Saturday, March 17, 2018

Merganser Update

During the week, the trio of male red-breasted mergansers which has stopped on Lake Kittamaqundi during migration was joined by a first-year male and another adult male. (Three females arrived with the males last weekend, but they have left.) ... Addendum: Other birders are identifying the first-year male as a female, and they could be correct. Although the bird looks different from the females which were here earlier (dark patch around eye), Cornell's All About Birds online has photos of inconclusive "female/non-breeding male", and it apparently is often difficult to tell.

Above: The lake's resident headless plastic owl photo-bombs the trio and a couple of gulls. Below: The trio with the newly arrived younger male -- Canada geese and the celebratory poster display in background. Further below in this post, I'm including some views of the more commonly seen hooded mergansers.

Above: One of the adult male red-breasted mergansers. Below: The first-year male.

Above: The group of red-breasted mergansers on Lake Kittamaqundi yesterday afternoon.

Following: Hooded mergansers on the lake yesterday afternoon -- males and females, but the last one might be an immature male. "Hoodies", as birders have nicknamed them, occur on local lakes and ponds in varying numbers throughout winter. Some are known to continue and breed in Maryland during summer.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Pileated Woodpecker, Wilde Lake

Wilde Lake has not been attracting a variety of migrating waterfowl like Lake Kittamaqundi lately, but I spotted this pileated woodpecker there yesterday afternoon. The larger red cap and the red malar (cheek stripe) indicate a male. Another pileated heard "wukking" (as we describe this bird's crazy calls) off in the trees was probably his mate.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Misc.: Touche Touchet in Elkridge; Continuing Red-breasted Mergansers; Tree-felling Along the Path

Touche Touchet Bakery in the Atholton area of Columbia recently expanded into a new place in Elkridge. I've enjoyed lunch there with a friend, and last weekend I stopped in to try the advertised New Orleans-style beignets. They are something like sopapillas, but maybe lighter and flakier. The beignets are only available on weekends, and only as long as supplies for the day last. They are cooked to order and brought to your table still hot. I'll be back, but I'll still visit the original bakery, still in operation. (Both locations are near established birding spots.) The original Atholton Touche Touchet's website is in my link list, and it has a button leading to the Elkridge website.

Those red-breasted mergansers featured in my last post were still on Lake Kittamaqundi this morning -- but the females have left. Only the three males remain.

Residents near the north end of the lake (including myself) are both puzzled and upset by the extensive felling of trees along the path. It was done last year and the logs and stumps were left to create a wonderful disaster zone look. Assuming it's the work of Columbia Association Open Space -- usually signs explain what is going on and why, but not in this case. After several conversations with neighbors, I finally sent an email to various authorities, but I'm guessing it might have something to do with the constant hazard of falling trees and limbs in this area during rough weather. I've been told in the past that the ground is constantly wet and not suitable for these trees. Another possibility for the mass felling is the ongoing program to control the emerald ash borer. (Meanwhile, near this path, surveying for a stream restoration project was done recently, and work has begun already on the Wilde Lake section of the stream on the other side of Little Patuxent Parkway.)

And Gracey carries on....

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Lake K. Bird of the Day: Red-breasted Merganser

Lake K. Bird of the Day was not really going to be a daily feature when I posted the phoebe yesterday, but it's that time of year when anything different can show up from day to day. Six red-breasted mergansers -- three males and three females -- are on the lake today. They are migrating, so they might not be here for long. A few of the hooded mergansers more commonly seen here throughout the winter and sometimes later are also present for comparison. (Our third merganser species, the common merganser, is not so common in this area, and I have yet to see any on Lake Kittamaqundi, though they have been reported.)

Above for comparison, from front to back: a pair of hooded mergansers (more common on the lake); a ring-billed gull; and two male red-breasted mergansers.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Lake K. Bird of the Day: Eastern Phoebe

Maybe a sign of spring: An eastern phoebe was at Lake Kittamaqundi this morning. The species can be found in our area during winter -- and there were reports of them this winter -- but this one could be a migrant and, therefore, a sign of spring. Phoebes are flycatchers, and apparently they can find some of their insect prey even in winter.