Avery and I spent the first half of the day birding 2 different locations. We first went out to the North end of Coddle Creek Reservoir to follow up a reported Loggerhead Shrike sighting from the day before. There's a big piece of property down one of the side roads that is notoriously good birding territory. In the Spring you can rely on this spot for Baltimore Orioles, and in the Fall and Winter it's typically good for Eastern Meadowlarks and the aforementioned shrikes. The meadowlarks were there as expected, I counted 10 in all. These birds are strikingly marked and their song is borderline ethereal. It's a treat to sit and watch them. I urge you to click on the photo to see him in all of his yellow glory.
Also on the property were these Swan Geese. They're listed in my field guide as a domestic species, but these were out in a pasture along with close to 100 Canada Geese just foraging away. There were probably 12 of them, and I thought they were pretty interesting looking. Certainly prettier than a Canada Goose . .
Alas, I did not positively identify a shrike. From a quarter of a mile away I thought I saw one on a very high power line perched next to a European Starling. In order to confirm it I would have to drive up the road and get out my scope. When I got out of the car the bird was still there, but by the time I got the scope set up it had flown away. A few minutes later I was back down the road watching these Eastern Bluebirds in a mixed flock with goldfinches and Golden-crowned Kinglets. I scanned the top rail of that fence in the distance and thought I saw the shrike perched near the adjacent horse pasture. Again I went for the scope, and again the bird flew away before I was able to get it set up. With another stop on our schedule I decided to give up for the time being and try for the shrike another time.
So, we pulled out and headed across town to Huntersville's Torrence Creek Greenway. It's an out-of-the-way little spot that's not overly popular with the local birding community, but it probably should be. As an added bonus, it happens to be Avery's favorite greenway because of the large climb-able rock formations that are found along the path. It's a great compromise, really. She climbs the rocks and explores while I wander off into the (nearby) woods to watch and photograph the abundant bird life. This was, surprisingly, the only Cardinal I saw today. Normally overwhelming in numbers here, they were conspicuously absent.
At some point within the last few months Avery started posing and smiling for the camera. Forgive me if I take full advantage of the opportunity.
The squirrels were loud and active today. This guy was shredding the bark on this fallen tree and didn't flinch when I got within 10 feet for this picture. I wish I knew what he was doing with the bark . . perhaps he was lining a nest. Whatever his purpose, he was entertaining to watch.
Very few of the trees still have their leaves. The ones that do certainly draw your eye to them.
This next photo is of one of the coolest little birds you'll ever see. It's a Brown Creeper, and if you couldn't see the bright white of his belly you likely couldn't see him at all. His head and back are so well camouflaged that he blends into the bark on the trees and almost disappears. Creepers are a completely unique species, although they're most closely related to nuthatches. This particular bird allowed me within 6 feet for photos, most of which were woefully out of focus due to the camera's inability to locate the bird as an object separate from the tree. Only a few shots were worth keeping.
And then there were wrens. Carolina Wrens, to be precise. And lots of them. This little guy wanted to play hide-and-seek with me, or at least that's how I interpreted it. He hid along the bank of the creek, under leaves and branches and inside this little burrow. I did my best to call him out, but apparently my best attempt at "tea-kettle-tea-kettle-tea-kettle" was woefully inadequate. Go figure.
I know this looks like just a picture of a bunch of twigs, but can you spot the bird? I'll give you a hint, its eye is giving off an eerie purple reflection. Go ahead, zoom in . . it's actually kinda creepy.
This location has always been a reliable spot for Hairy Woodpeckers. For whatever reason, Hairy Woodpeckers are much less congenial than the Downy Woodpeckers with which they share so many features. I think this may actually be the first photo I've ever been able to capture of a Hairy, although I can't be sure of that.
Also being coy today were about a half dozen or so Hermit Thrushes. They popped around in the underbrush most of the time, making only brief and partially-obscured appearances where the camera had any shot at capturing them. They're cute little birds, if not a bit nondescript.
Overall our morning was a lot of fun. Avery came across a "tepee" left behind on one of the rock formations by some other junior explorers, and it became her mission to attempt to construct one of her own. Theirs was pretty big, and with a few improvements could actually have provided a small amount of shelter to someone in need.
The same can not be said of the one we constructed, but that surely was not the point of the exercise.