Wednesday, May 21, 2014

We interreupt your regularly scheduled wildflower broadcast to bring you "Birds in Trees"...

Due to weather conditions, I have cancelled several scheduled programs this Spring.  Yesterday it happened again.  While soggy ground and rainy skies might mean that I have to cancel a school trip it doesn't mean that I can't go outside.  So instead of doing a program on Aquatic Ecology at Shepherd Elementary, I ended up in the woods at Mission Creek Woodland Park.  I was searching for more wildflowers (one in particular), but as has happened so often this year I keep getting distracted by birds. 

When I am walking around looking for flowers, my camera usually has the lens with the least amount of magnification on it so I can focus up close.  This means that when I see a bird I want to photograph, it will either fill only a small part of the picture; or I have to take the time to get out a longer telephoto lens and risk the chance that the bird will be gone before I can make the change.  Usually I take the photo first and then worry about switching lenses.

Yesterday I took photographs of three species of bird.  The first species is one that I see frequently in the Spring and Summer - the Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus).  I saw a pair of these birds in the trees along Mission Creek.  Grosbeaks are among the many species of birds that exhibit a property called sexual dimorphism.  This means that there is a visible difference between the male and female of the same species.  In this case, the male is much more colorful than the female.

The female Rose-Breasted Grosbeak looks like a large brown sparrow

The male Rose-breasted Grosbeak is boldly colored in black and white, with a namesake rosy red breast.

The second bird that I photographed was the Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus).  This is the second time this Spring that I have photographed a Great crested Flycatcher.  What was it doing when I saw it?  Well... catching flies of course.  It was perching on low branches in the Red Maple Swamp at Mission Creek, tilting its head from side to side, looking for flying insects.  Then it would dart off of its perch after any insect it spied and capture them with an audible snap of its beak.  Then it would land on a new perch and repeat the process. I followed this Flycatcher for several minutes and took a bunch of photos that all look the same.

A Great Crested Flycatcher searching for the next fly to catch.

The third bird of the day was the most exciting for me.  I have mentioned in the past that I do not consider myself a birder, but I can still get excited about certain birds.  Some birds demand attention - like the Indigo Bunting that I saw two weeks ago

Or this bird, the Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea).  Scarlet red is not a color that you see to often in nature, and when you do see it in a temperate forest in Mid-Michigan it is almost a shock to the system.  I saw the bird, and before I could take a single photograph it was gone up a steep slope.  At this point I figured I would have no chance to get a photo, but I changed lenses on my camera and climbed started searching.  After a few minutes, of searching my patience was rewarded.

A shockingly red male Scarlet Tanager

At one point, I could see three male Tanagers high in the trees above me.  Unfortunately, I could only ever get clears views of one at a time.  In this case, one bird was enough. 

One of three male Scarlet Tanagers in the woods at Mission Creek Woodland Park

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