Sunday, December 11, 2011

Neighborhood Rarities

I spent a little over two hours birding Lake Creek Trail this morning, starting at the end of Braes Valley. It was cold and overcast, but the birds were relatively active. And I was happy to end up finding several neighborhood rarities. Not far from the Braes Valley parking lot I heard the high-pitched call of a Brown Creeper. I've posted before about these hard-to-find small brown birds that cling to tree trunks and large branches like woodpeckers. I usually only see a few of them each winter, and they have always been in the large mature native trees among our houses. This morning was the first time I've found one on the hike-and-bike trail. It was in a willow tree by the creek and I got this photo.

Brown Creeper

Past the footbridge I was happy to see that the tall brush in the creek bed had not been mowed. It was full of Song Sparrows, Northern Cardinals, and Red-winged Blackbirds. And I was excited to find two Harris's Sparrows. I've only observed this species in the neighborhood once before. Usually it's a bird that prefers habitat further from urban or suburban areas. I got this photo of one of the two, and then I found a third further downstream.

Harris's Sparrow

I wanted to see what ducks were on the creek, so I kept going further downstream where there are three dammed areas that often attract wild ducks. Just east of the playing fields I crept out to the edge of the water and watched a mix of about 15 Northern Shovelers, 25 Gadwall, and 12 Green-winged Teal. Mixed in with a few of the Gadwall was a black and white duck, periodically diving. It was a male Lesser Scaup! I hadn't seen one on our creek since 2006. Here's a long-distance low resolution photo of it, showing a female Gadwall in front.

Lesser Scaup and Gadwall

I ended up finding 49 species this morning and here's the complete list.