April birds, critters April 9-16

Ever since the Yellow-throated Warblers returned, I've been trying to get a photo, but they've always stayed out of photo range even though one male sings along our creek . However, while sitting near the creek trying to observe the Eastern Phoebes nesting the barn, I heard a scolding "chip" and turned around to see him right behind me

4-9-10, male Yellow-throated Warbler by our creek

From April birds


From April birds


The male Eastern Phoebe came by also

From April birds


as well as a male Northern Cardinal

From April birds


I'd noticed Carolina Chickadees going in and out of the old Bluebird nest box by the barn, and when I turned back around the male was perched the fence in front of me

From April birds


He then hopped up on the nestbox to feed his mate

From April birds


Tuesday on the way to Lexington I stopped by the fish hatchery to check fish pools for migrants. I noticed two immature Bald Eagles circling above the oxbow river loop but before I could react they came straight toward me for a fly-over from the passenger side. I threw myself across the car, fumbling for the camera settings, but only got off one semi-focused shot

4-10-10, Minor Clark Fish Hatchery, 2nd year Bald Eagle

From April 11, 2010 birds


before they did an about-face and started back to the river, feet pointing backwards

From April 11, 2010 birds


I could see a small flock of gulls in the distance diving into a fish pool, but every time I drove toward them they immediately flew away to a far corner of the property. While I was sitting there wondering what to do, a 1rst summer Ring-billed Gull appeared, heading right for me.
It swept once around the car, apparently curious,

From April 11, 2010 birds


From April 11, 2010 birds


then joined the other gulls elsewhere.

I noticed a Red-shouldered Hawk crossing the property in the distance

From April 11, 2010 birds


and stopped the car to take a photo of a male Red-winged Blackbird on a cattail

From April 11, 2010 birds


I was surprised when an American Coot suddenly emerged from behind the reeds

From April 11, 2010 birds


From April 11, 2010 birds


It didn't seem to mind the car and even got out to preen

From April 11, 2010 birds


From April 11, 2010 birds


I could see a small flock of tern-like gulls swarming and diving into the large fish pools near the hatchery entrance and while I was trying to decide what to do, several suddenly skimmed over the fence and swooped once around the car.

4-10-10, Minor Clark Fish Hatchery, 1rst summer Bonaparte's Gull

From April 11, 2010 birds


From April 11, 2010 birds


One of them dove onto a fish right by the car but it was too close for my 400mm lens. Then they flew off to relax on an access road

4-10-10, Minor Clark Fish Hatchery, 1rst summer, 1rst winter, and adult Bonaparte's Gulls

From April 11, 2010 birds


From April 11, 2010 birds


Then I went on to Lexington to attend the Keeneland Bluegrass Stakes races with my daughter. The Redbud Trees in her yard were spectacular

From April 11, 2010 birds


The next day DuBois and I hiked up on Warbler Ridge, but didn't see any warblers, although a female Eastern Towhee popped out of the brush to take a look at us

From April 11, 2010 birds


I also saw my first Blue-gray Gnatcatcher of the season

From April 11, 2010 birds


From April 11, 2010 birds


The next time we drove to the fish hatchery, Morehead ornamental Redbud Trees were also blooming

From April 11, 2010 birds


We had just driven onto the Minor Clark Fish Hatchery property when I noticed a Greater Yellowlegs wading in a drained pool

4-12-10

From April 11, 2010 birds


It was alone, so I assumed the rest of the shore birds had gone on

4-12-10, Minor Clark Fish Hatchery, Greater Yellowlegs

From April 11, 2010 birds


From April 11, 2010 birds


From April 11, 2010 birds


The flock of Blue-winged Teal we saw last time had flown north, except for one pair. The male was wallowing in an empty fish pool

From April 11, 2010 birds


Across the property from us an Osprey attacked a 2nd year Bald Eagle by the oxbow, forcing it to land, then a pair of adult Bald Eagles appeared and ran off the Osprey. By the time we arrived all had dispersed and a large carp with large puncture wounds lay gasping on the access road. Ten minutes later the 2nd year Bald Eagle burst over the tree tops above us pursued by the Osprey and again landed, on the far side of the oxbow.

From April 11, 2010 birds


We paused by a display tank to see one of the rare American Paddlefish being bred at the hatchery

From April 11, 2010 birds


Afterward we drove to Shallow Flats by Cave Run Lake where we saw a pair of Brown Thrashers digging in the leaves

From April 11, 2010 birds


then we wound up Forest Road 16 toward Lockegee Rock, the highest point in three counties

From April 11, 2010 birds


On the way, I heard a Black and White Warbler singing, so got out to take photos

From April 11, 2010 birds


From April 11, 2010 birds


We parked at the trail head and hiked up the trail through a sea of Redbud Tree flowers

From April 11, 2010 birds


until we reached the base of the rock

From April 11, 2010 birds


We pulled ourselves up the nearly vertical trail to the top, using handholds in the rock. I was sitting by the edge when a tiny bird shot up over the cliff and began foraging through the nearby brush, ignoring me

4-12-10, top of Lockegee Rock, 1rst year female Blackburnian Warbler

From April 11, 2010 birds


From April 11, 2010 birds


From April 11, 2010 birds


A male Fence Lizard rested on a pine root

From April 11, 2010 birds


No more migrants appeared, but the view of the Redbud trees from the top of the rock was spectacular

From April 11, 2010 birds


The next day I saw a Northern Watersnake hunting frogs at our pond

From April 11, 2010 birds


The day after that I heard a Scarlet Tanager singing in the woods on top of our mountain. I staked out his territory from last year

4-14-10, Overstreet Ridge, near our pond, male Scarlet Tanager snagging moth

From April 11, 2010 birds


His meal looked almost too big for him!

