Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Raptors and Spring

Yesterday morning I saw an adult Bald Eagle at the park. It was sitting calmly in one of the large Cottonwoods on the south side of the lake. Somebody on the Powderhorn email list reported that it was still around that evening, so it must have stayed around all day long. A bald eagle at the park isn't all that unusual, but they don't often stay very long, so I thought maybe it would still be there this morning when I went out. Soon after I arrived at the park this morning I noticed a rather large commotion from the northwest end of the lake. A group of crows was especially raucous and animated. I initially thought that perhaps they were mobbing the Bald Eagle. I was still a ways off when I saw the whole group move to another nearby tree: a large-ish bird followed by a group of angry crows. Even from that distance, it was obvious that it wasn't a Bald Eagle: it was a bit smaller, fairly evenly-colored and a lighter brown than a bald eagle. My initial thought was Red-tailed Hawk, which is even more common in the park than a Bald Eagle. As I made my way around the lake toward the tree, the bird took off again, and it became obvious that this wasn't a Red-tailed Hawk. It had very broad wings, a large head, slow and powerful wingbeats. A Great Horned Owl. The first one I've seen at the park. Unforunately the crows made sure that it didn't stay in the park very long, and it was escorted out of the park to the west before I could get a really good view of it.

More signs of spring this morning: the resident Cooper's Hawks are definitely building this year's nest in the south part of the park. I saw 9 Flickers in a tree at one time this morning. A pair of Bluebirds have returned, and the year's first flycatcher, an Eastern Phoebe, showed up a few days ago.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day Merlin

In a nice departure from the routine, I was able to spend about 5 minutes watching a Merlin eat its (unlucky) lunch in a tall Cottonwood north of the lake over the lunch hour. After finishing the meal, it perched at the very tip of the massive tree for several minutes, looking a bit bedraggled in the light drizzle. Afterwards, it sped north out of the park.

Apparently, somebody from the park has installed a new Wood Duck nest box along the west bank of the lake.

This is the first box that I've seen that is not mounted 10+ feet up on a tree trunk. Aside from potential disturbance from people and dogs, it looks like a nice location for a Wood Duck box.

I'd still love to see some Purple Martin houses put up at the park. There are some new Purple Martin houses that were recently installed at nearby Lake Hiawatha, so it'll be interesting to see whether they're successful at attracting Purple Martins in the next year or two. This is most definitely a song I'd be happy to hear regularly around the park during the summertime.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Optimistic Geese

Two pairs of geese came down for a landing on the ice rink this morning. No doubt they're just wanderers from a flock that has overwintered in the metro area somewhere. But the sight of paired-off geese honking and waddling across the lake ice certainly put me in a spring frame of mind. In a normal year, it would probably be almost another month before geese are regulars in the park again, but this year, who knows?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Birdsong Returns

Although we can hardly say that we've had a winter so far this year, it's still exciting to see signs of spring. This morning on my walk around the park I heard at least 2 (possibly 3) counter-singing cardinals. It wasn't the first cardinal song I've heard this spring (I heard a very soft song from a male cardinal a few weeks back, and I've heard chickadee songs on-and-off since soon after the equinox), but it was the first full-throated, multiple-bird singing performance I've heard this spring. It feels good. It never ceases to amaze me how well-attuned animals are to the lengthening of days.

The ice on the lake has deteriorated drastically compared to just a few days ago. The skating area is closed (for the year?) and there are pools of water everywhere on top of the ice. This seems to be just the thing needed to draw larger numbers of crows back to the park. I noted at least 50 crows at the park this morning, when I'd been seeing less than 5 on most previous days.