Saturday, February 27, 2010

Page 76 in the Peterson Guide

I joined the Beckham Bird Club this morning for some late winter birding in Southern Indiana along the Ohio River. We started at the Falls of the Ohio, where a light snow quickly increased, until I started to ask myself what I was doing there instead of sipping a cup of hot coffee in my kitchen! The birds were safely hidden away in whatever shelter they sought, and we didn't see many song birds at all, except the Winter Wren we finally tracked down. A climb up the side of the levee got my heart pumping enough to warm my cold fingertips for a while.
As we headed upstream towards a large industrial park growing in the cornfields by the river, the clouds stopped snowing, although the skies did not lighten up. The leaders for the day identified all the ducks we saw. I still have trouble with Scaup and Goldeneyes, but found a Bufflehead, some Ring Necked Ducks, Redheads and Canvasbacks, and Hooded Mergansers on my own. The leader kept searching the water through his good scope and we saw some beautiful Wood Ducks too. I checked the field guide while reviewing the day's photos, and noticed that we found all the ducks on page 76 of the Peterson field guide. I've never found birds by the pageful before! The Scaups all had their heads tucked beneath their wings and seemed to be sleeping peacefully. But as I watched, I noticed that they were not drifting downstream with the current, but slowing going upstream instead. Guess they can swim with their eyes closed!
This mixed group of birds illustrate peaceful co-existence in waterfowl. The wild birds get along fine with the domestics. In fact, we found Marvin and Mabel at the Falls - a male Mallard with his mixed breed sweetheart who live there full time.
The Ring Billed Gulls sat on a dock on the river, listening to an announcer on the other side. They couldn't believe that people were actually going to swim in the river on a day like this. Even gulls are smart enough to stay dry if they don't have to get wet! The Polar Bear Plunge raises money for Special Olympics every year, and nearly 1,000 people showed up. Brr! I'm glad I was only looking for birds.
These Canvasbacks looked peaceful on their little lake, but spooked and took flight before we got very close.
I was amazed at all the little lakes and fields our leader took us too, and the variety of birds we saw. In addition to the ducks, we had great luck with raptors. There are Bald Eagles wintering on the Ohio River- appropriately, we found them near the Eagle Steele Company in the industrial park. I looked and looked without seeing them, but once I finally found them, I was amazed that it took so long in the first place. Kestrels perched on phone lines, and Coopers Hawks and Red Shouldered Hawks took a peek at us, then flew off in the other direction.
We saw one Red Tailed Hawk with something in its talons. Then it slowed and landed in this nest to add another stick to the structure, while its mate supervised from a nearby tree. I never thought of Red Tails starting to work on nests this early in the year. Pretty exciting stuff for me!
February is almost over, and I hope the long V's of Sandhill Cranes are proof that spring is really coming soon. In the meantime, as I took pictures off my camera, I found these last two from my backyard feeders that I can't resist adding to this post. That Blue Jay was a very persistent fellow, determined to get his share of the sunflower seeds, no matter who he had to share a perch with!
All right, Starling, reach for it!

1 comment:

Wilma said...

Great post today (as usual). Thanks for sharing your day out birding with your lovely photos.