Here I was this week back in Fauntleroy Park to pull some invasive ivy. The area is off trail in the northern section near the Forest Court SW entrance. Months ago, while working on my cedar tree survey I saw it climbing one of my trees. I yanked it down and vowed to return to get more of it.
So, here I was approaching one of the cedars when I caught some movement on it’s trunk. To my surprise and delight it was a very elusive and quick small bird of the forest – the Brown Creeper. Here is the tree I found this little bird on.
He was moving so fast most of my still photos are a blur. I moved to video mode and had better luck but this little dickens moves upward so fast it was a constant shift. First here is one of my few good still shots.
Wondering what the Brown Creeper is all about? Here is what The “Cornell Lab of Ornithology – All About Birds” website says about them. You can find more by following this link.
Brown Creepers are tiny yet lanky songbirds. They have long, spine-tipped tails, slim bodies, and slender, decurved bills.
Streaked brown and buff above, with their white underparts usually hidden against a tree trunk, Brown Creepers blend easily into bark. Their brownish heads show a broad, buffy stripe over the eye
Brown Creepers search for small insects and spiders by hitching upward in a spiral around tree trunks and limbs. They move with short, jerky motions using their stiff tails for support. To move to a new tree, they fly weakly to its base and resume climbing up. Brown Creepers sing a high, warbling song; they also give a high, wavering call note that sounds similar to that of a Golden-crowned Kinglet.
I leave you with my video of the little rascal as he climbs upward. Be sure to listen to his high pitched call too.
Today I came across for the second time a small patch of large mushrooms at Fauntleroy Park. After some research I think these are called Shaggy Parasols (scientific names are Chlorophyllum rhacodes and the Chlorophyllum brunneum).
The article I read said they are edible but can cause gastric problems for some if not cooked properly. Plus they do look like the mushroom that poisons more people than any other. This convinced me that my instinct to not eat them was the best move.
So, let us enjoy their visual beauty versus the stew pot.
After my encounter with the stellar jays I wandered down to my spot where there is a grove of vine maples. (link to the Stellar post) It is the time of year to enjoy their fall color change and a good photo could be in the making. It turns our I am a bit early for their blazing yellow-gold glory. However, the sun was playing peek-a-boo with them. This brought them into a back-light glow.
While wandering from photo spot to spot I kept encountering hummingbirds. First it was just one who eluded my camera and later nearer the creek a pair chasing each other. That second sighting I was a millisecond too late to capture him. Nature was telling me to just enjoy the serendipity of the moment and a photo wasn’t needed.
Wandering through my favorite park in West Seattle I heard some larger birds making a ruckus. I could see them through the treetops flipping around sometimes in pairs and other times just single birds. As any bird watching can go, I had to change position to get a better view and figure out what kind of birds these were.
Their size was enticing in that they were crow size but not black enough. That means they might be a woodpecker or if I was in luck a hawk. Ruled out an eagle since they were just not that big.
Down by a bridge and boardwalk over Fauntleroy Creek I finally got my binoculars on one of the birds. To my delight I saw a hawk. But that was all he would give me and he was gone before I could get my camera on him. I kept searching the tree tops for more movement in hopes of getting that elusive photo. Dreams that this would be one of the Cooper Hawk babies danced through my head.
Then I saw a bird in silhouette. Camera ready I got these shots and found I had captured a pair of Stellar Jays playing chase me catch me.
Here is the first culprit I got my eye on.
Notice how there is little color in these photos. Almost a perfect silhouette but if you look close his blue jay blue shines through.
Then he met up for his rendezvous and they flicked into a tree together. They even posed for this family portrait.
Our steward, Steve, in Fauntleroy Park told me last week that the Cooper Hawks were back in the Southwest corner of the park. Today I decided to see if I could spot them. At first it was just the usual little birds. I was standing next to trees with my eyes closed just listening to the forest chatter. A couple of fellow park users walked by and probably wondered what this tree-huger was doing. Then after wandering around a bit I heard them calling each other.
Bird sounds do echo a bit and but the creek’s gully being deeper here, that just emphasized the echo. All I could do was get closer to where I thought the sound was coming from and look up a bunch. Below gives you a feel of where they were. I took it after they left for orientation but you get a feel for the layers of vegetation
At last I got lucky & I mean really lucky. Usually one just sees birds flying around but I actually found the pair sitting on a branch. Here are two pictures of the pair on their branch.
One of them was sitting where the sun made his photograph wash out (great silhouette though) but the other was clear as a bell. Well that is as focused as can be with my zoom lens and my shakiness. Yes the more you zoom the harder it is to get clarity in both still and video.
Speaking of video here is the best of the three I took. You will notice I had quite a bit of jiggling around and the sun washing out the picture on & off. However, the best part is you can hear their voices. The one in the sun glare was the vocal one so how could I edit him out.
I told a passing person about the hawks and they said they were Sharp-shinned not Cooper. Of course that was a challenge to my identification skills. Once I got home I pulled out two of my bird books – Stokes Field Guide to Birds (Western Region) and Sibley Guide to Birds. They are a great compliment to each other in that Stokes uses real photos along with Learning Pages versus Sibley which is all artist drawings of varying poses, regions, male/female/juvenile.
After looking close at several of my photos I determined they were Coopers. Here is why:
The Cooper is bigger and is about crow size. Yup,the crow stalker herself knows about crow size and this bird was more crow than robin.
Youngsters in both have vertical streaked bellies. Adults are more buffy & horizontal in their markings. The Sibley notes that Cooper has thin dark streaks & the Sharp has course brown streaks. The photo below shows the belly of the one not in sun glare. Do you agree they match the Cooper’s description?
Legs on the Cooper are bigger. This next view shows his “britches” as I call them. Again I am voting for the Cooper.
