Mere minutes after posting this morning about my relatively quiet birding weekend Lily and I headed out the door to the gym. In the car I asked her if she wanted to go on a nature walk afterwards, to which she responded "No thank you Daddy." I have a hard time imposing my will on her when she's been so polite, so I came up with another idea. About the time I'd formulated my plan we were passing by the Coddle Creek Reservoir and I spotted an old friend. A Belted Kingfisher, the one I'd seen nearly every day in precisely the same spot before this month, appeared perched on a power line overlooking a shallow corner of the lake. I refer to him as an old friend because these birds' appearance gives them a bit of an inherent personality. To me, they are the "Kramer" of the bird kingdom. You remember Kramer, from Seinfeld, don't you? It's Michael Richards' character that was not only the most bizarre looking but also the most peculiar in terms of behavior that had ever been dreamed up. He had that hair that looked like a cross between Don King and Richard Simmons. And every time he opened his mouth to speak you expected something outrageous to come out. That's what the Kingfisher reminds me of. It's got that big spiky tuft of feathers on top of its head, an unusually large and heavy bill, and broad distinct stripes across the chest and neck. When it's looking for fish in the water it will routinely hover above the surface, neck and head bent down in the pike position, and make this unmistakable chittering noise before it twists around and plunges in after its prey. It's so bizarre, but at the same time so deliberate and effective, it's no wonder the Kingfisher is one of my favorite birds.
Also added to my Big Year list today was a bird I can now add to my Life List, having never seen it before. As I mentioned a few days ago, I received a Life List Diary as a part of a birthday gift last week. I dutifully sat and filled out as many species as I'd documented recently, going back as far as last August when I spent the majority of our vacation to upstate New York on crutches and looking for birds off of the front porch. Today was not a day I'd expected to add to it. We had stopped at the dollar store for some miscellany and were headed home when I chose, on a bit of a whim, to drive around the back of the building instead of straight for the exit. Behind this strip mall is a wooded wetland where a local birding guru had written recently was a great place to see certain species. In the summer I had visited to find numerous swallows, Red-winged Blackbirds, and myriad other birds flitting about. I'd been back this winter but to a very quiet place, with only White-throated Sparrows to be found. Today as we came around the end of the building I spotted two big white spots atop a tall tree and I knew immediately I was seeing something new. I hustled out of the car to get the binoculars out of the trunk and when I got the birds in focus I was shocked at the striking contrast. Not only was the bottom half of its back a brilliant white, but its head was completely red. The black patch on their back was like a neatly worn tuxedo jacket, setting off the two bright spots and creating a beautiful Red-headed Woodpecker. I watched as the two flew from tree to tree and then took off across the parking lot to the woods near the highway. I was thrilled that the day had those two birds in store for me. My mission this week will be to get back to the nature trail in the neighborhood and try to re-find the bird that eluded me on our last visit. I'll keep you posted.