Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Spring is in the air

A weird thing to claim in the middle of winter I know, but surprisingly it seems to be true. Increasingly, as I've bimbled through the woods recently I've been reminded that for many birds, and other animals, preparations for spring have already begun. I was first set along this line of thought after spotting a pair of Red-tailed Hawks perched up together in a tree last week. Since then, the signs of territorially ornery, horny, and broody creatures have been everywhere. 

This female Red-bellied Woodpecker caught my eye, as she flew to a dead tree directly above me.

Female Red-bellied Woodpecker
Shortly afterwards, I saw her make her way over to example this hole, and I wondered if she might be investigating a potential nest site. 

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Turns out, she was way ahead of me. Not only had she already checked it out, but she had clearly been putting in some hard work to make sure it was ready for use. That hole is without doubt, well on the way to being big enough.

Red-bellied Woodpecker butt (and belly)
While we're admiring her industriousness, lets also take a moment to admire her stylish mohawk. Rocking punk pecker.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

This was not the only pecker demonstrating that the sap was clearly already rising. These two Hairy Woodpeckers were putting on a fascinating display for me today. 

Hairy Woodpeckers
Initially I was quite confused, as I thought the bird on the right was a female, and she seemed to be displaying energetically at the male on the left. Eventually I was able to get a better view and realised that I was looking at two males who were displaying aggressively at each other in a territorial dispute.

Male Hairy Woodpeckers in territorial display
Male Hairy woodpeckers - Face off
This distant shot, shows a pair of Red-tailed Hawk perched up in a tree like a couple of old-age pensioners sat on a park bench. Judging by the larger size, I'm assuming that the bird on the left is the female. Females typically dwarfing the males in raptor species, confounding everybody's expectations.

Red-tailed Hawks
Birds aren't the only animals already planning ahead to the frenetic activity of spring. Eastern Fox Squirrels and American Red Squirrels were loudly and ecstatically chasing each other up and down, and round and round, the tree trunks, in what looked like nothing so much as awkward school playground flirtation. 

A few birds were seemingly going about their business, foraging and so forth, but I suspect that it only seemed like that because I don't know their behaviour well enough to spot any changes. I'll share a few photos anyway, because, well, I'm generous like that. 

I'll probably get bored of seeing Bluebirds on a daily basis eventually, but right now it is hard to imagine ever seeing that flash of electric blue without my jaw dropping. 

Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Bluebird
Another Brown Creeper was obliging enough to pose for some photos today. I described their call as like the tinkling of broken glass, and I think that is a good description of it, some of the time. Sometimes though, they make a call that reminds me of a mobile ringtone straight out of the 80s. 

Brown Creeper
Brown Creeper
 I also wanted to show just how very effective their cryptic colouration is. Look at this little fella almost disappear when viewed directly from behind. 

Brown Creeper (honest)
I've been seeing Northern Flicker fairly frequently over the last week or so. I'd love to catch a shot of one in flight so you can see the bright flash of yellow from the shafts of the wing and tail feathers when it takes flight. It is not only beautiful but allows us to distinguish our yellow-shafted eastern subspecies with the red-shafted variety found out west. You can at least see the yellow shafts on the tail feathers here. These birds have such complex plumage, it's fascinating to observe the detail.

Northern Flicker
Seeing as spring is clearly going to be here before we know it, it seems appropriate to enjoy the winter colours while we can. Why there isn't a huge flock of Waxwings on this tree I can't say, but I'll miss these colours in the spring.


  1. Nice Photos strangely I photographed certha familiaris today for first time in ages will post pics tommorrow when I return from the parents.

  2. I enjoyed this birding look at your part of the country.
    I too, have been noticing some birds preparing for breeding season. A quick look at a heron nest tree showed three nests and four birds in view. I need to go back with camera and tripod.

  3. I saw your amazing owl photo a week or so ago on World Bird Wednesday, and it left me simply speechless. I wanted to share with you that there's a new weekly photo meme starting at http://westmichiganweekly.blopspot.com in celebration of West Michigan images. I hope you stop by and check it out. Keep taking such incredible shots!