Sunday, May 21, 2017

Flickers and Springtime Ants

yellow-shafted Northern flicker
I have seen Yellow-shafted Northern flickers in groups on the ground before; but until today I didn't know why.  In the past at Havenwoods, Barbara and I witnessed about five under a tree in the grass.  When we approached they flew and that was that. I came upon this one on a narrow dirt path along the side of a detention pond near the Milwaukee County grounds.  Because I didn't want to scare it and I wished to get a picture; I stayed plenty far back and observed with my trusty Bushnells.  Even at the distance I was, I could not discern exactly what it was up to.  I assumed that it was eating in some way because it kept spearing its beak at the ground, but until I moved in closer I couldn't tell what.  When it had finished doing whatever it was; it moved away and I moved up.  I discovered the reason it was riveted to the spot; ants!  The bird had been pounding away on the entrance of an ant colony and was busily lapping the creatures up as fast as it could.  As I rounded the corner and down the berm I witnessed another flicker taking a dirt bath on the side of the road near the old cemetery.  I had never seen that before either.

Ant hill meal for a Northern flicker
FOY (first of the year) birds were plentiful on my little bird watching tour of the parkway.  I saw Magnolia, Chestnut-sided, Blackburnian, and Black and white warblers.  Blue-gray gnatcatchers were busy in the trees as well as a wonder opportunity to take a photo of a Rose-breasted grosbeak.  Red-winged blackbirds were by far the most numerous bird in the cattail basin of the detention pond area. Savannah sparrows and Barn swallows were also plentiful.  I stood and watched for about 20 minutes as four small Mallard ducklings with no parental supervision; swam around in circles in the eddy of the Menomonee River.  I was worried about their safety, but powerless to do anything about it as the water was very high and the depth unknown.  I just hoped that they'd have enough sense when they grew fatigued to get to the shore somehow.

The BIRDSTUD in the flesh at the County Grounds of Milwaukee

The next cool thing I witnessed was a FOY Brown thrasher as it worked through its repertoire of double songs of other bird species.  These birds always impress me whenever I am fortunate to hear them. 

Enjoy a few photos I took 
of some of the birds I saw:

American Robin - My Favorite Bird

Baltimore Oriole

Black and white warbler

Blackburnian warbler


The Blue-gray gnatcatcher takes flight

Brown thrasher

Eastern phoebe

House wren

Magnolia warbler on the wing

Magnolia warbler

A red-tailed hawk gets chased by Red-winged blackbirds

Savannah sparrow

Song sparrow

Rose-breasted grosbeak (m)

Here is my (impressive) list of 40 species seen during just 2-1/2 hours of birding after work:
  1. Canada Goose
  2. Mallard
  3. Mourning Dove
  4. Chimney Swift
  5. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  6. Spotted Sandpiper
  7. Ring-billed Gull
  8. Black Vulture
  9. Cooper's Hawk
  10. Red-tailed Hawk
  11. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  12. Downy Woodpecker
  13. Northern Flicker
  14. Eastern Phoebe
  15. Blue Jay
  16. American Crow
  17. Tree Swallow
  18. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  19. Barn Swallow
  20. Black-capped Chickadee
  21. House Wren
  22. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  23. Hermit Thrush
  24. American Robin
  25. Brown Thrasher
  26. European Starling
  27. American Goldfinch
  28. American Redstart
  29. Magnolia Warbler
  30. Blackburnian Warbler
  31. Yellow Warbler
  32. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  33. Savannah Sparrow
  34. Song Sparrow
  35. Northern Cardinal
  36. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  37. Red-winged Blackbird
  38. Common Grackle
  39. Brown-headed Cowbird
  40. Baltimore Oriole