Sunday, April 28, 2013

Oatka Creek Park • April 16


Sharp-lobed Hepatica. More early spring wildflowers! Yes, it was a rainy day. These flowers like the upper bank over the creek. I have found them nowhere else in the park.

Sharp-lobed Hepatica. Most of these flowers actually like the area just over the edge of a steep of the bank. One has to watch their footing when viewing these pretties, lest they end up in the water below!

Rusty Blackbird. Ah, the bird that started my whole bird photography hobby! Unlike most birds, I think the bronze fall plumage of the species is far more spectacular than the all-black mating plumage of the spring. (Of course, being shot in the rain doesn't help the picture, either.)

Rusty Blackbird. According to Cornell's Birds of North America, "The Rusty Blackbird, perhaps the least well known of North America’s blackbirds, breeds north to the tree line in wet forests of Alaska, Canada, and the northeastern United States. No other North American blackbird breeds as far north." Since this makes their breeding sites hard to get to, we don't have a good handle on the size of the breeding population, or how it is changing (or not changing) over time.

Rusty Blackbird. Birds of North America continues with "Also unlike other blackbirds, this species is seldom a nuisance depredating crops or at roosts." So, they are not the trouble makers grackles and crows can be. As a result, no one pays a lot of attention to them and, hence, they have not been studied very closely.

Rusty Blackbird. So, what studies of their population sizes do we have? We have Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) that suggest a marked decline in their numbers. However, Birds of North America is a bit circumspect of the CBC data. The most they will commit to is the need to pay closer attention to this species. Fair enough!

Species Seen
Canada Goose
Turkey Vulture
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Rusty Blackbird
American Goldfinch

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Owl Woods • April 16


Northern Saw-whet Owl. Most of today's owls were alert due to the continuing high level of human pressure in the Woods. This pressure is due, in part, to the increased activity at the hawk banding station, which is also in Owl Woods. This is what happens at the peak of raptor migration season, for better or for worse.

As with all the long shots, the owl is directly in the middle, whether you can see it or not!

Video at http://youtu.be/HrlzAB1cBUk .

Northern Saw-whet Owl. This owl was *very* distressed and tracked everyone as they glided by the tree. In the video, the owl appears to be panting.

This is the long range shot for the previous owl.

Video at http://youtu.be/tPEFrlp8rjo .

Northern Saw-whet Owl. Though it seems more relaxed than the others, this owl's eyes are open a tad.

This is the long range shot for the previous owl.

Video at http://youtu.be/rDRQP7TVNzc .

Northern Saw-whet Owl. This owl was very well hidden and, clearly, very alert. I chose this artsy shot rather than working for a less obscured vantage point and distressing the owl even more.

The trees near the banding station seem to be favored this season. Unfortunately, this is probably a highly trafficked area due to the banding station proximity.

Video at http://youtu.be/ubxz9TiMYwk .

Long-eared Owl. The noon hour Long-eared Owls continue to be relatively docile and easier to approach and photograph than in the mornings.

Approach is a relative term, of course. These Long-ears are still usually 25 to 30 feet up in the area!

Video of the Long-eared Owl at http://youtu.be/Ba2Nac-uzPU .

Oatka Creek Park • April 15


Hermit Thrush. This is another species passing through as part of spring migration. These are fun birds to spot and hear. They have a wide and diverse variety of vocalizations, though their mesmerizing song is generally not heard in Oatka. (The Wood Thrush will fill that gap when it returns in May.)

Hermit Thrush. By providing a little whisper spish, you will get the attention of a Hermit Thrush and it will pop into the semi-open and stay there for a long time watching you. The only hard part is finding where it's perching before it gets bored and melts back into cover.

Hermit Thrush. This picture doesn't show it as well as it appears in the field, but the tail and outer edges of the wings are a reddish chestnut color while the rest of the back and wings are a straight brown. This is one of the easiest ways of identifying a Hermit Thrush from other look-alike members of the thrush family.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet. The familiar Golden-crowned Kinglet of the colder weather has been largely replaced by the much more musical Ruby-crowned Kinglet. These guys just sing constantly throughout the day! It's a loud complex song, a mad jumble of notes at times.

Coltsfoot. Though the entire creekside was under several inches of water, wiping away the earlier blooms, the wildflowers have reemerged seeming no worse for the wear!

Lesser Celandine. Here's another wildflower that has thrown off the mud and silt deposited by the creek to arise triumphantly and blossom. Lesser Celandine are now in bloom along most of the length of the creek.

Song Sparrow. Here is another head shot series of one of the most common birds in the park now.

Song Sparrow. The crown feathers are raised.

Song Sparrow. You can see the crown feathers are still raised.

Eastern Bluebird. There were several bluebirds that overwintered in the park. However, I have only seen one nesting pair at the bluebird boxes yet this spring.

