Monday, January 29, 2007

The "Red" Birds of Kentucky

One expects to see large birds on an Eagles Weekend and the Bald Eagles and Snow Geese certainly meet that expectation. However, by walking around a bit, we also saw many different smaller birds, some very familiar, and others which were a first sighting for us. I particularly noticed the number of birds having "red" in their names. The wetlands near the Kentucky Forestry Dept. tree nursery at Kentucky Dam Village is an approachable cypress swamp. The edge of the lake is surrounded by brush, and the shallow water held a light coat of ice early in the morning, but the Redwinged Blackbirds were out in force. They must have some sort of camera radar, because every time I focused on one, it flew just out of sight and started singing again. The classic red bird, the Northern Cardinal, also avoided having its picture taken as long as possible. I have four different pictures of the place where the Cardinal had been a second earlier. Do you think they can hear the auto focus on the camera? Maybe that's why I don't have many Cardinal pictures from my backyard. The Eastern Bluebird is abundant at the Park too. Even though they don't have "red" in their name, they certainly have a roufous belly, which surprises many people The Red-headed Woodpecker, on the other hand, loves to have its picture taken. Almost every time we heard a rat-tat-tat up in a tree, it was a Red-headed Woodpecker. Unless, of course, it was a Red-Bellied Woodpecker! I rarely see Red-headed Woodpeckers at home, so it was a delight to find so many of them at the park. The Red-tailed Hawks perched on the branches along each road we drove. Sometimes what we thought was an Eagle at first turned out to be a Red-tailed Hawk soaring overhead instead. When they bank to the side, that tail glows in a burnt orange color. Of course, I had no luck catching a wild one in my lens, but the one at the raptor program didn't blink an eye when all those flashes went off in his face. He looks rather disdainful of the process. The ducks and other waterfowl were also a bit camera shy. At the tree nursery, we could see through the brush with binoculars and found many ducks we've never seen before, including Common Goldeneye (their eyes really are golden, even from a distance). The stark black and white pattern of the Bufflehead was identifiable from across the lake. Flights of Canadian Geese circled then splashed to a landing. The black rump feathers of the Gadwall stood out for another first sighting. We saw some Ring-Necked Ducks, and I feel confident that Lesser Scaup were also on the lake that chilly morning. This photo is a Ring-Necked Duck, not a Golden-Eye as I originally thought from a distance. We don't see a lot of ducks at the Falls of the Ohio, so this was very exciting for me. I half expected to find some Northern Shovelers, but didn't recognize them if they swam with the other ducks. If the brush hadn't been so thick, or if there has been an observation deck, the spotting scope would have given us a better view. More importantly, I could have had much closer photos of the ducks. Ah well, someday I'll have that big lens, and then the small birds won't escape so easily.

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