With near-tropical temps on the horizon for Sunday, I thought I’d better hurry and do this post about the birds I encountered in frosty February, as well as my 2020 Birdie Bucket List.
I scored a few lucky shots of birds this Winter.
At my favorite park I saw this bird (believed to be a Kinglet) on a frosty cold day – see how it is fluffed up, a/k/a “floofy” (another newfangled bird word like “chonky” which I shared last week). As frigid as it was on this morning, this fellow was singing away. I was surprised that puffs of condensation were not coming from its beak – poor little bird.
I also was ecstatic to finally snag a few photos of the male Red-Bellied Woodpecker at Council Point Park and I captured these shots on a gloriously sunny day with a bright-blue sky.
Every morning, Mr. Woodpecker is either making a loud screechy noise or drilling its long and pointed beak into a decayed tree. Just check out the damage this woodpecker has done!
He’s not only creating small cavities in the tree, but also looking for grubs – I hate to tell you Bud, but the grubs are still asleep. Occasionally the woodpecker will come down to ground level to grab a peanut, but Sunday was apparently “Drilling Day” for this guy. Regardless of how he is decimating this tree, isn’t he a beautiful bird?
I caught a glimpse of my first male Red-Winged Blackbird last weekend, though I’d been hearing the calls for about a week. Though this bird was shy and kept his back turned, I was happy to at least get a shot of his colorful “epaulets” for this post.
Back to Birdie Nirvana …
I made a return trip to Elizabeth Park to the feeder station, hoping to get more up-close shots of the visitors to that tree and memorial stone. It was a poor showing that morning, except for a White-Breasted Nuthatch …
… and a cute Black-capped Chickadee.
Do you make lists? I make ‘em and have for years, whether they are a handful of items jotted down if I’m running errands, or the perpetual New Year’s Resolutions. I even made a list of items I wanted to accomplish over the Winter 2019-2020, since the weather forecast called for a brutally cold and extra-snowy season. Ha ha – happily that wicked Winter wallop did not happen and yes, I am mindful that we often get snow in April. We are way behind on our snowfall this season, though we’ve had lots of rain and freezing rain, which is worse than snow in my opinion.
So, just ask me how many items I have fulfilled in the latter two to-do lists? Wait … don’t ask. The house is still cluttered, my exercise bike goes unused since I walked more than expected and the art supplies/how-to books to begin sketching again, following the interpretive walk/sketching event last year, remain untouched. They’ll likely get deposited into the “things-to-do-when-retired” Rubbermaid tote downstairs. Even the stockpile of books I anticipated reading during the predicted horrendous Winter season languish in the drawer, taking up still more space and creating additional clutter. Where was the woman who wanted to read one book a month? Or twenty books in 2020? Hmmm.
But one list I’ve created since turning the calendar page to March, is my 2020 Photo Bucket List. This photo bucket list, for me, is an annual ritual (even if I never seem to accomplish it). Sadly, I no longer have fellow-walker Mike scoping out Dingell Park to alert me when the swans take their cygnets on a piggyback ride, or, when those sweet ducklings toddle down to the river’s edge for their first clumsy paddle and swimming lessons from Mom.
I do follow the Facebook pages of various parks in my area to see the local photographers’ discoveries at these venues. In Spring 2019, based on local photographers’ shots, I hustled up to Heritage Park twice looking for cute-and-fuzzy ducklings streaming in a neat row behind Mama Mallard, but had no success either time.
So let’s have a look at what I’m setting my sights on this year.
I spent many hot and humid mornings at Taylor Conservatory and Botanical Gardens trying to get a picture of a hummer sipping nectar from the abundance of beautiful blooms. There were butterflies galore, however … not a single hummingbird.
Last year, the local Detroit Audubon site reported an influx of Bluebirds and Baltimore Orioles in the Downriver area. I’ve yet to see a Bluebird, despite a kind soul and avian lover who hung several wooden nesting boxes for them at Lake Erie Metropark. When strolling through the ‘hood, I’ve seen no Bluebirds, nor at my favorite nature nook either. These pretty blue birds with the rosy red breasts, relish mealworms – does that mean I need to carry a Ziploc bag of them to have the Bluebird of Happiness grace me with its presence?
I saw one colorful, orange-and-black Baltimore Oriole at Council Point Park and it was its strong song, not the plumage, which made me glance up to a nearby tree. Before I could grab the camera, it was gone. I know the Oriole delights in oranges – perhaps I need to carry a clementine or two with me, though Orioles prefer their treat halved and jammed into a holder, not segmented like you and I enjoy our oranges or clementines.
