21 March, 2012

The Birder Goes Camping

Since the Great Backyard Bird Count, I have seen a decline in the frequency of our regular yard birds. The March Migration may be one reason, but also Spring means more nesting, thus fewer birds visiting the feeders, I'm guessing, from my observances over the last few years. So it was nice to visit a different part of the country and observe the birds in a Missouri State Park for a change.

These are a few of what we saw and heard:

Dark eyed Juncos kept visiting the campsite next to us (as long as it was empty) for scraps and things in the dirt. They liked retreating to the reeds, which were right beside our site and our tents and hammock.

There was a kingfisher couple around our tent area, and they would cross the river and come back again in the evenings. This bird was a conversational point with some of our camping neighbors, when they wondered what I was looking at and "did I have a camera attached to that thing?" (Tripod and long lens, which they thought was some type of telescope ;-) Because of these friendly conversations, I missed shooting both birds, and only got this one. They make funny, laughing sounds when they call each other.

There are ravens galore at this park, enjoying the fish left by fishermen at the river (which is more like a large stream, imho).

They also make incredibly loud, fun sounds which I am not used to hearing on a regular basis. It is something like "Eeeeh" and "Eeee Errrrr" (which Hubby quipped that they were mocking him at his inability to catch any trout).

More of the ravens in flight ! This is off to the east.

Just a few robins about:

And a cute sparrow, slightly different from ours at home, with the golden touch between his eye and beak:

And happily, we were visited by my favorite bird at the moment, Cedar Waxwings:

These were just above our tent and hammock, making their incredibly high-pitched whistles!

On Day two (our first full-day at the campsite), DD, youngest son, and I hiked the Eagle Ridge trail.
Halfway through the steep climb, there was a meadow in which to rest and snack. Then it was on to the cliffs and ridges...where we finally saw this:

Can you make it out from the tree branches? I was told it is a bald eagle, but since it is still so brown, it has to be a juvenile. Either that or a golden.

On Friday, it was coasting above the ridge, just to the north of our campsite, so I shot more photos. It has such a huge wingspan! Very notable when it flies right over ones head.

Maybe one of the many vultures we saw:

We also saw hundreds of greater grackles. They seemed to own the park, then I realized the bird feeders were set up at the nature center (but, of course they are! That's typical!) The nature center was up the hill and due east of our campsite. Since grackles are not my favorite bird, by any stretch, I did not photograph them.

I could hear the red-bellied woodpeckers and the chickadees, but did not ever see any close enough to photograph. The woodpeckers seemed to stay up in the hills to our east, from the sound of it.
I also observed one lone male cardinal, which, I confess, I did not photograph, as I was always busy at something when I'd see him. He's also so common...though beautiful.
I loved the chance to spend some time in another state, living outdoors for a week and using the skills and observational notes that I've learned birding here at home. It was a treat, really, because our married kids joined us for the adventure. What a treasure of memories to share with them.

How did your spring break shape up, readers?

From the confessions of a backyard birder,