Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Birding Close to Home

Yesterday afternoon we took advantage of the summer-like weather to visit Root River Park, a new county park about 5 miles from where we live.
In case you're wondering, this park has also become the new home of a certain very large raccoon.....

The park had a nice parking area, a handicapped accessible porta-potty, and nice, wide mowed paths. I don't know how many acres the park is or how many miles of trails there are, so I'll have to do some research into that. I do know that it's a great birding area with trails bordering forest edges, through the woods, along the riverbank and through grasslands, so there were ample opportunities for us to see many different things. As we were walking down the trail into the woods, I saw a larger bird ahead, skulking through the branches of a small cedar tree. At first I thought maybe a brown thrasher, but a look through the binocs showed a much darker brown color. I walked a little bit closer and the bird flushed into some overhead branches. Awesome! A cuckoo! Now, will it sit still long enough for me to get a good look so I can determine whether it's a yellow-billed or black-billed?

What do you think? I went with Black-Billed Cuckoo on this one. I used my birdJam to play a few calls and got this cuckoo to fly to another branch with less cover. Definitely a good way to start the afternoon!
The bird never vocalized, but we did have the chance to see it again in the same area on our way out, so I'm wondering if it doesn't have a partner and they're nesting in the park.

The trail wound down the hill to the river bottom and we could hear several Common Yellowthroats singing. Again the birdJam was put into use and this male came over to investigate the intruder in his territory. I was fortunate enough to snap this one pretty good picture as he sat still for a nanosecond!

A few yards farther down the trail and I heard a distinctive "bee-buzz" from one of the trees to my left. Aw man, Blue-Winged Warbler! I've heard them, but never gotten a good look at one before. A quick scroll through the menu to Blue-Winged Warbler on the birdJam and after only a few calls, this handsome male flew in to chase away the intruder in his territory also.

From this dead branch, I got a really good photo op, so I just pressed the button and the continous shooting feature did the rest......
a great flight shot, showing his bright yellow underneath and the white sides of his tail.
Look out! It's a Blue-Winged Warbler dive bomb!

I spotted this male Eastern Bluebird sitting on the top of an old dead tree stump in the middle of a pasture. He was keeping an eye on the nestbox which was located about 50 yards away.

At the edge of the Root River, we had fun watching this female Baltimore Oriole enjoy a bath.
There was a small rock just barely submerged under the water and just deep enough for her to be able to get under the water and make some big splashes.

She spent quite a bit of time there until she was pretty much soaked, and then she flew off to a sunny branch just above this river bank.

There were plenty of wildflowers blooming along the trail edges too. Here are a few:

Wild Blue Phlox

Golden Alexander

Wild Mint


Huge patch of blue phlox along the riverbank (this picture is my desktop wallpaper)

Wild Geranium

We wondered how this White Pine grew as large as it was with its roots right at the edge of the rocky bluff......

Also saw this beautiful Mourning Cloak butterfly. I've never noticed the "eyes" on its wings before........

This was a great park and I'm looking forward to visiting it again to explore some of the other trails. Root River Park will definitely be at the top of my "must visit" birding list during next spring's warbler migration.


Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Wowsa, Ruthie! You saw some great birds and got fab photos too.

Mama Pea said...

Your sure do know your birds, Ruthie! And flowers and butterflies. Looks like it is a lovely park. Hope you get to go back there many times.

RuthieJ said...

Thanks Lynne. I hope you get a chance to come down here sometime and bird this park with me.....it was SO MUCH BETTER than I ever expected it would be!

Thanks Mama Pea.....that's what happens after a 3-month mandatory lay-off during spring migration!

Allen and Debby Graber said...

You have the prettiest birds!! I haven't seen our orioles for a couple of days now. Last year we had a yellow-billed cuckoo run into our window pane and he died. I was heartbroken! We even have those "leaves" on our windows to prevent that, but it didn't work. I love your blog about nature!!

Gaelyn said...

I'm very pleased that new parks are being opened when in so many states parks are being closed. And really nice to have this wonderful place be so close to your home. You really saw a great variety of species, with a little help from the bird jam. I'm still waiting for the cold of winter to go away here.

Jayne said...

What a great place to see so many wonderful birds Ruthie!

Birdsong said...

Wow, your photos are just amazing! I'm pretty envious, though I got to watch a Baltimore Oriole bathing in one of my birdbaths last week!

RuthieJ said...

Aw Debby, that would break my heart too! Glad you're liking my blog -- thanks for the kind words.

Hi Gaelyn, this is a county park, so unlike the state, there must still be some funds available to take care of it (thankfully!) I need to do some investigating, but this must be some land that was donated to Olmsted County by a very benevolent nature lover -- and how lucky for all of us!

It sure was Jayne!

Thanks Birdsong. It's such a treat being able to watch birds going about their daily lives, isn't it?