February 04, 2007

Bear east

57 Carolina wren
58 pileated woodpecker
59 white-breasted nuthatch
60 northern mockingbird
(total on this date in 2006: 41)

Feb. 4, BEAR CREEK, sunny, 20—After seeing a Carolina wren at my friend Shireen’s birdfeedermy attempts to photograph the feeder are here and hereI went down the street to the Bear Creek trail, which crosses Columbia’s north side, entered the woods and started stalking winter flocks.

After bluebirds, mourning doves, and an amazing number of cardinals, a racket raised by a flicker preceded the grand entrance of a pileated woodpecker, a supercharged woodpecker—nearly the size of a crow—with a flaming red crest.

The pileated pounded a
honeysuckle, unaware of me standing just 40 feet away. At that size I could see it clearly without binoculars. Then I saw my third woodpecker of the past few minutes, a downy, first noticing its shadow on the sunlit tree trunk behind it—I don’t recall ever coming across a bird that way.

I located the downy and moved directly under it—it didn’t seem to mind. I’ve read that downy woodpeckers like to flock in winter with chickadees and tufted timice because they rely on those birds to sound the alarm in case of a predator.
(Mixed winter flocks are an advantage if food is scarce.)

Finally, back at the Bear Creek trailhead, I saw a mockingbird at exactly the same cedar tree cluster we saw a mockingbird at 13 months ago on the 2005 Christmas bird count. I think there’s a decent chance it was the same bird.


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