Sunday, April 15, 2007

A day on the marsh

Yesterday afternoon, after I'd already logged my last post, I thought I was done birding for the day--then I looked in the backyard:



My first flicker! Judging from the red only on the nape, I'm guessing this is a yellow-shafted flicker. Lifer! He posed so graciously, pecking in the grass for probably three minutes before taking off. Wow.

I also caught this finch:


Is that a purple finch? I love his wistful little expression; I sense some disapproval in there.

Of course, this got me all birdy again, so I decided to take a walk up Shook Hollow, a road I used to walk a lot last year, and on which I saw all kinds of birds and beautiful scenery. However, as I passed the marsh, I thought I saw two wood ducks on the marsh pond--two ducks with stripey faces, anyway--so of course I had to check it out. I decided to ignore the potential for ticks and head out.

The marsh's owner has been kind enough to mow some beautifully maintained paths throughout the marsh, so I stuck to those to see what I could see:

The marsh landscape:



Long Pond (my own name for it; it's the biggest stretch of open water right now):

I saw a lot of these:

Whose poo is this? It's almost as big as the kittys'! I'm guessing Canada geese?

I walked alongside Long Pond and saw the usual Canadas (near the poo, hence my guess above) and mallards:

a muskrat, hiding from me in the grass:

and a TON of tree swallows, including this pair, nesting (I hope) in a box that Mr Marsh Owner Guy put up:


Just pretend the vignetting is "for effect."
This is my first ID of a tree swallow--another lifer!. I'd always thought those swallows flying over the marsh were barn swallows, because they nest in Neighbor Ed's barn. But these are different, without the reddish-brown neck and underparts coloring that makes barn swallows so beautiful. But look at the irridescent blue! They were just beautiful, flying over the ponds and dipping down for bugs, then soaring and banking. Beautiful birds.

I came to the end of Long Pond and looked up:

That's the back of my house (the one at ground level)! You'll note the house up on the hill--that's the neighbor across the street, whose house I can't even see unless I'm way back here. He must have quite a view!

I'm sure you're wondering whether I saw my nemesis bird, the great blue heron. Answer: I saw SOMETHING. Throughout this trip, I saw glimpses of a heron, mostly flying around:



But of course he was taunting me, daring me to catch him in flight before he landed and disappeared into the grass.

However, on my way back home, he decided to grant me an audience:

Where is the crest of wispy feathers on the head and on the body? Is this a female great blue? I beseeched her: May I come closer? She nodded her head in assent, and I crept closer:

Still--no wispy feathers. Is this really a great blue? I'd have to check my field guide when I got home. For now,
I savored this moment and relaxed. I was practically in tears at this point! Normally, I'm all about zooming in as close as I possibly can, but I realized that if I backed off a little on the zoom, I could catch the bird's reflection in the water.

It was truly a Mike McDowell or Lillian Stokes moment for me. The focus may not be tack-sharp, but I really love that photo. I'm glad I took a moment to calm down and really compose the photo, even if it was horrible lighting (overcast) and my little Coolpix on zoom. I doubt I'll ever be able to step up to high-end professional equipment, but I'm learning more about photography every day, and I really like it.

Then, as quickly as she'd appeared, she withdrew:

I felt honored to have spent a few moments in her presence. I'm guessing this is a female blue heron, but in my Stokes guide, I saw a tricolored heron, but I'm probably overthinking this ID (as usual). The tricolored's range is barely into Central PA, so it's possible, but let's face it--it's not probable. Can someone just calm me down out there and confirm this ID?

By now, it was getting late; I had to get back home. A few highlights:
Looks like someone's spring breeding suit is almost finished:


This must be last year's nest for someone:


While passing a thicket of reeds and shallow water, I could swear I heard what the Stokes call the "pumper-lunk" of an American bittern. I would describe it as a "g-glunk" noise. I stared into the reeds, hoping for a glimpse, but I was so close that she was probably frozen and invisible by now, deep within the densely growing reeds. But that's a good sign! I hope the bittern is back.

Whose hole is this?


What is this plant? It's furry like lamb's-ear, but it looks like a cabbage or a lettuce-head. What is it?


The road home, complete with biker:

20 comments:

Mary said...

Delia - MY HEAD IS SPINNING! My goodness, what a day! I was able to ID the CG poop and yes, you have a beautiful great blue there. I have a funny relationship with those birds, too :o)

I enjoyed see your home tucked in the hills. It makes me want to move from my surburban neighborhood to a wood nature land... Sigh...

KGMom said...

Wow, what a busy birding day. And to think you thought you were done. Thanks also for the links to other birding blogs, which I checked out.
All you birders are wonderful teachers--I like to look at birds, and photograph the occasional one. But that's not my forte, so I will stick to blogging about what I know, and reading bloggers like you for my bird enjoyment.

Patrick Belardo said...

Definitely a House Finch... you'll know a Purple Finch when you one. They look like they are dipped in raspberry sauce. The wings and back have coloration vs. the House Finch which is more brown.

Does the hole belong to a chipmunk? How big was it?

Larry said...

Flickers are great birds to see.-Nice job with the pictures too!

dguzman said...

Yeah, it was quite a day!

Mary: thanks for the poo ID info! I figured as much, but wasn't sure. Thanks for the heron confirmation too. I do love our home out on the marsh, away from everything, though traffic on our road is pretty heavy.

KGMom: thanks for checking out my blog, and those that I link to. They're all my birding heroes. And definitely stick to that great blog of yours!

Darn it, Patrick: I'll just have to keep watching for a Purple Finch, then. Thanks! I would bet it was a chipmunk hole--just the right size.

Thanks, Larry! It was a thrill to see the flicker, especially as he stayed out there in the yard for over five minutes!

Rhea said...

What gorgeous birds. I am not a birder but I do like birds. My dad raised canaries in the basement when I was a kid.

dguzman said...

Thanks for stopping by, Rhea!

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