Friday, January 16, 2009

The Further Adventures of "Beginning BirderMan"!

I made another brief trip out to Bear Creek Park earlier this week. The bad thing about Bear Creek is that it takes the majority of my short lunch break just driving there and back to the office. The good thing is that it's a beautiful place with a nice variety of bird life and plenty of wooded area, and it is virtually empty on weekdays (at least during this time of year).

This week, the work crews were busy around the park, noisily clearing away piled up brush and using tractors to spread heaping mounds of ground up Christmas trees. I headed down the nature / equestrian path for quite a ways before encountering any bird life bold enough to face the crashes and bangs coming from the treeline. (I doubt my slipping, sliding and crunching along the muddy and leaf strewn path had anything to do with it.)

Finally I started seeing life in the bare branches, starting with a pair of chickadees.

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Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)

After a bit, I locked onto a Downy Woodpecker further down the trail, and tried my best to approach within camera range without disturbing her. Twice I almost got a shot before she hopped around a trunk or flittered to a more obscured branch, but I kept hearing her rat-a-tat-a-tat and kept inching closer. Then the drumming sounds changed, coming from another direction entirely. I thought at first that the downy had flown the coop, so to speak. But this sound was different; deeper, louder, more "echo-y," if you know what I mean.

Then I heard it, and even with my limited experience I caught my breath. I'd heard that sound before, plenty of times up in the piney woods of East Texas, but I'd never seen the originator of that distinctive call. That wonderful, maniacal laugh (audio files borrowed from PileatedWoodpeckerCentral). And I immediately and totally forgot the little downy.

Slowly moving toward the source of the call, I saw a great flutter of black. At first I thought I was seeing a vulture back in the trees. Surely woodpeckers don't grow that big! Then I saw a flash of red and stopped in my tracks.

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I waited a bit and watched as he moved slowly closer, still staying deep in the tangle of trunks and leafless branches. Finally I got a good view of him and snapped as many quick shots as I could get before he moved behind thicker underbrush.

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Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)

Glancing down at my watch, I realized I was almost twenty minutes late starting back towards the office. I scrambled back down the trail and into the car.

Luckily everyone was hard at work when I snuck back to my desk and no one seemed to notice my extended lunch break. It would have been worth it, though, even if I'd gotten caught. Chalk up another lifer for this new year!

For some great bird photos from around the world, check out Bird Photography Weekly #21.

Bird Photography Weekly


Christopher said...

So you know I've got to leave a comment here. Great experience with the PIWO and just great pics! It's experiences like this that keep birding so exciting for me. Congratulations on another lifer, and for sharing the experiene with us!

Kyle said...

Thanks, Christopher! I have to admit, I'm having a blast at it myself.

I've been by a couple of times this week to check on that DOWO nest from my earlier post. Haven't seen any more activity yet, but I'll keep my eye on it... especially as spring gets closer.

Vickie said...

Awesome that you encounter this bird. Wonderful photo!

2sweetnsaxy said...

Man, this sounds just like something I would do. LOL! What a great way to spend a lunch break. :-) You got some great shots out of it.

me ann my camera said...

With your mention of its 'maniacal laugh' I knew you talking about a Pileated Woodpecker. They are magnificent aren't they. I remember my fist sighting of one. It was on a tree in my yard and close and BIG. It actually gave me a chill of disbelief and awe, both at the same time. Great pictures and obviously a great lunch hour. Loved reading of your noon hour adventure. I can relate.

I am glad your children enjoyed my deer photos that I had posted. They are such beautiful wild creatures with such soulful eyes. Happy birding!

Arija said...

Bet you spent the rest of the dsy with a smile on your face. Nice shots.

mick said...

That was certainly a great lunch break and how exciting to find - and photograph - such a great bird!

Larry Jordan said...

Way to go Kyle! I can totally identify with your looking down at your watch and having that "uh oh" feeling.

Beautiful shot of the Pileated Woodpecker! I remember seeing one for the first time, walking down a trail in Lassen Park. A huge shadow came over us and when we looked up to see what kind of raptor was overhead, we were amazed at the size of that Pileated Woodpecker. And what a gorgeous bird. You captured it nicely on the side of the tree.

Red said...

What a great lunch break! I ought to try something like that. I might see something different anyway.

Bob and Cynthia Kaufman said...

I'm so envious, Kyle. I have never seen a Pileated (We missed it on our last trip to Texas). And you found it during your lunch break!

animtreebird said...

Very beautiful birds. Nice photos. :)))

Jeff said...

Great photos!
Bear Creek is excellent for woodpeckers. In the park, I turn left off Bear Creek Road onto Golbow and then stop where Golbow turns right. The trees inside the bend usually have Red-bellied, Downy, Pileated and Red-headed. This time of the year, there's often Yellow-bellied Sapsucker also.

Wisconsin Birder said...

If you're jealous of my backyard bird, I'm jealous of your weather right now! Love your Pileated Woodpecker photos...we see them at our place in northern Wisconsin and they are so prehistoric!

Neil said...

Great photo of the Woodpecker not likely to see them in Australia Thanks for sharing them.