If you look very closely, you can see a faint patch of reddish-orange towards the very bottom of the belly, and that’s how the bird gets its name. This one is a female; the male has the bright red patch extend all the way from the nape to the rest of the crown forward. This is the first time I’ve gotten a photo of this kind of bird.
This beautiful bird is an American Kestrel, sometimes called a sparrow hawk. It is part of the falcon family and it is the smallest of the raptors, about the size of a blue jay. It will eat, well, sparrows as well as mice, lizards and insects, and even starlings.
It was fun to watch this Brown Creeper (a lifer for me!) do its creeping thing: it started grabbing at the bottom of the tree and then crawled up the trunk fairly rapidly, digging into the bark with it’s thin downward curving beak for insects. When it reached near the top, it dropped dead down to the ground and started from the bottom of the next nearby tree. It repeated this pattern for quite some time.
Even though the bird was small and swift, it wasn’t hard to get the photo because its path was so regular and predictable that I could aim the lens and focus just a bit ahead of where I knew it was going to end up!
When the lake freezes over, the birds have to squeeze into a smaller space in the un-iced parts of the lake, but the different species of ducks co-exist surprisingly well considering that they are all after a similar limited food supply of small plants and fish in the constrained area.
In this picture you can see the large Canadian Geese, the male and female Mallards with their wings spread, the small American Coots with their white bills and dark bodies, and lastly, a bunch of Northern Shovelers, standing in the back and floating in the water, dark green head and dark, flat-ended bills, and bodies with white breasts and brown flanks.
It was fascinating to see all these different kinds of birds band together and turn around as one when a few aggressive gulls approached; the gulls were not welcome to this party—perhaps they would not play well with others?—and the ducks soon mobbed the gulls and forced them to go elsewhere.
This jaunty little guy, a Tufted Titmouse, is a kind of bird I usually see hanging out with its cousin, the Black-Capped Chickadee, but this one was foraging all alone. They have a distinct way of flying from a branch down to the ground—they dive bomb straight down headfirst as if they were a gull about to catch a fish, so that even though they’re small, they can be identified from a distance.
This male (the red nape) Downy Woodpecker looks a lot like a miniature version of its larger cousin, the Hairy Woodpecker. They’ve both got very similar markings including a white back, but the Downy is around 6″ compared to the Hairy’s 9″.
One advantage of trying to photograph birds in winter is that you can get a clearer shot without leaves in the way.
This immature Cooper’s Hawk at the Marine Park Salt Marsh had an eye on a group of Black-capped Chickadees skittering in a bush below it. But the chickadees were wise to the hawk and started raising a ruckus. The hawk flew off in the other direction, gliding low over the dry brown reeds, and then startled me by stopping, turning around, and actually hiding behind a low bush to eye the chickadees. I say hiding, because that’s exactly what the hawk was doing; from time to time the hawk would peek out from behind the bush to see what the chickadees were doing. But the chickadees were wise to the hawk and started their alarm calls even louder. Eventually the hawk gave up, knowing that he had lost the advantage of surprise and swooped again low over the brown reeds, seeking to find more possible prey.
This semipalmiated plover was one of many skittering around yesterday. They’re small—between the size of a sparrow and a robin—and camouflaged in a muddy rocky area. But they can be seen as they run around, which is often, and when they fly they have distinctive striped markings on their wings. The one complete band around their neck distinguishes them from some other similar-looking birds.