Sunday, February 24, 2013
Finally a Nice Day!
After missing our short lived sunshine yesterday, I was more eager to get to the park earlier today and be assured I would have some sunshine. Not only was the sky clear but the temps warmed up dramatically as well. While the "official" high temperature measured for the day was only in the 30's, my digital thermometer at home -and in the shade mind you- was reading 43 degrees! It was almost like a Spring day and not having to wear my face mask/neck warmer for once was quite awesome in itself. I saw (or heard) a fair amount of birds today including quite a few different Woodpeckers. I've been seeing Downy Woodpeckers in groups of 2, 3 and 4 lately, chasing each other and flapping about wildly as they drop from a perch. I noticed this for the first time last year and I believe this must be their mating time. I've yet to get a good photo as they are usually quite high up when behaving this way. The best Woodpecker I saw today however was a male Pileated. I spotted him only 10 minutes into my walk on the east side of the park. Actually I heard him first, then saw a flash of red through some small willow trees near the small ponds. He was quite busy pounding away on a dead tree and I figured I might have a shot at getting closer as long as he was occupied. I crunched though the loud snow trying to get closer while not scaring him off. Gradually he moved up the dead tree into better view but the area was still so thick that I could not get a clear shot through the Willow shrubs. Eventually I found a half-fallen tree that was just the right height for me to step up onto and get me above the ground cover. From here I had an absolutely fantastic view of him while he continued to jackhammer the tree in a frenzy of flying wood chips. You wouldn't believe the amount of wood chips flying through the air! Some were quite large even. It was quite a sight and I wanted to try and capture this so I took quite a few shots. In this one you can see some of that wood in front of his dark colored body. If you notice how far away his head is from the tree at this split second while all the wood chips are still in the air, you get an idea of just how quickly he was moving. I know that he was in search of insects but I still don't exactly understand what type of insects they can find in such cold conditions in February. I suppose there are some that burrow into the layers of wood itself. I've always wanted to see one actually pull out an insect but I think the action would be so fast that you would miss it. In fact they don't use their beaks at all to grab the insects, but rather uses it's long, barbed tongue to grab them. In the second photo inset, you can see it's tongue coming out –or going back in. I'm not sure which, but this is likely the closest I've come so far to seeing a Pileated actually eat an insect! It is always a thrill to get to see a Pileated so closely as their red caps are just so brilliantly vivid especially on a winter day when pretty much everything else is either white or brown. At this close proximity I could also see his bright yellow eyes and a hint of yellow on his upper bill just in front of his eyes. I was pretty happy with such a sighting so early into my walk but it would prove to be the best of the day. Later on the north end I spotted a group of five Deer together. Most looked like younger ones who were curious of me. One in particular was lagging behind and was standing right in the middle of these big trees which made a nice photo I thought. I watched them for just a while longer before they all moved on. A hundred feet down on the opposite side of the trail was yet another group of 5 Deer, making their way down and across the drainage ditch. It was the first time I've spotted 10 Deer in one walk in quite some time!