Singers and Fighters

It was another busy week for me last week.  Dad and my step-mom were in Amarillo at my sister’s on Monday so Sheila, my daughter, and I went to visit.  They live in Missouri and I hadn’t seen them in a while.  Had a nice visit with them and my sister and a couple of her daughters, and my mom and step-father. My oldest daughter also came by, so it was quite the family affair.  My sister has pet birds–an African Gray, two conures and a cockatiel that I took portraits of.

I went to Spring Canyon and Fritch Fortress Tuesday but didn’t get to stay long at either place.  There were a dozen Double-crested Cormorants, lots of Red-winged Blackbirds, and Killdeer, and several different sparrows at Spring Canyon and at least 60 American White Pelicans on the sandbars across from Fritch Fortress.  There was also a large group of shorebirds at the south end of the lake.  I could make out a dozen or so American Avocets but I was too far away to be able to tell what the others were.

I didn’t get a chance to go birding again until this morning.  I made the rounds, starting at Spring Canyon and ending up several hours later at McBride Canyon in Potter County and had a pretty good morning.

I really love Spring Canyon in the mornings.  It is just below the dam and is the closest thing to a wetland around here. The Canadian River bed runs east from the dam so the sun rise is almost always spectacular.img_4237-1280x778Just before the sun makes it up huge flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds take off from the cattails and reed beds they’ve spent the night in and head north to the farms around Stinnett and Gruver.  It’s an amazing sight.

Over the winter there were lots of different water birds in the ponds at Spring Canyon.  The ponds are small so you can get good close-ups of the birds and they are easily accessed.  I haven’t seen many waterfowl the last two weeks, though except for Double-crested Cormorants.

There were quite a few songbirds there today.  Besides the blackbirds raspy trilling there were Song Sparrowssong-sparrow-18-1280x831 and Rock Wrens,rock-wren-32-1280x868 both of whom sing with an amazing amount of enthusiasm and passion.  A Belted Kingfisher fished successfully off the spillway fence while the Western Meadowlarkswestern-meadowlark-20-1254x943 provided a pastorale that would have inspired Beethoven.

I heard a very loud Eastern Phoebe across the pond as I watched the kingfisher work so I walked around and was able to get some very nice photos of it.eastern-phoebe-8-1280x961 As I walked I was able to photograph a Great blue Heron, a small group of Gadwalls and with a single female Bufflehead  swimming amongst them.

I left Spring Canyon and drove around the dam to the Sanford-Yake boat ramp.  there wasn’t as many birds here as there was on the other side of the dam, but the ones that were there were really showing off.  All the birds at Spring Canyon were singing their hearts out–these were flying and fighting.  There was about 30 Tree Swallows flying sorties from a set of powerlines.  They chased the clouds of small insects over the little bay where the marina used to be.  Watching them hunt was dizzying.tree-swallow-5-1280x918

tree-swallow-12-1280x954Two of the Tree Swallows squared off in a dogfight that was perhaps more impressive than the eagle’s ballet of a few months ago.  It didn’t last as long as the eagles flight, but the little swallows made up for it in speed and maneuvering.tree-swallow-4-1280x814  tree-swallow-11-1080x898

tree-swallow-16-1280x825As I was regaining my balance from the air show I noticed a couple of Barn Swallows mixed in with the Tree Swallows.  The Tree Swallows are beautiful with their white bellies and metallic blue/green heads and back but the Barn Swallows kick it up a notch with long forked tails and rusty bellies and faces.  They are the most common of the swallows, but I had never seen one before.barn-swallow-1280x918

barn-swallow-2-1197x740At Fritch Fortress the pelican flock was back down to about 20 birds.  The wind was starting to get up so I didn’t stay long.  I could still see a large group of waders, but again was unable to ID them ewxcept fro the avocets.  I was able to make out a small flock of Mallards, Northern Shovelers and Northern Pintails, but they were too far away for good pictures.

McBride Canyon is a beautiful place, lots of cottonwoods and cedars and thick underbrush.  At one time Meredith probably came fairly close but now it’s about 5 miles south of the nearest water.  I came out here several times last summer and fall because there were Red-headed Woodpeckers here and cardinals and jay and numerous other songbirds.  I came out last week for the first time since late fall, but there still wasn’t a lot to see other than doves, and one cardinal.northern-cardinal-37-1280x882 Not much more that that today, but I saw the first Turkey Vulture since last fall, and a kestrel that was shadowing him for some reason.  There was a male and a female Northern Cardinal flirting.  The female stayed in under the branches of a large cottonwood and although I was able to take afew pictures of her, they didn’t come out that well.  the male kept his back to me, but kept glancing over his shoulder as he sang.  His poses were pretty hilarious.  I’m really looking forward to the return of the Red-headed Woodpeckers.

Any birds mentioned in this post without a photo can be seen in the gallery pages.

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