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Friday, January 8, 2010

Birding in the Rain

I've been inspired by so many of the other blogs I've read where people are keeping year bird lists, so I decided to do the same for 2010. My list sat at a paltry 11 species a week into the year, so I went out birding for the first time in the new year today and the result was tripling my year count. (I'm jealous of some of you who are already at 70+! Circumstances have kept me from getting out much early this year but I hope to catch up soon.)

I started out walking at a local park where I saw a lot of the usual suspects but was pleased to see numerous northern flickers and downy woodpeckers. The other real unexpected highlight was a pair of lesser goldfinches.

It really started to rain by the end of the walk so I stayed in the car to view Koll Center Wetlands. There were surprisingly few ducks on the lake, and aside from the American coot and a pair of pied-billed grebes the only other bird of note was a group of eight ruddy ducks.

In the real marshy part of the preserve I was pleased to spot a great egret:

Egrets aren't uncommon here but I'm still excited to find them, whereas their counterparts, the great blue heron, are absolutely everywhere:

Neither the egret nor the heron seemed to be in hunting mode, and the only bird I saw that caught something was a common merganser that flew by with a squirming frog in its beak!

When I got home it was still raining but I decided to check out one more short nature path that's in the neighborhood and it turned out to be well worth the wet. Right at the entrance to the trail was a red-breasted sapsucker being followed by an Anna's hummingbird. This is an association I've seen a couple of times before, including once in my parents' front yard, but it never ceases to amaze me. The Anna's hummingbird, which overwinters in the Pacific Northwest, obviously can't be sustaining itself on flower nectar this time of year. In addition to insects, it also follows sapsuckers around and then ducks in to drink the sap from holes the woodpecker has recently been working on. It's remarkable enough that the hummingbird survives the cold, but the woodpecker association is truly awesome.

Unfortunately I had to dash back to the house for the camera (I didn't think I'd see much and didn't want to carry it in the rain - you think I'd have learned by now!) and when I got back the hummingbird had moved on. But luckily the woodpecker was still present.

As I moved around to get a different angle the woodpecker ended up almost completely silhouetted against the gray skies, so I turned this image into a grayscale to enhance the effect.

The only other bird I ended up seeing on the whole path was a single varied thrush. All the others must have been smartly tucked out of the rain, so I took a hint and went back home and did the same.


Vickie said...

I loved hearing your story about the Anna's hummingbird following the sapsucker. I have read about this but its nice to know someone who has actually witnessed it. I've even read that the timing of some hummingbird migrations allows them to benefit from sap wells before nectaring plants appear. Nice image of the Red-breasted sapsucker, as well.

Warren Baker said...

Oh Monika! Now you have started a year list you will become addicted and try to beat the previous years total, just like I do!!

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

There should be a law against people who find great white egrets!!! Unless its me of cousre ours are giving me a right old run around!

Woodpecker/hummingbird association who would have believed it - isn't evolution fantastic.

Enjoy tour listing


Monika said...

Vickie - Interesting note about the hummingbird migration....makes sense!

Warren - Yes, I'm already getting addicted. But the result is me having more motivation to get out birding more often, so it's a win-win situation!

Dave - Ha! I'll trade you an egret for a Cetti's warbler. And yes, evolution never ceases to amaze me. Sapsucker/hummingbird interactions are just one more cool example.

John at Cell Phone Recycling said...

Wow! I have never seen a woodpecker in the woods for real. You must have a great camera to take photos of this great birds. keep it up!