From April 11, 2010 birds


but he got it to go down, leaving a moth wing dust mustache

From April 11, 2010 birds


Quite a beauty, despite the shadowy woods

From April 11, 2010 birds


His territorial song sounds "like a Robin on steroids."

From April 11, 2010 birds


A couple of days later I heard a Red-eyed Vireo back in the woods, and soon glimpsed him high overhead

From April 11, 2010 birds

April birds around area

April 1, I was slowly driving around the Minor Clark Fish Hatchery checking empty fish pools when I suddenly noticed a Killdeer staring at me through the passenger side window.

From April birds


I stopped the car and looked around for nests or chicks but didn't see anything. After a few minutes I tried to turn left, but the Killdeer immediately threw itself onto the ground in a feigned injury display.

From April birds


I still didn't see a nest, but proceeded cautiously in another direction (I also back up for determined snakes). None of the fish pools had migrants and I was starting to leave when a flock of Blue-winged Teals landed in a pool by the chain link fence

From April birds


I wasn't very close, but didn't want to spook the flock by approaching them

4-1-10, Minor Clark Fish Hatchery, male Blue-winged Teals

From April birds


House Sparrows had been taking over the Tree Swallow nests hung along the fence and male swallows fought fiercely over the ones still left

From April birds


From April birds


4-1-10, Minor Clark Fish Hatchery, male Tree Swallow resting between fights

From April birds


I drove around Cave Run Lake to check out Shallow Flats, then followed Forest Service Road 16 over the mountains to Lockegee Rock. By then it was 85 degrees and when I reached the bottom of the rock

From April birds


I sat down to remove my shoes. I kept hearing a Pine Warbler singing nearby, then noticed that birds were flying up the side of the cliff and over the top. When I reached the top of Lockegee Rock a male Pine Warbler was singing in the Yellow Pines. I was wearing camouflage, including the camera lens, and he didn't seem to notice me.

From April birds


In fact, he even tried to land on my hat a couple of times, was startled when I moved, and landed nearby, seeming puzzled

From April birds


but decided to preen a bit

From April birds


From April birds


Meanwhile, Golden-crowned Kinglets kept flowing up the cliff face from below, surrounding me, but mostly too close for my lens

From April birds


some too far away

From April birds


A basking female Fence Lizard didn't seem to notice me either

From April birds


The next day a male Louisiana Waterthrush began singing along our creek bank

From April birds


Two days later I visited the fish hatchery again..this time there there were shore birds

4-4-10, Minor Clark Fish Hatchery, migrating Lesser Yellowlegs in empty fish pool

From April birds


From April birds


From April birds


I drove on and saw a Turkey Vulture having lunch

From April birds


Back at the farm I had a few birds to watch

4-6-10, Louisiana Waterthrush glimpsed through brush by our creek

From April birds


From April birds


4-6-10, I got a blurred pic of a male Yellow-throated Warbler streaking past

From April birds


When I looked up from taking the photo, a Tufted Titmouse zipped close over my head, straight into the old nestbox by the creek. After a pause it zoomed straight out again and the other one did the same. They were so fast I aimed at the nest box and did photo bursts the instant I glimpsed one flashing over my head, then looked at the photos to find out they were carrying moss into the box

From April birds


From April birds


From April birds


4-6-10, Tufted Titmouse streaking back out of nest box

From April birds


A Purple Finch has come by several times

4-8-10, male Purple Finch on my feeder this afternoon

From April birds

Spring birds returning

The rain stopped and the sky cleared so we've been climbing the mountain each night to watch American Woodcock aerial displays. Every time we go up there, one male displays right over our heads and drops to the grass very close to us..he even mated about 20 feet in front of us.
We were finally able to get back camping for awhile in the screen tent by the horse pasture. Haven't heard any owls but been seeing plenty of meteors.
When we woke this morning the Robin, Cardinal, and Carolina Chickadee songs were almost deafening

Pine Warblers have been singing in the woods all week as well

From fish hatchery


and climbing around in the Yellow Pines snatching insects

From fish hatchery


Yesterday at Minor Clark Fish Hatchery all the overwintering ducks had vanished but one empty fish pool had a small flock of migrating adult and 1rst year Pectoral Sandpipers

From fish hatchery


sifting through the muck on the bottom for crustaceans

From fish hatchery


From fish hatchery


Two deer assumed comical shapes while bounding across a clearing

From fish hatchery


A flock of American Pipits was also wading in the bottom of the emptied pool, feeding in the muck.

