Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Back to the Birds

There's nothing like an awesome, spontaneous event to make you realize how much you miss a loved hobby. And quite by accident, that's just what made me realize last week how much I have been missing birding over the past several months.

A week ago Friday, I realized that my son's Cub Scouts camping trip was almost upon us and I had not yet started breaking in my new hiking boots. (When the third set of soles wore out on my old ones, I decided it was finally time to break down and get a new pair.) So I took them to work with the intention of going walking at lunchtime. I happened to still have my camera in the car after Cowboy's last soccer match, so when I got over to Bear Creek park at noon I grabbed the camera just out of habit.

Other than a handful of crows and a Red-tailed Hawk soaring high overhead, I hadn't seen anything of interest by the time I reached my halfway mark and began walking back toward the gravel parking area. Then I heard a familiar call overhead and stopped in my tracks. It took only moments to find them — a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers flitting from one tree to the next.

Red-bellied Woodpecker  - 10/29/2010
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)

Red-bellied Woodpecker - 10/29/2010

I followed the pair for a few minutes, trying to get a good shot or two, but was quickly distracted by a soft hammering just a bit further down the trail. Following the sound, I came across another, smaller woodpecker — this little downy female, drumming away on a small branch above me:

Downy Woodpecker - 10/29/2010
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)

Very shortly after this sweet find, yet another distraction flew right by the downy's tree. The third member of the woodpecker family within five minutes.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - 10/29/2010
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)

What a day this was turning out to be! I was smiling broadly over my good fortune as I turned back down the trail in the direction of my truck. Three woodpecker species in one quick, unplanned outing, and it was the first time I'd been birding since spring migration. You just can't beat that.

Until those red-bellied fellows flew back into view, this time accompanied by what I first thought was a female of the breed. She was pretty elusive, but it had to be another red-bellied. Looked like she had red on the back of the head but none on the cap. About the same size. But the coloring was wrong. I'd never seen one that was more tan than black or gray on the back and wings.

Then I got my camera on her, and you could have knocked me over with a feather. A Northern Flicker feather, at that!

Northern Flicker - 10/29/2010
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)

Okay, so it's not much of a shot, but I couldn't care (much) less. Believe it or not, this fairly common resident of the area has been on my wish list for a long time. It's a lifer!

After that, I think I pretty much floated back to the truck. I hardly even remember the drive back to the office. So much for "no time for birding" — I've got the bug again! I may be limited to short lunch excursions for the most part, but I'll take what I can get. Which, as you can see, can be pretty awesome when you least expect it!

3 comments:

Robert Hruzek said...

Hey, it's about time you returned to the scene, Bubba! I've missed your great photography.

forestal said...

great to see these nice shots. glad the bug is back :)

dan

NatureFootstep said...

those woodpeckers looks much different then ours. :) But the shape is the same.