Friday, May 19, 2017

What Birds are in Your Neck of the Woods?

Ovenbird, Atholton

A review of birds (and other denizens) found in neighborhood parks around Columbia recently: Many of these birds can be seen or heard in many different areas, but it's nice to know that you don't have to go far or wander through tick-infested brush to find them. First, above: An ovenbird in the woods across Donleigh Drive from Touche Touchet Bakery and the Atholton Shopping Center. It's a species of warbler, and my first time seeing one. I'd been tromping around the Howard County Conservancy and the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area in hopes of spotting an ovenbird, and here was one along a nice paved path after a light lunch at the bakery.

Solitary Sandpiper, pond next to Daedalus Books (Gerwig Lane)

If there's a stormwater pond or a creek with mud flats or a sand bar in the neighborhood, shorebirds might be found there at certain times of the year. Above is a solitary sandpiper at the pond beside Daedalus Books on Gerwig Lane. (Unfortunately, ponds like this catch a lot of garbage, and some of my photos posted on eBird show an otherwise good shot of a bird next to a soda can or a brick or some other litter.)

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Sewell's Orchard Pond

Sewell's Orchard Pond is actually a chain of stormwater ponds in a neighborhood park south of 175 in east Columbia. Above is a blue-gray gnatcatcher, described by birders as looking like a tiny mockingbird and difficult to photograph as it flits around hunting for tiny insect prey. So that's a lucky shot with both the bird and its prey in its bill. Below is a double-crested cormorant on the middle pond with a water agitator in view at Sewell's Orchard.

Double-crested Cormorant, Sewell's Orchard Pond

Snapping Turtles, Sewell's Orchard Pond

If there is a pond, there is likely at least one big snapping turtle in it. Above, my camera caught two basking together in the lower pond at Sewell's Orchard. Below: My best view of what I could see was a warbler at Sewell's Orchard Pond. Later, I identified it more specifically as a male American redstart.

American Redstart, Sewell's Orchard Pond

Green Heron, Guilford Downs (Thunder Hill)

Yesterday, I found Guilford Downs, as it is designated in eBird. It's a beautiful little pocket of park area in the Thunder Hill neighborhood. Habitat types tucked into the park include the pond pictured here, a stream, grassy areas and mature woods -- where I heard wood thrush and eastern wood pewee, which make me wonder what else is in those trees. Above is a green heron in the pond.

Snapping Turtle, Guilford Downs (Thunder Hill)

Of course, a large snapping turtle lives in the pond, too. Below is a spotted sandpiper.

Spotted Sandpiper, Guilford Downs (Thunder Hill)

Great Crested Flycatcher near Lake Kittamaqundi

Back in my neck of the woods around Lake Kittamaqundi, above is the ubiquitous but elusive great crested flycatcher. Related to the phoebes and pewees and about the size of a blue jay, it's back from the tropics to breed in our area over the summer. We hear its crazy "breep" calls more than we see it, as it likes to stay in the tops of trees in woods. Sometimes it comes down to allow a closer view, or you can catch sight of it when it's on bare branches or at the edge of a stand of trees. You can find great crested flycatchers around all the lakes and parks in Columbia and Howard County.

I'll close this post with a sunny view of Wilde Lake earlier this week -- and I heard three great crested flycatchers while I was there.