Sunday, February 24, 2008

A late winter walk

The calendar is late February, but there are many signs of spring on a morning walk at the Garden. All the winter and early flowering Asian species are in full swing; camellias, Japanese apricots, and magnolias, joined by the Mediterranean daffodils and rosemary. But some of our natives are also early; the tiny flowers of winged elm pose a nice contrast to the corky stems, and the male cones of red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) released great puffs of pollen when touched.

Walking in the woodland wildflower area, part of the Garden's forest & woodland areas, we spotted first a single red-shouldered hawk in flight, stopping briefly so I noticed s/he was carrying a stick. The females are bigger than the males, but otherwise they look similar. Flying on to a large twiggy nest high in a tulip poplar tree, a second hawk joined the first, and then they stood on a nearby branch together. It's not too far from where a pair nested 2 years ago, and were quite easy to observe feeding their nestlings for a month or so before fledging. Here's a great photo taken at that time by one of our visitors, Louis Bregger. Hopefully the pair we saw this morning will continue at this nest location -- it takes awhile to build a nest, and both parents incubate the eggs; this one is in a good place to watch and keep an eye on, but high enough that I don't think visitors will be bothersome. I've got groups of kids this week coming for programs about 'Discovering Wildlife Habitats' that it will be fun to have them observe a new nest in progress, albeit from a distance!

Huge flocks of small blackbirds were swooping around the willow oaks, their soft twittering calls collectively loud. When they flew towards the meadows, foraging in the winter grass, it was easy to see that they were a mixed flock of foragers; I need to look up what they were, as they were much smaller than crows and some of our other common 'blackbirds.'

A beautiful red-headed woodpecker flew up into one of the nearby trees, giving me a glimpse of his (or her) bright red head. I first thought it was a red-bellied, since I haven't seen many red-headed woodpeckers in our area, more commonly red-bellied or pileated. A smaller downy woodpecker was working nearby; I didn't catch a glimpse of a red patch, so she was probably a female. I've always been interested in birds, but only in the last 5 or 10 years have focused on learning calls, field marks, and sizes of common birds.

Plants, animals, insects, and a variety of habitats made for a perfect winter morning excursion.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please share your thoughts. I enjoy hearing from fellow nature observers, as well as whomever else drops by.

Related Posts with Thumbnails