Several days ago I bought a new 300mm telephoto lens. I've been eager to try it out, and December 21st was just the day to do so. I traveled out to a few local parks, including the newer Mary Virginia Crites-Hannan Park right outside of Circleville in Pickaway County. Although a smaller park, there's a decent patch of second-growth forest and a nice prairie they planted about four or five years ago. It's a really birdy park too, which brings me to the subject of this post. There were at least two Downy Woodpeckers in the small area I explored and I was able to get a few photos of them.
here. In Ohio, when you come across a Downy/Hairy woodpecker, it's much more likely to be a Downy. Hairy's are not rare by any means though.
Woodpeckers are well-adapted to their bark-clinging lifestyles. If you look at the photo above, you can see a Downy's large feet with large, curved claws; this helps with clinging to bark. Woodpeckers are also a bit different from other terrestrial birds. Most terrestrial birds have feet with three toes facing forward and one toe facing backward; this arrangement is known as anisodactyl feet. Essentially all woodpeckers have zygodactyl feet, which is where two toes face forward and two face backward. This arrangement also helps woodpeckers cling to bark better. Woodpeckers also use their tail to brace themselves as they cling to bark. If you look at the previous photo, you can see this in use; the tail is pushed down against the branch in order to help stabilize the woodpecker. A woodpecker's tail is made up of very stiff feathers, and these feathers are attached to large muscles which allow for a range of fine muscle control. If you've ever seen a woodpecker climb up a tree, you've probably noticed that it climbs in short, jerky bursts instead of one fluid motion. Woodpeckers actually climb by using their feet and tail. A woodpecker will lean close to the bark, which takes pressure off the tail, and then push straight up with their legs. They will then swing their legs up quickly and grab the bark once more before bringing their tail down to stabilize everything. They will repeat this method to ascend a tree, which gives them their jerky climbing appearance.
I haven't had many bird-related posts on this blog, but that has started to change in the past month. I'm a bird-guy first and foremost, but I haven't been able to get any decent photos with the lenses that I had. With my new 300mm lens, I should have more opportunities to get some photos, and hopefully that means more bird posts, so keep on the lookout!
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Monday, December 1, 2014
During the week of Thanksgiving, Robert Royse found and reported a juvenile Black-Legged Kittiwake at Deer Creek State Park, specifically the section that lies in Fayette County. Black-Legged Kittiwakes, a species of gull, are a rare visitor to Ohio. Most of the ones that do end up in Ohio show up along Lake Erie, but occasionally you'll get one that shows up in an inland reservoir. This individual was one of those few that showed up inland. To make it even better, it showed up at a park only 30 minutes away from my hometown, and luckily I was there on break. Before returning to Ohio University on Sunday morning (Nov. 30), I ventured out in search of the then-continuing Black-Legged Kittiwake. As with many rarities, dozens of other birders had already made the trip to "chase" the bird, and dozens more would chase it on the day I went.
There were already three birders present by the time I arrived there around 8:40 AM. They were scanning as I was getting my gear out, but they hadn't relocated it yet. It's always a gamble when it comes to chasing continuing rare birds, especially when you go early in the morning; it might have been there for a week straight but decided to leave the night before you went. Anxiously, I joined in and scanned the horizon, only to find a handful of Bonaparte's Gulls. Suddenly, we saw a small gull flying in from down the reservoir. Holding our breaths, we turned to the gull...
|Range map created by Terry Sohl at South Dakota Birds and Birding. Go check out his wonderful photography!|
A quick look at a range map should give you a pretty good idea as to why Black-Legged Kittiwakes are rare in Ohio. Black-Legged Kittiwakes are a true "sea gull." They nest on sea cliffs in northern Canada and all around Alaska before heading out to sea to spend the winter. Occasionally a young bird, like the one at Deer Creek, will wander inland during the winter. Adult visitors to Ohio are much, much rarer (but have still been recorded).