Saturday, June 1, 2013

Two Nests and Two Life Birds

A little bit back, I saw activity on the bird boards that there were some American White Pelicans in the area and that they had recently moved to Coote's Paradise and were spending time on a sandbar of one of the small islands there in the mornings.  I decided to head into work early to see if they could be sighted.  It didn't take a second glance to confirm they were their.  They are huge, and their size and pure white plumage stood out in stark contrast to the cormorants that were making their company.  I had no close access, so had to make due with a tripod shot from on on the ridge that York Road follows.  These shots are quite cropped, but definitely show the dark flight feather markings of the bird landing. An exciting life bird (#122).

American White Pelicans with Double-crested Cormorants in Coote's Paradise

American White Pelicans

That lunch hour I headed to Valley Inn Road, and headed down the Grindstone Trail.  The songs of many birds filled the air and the distinctive sweet sound of the Yellow Warbler belied its location for a brief picture.  Interesting how birds will still sing even while preening.  I guess that's a lesson in doing your work with cheer!

Yellow Warbler preening

As I headed further down the trail I was met with another flurry of yellow, but darker, larger, and mixed with black. Three Baltimore Orioles were loudly dueling over territory, and later, I discovered a nest right in that vicinity, so one male was courageously dealing with two trespassing intruders.

 Baltimore Oriole nest - way up in the top of a big Poplar Tree

male Baltimore Oriole
female Baltimore Oriole

Further down the path, I startled two Northern Flickers off a dead snag, and with a second look, noticed that there was a freshly chiseled opening.  Biding my time, I settled in for a wait, and sure enough, one returned to what was confirmed as a nest.  Inside he popped, promptly checking on whatever was inside.

Northern Flicker nest entry

Northern Flicker
Northern Flicker
Northern Flicker

 After tolerating my presence for a while, suddenly the bird became quite agitated, squawking and looking down below.  I wasn't sure why, but soon it left and I saw the reasons... a Red-bellied Woodpecker pair were on the same tree, and a flurry of chasing began.  It was too fast to try and get any pictures and not one even caught anything.

Protesting the visitors

Notice the Red-belly on the bottom of the picture
and the Flicker at the top.

male Red-bellied Woodpecker
Strangely, it all seemed to end quite quickly, and the male Red-belly remained to feed on a tree just next to the snag with the nest.  It was quite unconcerned with me.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers were given the wrong name in my opinion, given the inconspicuously small patch of slightly red belly they do have.  Others have written the same and I agree with one writer who thought they should have been called "Ladder-back Woodecker".  You can see why in the picture above.

male Red-bellied Woodpecker feeding on ants from a branch hole.

male Red-bellied Woodpecker feeding

Hoping not to belabour the Flicker pictures, I got a couple pictures with the bird blinking. Woodpeckers have a number of significant design features which are all necessary for it to survive its interesting habit of whacking its head on trees (see a previous post about this here about this bird's design features).  One thing they need is strong eyelids to protect and keep their eyes from popping out of their sockets as their head stops with the impact.

Thick, protective eyelids.

I was met by a nice lady who had just spent an hour just around the corner trying to photograph Kingfishers which I had heard noisily rattling away from up the creek while I was at the Flicker nest.  When she came by, I kindly pointed out the Pileated nest.  She got very excited but couldn't seem to spot the nest hole I was pointing her to.  Seems, I had, as I wrote above, mis-spoken. Oops, not a Pileated, a Flicker nest.  Then I understood her excitement and the fact that she could not spot the very large hole that would be present had it been a Pileated Woodpecker nest!  I subtly tried to regain some of my reputation and hoped I could assure her that, although not an expert, I did know what I was talking about. Susan posts some very nice pictures here.  Sorry for disappointing you Susan!

And if I'm honest, I think I was also pointing out following Orchard Orioles (the pictures above), though it obviously turns out that Orchard Orioles are much more of a dark, almost chestnut colour.  Boy, did I ever eat humble pie that day!

In the same area as the Flickers, there was a pair of tiny Blue-gray Gnatchatchers busily harvesting tiny bugs from a flowering Pin Cherry tree.  They are such tiny, cute birds.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - funny look

On my way back to the car, another pair of small birds caught my attention as they flitted about in the trees... They didn't stay long, but I got enough distant pictures for Peter and Caleb Scholtens to help me ID it later on as a Warbling Vireo.  (life bird #123) 2nd of the day!

Warbling Vireo

Just across from the parking lot, this adult Racoon was out in the middle of the afternoon, an odd time for this generally nocturnal animal.  Made for a nice picture though!

Racoon in broad daylight.

More life birds and good times still to post....
Keep enjoying His handiwork!!

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