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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Nerdy Birdy: The Huntington Park, The Beauty of Solitude

Today I went to the Huntington Park alone. I had worn out a few of my fellow adventurers and Mrs. Painter was coming later in the morning with her son Mr. Dragon. I almost caved and decided to carpool with Mrs. Painter and her son, almost, but I really wanted to get there much much earlier and well Mr. Dragon is 8, there was never any guarantee how long we could stay; so I got up early, I drove to the park alone and it was perfect. The sunrise happened to be the most beautiful, all hot pinks and deep purples. I would have missed this if I had come at the later time. Ahhhh if only they could make a camera that could capture exactly what I see.

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Every single day I have been at the Huntington Park it has been vastly different. The first day there were TONS of birds in the marshes and the alligators were feeding like crazy. The second day we visited the beach and had great winds to the point where it didn’t feel so oppressively hot. And then today back at the marshes there were hardly any birds and virtually no alligator activity. Perhaps it was the cloud cover; a storm had rode in last night. Clouds make excellent sunrise and sunset photos but make terrible shooting conditions for birds. The clouds looked like they were breaking up only to rush right back in. In essence I was taking photos of the birds in the bursts of light in between clouds. It was a tough frustrating morning.

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In the end I did manage to get photos of a few birds. There were a few Skimmers zipping around the marsh. They fly FAST and need a pretty high shutter speed to photograph so I didn’t manage to get any clear photos of them actually skimming. They are however beautiful striking birds with their black and white feathers and their bright red orange bills.

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BLACK SKIMMER

I also spotted several Double Breasted Cormorants sunbathing. These birds are usually wary of people. I see them often in LALA land but never anything as close as I was able to photograph them here. It’s strange in some places you can walk right up to certain birds, they have been well desensitized to humans and in all other situations they will avoid you like the plague. The birds at the Huntington Beach State Park were very obviously used to people.

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DOUBLE BREASTED CORMORANT

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DOUBLE BREASTED CORMORANT

The coolest bird I found in the Marsh this morning was a single male and a single female Anhinga. This is a bird that my parents have seen numerous times. I get to see them all the time on their blog. This was the first time however I actually got to see one. There was even one doing its typical drying display. Unlike other water birds the Anhinga isn’t waterproof. Because their feathers get waterlogged they must spend long periods of the day in their drying display. A new bird to cross off my Nerdy Birdy List http://www.theroguewoman.com/2009/07/bird-brain-list.html. 288 down only 309 to go; I am almost halfway to my goal, hurrah!

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A MALE ANHINGA CLEANING HIS BACK

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A MALE ANHINGA PANTING IN THE HOT SUN

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A MALE ANHINGA IN HIS DRYING DISPLAY

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A FEMALE ANHINGA HAS A CHESTNUT NECK AND HEAD

Around 9:00am, a full three hours after I had been at the park, Mrs. Painter and her son Mr. Dragon showed up. Although there wasn’t as much alligator activity today as there was the last time I came with Mrs. Painter her little boy still loved the Park. There is so much to teach little ones in nature. After a brief hello they moved on to another area of the park.

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Since the marshes were getting swamped with clouds and since there wasn’t a ton going on I decided to try another area of the park.

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I had read that the Nature Center was worth checking out. There was a ton of stuff to look at and almost everything was in a classroom situation that made it very hands on which I love. I got to hold a tiny mink skull in my hand, the largest sand dollar I have ever seen and I even got my photo taken with an Alligator skull. That thing was GIGANTIC. While wandering around I met the ranger and we got to talking. Seems that there are some hidden bird feeders out back and he was so nice to allow me to open up the window so I could photograph the birds. I love meeting people that let me in on the secrets!

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There were a bunch of birds that came out to the feeders. The usual Northern Cardinals were everywhere.

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NORTHERN CARDINAL FEMALE

What isn’t often expected however are adorable little baby cardinals. They are a muted brown color and won’t get their adult ton of red until later in the season. For now the brown keeps them camouflaged, because there is nothing like a bright cherry red to get your attention. This little guy was very obviously just fledged. The little bird wasn’t able to fly very well but I was watching him for a while and both parents were doing a good job of keeping the noisy little baby full.

