Northern Saw-whet Owl. This was the second saw-whet for today. It wasn't until I looked at this picture on my computer that I realized it was in concealing pose, i.e., it's left wing drawn across its body like a Dracula cape.

Northern Saw-whet Owl. The owl is fairly easy to see here near the middle of the picture and left of the tree trunk.

Northern Saw-whet Owl. Uh oh! The owl's eyes suddenly snapped open. What did I do wrong? After some reflection I think it was my "dismount". I glide into the trees okay and am usually smooth about crouching down a bit to get the photo. The owls almost never react to all this. Then, I'm done with pictures and realize my legs are aching from the awkward posture and I must stand up too abruptly. That's when the eyes snap open. Gotta work on that!

Owl Woods • March 13


Northern Saw-whet Owl. Today was a HUGE day in the Woods! We ended up with four saw-whets and three Long-eared Owls. I took pictures and videos of three of the saw-whets. What was interesting is that the weather was terrible today with snow flying in the northernly wind. If you click the picture to get a larger version, you can see drops of water beaded up on the owl's feathers. A video of this owl is at http://youtu.be/NX08JjHqow4 .

Northern Saw-whet Owl. This owl was easy to spot, as you can see it in the middle of this picture.

Northern Saw-whet Owl. Uh-oh! I was just getting up from my crouching photographic position to leave the area, the owl turned my way. I stood up too abruptly, I think. I took a couple quick shots of this new pose and then retreated. Pictures taken of this owl later in the day showed that it went back to sleep.

Pop Quiz! Only one of the owl's feet are visible in the picture. Where is the other one? Answer at the end.

Northern Saw-whet Owl. This is a different owl in a different location. It was very buried in the foliage and a clear view was just not possible. You can see a video of this bird at http://youtu.be/2OXCtO50ooQ .

Northern Saw-whet Owl. The owl in the previous picture is pretty much dead center of this picture. It is still nearly impossible to see at higher resolution.

Northern Saw-whet Owl. The previous two owls were big saw-whets, probably females. This third owl was small, probably a male. Yup, it was on full alert as I rounded the tree to get a look-see. The owl was small enough that it was almost completely hidden by the trunk of the tree as seen from the trail. I took my pictures and video and retreated. The video is at http://youtu.be/X_D8fPIZakk .

Northern Saw-whet Owl. The trail is to the left. From this perspective the owl can be seen in the middle right next to the trunk. Pretty much from every other angle along the trail it was hidden.

Pop Quiz Answer: The other foot is tucked up against the owl's breast underneath its feathers to keep it warm.

Owl Woods • March 12


Northern Saw-whet Owl. Today's owl was extremely well hidden making an unobstructed view impossible. Note the red below right of the center. Here's a close-up:

Northern Saw-whet Owl. The owl is sitting on a decapitate rat carcass and the red is where the head was! You can see one of the rat's legs to the left. Another decapitated rat carcass was found elsewhere in the Woods yesterday. This is noteworthy for a few reasons. The owl's favorite part of the rat is the brain due to its rich blood supply and correspondingly nutritious meat. If prey is plentiful and hunting is good, then the owls will simply eat the heads of the prey and discard the rest. So, it seems the larder in Owl Woods may be pretty well stocked right now!

Northern Saw-whet Owl. This was a really tough owl to see and photograph. One of the most difficult I can remember.

Northern Saw-whet Owl. Suddenly, I noticed here that the owl appeared to have its left wing drawn across its body like a Dracula cape: concealing pose! This is one of a saw-whet's behaviors when it is distressed. Once I made this realization, I withdrew from the bird.

Owl Woods • March 11


Northern Saw-whet Owl. The owls have started migrating through Owl Woods! Today was the first day a likely migrant was spotted. (There was a winter visitant saw-whet that was spotted half a dozen times or so during February.)

Northern Saw-whet Owl. Can you spot the owl? It is in the central "canopy". As always, you can click on the image to get a higher resolution version.

Here is a nice video that shows the owl clearly breathing: http://youtu.be/d6aDphKPzgs .