Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Spring Birds of Indian Head Creek

Ring-necked duck

Got up early on Sunday morning at the cabin to see what birds had arrived. It was too windy to go out onto the uplands to look for grassland birds, so I trekked up the valley where I knew I could find a few birds in Aspen woods and beaver ponds.

The recent rain and snow has added a bit of gurgle to Indian Head Creek’s customary trickle so the ponds and lakes that feed this branch of the creek are all brimming.

The first swallow species back in spring, the Tree Swallow, is hardy enough to make the gamble that usually pays off in allowing them to secure good nest sites before other cavity nesters arrive. The risk they take is the weather we’ve been seeing for almost three weeks now: lower than average temperatures and late snowstorms, which make it hard to find insects.

I found this bunch clinging to the branches of a dead poplar overlooking Cherry Lake, waiting for the sun to stir a few bugs to life.

They had little desire to move so I walked in for a closer look.

I followed a small set of moose tracks up the trail to the second pond upstream of the lake. On the near shore, there were fresh scent piles, where a new pair of beavers is staking its claim on the pond. The dam is holding back enough water to attract buffleheads, mallards, and these guys, Ring-necked Ducks, which are the characteristic duck of the valley, and of the Aspen Parkland in general.

Like all diving ducks, they cannot launch straight into the air but run along the water for takeoff.

Farther on up the valley, I looked in vain for the resident pair of pileated woodpeckers, but I flushed a young bald eagle,

which then landed in the woods at the end of a set of terraced beaver ponds.

I heard and saw brief glimpses of a few birds that would not sit still enough for me to photograph, including three Spotted Towhees, two Bellted Kingfishers, some Yellow-rumped Warblers and a couple of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (that bird name always makes me think of Miss Hathaway in her birding get-up on The Beverley Hillbillies).

I did manage to get shots of a Vesper Sparrow,

Later that day, near the cabin, my daughter Maia (11) photographed a Lincoln’s sparrow too:

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