The beautiful sunrise this morning was just the start of a happy Father’s Day hike with Dyeyo at the Circle B Bar Reserve. We saw lots of baby birds! Sand Hill Cranes, Purple Gallinules, Common Moorhens, Grackles and Red-Winged Blackbirds, a Red-Bellied Woodpecker…
The Black-necked Stilt babies that we have been watching for the past few weeks were nowhere to be seen this week (they’ve gotten big enough to have fledged, though).
We were disappointed to see that the newest Sand Hill Crane nest on Marsh Rabbit Run was abandoned. Maybe the waters got too high, or maybe (not likely) the babies hatched and the parents took the colts off to drier grounds.
For several weeks we have suspected that we were watching babies from two separate Purple Gallinule nests. Some of the babies seemed slightly older than the others, so we’d been suspecting that we were observing two sets of babies, but we weren’t ever totally sure. Today we observed babies from both sets. They were climbing around in the swampy weeds with their parents, with their feathers glistening in the morning sun. The slightly older babies are more gray than black, now, and they are starting to get hints of adult color in their feathers. The younger babies still have black feathers, but they too are getting some iridescent blue feathers on their wing tips.
Here’s one of the older babies, who amused us by stepping on top of all the plants, then hopping down underneath them to virtually disappear. These birds definitely use their big feet to help them move on all sorts of terrain.
The younger babies are just a few yards down Marsh Rabbit Run. They were out with both their parents. These babies still have their distinct spots on their beaks, but it seems like those spots have started to fade a bit.
On Wading Bird Way, we ran into the Sand Hill Crane family that Dyeyo has been observing for the past several months. Baby flew for us last week, and Dyeyo was eager to get some flying shots today, but birds, like people, don’t always do what you want them to do! We watched the family preen and preen and preen, then they stood up and moseyed down Wading Bird Way. We followed, hoping they would eventually take off and fly, but they never did. Oh well. Next weekend!
Baby was actually sitting down to preen when we first saw him. I think Dyeyo was a bit concerned at first, but then Baby stood up and acted normally, so Dyeyo went back into Birdie-Paparazzi mode. :)
The baby seemed to mosey with its mom (who still fed him little tidbits now and then – we were surprised to see her still doing that, but I guess old habits are hard to break!) The father seemed to stay back and do his own thing more. At one point he saw something in the grass that made him jump straight in the air, then he acted very tentative for a few minutes (kinda like Goldilocks when Rich makes a noise!) I really liked the way the light was bringing out the detail in his feather. I read in my bird book that the rust color in Sand Hill Crane plumage is due to the birds preening and rubbing mud into their feathers; you could definitely see the rust on Daddy today!
While we followed the cranes, I noticed this Little Blue Heron fishing for his breakfast. He made such a fuss while he chased and dove! I’m surprised he was able to catch anything, given that he announced himself so clearly. But he caught fish after fish.
Back on Marsh Rabbit Run, there were more grackles than usual, and I could tell there were babies in the crowd because they would flap their wings and cry for food. I guess even little grackle babies are cute. It’s funny – the wading bird babies stick their beaks right up their parents’ throats to feed, but the songbirds are more dignified — they open their mouths and wait for their parents to pass them food.
As we passed an old, dead tree rotting in the marsh, I noticed a pair of Red-Bellied Woodpeckers moving around on the tree. I got a really sharp image of the adult, but that wasn’t the best part.
As I watched, the woodpeckers flew away, and I stood waiting, hoping they might come back to continue posing for me. Well, one did come back, with his mouth full of berries. He flew to the back of the tree, landed for a second, and then emerged with his mouth empty. Hmm, sounds like a nest to me! Dyeyo and I have been watching this tree for a while, thinking that it might have a nest, but we could never find it. Today I moved around to where the bird had left the berries, waited a second, and then out popped a little head! Dyeyo and I stood there for maybe twenty minutes, photographing the elusive head and listening to the little calls. The parent came back twice to feed the baby. It was as the parent left the last time that I got my best shot, with the baby farthest out of his hole:
Of course, one cannot walk on Marsh Rabbit Run without running into a squirrel. Today this little guy was so cute that I couldn’t resist taking his picture.
So it was another great morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. I can’t wait for next weekend’s hike! :)