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NORTHERN CARDINAL BABY

The real draw at the bird feeders however were the two adult males and one female Painted Buntings. I had seen them throughout the park but the photos I was able to get were terrible. This is a pretty wary bird and none of the three I found would let me get anywhere near them. These three however were drawn in by the feeders and I was able to get some pretty good shots of them. What a BEAUTIFUL, gorgeous stunning bird this is! My second new bird to cross off my Nerdy Birdy List http://www.theroguewoman.com/2009/07/bird-brain-list.html today!

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PAINTED BUNTING

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PAINTED BUNTING

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PAINTED BUNTING FEMALE

I couldn’t get a straight answer out of the ranger on why these birds are banded. All he was able to tell me was that yes they do band their Painted Buntings in the park and that the colors of the bands mean something. Other than that no more information was shared. Ahhhh I would have loved to have known WHY. Curiosity drives me nuts sometimes.

After leaving the nature center I spent a little bit of time in the woods. I had put a ton of bug spray on and was satisfied that I would be protected from those pesky mosquitos, at least I was praying I would be. I was rewarded when I found a Prothonotary Warbler. Without even having to play the call this guy did a great job of foraging and completely ignoring me for the most part. Although not a new bird for me I still love this guy. What a beautiful little bird.

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PROTHONOTARY WARBLER

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PROTHONOTARY WARBLER

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PROTHONOTARY WARBLER

I was surprised with how many trees their were here that I wasn’t seeing more woodpeckers. In all the days I was at the park I only found a single Nutals woodpecker. I was driving in the car slowly looking for birds when I heard his tap tap tapping on a dead tree. It only took me a moment to locate him. I love birds that stay out in the open like this.

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NUTAL’S WOODPECKER

I decided to call it a day. It was late, the light wasn’t good and I was exhausted. I started driving out of the park across the causeway when I spotted a mysterious bird bathing in the water. Something about it made me pause. And then OH MY GOODNESS, I realized what I was seeing. A Clapper Rail, very elusive, very secretive, was out in the open having a bath. I stopped on the ‘do not stop’ causeway and snapped my photos. Thank goodness there wasn’t anyone behind me because I wasn’t budging, not for this bird. He only stayed for a moment in the water, then he jumped out, shook off and took back off into the reeds. It was an AWESOME sight. My third new bird to cross off my Nerdy Birdy List http://www.theroguewoman.com/2009/07/bird-brain-list.html today and probably my most rare bird seen yet!

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CLAPPER RAIL

I was so excited that I turned to a woman on the trail. I started pointing and jumping up and down. The woman very obviously thought I was deranged because when I told her I saw a Clapper Rail she told me to calm down. LOL.

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CLAPPER RAIL

Finally it was time for me to go back to the homefront. Back to the beach. Back to my comfortable chair under the shade. I was in the room and I could have gone to sleep in a heartbeat. But the sand and sea were beckoning. Once I got down there I was out, so happy to be sitting and relaxing. The kids however were so full of energy. They wanted me to go swimming with them… instead I made them do tricks for the camera. It got a ton of energy out of them and it gave me some time to rest before tackling the waves. Love these kids!

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Since the family had a large group photo to do I opted to stay in the room. I really really wanted to take a nap but if I did I would never be able to sleep and waking up tomorrow morning early for another day at the park would be HARD. So I decided to have some caffeine and edit some of my billions of photos. It always takes me forever to go through my pictures on vacation, maybe because I take too many. I really cannot help myself though, there is a wonder and a love of everything new when I am on vacation and I have a driving need to capture it all. So I stayed in and Mr. Pittsburgh and the family picked up pizza for us all on the way home. It was a prefect low key night. I needed it!

2 comments:

paul peggy zeus said...

Oh my, a Clapper Rail right out in the open too! Great find! AND the Painted Bunting - Rainbow brights favorite bird.

Jennifer Arens said...

the painted bunting was such a cool looking bird! It's like God was like, "whatever, paint by number"

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