Friday, October 19, 2018

Death of a Sharp-shinned Hawk

 I spent most of Tuesday of this week helping to rescue a young male sharp-shinned hawk which I found in distress while I was birding at Lake Kittamaqundi. (Above: The hawk in shallow water soon after I found him.) A bird rescue organization sent a volunteer, who, after attempts to net the hawk on land, ended up wading then swimming to net him in the water where he had dropped. (Below: The hawk after being retrieved from deep water.) Later, I was informed that the bird died in transit between Columbia and the organization's facility. The bird's behavior during the ordeal indicated that he had a disease.

The sharp-shinned hawk is small, about the size of a blue jay. It is in the genus Accipiter with Cooper's hawk.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Herons Three

October 1 at the lake: A great blue heron struggles with a catfish...A great egret takes an interest but eventually leaves the great blue alone. (Both birds are members of the genus Ardea.)...A green heron hunts for smaller prey...

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Mother Nature's Butterfly Garden

Sachem Skippers

Mother Nature's -- That's the store for bird feeder supplies and other items for home and garden on Oakland Mills Road near Snowden River Parkway. During a visit yesterday -- a warm, sunny break from rain -- I couldn't help noticing the butterfly garden, newly planted this year. Some interesting insects were visiting the flowers, and I did a count for the Howard County butterfly survey. (Besides the uncommon fiery skipper below, a rare ocola skipper was hanging around.)

Fiery Skipper, an uncommon species


Hummingbird Moth

Monday, September 24, 2018

Drizzly Monday Morning ~~ American Wigeons

Saturday's pied-billed grebe indicated that it was time to watch for other water birds moving through. This morning looked like it was going to be a list of the usual species -- double-crested cormorants, green herons, great blue herons, mallards, a belted kingfisher... I snapped a photo of the Lakefront on this gray morning (above) between scans of the lake with my binoculars.

On the stroll back past the Sheraton, I realized that the two ducks across the water were not mallards. They were a pair of American wigeons. The photo below -- taken through the drizzle -- shows the male on the left, female on the right. eBird flagged them as rare. It's not the first time I've seen American wigeons on this lake, but they must be unusual for this time of the year. This is the second rare species at Lake Kittamaqundi in a week, following last week's olive-sided flycatcher (in addition to other rare birds reported at the county and state levels). An alert will go out by e-mail. More birders likely will show up at the lake soon.

Another view of the lake with one of the cormorants...

Addendum: I'm told that there are now three American wigeons on the lake, as of this afternoon, Sept. 24.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Wildlife Review, Week of September 16-22 -- Ocola Migration; Woodpecker Family

Mostly around Lake Kittamaqundi; other selected locations. Above: Usually rare around here, ocola skippers are migrating now and showing up in numbers, often in groups on the same clump of flowers. This one was on Old Columbia Road in the Oakland Mills neighborhood.

At Lake Kittamaqundi, the green heron above has strayed further from lake and stream than usual. It had just crossed the path in front of me when I took this photo. Heavy streaking on the neck indicates a young bird born this year, probably one that I've been seeing repeatedly. It should be heading south soon with the other green herons.

An eastern wood-pewee continued to linger around the north end of the lake and the Little Patuxent River nearby. Its rarely seen cousin, the olive-sided flycatcher, apparently has moved on. (The olive-sided was featured in a recent post after being found at the lake on Tuesday.)

On Thursday, strange noises across the river next to the lake drew my attention to a family of pileated woodpeckers. I had been noticing an adult female in the area recently, and now the fledglings had emerged from the nest somewhere in the woods. Above, one of the adults is down in the lower right. Both birds further up the tree in center and upper left seemed to be juveniles, looking clumsy as they explored a new world.

Above: The adult male, distinguished by his larger red cap and red malar (cheek stripe). He was staying close and flying alongside as the youngsters moved around.

Below: One of the juveniles. (There seemed to be at least two, as far as I could see.) It would sometimes give a cackle that didn't sound quite grown-up.

More ocola skippers showed up near the lake.

In the garden at Oakland Manor: Slender spreadwing, an uncommon species of damselfly. (Submitted to the  Maryland Biodiversity Project , as was one of my ocola skipper photos.)

An osprey, soon to be headed south, appeared over the lake yesterday morning. In this view, it is seen further way, probably as it circled over Wilde Lake.

Below: Browsing the pond section -- Another young green heron hunts and fishes in the pond next to the former and much-missed Daedalus Books and Music Outlet. (The pond retains its hotspot status under the name Daedalus Pond on eBird.)


First of season pied-billed grebe at the lake this morning. (Also first of season yellow-bellied sapsucker, but no photo.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Rare Olive-sided Flycatcher at Lake Kittamaqundi; Other Recent Bird Activity

I have seen reports of olive-sided flycatcher at other locations around the county, locations that seemed more on the wild side such as the north section of Blandair and the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area. I had doubts that I would ever find one visiting Lake Kittamaqundi and assumed that I would have to brave the tick-infested grass and muddy trails of those wild spots if I ever wanted to see one. But you never know. Anything can show up. And it usually shows up when you're not looking for it. Like this olive-sided flycatcher at Lake Kittamaqundi yesterday. My photos are not the greatest, and I was trying to get a bird high in a tree against a gray sky, but the identification marks are there: clear white on the throat continuing through the center of the breast and down to the belly; dark flanks which sometimes look olive in color and give the bird what the literature describes as a "vested look".

My report on eBird set off the rare bird alert, and many other birders visited Lake Kittamaqundi later in the day and also found the bird. Some might be here today, too. It was hanging around the north end of the lake and may have ventured across the river nearby. As described in field guides, the species typically perches high on dead or bare branches. In typical flycatcher fashion, it will dart out to catch insects then perch again. This was a first documentation at the lake and brings the roster of species found at this hotspot to 175. Like other flycatchers now, it is in migration.

The photos above show the olive-sided flycatcher. To throw a wrench in the works, an eastern wood-pewee was also present in the same spot. Both birds are members of the genus Contopus, and the pewee is sometimes confused for olive-sided. The photo below shows the pewee -- wider space of white on the front, and not as bright a white as on the olive-sided.

So the tyrant flycatchers are migrating south now along with other birds. (Hurricane Florence might have complicated the start of the migration.) After not finding our summer-resident great crested flycatchers at the lake lately, I came across a great crested a couple of days ago, probably one from further north moving through. Photo below shows the glimpse I got of the bird high in a tree, but check the other photos following.....

At the Daedalus Pond (next to the former and lamented Daedalus Books Outlet) earlier this month, I had a lucky close look at a great crested flycatcher. The bird suddenly flew down into the middle of some catbird activity and was right in front of me for a while. Bigger and brighter than many other members of the tyrant flycatcher family, it gave me a good look at its yellow front and orange wing and tail feathers....

I don't know what all the fuss is about, but the two red-shouldered hawks in the following photos have been flying and perching in various locations around the lake while calling back and forth for the past two days. Two of the photos show one on the American City Building while it exchanges calls with the other across the lake yesterday morning. I could assume they are mates, but they could be siblings from the same brood raised near the lake this summer.

Finally: Watch the jewelweed where it is in bloom now, and you might spot a hummingbird going to the small, trumpet-shaped flowers. I've been spotting one along the shore between the Sheraton and the Lakefront over the past two days....

Monday, September 17, 2018

Blandair, North Side of 175

A look at the undeveloped section of  the projected park, currently an eBird hotspot. Sunday, September 16, 2018. (It was my first visit. I almost got lost!)

Young Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Eastern Phoebe

Green Heron

Black-and-white Warbler