Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Father's Day Outing

On Father's Day, the boys were either away or had friends over between church services so I took the opportunity to see if the Fox kit would be out again since my last visit.  'Twas not to be, so I headed north on Weirs Road.  As I was driving by, I noticed a bright flash of blue and got my eyes on my first Indigo Bunting (life bird #128).  I got a shot through the trees along the side of the road where the bird was singing away on a dead sapling.

Indigo Bunting

I tried to get closer, but it was too wary of me.  After I flushed it, it seemed to prefer a perch near the top of a dead tree on the roadside.  It immediately started singing as soon as it landed, probably clearly proclaiming its territory edge.  Later in my walk and a return that evening, I found more Indigo Buntings, so I'm guessing that the territory reinforcement was likely true.

Indigo Bunting - it returned to this exact spot
over and over to sing it heart out.

I had initially waded through the golden rod and wild raspberry tangles to see if patience would reward me with a return of the bird to its previous, closer perch, but I only annoyed a Song Sparrow who must have had a nest somewhere in the weeds near by - it sat their the entire time with an insect in its mouth waiting for me to leave.

Song Sparrow with insect.

That evening, I took my three boys for a walk, returning to a Rail Trail which I had quickly checked out in the afternoon.  We headed first to the fox den I mentioned in my last post, but I struck out again that day as I had hoped to share the sight of the Fox kit with the boys.

While there, I heard a big raucous of Crows from down the tracks in a tree row on the edge of a farmer's field. Seeming agitated, I told the boys that often this will mean that either a hawk or owl is roosted in a tree where the crows don't approve.  Sure enough, as we tried to approach quietly, we flushed a Red-tailed Hawk out and watched as the Crows followed to encourage the change of location.  At one point the Crows relented, but then some blackbirds (too far away to tell what) took up the offense and continued as the hawk climbed higher.  The smaller birds stuck with it for quite a way into the sky.

American Crows chasing Red-Tailed Hawk

Blackbirds chasing Red-Tailed Hawk
We headed west down the old Grand Trunk Railway trail just east of the Harrisburg station which although now is just a small town, used to be a junction between a northern route to Cambridge and the nearest east-west towns of Lynden (then on to Copetown and Hamilton) and Paris. (see map here) We forgot to bring bug spray, so we had to keep moving to out pace the mosquitoes which hadn't been out during the middle of the day.

Grand Trunk Railway rail trail.

We did see a Baltimore Oriole with a fledgling quietly foraging overhead, an Eastern Wood-Pewee, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, and something very large which flushed out of the trees to thick to see through (agh!) and stopped at a little pond which some locals report has some fish in it.  Didn't see much here except some basking turtles and a few Tree Swallows.

On the way back, we again saw some Indigo Buntings and this time I sparingly used my phone to play a call and the male definitely came closer to determine who was that close in his territory.

male Indigo Bunting

After my quick, close encounter it headed straight for the nearest treetop to make sure any real or imaginary competitors knew he was there.

Indigo Bunting in its usual treetop location

Just as we were heading home, with the light starting to fade and the mosquitoes getting more hungry, we spotted a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.  So tiny, it looked like just a bump on the dead tree it was perching on.  It was very hard to get all three of the boys to find it, but they finally all did.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

As I type this, I realize a pair of hummingbirds had zipped past me while I was standing in the weeds earlier in the afternoon when I was trying to wait out a closer picture of the Indigo Bunting.  One even landed only a few meters away on a bush, but didn't pause long enough for what would have been a close picture.  I console myself with the fact that being so small, I'm sure it would have been very hard to find and focus on, even if I had had the chance.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird - you can just see the Ruby flash.

This little tiny bird is such a testament to being designed.  It's a little miracle which has so many amazing features: incredibly fast wing-beat for an agile flight, a long, tiny tongue which actually has tiny nectar traps (see info and video here), deep sleep to preserve energy.  This little bird migrates over the Gulf of Mexico in one flight, but yet is so tiny. All these features had to be present together in order for it to function and survive.  It was the first time seeing these little birds out in the "wild."

A fun Father's Day outing with the boys and they were all excited to share the sightings with Mom before heading off to bed, glad they got to stay up late!  Summer evenings!!

Keep enjoying His handiwork!

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