There are a few very special places on our property that inspire me. One of them, a place that I have loved since we moved here, is the small group of Ponderosa Pine trees that sit north of the pond. In fact, I adore that little spot so much that when we were able to build our new home in the west hay field, we pounded the corner post of the house so that the french doors in my office would face those pine trees. I wanted to be able to see them when I sat at my desk.
Yesterday, Robert and I went for a little drive, first to set up new trail cams by the apple tree, and second to hopefully spot some birds. There are the locals that are preparing to stay for the winter, as well as birds that may only be seen for a few days during this fall migration. When we saw some flapping about in the Ponderosa pines, we situated the golf cart to face east, with the late afternoon sun at our back. That way, if we were able to locate the birds, there would be better lighting for photography.
First, I filmed the silhouette of a large bird with a long bill. I thought it might be a woodpecker, but it turned out the be a Blue Jay.
Then, in the next tree over to the south, we saw fluttering. At first I thought they might be Nuthatches. But, once they flew off I was pretty sure they were Bluebirds based on their size and mostly by their flight pattern. Still, it wasn’t until we got back to the office and downloaded the SD card that we would know for sure. As I opened the file folder, Robert asked me to make my final decision. “Bluebird,” I replied.
Robert’s supposition that they were some sort of woodpecker or flicker was actually quite likely based on the birds’ behavior. They were clinging to the trunk of the tree the way that a flicker is pone to do, and not very much like Bluebirds typically behave. As it turned out, I was right. They were Eastern Bluebirds (a family – I suspect.) Based on their activity that I caught in the photos, they were hunting some sort of insects in the crevasse of the bark where the tree was scarred from the effects of a storm, when it lost a large limb.
At first, I saw two birds, perhaps a mated pair, that were focused intently on the space between the bark and the exposed area of the large tree trunk.
Then, a third bird flew into view. He perched near the first two, seemingly observing them. Then, he made the short flight to join them. Landing near the “place of interest” he joined the others shoving his beak into the bark. My best guess is that they were nabbing insects, but I suppose they may have been harvesting sap.
Then, one moved to a small branch, and hopped over to a larger limb.
The bird on the larger limb, that I thought might be a juvenile chick of the pair on the trunk, became interested in activity above him. It turned out to be a fourth bird which then joined them. The two on the trunk turned and focused on the others. I can’t be sure, but based on their open beaks, it seemed that the new arrivals began begging their parents for food.
The remainder of the shots show their activity, including wider angle views to show the bird that flew up the tree and remained there for a while. Eventually, they settled on a crooked limb that fit at least three of them in what appeared to be a comfortable roosting area.
That twisted branch looks like a nice place to hang out – almost like a nest. After some time, they all flew off, and I was fairly confident they were Bluebirds. However, Robert wasn’t all wrong with his woodpecker guess.
At the far north end of the pond meadow, we spotted birds in the grass. I had seen Mockingbirds earlier and I knew they might be hunting insects on the ground. Then, from our far off location, I noticed one of the birds was different than the others, and it seemed to have a bit of red coloring when it moved in the shadows of the trees. I continued to shoot but I told Robert, “I bet that’s just a Robin, although I haven’t seen one in a long while.” The Robins have gone for the season, but I suppose birds that make their summer home up north could still be traveling through our area.
As it turned out, upon download and enlargement, we had been watching a Northern Flicker! It’s a species that I only saw for the first time last week. I took photos, but the lighting was terrible and the photos were grainy. So, I am happy to have captured this bird on film. He was indeed hunting insects on the ground alongside two Mockingbirds. The first photo is truly challenging, but you may see a Mockingbird on the far right, and the one in the center is harder to spot. The N Flicker is the bird on the left. There are others of the N Flicker below.
It was a great little outing that yielded an interesting view of Bluebird behavior, a decent photo of a new species, and the chance to spend time with my husband on our 19th wedding anniversary! In parting, here’s a lovely images of Autumn colors.
I have also observed Eastern bluebirds that winter here, clinging to tree trunks and other low perches as they watch for insects on the ground. Flickers are
unique among woodpeckers in their habit of foraging for ants and other insects on the ground.