Flashback! “Spring Preview”
(Header Image: Female Painted Bunting)
Time. It doesn’t wait around for us. It seems we were enjoying New Year’s dinner and all of sudden we remarked how wonderful Easter Dinner was!
Just a few days ago, in my mind, the yard was filled with nervous Palm Warblers and Chipping Sparrows combing through the grass for insects. We just realized we haven’t seen one in a week. Our winter flycatcher is no longer singing her name each morning. We miss “Phoe-BE“.
On the other hand, the bright red cardinal gently placed a sunflower seed in his mate’s bill the other day. Red-bellied Woodpeckers are attempting to bully the White-winged Dove from the feeders as they have selected a nesting site nearby. The mockingbird is singing 24 hours a day. Loudly.
Breeding season is in full swing. That means hot weather is just ahead. We thought we had done a lot of birding since Christmas but now it appears we almost missed spring entirely? How does this happen?
I blame time. We stop thinking about it for a minute and – whoosh! – it skips ahead of us and we try to play catch-up. A game we cannot win.
So, today I try to catch up a little bit with a report on a short pre-Spring visit to a small park near the house. Lake Crago Park was initially designed to be a “dog-walk” spot for urban pet owners. Lake Crago is a small lake just north of large Lake Parker and the two are connected by a canal. Dog owners have a nice fence-enclosed area where their canines can run and exercise. The city added a boat ramp where fisher-folk can launch a boat and there is quite a bit of open area for exploring. Recently, the park expanded and opened a recreation center which includes a canoe launch and fishing pier.
With the additional space, one can walk for a couple of hours with virtually no people in sight and travel through several different types of habitat. I have neglected this park for too long and will try to make it a regular spot to check for birds.
This visit occurred on February 3. The morning was cool and clear. Exiting the car, a flock of three dozen American Robins flew over my head and a couple stopped briefly in a tree top for a quick photo. Small flocks of White Ibis and Cattle Egret moved from roosts to feeding areas. Although nothing rare was spotted, I was surprised at the variety and total number of individuals tallied. The morning’s highlight was a female Painted Bunting, a species not usually seen in this particular area. An aerial dogfight between an Eagle and an Osprey was also pretty exciting.
Let’s see: lots of birds, interesting habitat, walked two hours without seeing another human, six minutes from the house … why haven’t I been coming here regularly??
American Robins will be hard to find here after Easter.
It’s hard to resist taking a shot of the moon. Hand-held photo by these shaky hands makes me thankful for “Image Stabilization” technology.
An Eastern Phoebe awaits in ambush for an unsuspecting flying tidbit.
Even in “drab” non-breeding plumage, a Yellow-rumped Warbler is beautiful!
It’s easy to see how the female Painted Bunting was given the nickname “Greenie”.
In a 1784 letter to his daughter, Benjamin Franklin had some comments about the Bald Eagle (he was not, as some have suggested, opposed to the eagle as a symbol for America, but that’s another story):
“He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly.
You may have seen him perch’d on some dead Tree near the River, where,
too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk;
and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to
his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle
pursues him and takes it from him.”
I managed a few distant shots of a Bald Eagle attempting to steal a freshly caught fish from an Osprey (“Fishing Hawk”). Quite a display! They twisted and turned until out of sight. I choose to believe the Osprey was victorious.
Large and bulky, a Brown Pelican kicks up the water during take-off.
The Roseate Spoonbill suddenly appeared over the tree line and gave me only a small chance to capture its pink plumage.
Just as pretty (said his Mother), a Black Vulture cruised over to make sure I was still breathing.
It may have been hiding in the foliage, but this Gray Catbird was constantly making the little “mewing” calls which earned it the name.
A relative of the above catbird, the brown-eyed Northern Mockingbird hopped up to a prominent perch as I approached and escorted me along the path for awhile to make certain I wasn’t up to anything nefarious.
The canal which connects Lakes Crago and Parker is a fine place for a Great Blue Heron to stand watch.
Trumpeting her approach, an impressive Sandhill Crane passed low overhead, trailing a bit of moss from her last perch.
American White Pelicans in small numbers spend each winter around the cities’ lakes. About every 3-4 years, one lake to the south of town hosts several thousand of these normally coastal birds.
While on the way back to the car, I spotted a Wood Stork headed for an area of flooded woods between the two lakes.
It was good to know security was on the job as the light pole next to the car was occupied by a guard with particularly sharp eyes. Handsome, too, is the Red-shouldered Hawk.
Called Gini to see if she needs anything from the store. “Just you.”
–> Me = Luckiest Man In The World.
Be certain to check out smaller parks in your area. There may be some surprises in store!
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!