Sunday, February 7, 2016

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

Nine folks joined me this morning for the monthly group walk. We started at the Parmer Village end of Lake Creek Trail and spent almost three hours covering only about one mile. (Birding is not good exercise!) The morning started out cold but luckily the wind was very light. It turned out to be a beautiful clear morning and we found 41 species of birds. Things were uneventful until we reached the last dam on the creek where we enjoyed stunning views of the American Wigeons and Gadwalls in the low morning light. I especially enjoyed how the green stripe on the male wigeons' faces appeared golden sometimes, like in this photo:

American Wigeon - 1

It's always worth waiting around the last dam to see what might show up, and this morning a juvenile Cooper's Hawk flew in and perched for awhile in a bare tree across the water from us, letting everyone get good looks at it through the spotting scope. Here's an iPhone photo I got through the scope:

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

This morning nine folks joined me for the first group bird walk of 2016! We met at the Braes Valley parking lot at 8:00 AM and spent about two hours finding 37 species of birds. The weather was cold but nice, with light wind and a little bit of sun during the first hour. An early highlight was this cooperative Spotted Towhee that responded to my recording and came out for the whole group to get close looks:

Spotted Towhee - 1

We were lucky to see this perched adult accipiter early in the hike as well. I called it a Cooper's Hawk when we found it. But after looking at my photos I think it's a Sharp-shinned based mostly on the dark nape. The bill also seems small and the eye seems large for a Cooper's Hawk. I love the way its red eye lit up in the morning light:

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

Better late then never, here's a summary of last week's monthly group bird walk. Last Sunday (Dec 6) 14 of us met at the Parmer Village pond at 8:00 AM and spent over two hours covering about a mile of Lake Creek Trail. While we waited for everyone to arrive we watched a Great Egret, a Snowy Egret, and a Pied-billed Grebe in the pond. And these two Red-tailed Hawks had spent the night atop a nearby cell phone tower:

Red-tailed Hawks

On our way up the creek bed the birds were mostly hidden, but we did get a brief look at a Sharp-shinned Hawk as it flew by and quieted all the nearby bird sounds. And near the last dam on the creek we flushed this Vesper Sparrow that flew up into a tree and sat still for most of us to see through my spotting scope:

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Poison Ivy

I spent a couple beautiful cool and clear hours on Lake Creek Trail this morning, leisurely covering the half mile between the Braes Valley parking lot and the footbridge. Winter birds continue to return, with Yellow-rumped Warblers being the most numerous. Some newly returning sparrows were Chipping Sparrows, a Field Sparrow, and an unexpected White-crowned Sparrow.

That half-mile of trail is loaded with Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicals). I often point it out to folks I pass since many people are allergic to it and don't know how to recognize it. (If you are allergic, besides learning how to recognize it I also recommend not petting any dogs you encounter on the trail. I've seen folks let their dogs dive into patches of Poison Ivy with abandon.) But it's also important to recognize that it's a valuable native plant. It's a significant component of the low dense cover which is such important habitat for birds on the trail. And in the winter its berries are an important food source for them. This morning I got these two photos of a Yellow-rumped Warbler eating a Poison Ivy berry:

Yellow-rumped Warbler eating Poison Ivy Berries - 1

Yellow-rumped Warbler eating Poison Ivy Berries - 2

Here are a few more photos from this morning.

And here's my complete bird list.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

Twelve folks joined me this morning for the monthly group bird walk. We met at the Braes Valley trail head in very light rain which soon moved off to the east. We spent over two hours on the trail, starting in cloudy and ending in partly cloudy conditions. The temperature was delightfully cool.

The trail was very birdy, with Blue Jays and Yellow-rumped Warblers being the most obvious birds. Last week I did not find any Yellow-rumped Warblers but this morning they were back for the winter in force. I estimated there were 50 along the half mile of trail we covered, and they were almost a constant source of small movements and call notes in the trees. Among them were a few Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Orange-crowned Warblers, and we found a single Nashville Warbler in the largest group on its way further south.

The most exciting bird observations of the walk were two normally skulking species that I recognized by sound before seeing them. They both responded to played recordings of their calls and came out in the open for great views by all. (Playing recordings to lure birds out of hiding is a waste of energy for the birds, and it puts them in added danger from predators, so I only occasionally do this, and never for endangered or threatened species.) The first was a male Spotted Towhee which I didn't get a good photo of, and the second was a Brown Thrasher which I got this mediocre photo:

Brown Thrasher

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

We had a total of 15 people on this morning's monthly group walk. We spent almost 3 hours finding 39 species of birds on Lake Creek Trail, starting at the Parmer Village pond. Most of the birds we observed were only briefly seen or even heard-only., but an exception was Eastern Phoebe. There were many of these flycatchers up and down the trail, likely because the year-round residents were joined by south-bound migrants. Similarly, many Killdeers were present on the soccer fields.

Some of the briefly seen highlights:
  • a Yellow-billed Cuckoo flying across the trail near the last dam
  • a juvenile Sora briefly emerging from the reeds near the last dam
  • a small group of female Blue-winged Teal and a single Snowy Egret foraging in the shallow water of the creek bed
  • a distant Pied-billed Grebe diving and surfacing in the creek upstream of the second dam
  • several heard-only returning winter resident House Wrens, a few of which briefly flew across the trail in front of us
  • a brown female or juvenile male Indigo Bunting
  • two Cooper's Hawks in flight, one that dove at a perched White-winged Dove
The first songbird we got a good close look at was this female Downy Woodpecker:

Downy Woodpecker

And nearby we found this juvenile Green Heron hunting in the creek bed. Soon this summer-resident species will be gone for the winter.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Birding on Broadmeade Pond Watch

Five folks met me Saturday morning for the monthly Pond Watch migratory dragonfly observation. It was a bit warm, but a little cooler than in previous months. At the meeting spot by the Parmer Village pond there were a few Blue dashers in a tree. Here's one:

Blue Dasher

And in the same tree there were briefly a couple Citrine Forktails, our smallest damselfly. I finally got my camera to focus on this one: