Today, for the first time in a month, I slept in. Many of you would not consider 7:30 a.m. "sleeping in", but when 5:00 is the norm, anything post-dawn seems like bliss. The downside to the extra z's, this morning, was that by the time I got downstairs all of the coffee was gone. My plan was to head down to the nature trail and take a nice long walk with the camera and just see what I could see.
Not willing to eschew my daily caffeine, I decided a splurge at our local Starbucks was in order. As I made my way down the road to the grocery store where the Starbucks resides, I noticed this pair of Red-tailed Hawks hanging out in what is either a sweet gum or a persimmon tree. Way to narrow it down, eh? Anyway, their perch was down at the Southeast end of the trail, and their presence, I hoped, would be an omen for a very birdie morning.
Because I don't want to make what already promises to be a longish post all that much longer, I'll spare you the circumstances that prevented me from starting my walk on time. Suffice it to say that 2+ hours later and with Mason in tow, I embarked on my journey. I encourage you to click on and enlarge any of the photos. Well, except the ones of the stroller, that would just be gratuitous.
Since I took the pictures of it and everything, now seems like a fine time to introduce you to the latest and greatest addition to our growing family of strollers. Stroller number 5 in our collection (please, please don't ask) is a BOB Revolution. It's chocolate brown and blue, and it's very nice. It had better be, for the price tag. Anyway, this was its maiden voyage. Mason was very comfortable riding in the BOB, so much so that he spent almost the entire walk fast asleep. The BOB's front wheel can be set to swivel, making for a really effortless walk on the road and/or sidewalk, or it can be locked in place for more rough terrain like the nature trail. The car seat adapter works seamlessly and keeps Mason in a perfect posture. Thankfully my unannounced decision to "break 'er in" did not anger Mandi . . at least not outwardly. She's wanted a "good" jogging stroller for some time, but given her current non-jogging state of being I felt it acceptable to put this latest acquisition to work. To quote Cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation, "It's a good lookin' vehicle, ain't it?"
Anyway, enough about that nonsense, let's talk about birds. Today I did not take the binoculars with me on my walk. My purpose was singular, to get some good photos of the birds that spend regular time on the nature trail this time of year. Whatever else I happened to capture would just be a bonus. My first subject of the day, as is customary, was a Northern Mockingbird. He was quietly mimicking one of the countless Song Sparrows that were flitting about in the brush below his tree.
A few hundred yards or so further down the trail and I got a glimpse of a soaring Red-tailed Hawk. There was another one close by, and because I was in the vicinity of the tree where the pair of red-tails was perched hours before, I assumed they were the same birds.
A good percentage of the plants and trees have finished shedding their leaves and summer colors, making the few remaining spots of color even more brilliant.
These berries won't be long for this world with the throngs of Mockingbirds that are still hanging around.
Hey, Mr. Cooper's Hawk, if you're really hungry I can take you to a big flock of pigeons that hang out on the top of my house.
I think these are sweet gum trees, although I could be completely wrong. Whatever they are, isn't the color pattern on them amazing? The leaves at the top are such a deep burgundy, which fades into a bright red and then a brilliant yellow at the bottom. There were literally dozens of them along the entire length of the trail.
Aren't teenagers great?
With Mason asleep in the BOB I took the opportunity to walk over to one of the few clearings in the trees and take a look down toward the bank of the river. At first I didn't see anything and I almost walked away, but then I heard something I didn't recognize. It wasn't a bird calling or singing, but rather the sound of beating wings. Certain birds, like pigeons, Mourning Doves, and hummingbirds have "signature" sounds associated with their beating wings. This, however was none of those. It almost sounded like a distant helicopter, but faster. I looked and looked and still saw nothing. Then, as if out of nowhere, he was there staring up at me. In all it was a group of about twelve Cedar Waxwings, drinking from the river and turning over leaves to eat what waited beneath. These are one of my favorite birds.
You can't see his face in this photo, but this Eastern Bluebird was happy to pose for a picture today. This tree is a favorite spot for them and the mockingbirds. For those not versed, behind him is what's known as a "Carolina Blue" sky.
I really like these cattails. There are 5 or 6 different really large stands of them throughout the trail in the wetland areas. A nice stiff breeze blew the seeds out of some of them and it almost looked like a snow storm.
A little pishing and the throngs of Song Sparrows taking cover at the bottom of the cattails would hop around and eventually perch atop one of them, usually posing long enough for a photo.
There were quite a few other families out walking the trail today. I can't say that I blame them, as the conditions were perfect. 62 degrees, no humidity, and only a few wispy scattered clouds. An impeccable Fall day in the Carolinas.
If you look closely in the middle of this next shot you'll see what I am assuming is a Red-tailed Hawk keeping watch over one of the ponds. He flew out a number of times to readjust his perch, but I never saw him go after prey. If anyone wants to challenge my ID I'm open to suggestions . . this isn't where I'd expect to see a Red-tail, more likely the habitat of a Cooper's.
Like this one, which was flying overhead very close to where the one above was perched.
Further down, these 2 dogs announced their discontent with my presence. That, or maybe they were just saying "hi" in their loudest, most voracious voice.
The Great Blue Heron that frequents the trail made an appearance. He posed nicely for close-ups.
Another bush covered with surprisingly not-yet-eaten berries. I'm sure it won't be long.
Another Song Sparrow decided to pose for me . . it's so unusual for so many birds to cooperate like they were today. Maybe they liked the BOB!
I thought it odd that I didn't see a single Ruby-crowned Kinglet at any point on the trail, as the last time I went down there they were ubiquitous. Mason, BOB, and I ascended the hill at the end of the trail started up the sidewalk toward home. Then, at the end of the fence, in the farthest corner of the area I'd consider part of the trail, I saw a tiny bird flitting about in a tree. We paused, he posed, and I shot.
I couldn't pass up this shot of this gorgeous Golden Retriever, relaxing lazily in the afternoon sun. He took notice of us, rose up to this posture so I could get the shot, and then promptly lay back down for his nap. He picked a great day for it.