Week Ending May 18, 2014

Another beautiful week, though a bit hotter than I usually prefer. I've found it a bit difficult to keep up with all the photographs I've been taking, if I'm also out shooting during the weeknights, so this week I stepped back a bit. I got in walks around the neighborhood of 6 miles on each of two nights but didn't bring the camera with. Of course, since I didn't bring it, I got a great opportunity to photograph a Pileated Woodpecker that probably was my best shot at one I've ever had. The bird was on the ground pecking on a dead tree when it saw me then landed a few feet away in a clear spot on a still-standing tree, then stayed there just watching me for a couple minutes. I couldn't believe it. Its really tough to not bring my camera everywhere with me, but there has to be some sort of balance between photography and being able to keep up with the hundreds of photographs I can take in an outing. So this week I didn't get out into real nature until Saturday morning when Ruth & I went down to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Fortunately this time I didn't lock myself out of the car, and was able to get started right at 9 o'clock like I should have been able to do last time out. Behind the contact station, I spotted a beautiful Indigo Bunting that was calling from the tops of the trees.

First time this year getting close enough for a decent Indigo Bunting shot!

I hoped it would come a bit closer, but it never did, so we went on down the Loop Road. Ruth caught a Marsh Rabbit feeding on grasses alongside the road, and while I was photographing it, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye, only to find a King Rail sneaking out onto the roadway just about 50 feet to our north. I motioned to Ruth to look at it, and while we were then staring down the rail, again I caught some motion to the right. This time, and I don't have any idea where it came from, but a White-tailed Deer had slinked its way into the canal, and was actually swimming across directly towards the rail. When it came out on the roadway, it inadvertently chased the rail into the marsh, and both disappeared. Usually, the action isn't so on top of one another out here but this was a pretty neat experience! Clearly, the excitement level couldn't be kept at that high level the whole day, and from there it dropped off for awhile. Walking along the remainder of the Loop Road & West Dike, the main wildlife we saw was Red-winged Blackbirds, which have taken over the park. I did get to add Black-bellied Plovers to my yearly list, after seeing a group of 5 of them flying far out over the bay. Great Blue Heron and Great Egrets were both seen, but the shorebirds have seemed to taper off lately, I only saw one Lesser Yellowlegs and a handful of Spotted Sandpipers. The freshwater impoundments have really grown up lately in terms of the marsh grasses. I think a lot of birds are just able to hide themselves better now than a few weeks ago when everything was very visible. We saw a large number of Muskrats / Nutria in the canals this time as well, I think about 4 or 5 were within a half mile of one another. The birds that have become familiar along the dike trail are still around: Orchard Orioles, Eastern Kingbirds, Indigo Buntings. We ended up walking to the False Cape State Park entry sign again, just like the last few outings.

Beautiful male Prairie Warbler seen at Back Bay NWR!

On the way back, I kept chasing an Indigo Bunting, but was never able to get into a good spot before it flew a bit farther away. In the maritime forest, Carolina Chickadees were seen and plenty of birds were singing that I unfortunately do not have the ability yet to identify. When we got back onto the Loop Road, we went around to the east to try and avoid all the bike riders that cut down the west side of the loop. Here I heard a Prairie Warbler and was able to locate it just off the trail in the scrub desert. At least I know these guys' voice, its helped me greatly in locating them this summer. Reaching the contact station, we walked the Bay Trail out & back. On the way out, I somehow missed it, but fortunately Ruth was able to spot a very small Cottonmouth on the side of the trail that was all curled up on itself, and probably no more than a foot in length. On our way back, the snake was still coiled up there, but since we had been walking slowly to pay attention for more of them, I heard a Prothonotary Warbler off the trail, which soon jumped up onto a small branch in plain sight. That is the first time I've been so close to one, after having seen tons of them this spring in the Great Dismal Swamp, but from a far off distance. This one hopped around & sang a few times before it flew deeper into the marsh. I'm still amazed that it landed so closely to us, but so happy it did, the photographs came out as my favorite Prothonotary shots to date.

Prothonotary Warbler that put on quite a show along the Bay Trail before disappearing into the marsh!