As to waterfowl and raptors …
Though I’ve seen many Mute Swans (which are considered invasive in our state), I’ve yet to see them with their offspring. I’ve heard the Trumpeter Swans overhead. Their wing-flapping alerts me to their presence by a loud humming noise, but they pass by so fleetingly that I am unable to get a good shot of them and they never land to graze.
Likewise, the Canvasback Ducks congregate at Dingell Park. I’ve often seen photos posted on that park’s Facebook page of a contingent of Canvasbacks with their unique rust, black and white plumage. I saw one of these beauties in the cove area, but it was so far away it was difficult to tell the species.
And every year I am on the prowl to glimpse and take a photo of an owl. Fellow blogger and bird lover Sandra and I recently agreed that owls were on our perpetual photo bucket lists. Well Sandra’s wish came true earlier this week when she spotted a Burrowing Owl in Florida, in the middle of the day and at ground level. Click here to check out Sandra’s find.
Last year a Snowy Owl was making its presence known at Belle Isle and in Downtown Detroit, as well as frequenting local marshy areas like Pointe Mouillee. So, on a cold January day, I traipsed around Point Mouillee, hoping to see this beautiful white owl, which, because it typically hunts by day, coupled with different migrating patterns, was photographed at that venue on several occasions. Unfortunately, I didn’t glimpse the Snowy Owl that day (or any time thereafter) and, when I reported my abysmal owl search in that day’s blog post, Joe, a fellow from the ‘hood, and also a follower of this blog, sent me a shot of a cute owl he spotted mid-day perched in an evergreen tree at the local DPS just a mile away. I’ve yet to find a Great Horned Owl at Elizabeth Park on my many treks there, though fellow blogger Pril suggested I might fulfill my quest there – nope, no success yet. Perhaps they are hiding from me? (And no, I refuse to carry a mouse to entice it from the treetops.)
So, no owl in the wild, but I saw a rehabbed owl last year at Oakwoods Metropark. He sat motionless in his cage, not even emitting a single “hoooooo” to my greeting of “how are you?”
Likewise, in the past two years I’ve gone to the prime viewing sites for migrating raptors and the best I could do was to get a meh shot of a homely Turkey Vulture. Oh, I’ve seen plenty of Cooper’s Hawks or “Chicken Hawks” as some folks call them – they circle overhead while I’m at Council Point Park. My first encounter was when one tried to nab “Stubby” (the resident squirrel with half his tail missing, thus his moniker), within seconds after he scurried over to my feet to gobble up peanuts which I had just placed onto the path. Stubby escaped with his life by diving under a picnic table in the pavilion area and the hawk flew over to the high fence, fixing his glare on my furry friend. I’m sure my heart was beating as furiously as Stubby’s, as I would have made him a sitting duck had the hawk snatched him. A few months ago I was driving and an adult Cooper’s Hawk suddenly swooped down from a tree and headed for my windshield – it was scary! That hawk dived down, then turned with its large wings as I steered sideways to avoid it. I’m no fan of these birds of prey who seek to make a meal of the small songbirds, or even the squirrels, and this hawk must have sensed my vibes about it.
Although I can view rehabbed Bald Eagle Luc, in his enclosure at Lake Erie Metropark, I have been diligently trying to see an eagle in a more natural environment. To that end, I’ve visited Dingell Park to stand alongside the photographers with their tripods and lenses as long as my arm. They camp out for hours, hoping an eagle will fly out from uninhabited Mud Island to go fishing in the Detroit River. I am going this weekend, for the third outing there, in a last-ditch attempt for an eagle shot, otherwise I’m going to just post my previous eagle photos and use a red arrow to point them out to you.
And then there are the local backyard birds …
I thought I’d participate in the 23rd annual “Great Backyard Bird Count” which took place over Valentine’s Day Weekend. The global bird count encourages ordinary people from around the world to count backyard birds from February 14th through 17th and report on their sightings. I thought it would be fun and blogworthy. After all, I see those Northern Cardinals and Blue Jays when I tender peanuts and sunflower seeds here at the house and the Park. On Sunday the 16th, I took the time to spread out extra treats on the sidewalk, then stood patiently by, hoping to count several birds to make my contribution, not to mention getting a few shots of these photogenic birds. Well they slept in I guess. I put the camera away, muttered to myself as I went to take the car out of the garage, then peeked at the side of the house before departing, only to discover multiple cardinals and jays chowing down – grrrrr. My bird count was so abysmal that I didn’t end up participating.
So, will I fulfill my Photo Birdie Bucket List by year-end?