Eastern Bluebird. The male is drawing a line in his territory, daring me to cross over, I think!

Species Seen
Canada Goose
Turkey Vulture
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Oatka Creek Park • April 14


Chipping Sparrow. And, as the winter sparrow with a reddish crown, the American Tree Sparrow, leaves, the summer sparrow with a reddish crown, the Chipping Sparrow, arrives! Anyone who lives in suburbia knowns the familiar song of the Chipper. What, you don't? It's the nonmusical rapid chipping, reminiscent of the sound of a wood chipper (hence, it's name).

Chipping Sparrow. Still can't place the song? Head to http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/chipping_sparrow/id and scroll down a bit and play the "Typical Voice" on the left hand side of the page.

Chipping Sparrow. Chipppppppppppppppp!

Fox Sparrow. One of my all-time favorite migrants through the park! In the spring they pass through in a blink of an eye. This day may be the only day this spring that I will encounter this species. In the fall, the trip will be a bit more lazy and they may hang around for a week or so if there's plenty of food to be found.

Fox Sparrow. This bird gets its name from the fox-like coloring of gray and chestnut. It is one of the largest sparrows and has a sweet, whistling song. You can hear it at http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Fox_Sparrow/id .

Eastern Bluebird. The nesting pair were away from the box, hunting for food when I encountered them today. This female is looking towards the ground for a meal.

Eastern Bluebirds. Optics geeks will realize that at high zoom settings, the depth of focus is very short. In this scene I had to pick a bird, knowing the other would be greatly out of focus.

Eastern Bluebird. The male was not being very photogenic today, it seemed!

Species Seen
Canada Goose
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch

Black Creek Park • April 13


Great Blue Heron. The herons on are on their nests now! This nest is part of nesting colony consisting of half a dozen or more nests.

Great Blue Heron. This bird is keeping an eye on me, but I can quite assure you that this nest is completely inaccessible, both in terms of height and distance through completely impassible terrain.

American Tree Sparrow. This is probably a farewell picture of this overwintering species. They will be departing soon (if not already) for the upper reaches of Canada where they will breed.

American Tree Sparrow. Until the snows fly again in our part of the world ...

Species Seen
Canada Goose
Great Blue Heron
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Golden-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
American Tree Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Oatka Creek Park • April 13


Oatka Creek. After heavy rains, both Black Creek and, as seen here, Oatka Creek overflowed their banks. It would be a few days before I could walk Trout Run Trail, which is completely underwater at the left edge of the picture. When it did recede, I was amazed at the mess it made to the trail by depositing heavy sections of wooden debris seemingly everywhere. This stuff was not easy to move, and some of it is just too heavy for me. It will have to wait for the chainsaw crew.

Eastern Bluebird. One box has a nest completed. Due to the attentiveness of the adults, I'd guess there is already a clutch of eggs in it.

Eastern Bluebird. However, the male, in particular, likes a lower perch when it is activity hunting up food.

Species Seen
Canada Goose
Turkey Vulture
Killdeer
Ring-billed Gull
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Oatka Creek Park • April 9


Common Gartersnake. This is the most common snake in North America. The high zoom factor of my camera makes it appear larger than it really is. 

Sharp-shinned Hawk. In April, a wide variety of hawks can be spotted in the airspace over Oatka as spring migration gets into high gear.

Coltsfoot. After Skunk Cabbage, this is the first wildflower of the season to bloom in Oatka. It hasn't had a chance to fully open here, but I was impatient for signs of spring!

Song Sparrow. Breeding territories are being established and defended all along creek, now. Listening closely, one frequently notices that each Song Sparrow is singing a slightly different song, their personal identifier, perhaps. I recently read that singing the song of a competitor is the first sign of Song Sparrow aggression!

Eastern Bluebirds. The bluebirds are now to the nesting boxes, and I was told by the gentlemen who maintains these boxes that one nest has already been constructed.

Species Seen
Canada Goose
Mallard
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Cooper's Hawk
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Winter Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Oatka Creek Park • April 7


Song Sparrow. This sight and sound was a nice way to being the walk!

Eastern Phoebe. This bird was singing away over the creek while keeping an eye on the fisherman below.

Song Sparrow. Here the bird has its crown feathers raised. Compare this to the next picture.

Song Sparrow. This is the same bird moments later with its crown feathers lowered.

Eastern Phoebe. Sometimes the birds *do* cooperate photographically! You can see the little hook on the end of its bill. This bird is glancing skyward to watch for predators.

Eastern Phoebe. The coast is clear for the moment.

Wood Duck. This is a female, hiding in the "pothole" swamp along the dirt road from the parking lot to the woods.

Species Seen
Wood Duck
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Killdeer
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird