Friday, April 18, 2008

The Bird Whistler

Everyone around here agrees that Brainard Palmer-Ball is tops when it comes to birding. He works for the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, and made the initial study of the bird population at the Falls of the Ohio when it was declared a National Wildlife Conservation Area in 1981.

This week he took at least 25 of us on a bird walk at the Falls, memorable both for the birds we saw, and the sunshine that appeared for the first time in days. Caspian Terns joined the Ring Billed Gulls and some Herring Gulls. Peregrine Falcons are not his favorite birds. Since they moved into the area, the water fowl populations have changed greatly. He found a Falcon sitting on the dam drying off after a bath. If I had even seen it myself, I would have assumed it was just a piece of wood, balanced on the wall. He talked about bird migrations. You might see a bird here once on one day, and not again until the next year. They fly high on a nice day, or fly at night, navigating by the stars and magnetic fields. Brainard spotted what I thought to be a tangle of fishing line caught in a tree branch. He recognized it as an Oriole nest that was, indeed, made with fishing line. A Red Bellied Woodpecker worked on excavating her nest hole in a dead tree, ignoring us completely.
Then we walked up towards the woods, and "he whistled, and sang, till the green woods rang," and he called all the little birds down to visit. Brainard pished, and squeaked, and whistled like a Screech Owl. First a Carolina Wren dropped in to see what all the fuss was about. His own scolding calls then attracted groups of Ruby Crowned Kinglets, flitting from twig to twig, almost too fast to find in the binoculars. Bill of the Birds has great Kinglet pictures. (I'm jealous) A Blue Gray Gnatcatcher joined the party, while a softly ascending trill marked a Prairie Warbler who followed us around to check out the action. Chickadees always like to join in the fun, and they hung upside down from the branches, searching for bugs. Finally, someone spotted a Scarlet Tanager, enjoying the sunshine. That's when my camera battery died, and I have no photos of the Tanager. After I went back for the charged spare, I walked through the same woods, but found only the larger birds -- Robins, Cardinals, and a female Brown Headed Cowbird.

Maybe we could ask Brainard to come and teach Pishing 101 for the volunteers.

PS - A pair of Ospreys have been spotted building a nest in an electric tower by the hydro electric plant, easily visible from the George Rogers Clark Cabin. We are all concerned that someone in authority not decide to chase them away. In other years, I knew they had a nest, but could never find it.


Arizona Reader said...


A friend told me about your blog, very nice. I was reading your banner and think I might have spotted a typo. Is there a letter y missing in the 4 Fs? Should it be ...before theY fly away?

Thanks for the interesting posts.

Kathy Dennis said...

Yes, indeed. We do tend to see what we expect, not what is actually there. Thanks for the tip.

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