Lastly the tail is a key piece. The Cooper has a more rounded tail and the last coloration is usually white. Check it out!
Then like a timer went off they both flew off. I could still hear them so I wandered down the stairs I was filming from and headed towards thier sounds.
Looking up I spotted one of them watching me from a maple tree branch. To get a better shot I laid in the middle of the trail shooting upward. Yup… I got a bit dirty and it would have been funny if someone came by.
This next shot is a bit fuzzy but you can see him watching and pondering what I was doing.
I am so happy to report that the trillium patch in Fauntleroy Park is looking spectacular this year. They are not quite to the glory of 5 years ago but at least they seem to have stop declining.
We had a heavy snow this year and then the last couple of weeks have been very spring like. Warmed up so much that on the last day of winter it broke all records with upper 70s. This must have had a huge impact on the patch. Lots of water from the snow and then warmth to make them bud.
On the path have always been two little plants that seem to have escaped the patch. Some years they get trampled so I decided to build something that would alert walkers to them.
I walked onward to see how the bouquet trilliums looked like. I was not disappointed with them either.
If you want to see more about the trilliums over the years in my West Seattle Park, go to this link:
Today the sun was shining and it had warmed up to mid-40s. Yes funny how just getting out of freezing temperatures gave us all spring fever. This includes the birds in the hood. All along my walk to and from Fauntleroy Park I could hear them shouting out their happiness. Whole lot of singing love was in the air. They are not wasting time finding a mate or re-engaging with their long time honey.
On the subject of bird pairs, I was graced by seeing a Pileated Woodpecker pair on a dead douglas fir tree. This must be the same pair I had filmed on the west side of the cedar grove. The tree they are on was on the southeast corner of the cedars. Basically another gully over. They gave themselves away by their knocking and thunking which echoed across the forest. Once I located them I took some photos of one of them to share. However I at first did not realize that lower down was his mate.
Enjoy this little clip – I swear he would stop and say to the grubs in the tree – “Come out Come out!”
I was really quite away from the tree they were on. Notice how the video wobbled a bit? That is because of the zoom I was using without a tripod. This next pic shows you how far away they are and if you look carefully you can see the male up toward the top and the female hanging out lower on the tree trunk.
How about another episode from my walk? I found this place up in the brush above the Cambridge street entrance that someone put three stakes in the hill-side and three boards across. I came back to it today and sat down to enjoy the birds, sunshine and forest ambiance.
Here is a set of bushes that a song sparrow and wren were chirping away and even showed themselves a couple of times. Sorry no bird photo. I was inhaling their excitement over some warmth instead of fussing with my camera.
While I was sitting there a little Anna Hummingbird came flying up between the limbs of an alder tree directly in front of me. Maybe less than 6 feet away. He(she) stopped stared at me and then decided I wasn’t too bad. He then went over to a piece of hanging moss and poked it. Could be he is doing a little sip of moss dew or perhaps seeing if it would work in a nest. Then he just flew over my head up the hill behind me and was gone. Later I saw him flying around the area doing his hummy click click sound.
It was a special place just like the hummy was trying to tell me. Check out the moss that was glowing from the sun behind it. It had some lovely shades of pale green.
During my walk to and from the park I kept notes on where I saw crow families. Not surprising they were in the places I tracked 2011.
On an even happier note, I saw my gimpy crow that hangs out at 39th & 106th. I had not seen her(him) for many months and feared her time had run out. The first time I saw her was in November of 2012 which would make her at least 6 years old. She is living proof that crows are tough birds with a lot of plunk and determination. If you want to see more on her here is a link to a post just about her. Gimpy Crow of 39th
Back to documenting where they are hanging out. Here is a little map I marked with my crow sightings today.
I wondered if the three crows seen on 106th in two places might be the same. It is possible but the second place in the alley between 41st & 42nd I did not see Gimpy. My prior research had them as two separate clans. Today’s alley group range further to the west towards MVD and the 39th clan are more along 107th and into the Arroyos.
Hope you enjoyed my adventure. Never know what you will see if you look up.
My latest trip to Fauntleroy Park brought me a delightful interlude with two Song Sparrows. Little birds are usually hard to photograph since they flick quickly about in the bushes. This time I lucked out.
It all started by the sweet tune of a bird singing in the salmon-berries. The brush was denuded of leaves with maple leaves hanging for a busy background. Tough to find a small bird that has built in camouflage. Then the bird was there on the edge of the bushes. I quietly got my camera and binoculars out. She stayed put singing away like she had all the time in the world.
How about a close up of our singer?
Staring through a camera is sight limiting. You are focused on that small visual of the world versus having any peripheral vision. That is why the second sparrow snuck up on me. There he was flicking around just below the first bird. What is with that? This little guy was a busy bird while circled the calmer singing bird.
The less fluffy one was just an energizer bunny. He jumped from branch to branch around his girl. I almost expected to see a little bird sex. However, that was not to be and the video below is not X-Rated.
You can’t imagine how excited the male was to see the female until you watch the video. He is bouncing off the wall like a teenager who has found his first love. She fluffs herself up and pecks at the bushes playing coy. They were very entertaining. Hope you enjoy this glimpse of a Sparrow love dance as much as I did.
Heading home up the trail at Fauntleroy Park I heard some knocking.
Since there was no door close by it had to be a woodpecker.
Sure enough it was the drilling of a Pileated Woodpecker. The chips were flying off this tall tree stump.
Then when I started to walk away I saw another bird fly. Sure enough it was a another woodpecker coming to join the busy one. A close look reveals that it is Mrs. Woodpecker. She has a grey mustache. How great is this! My woods have a pair & babies this spring to find and watch!
Never know what you might see in life. She just keeps waving her magic wand and delivering!