From fish hatchery



One came up on the bank near the car

From fish hatchery


and began to preen

From fish hatchery


From fish hatchery


From fish hatchery


Some of the Tree Swallows were already feeding babies in nest boxes behind the fence. One male attacked me repeatedly when I tried to pass

From fish hatchery


and they all kept wary eyes on me

From fish hatchery


From fish hatchery


We climbed Poppy Mountain today and sat in the porch swing at the cabin at the very top watching Bluebirds courting, Eastern Phoebes defending territories, and a pair of Northern Mockingbirds building a nest in a Multiflora bush

In two weeks migrating warblers will begin flowing through Kentucky in earnest.

Critters, spring duck fight, etc

Pine Warblers are singing throughout the woods today, but couldn't get a close shot.


March 17, 2010

Recently we've been climbing to the top of our mountain at dusk, about a 20 minute brisk hike, and setting up our folding camp stools to watch the cute little American Woodcocks do their courtship aerial displays in the hayfield. The first night we surprised herds of Whitetail Deer on the mountaintop and got to watch them pouring over the fences in waves, but now they watch for us and avoid the area.

Last night after we'd been watching the Woodcock displays awhile, suddenly one streaked past our head in close pursuit of another, creating a sort of sonic boom in our ears as they looped around us then sped off like fighter jets. One male repeatedly did his courtship flight right above us, wings twittering as he spiraled higher and higher, then descended with chirping sounds increasing in speed until he'd go silent, drop like a leaf to the ground nearby, then begin his nasal PEENT beeping sound. SO ADORABLE!

The Woodcocks only display and beep for a tiny window of time, between 7:45 and 8:10 p.m., then suddenly go silent as though on signal and quietly leave the courting grounds. When we realized the show was over last night I turned to DuBois and quoted from his favorite movie, Quigley Down Under; "The Johnsons always did leave without saying good-bye."


Here are photos taken over the past two weeks

3-4-10, Cuddeback cam; raccoon walking up trail, from back, 9:03 p.m.

From fish hatchery


3-5-10, Cuddeback cam; bobcat running up trail, back view, 5:28 p.m.

From fish hatchery


We visited the Minor Clark Fish Hatchery to see the overwintering ducks before they left. Double click on photos to see Google map locations

3-7-10, pair of Hooded Mergansers on oxbow river loop

From fish hatchery


female Hooded Merganser

From fish hatchery


male Hooded Merganser

From fish hatchery


male and female Buffleheads, Giant Canada Goose

From fish hatchery


We arrived at the fish hatchery too late to avoid galloping joggers, arm-swinging power walkers, and birders churning up the roads as they raced cars from pond to pond. Once I saw they were stampeding the waterfowl in all directions, we just sat in the car and read the Sunday paper until the other people began to leave. Eventually a male Bufflehead landed in the pond by the car and began diving for fish.

Soon a Bufflehead pair landed in the far end of the same pond and the newcomer male soon approached the first male, bobbing his head. While I was wondering what that meant the mystery was solved when the second male suddenly attacked the first male, who had been peacefully fishing.

From fish hatchery


From fish hatchery


From fish hatchery


From fish hatchery


From fish hatchery


3-7-10, Minor Clark Fish Hatchery, male Bufflehead fleeing attacker

From fish hatchery


After repeated attacks, the first Bufflehead returned to the female

From fish hatchery


while the first male stretched his wings in relief

From fish hatchery


then began preening to get his feathers back in the order

From fish hatchery


From fish hatchery


From fish hatchery


From fish hatchery


Meanwhile, the newcomer male thought he'd repair his feather arrangement also

From fish hatchery


The first Bufflehead male came closer to the car hoping to avoid the second male

From fish hatchery


From fish hatchery


and resumed diving for fish

From fish hatchery


From fish hatchery


From fish hatchery


From fish hatchery


Strangely, several times the female Bufflehead approached the single male as though trying to start something, but her partner would see it and attack the innocent first male who was only trying to avoid conflict.

From fish hatchery


A male Belted Kingfisher landed briefly on the far side of the pond

From fish hatchery


then quickly flew away

From fish hatchery


On the way back to the car I could see more ducks on the river

3-7-10, Minor Clark Fish Hatchery river loop, male and female Ring-necked Ducks, 1:58 p.m.

From fish hatchery


From fish hatchery


The next day we went up on Poppy Mountain

3-8-10, male Red-winged Blackbird, 10:07 a.m.

From fish hatchery


From fish hatchery


There was a male and two female Buffleheads on a cattle pond

From fish hatchery


Later I went up to our pond, crawled through the muck to the old slab lean-to blind and took photos of Wood Ducks through the screen of brush

3-10-10, male Wood Duck on top of our mnt

From fish hatchery


napping male Wood Duck keeps one eye open

From fish hatchery


female Wood Duck

From fish hatchery


From fish hatchery


From fish hatchery


From fish hatchery


3-10-10, bookend male Wood Ducks on our mnt pond, 1:38 p.m (to see Google map locations, double-click on any photo)

From fish hatchery