Monday, June 6, 2016

Back to the Birds

Truman and I headed out at 7:00am yesterday to check on the birds at the Fill.  It was already feeling a little too warm (the high yesterday afternoon reached 92, so getting all outdoor activity completed before, say, 9am was a good idea), so I opted to do a subsection of the Fill.

And since it was Sunday, with free parking, I started off by driving to the parking lot across from the IMA building to see the cliff swallows that nest there every year.  Most of the birds were swooping through the air eating insects, and trust me, you can't get a good photo of a swallow in flight unless you have around $20,000 worth of camera equipment, so I settled for the one bird poking its head out of its nest.

Next I drove further down the lot to park close to the path that leads over the slough and is closest to the Osprey nest, with the notion of checking up on them and calling it good.  As I got out of the car, a Killdeer flew in, landed fifteen feet away, and started displaying.

They do this to distract predators from the nest, pretending to be easy game, then as the predator gets closer, flying off a ways and repeating the lure, always moving farther from the nest.

Truman and I strolled down to the southwest pond, where at least one Osprey was on the nest.  There is concern about the birds -- the project to dig up a nearby parking lot and create a wetlands there is supposed to begin any day now, and the plan is to use the Loop Trail as a staging area for equipment and materials.  I dearly hope all that extra noise and activity does not cause the Ospreys to abandon the nest.

Since I already have a lot of good Osprey photos, I did not wait around for the other bird to appear, and checked out the pond instead.  I found a Pied-billed Grebe, though no sign of the youngsters who were there last week.

Also on view was this female Red-winged Blackbird hopping around on the lily pads.  This is a bird that often confuses beginning birders (it confused me back in the day), because it looks nothing like the male.  In nearly all of the dimorphic species, the female bird is drabber than the male, but at least looks somewhat like its counterpart.  Not this species.  It looks more like an exciting new thrush that you've never seen before -- until a more advanced birder points out what it really is in the field guide.  Oh, well.  Now you know!

Also potentially confusing is when birds go into moult after the breeding season, when the male's bright colors fade.  I spotted a drab-looking brownish duck on the pond, and from far off without binoculars, assumed it was a female Mallard or Gadwall -- with the bins, though, I could easily see the distinctive bill color, eye color, and a little head color of the Wood Duck.

For comparison, here is a male Wood Duck in full breeding plumage:

Quite a difference!

And that was it for our abbreviated outing to the Fill.

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