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!
I suspect that mockingbird has lust on his mind more than love, Wally! We are still awaiting our first Chipping Sparrow in our backyard, where they have shown up every year that we have lived here, early in spring and later in the season with cowbird kids! There have been several local reports so they have already arrived. Warblers too – Pine, Palm, Myrtle, Black-and-white and Black-throated Green so far. ‘Tis the season!
Back here at home, “our” mockingbird has been singing non-stop for what seems like three days. (Can we include all the songs he is singing of other species on our list?)
More warblers are heading your way. We’re getting a bit of a flurry of migratory activity.
Enjoy the upcoming weekend!
What a wonderful place! And I love the Eagle/Osprey action shots!
Thank you, Kathy. It’s a pretty neat place and a few minutes from the house is a big plus.
I’m awestruck by that female Bunting. I had no idea she would be one of “our” birds. I assumed it was a rarity from some tropical jungle. The only green bird I’ve seen in the wild are our Monk Parakeets, who presently are rebuilding their nests in the tall power poles that loom over a highway construction site. They’ll deign to make use of palm trees, of course, but just now most the palms have been trimmed up so severely none of the species that make use of them for nesting can do so.
I really enjoyed the photos of the pelicans. Our White Pelicans are gone now, but the Brown are doing a fine job of taking their place. I enjoy them both, but the Brown are especially fun to watch as they fish.
We hit 88F today, and I was sweating at work for the first time in 2021 — a sure sign that summer’s lurking. With no mosquitoes around yet, and a couple more light fronts in the works, it really is time to enjoy what’s left of spring!
Our first sighting of a Painted Bunting was in Texas. About a hundred years ago, it seems.
The gaudy males get all the oohs and aahs, while his green mate goes about her business in the underbrush almost unnoticed.
Yep, spring has sprung here, too, and the afternoons are downright WARM!
“No mosquitoes” won’t last long.
Have a great weekend!
A great (and diverse) set of photos, Wally – well done!
As for ” –> Me = Luckiest Man In The World.”, I’d agrre you’re pretty far up the list!
Thanks very much, Ed! The more often we visit Nature, the more diversity she shows!
Good Morning Wally. I hope both you and The First Lady are bearing up under the strain of increased temperatures. Here we have gone backwards with a week or more of Arctic northerlies and temperatures in the single digits. We had snow on Tuesday and warnings on the dash of icy roads. The migration has stopped even though it hardly started. There are queues of birds building up in France and Spain just eager to reach Brexit Britain when the winds change direction.
So it is good to see your blue skies and to read you words of wisdom. Those words of Benjamin Franklin could equally describe some of the low-life of our big cities or our gamekeepers. Don’t you just hate that word of “game”?
And you and I have no problem with eagles or raptors, even better to see a ding-dong between two of the most magnificent.
Give my best regards to your love-struck Gini.
Here is hoping your frigid spring weather is short-lived. Snow? Yikes!
Our typical spring cycle of cool mornings and warm afternoons has begun and we’re trying to take advantage of it while it lasts. Up and out early. The birds, bugs and blooms are really showing off.
Love-struck Gini says she hopes you stay warm and to just keep thinking how great the birding will be once you can break through the ice-blocked roads.
I know I must be going round the twist, Wally, when my first thought on seeing your wonderful header of the Painted Bunting was – ‘it’s too long since I had a mojito with a wedge of lime’!
I’d be over the moon (yes, that same moon that you have captured that excellent image of!) if I had somewhere within six minutes of my home which would be just one quarter as productive as your Lake Crago Park.
I also have to express my admiration of your mastery of ‘birds in flight’ photography, as apparent in this delightful blog post. And there’s a special mention for that great shot of the Red-shouldered Hawk too.
We’ve had a crazy couple of weeks here and I’ve not been out birding for a long while. Hopefully I’ll be able to put that right in a week or so ?
My very best wishes to you and Gini – – – Richard
Thank you very much, Richard. Wish you had been along to enjoy the morning.
It’s always startling to see the bright green bunting as there are few birds in our area even close to that color. (We have a couple of pockets of Nanday Parakeet colonies which were released/escaped and they have thrived in our climate, but they are conspicuous and noisy – the opposite of Mrs. Bunting.)
We hope your crazy weeks turn into exciting birding adventures soon!
Give our best to Lindsay and Gini and I hope you’re both well.
Thinking the energy the eagle wasted chasing the osprey he could have used catching his own supper!
Lovely set Wally, nice to have beautiful local sites to visit.
Thank you, Brian.
Typical bully/vagrant, is the eagle. Too lazy to get a job so preys on those who are industrious. Mr. Franklin described him well.
Have a great week!
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I have to ask: Where you up to anything nefarious?
Thank you for all these wonders. Oooh and ahhh were my song as I scrolled up and down. Feathered enchantment at its very best. Pelicans (of any colour) always remind me of their dinosaur heritage. I wish we had vultures (of any colour) here. Feathered sanitary experts would be very welcome.
Thank you. Bigly.
It is wrong of me, but that description of the Bald Eagle made me think of politicians. Except that I much prefer the eagle.
And WE are the Osprey, with the Eagle always after our fish!
(I will have that comparison in my brain the rest of the week!) 🙂
Actually, since I was looking for birds engaged in natural acts (in the hope of photographing it!), I may have been violating some sort of bird morality law, so,
yes, I may have been up to something nefarious in their eyes!
Thank you, EC, for such wonderful comments.
Hope all is well as autumn progresses. Fingers crossed you get enough rain but not TOO much.