Keeping tabs

The Profiles post yesterday was, as noted, taken that day, on another outing to Jordan Lake to see what was happening. The goal has been to spot any activity of eagles, osprey, or herons, possibly to do some video tests with equipment modifications, but so far I’ve seen no sign of any of them, save for some heron footprints in the sand on the shoreline. However, the smaller bird activity has been quite energetic, though shrouded in thicker wooded sections for the most part. Even though the trees are bare (with very few evergreens in the immediate area,) they’re thick enough to keep blocking my view.

Soon after leaving the car and while still alongside the parking lot, I heard numerous calls from a quite noisy specimen, which I recognized by ear as a red-headed woodpecker since I listened to them for hours at a time last year. This one was almost right against the sun from my position, but I was able to slip around and get a slightly better view, all the time listening to its nonstop calling.

red-headed woodpecker Melanerpes erythrocephalus yearling starting to develop its red head
No surprise, this was one of last year’s broods, now starting to develop the red head of the breeding adults – I would have thought it would be entirely red by now, but this is the first chance I’ve had to observe them over a period of time. Why, exactly, it was making such a racket, alone among all of the birds there, I couldn’t say; I would have surmised that it was advertising for a mate or marking territory, but its behavior was simply foraging, and I’ve seen them remaining completely silent while doing so.

There were plenty of songbirds like sparrows and wrens, mostly remaining both too distant and too active to get decent photos of, but I also saw both red-bellied woodpeckers and downy woodpeckers, as well as a grackle, a little surprising since I’ve never spotted them in the area – they seem much more coastally oriented. And a dead bird nearly atop the leaves that looked like a loon, but it was decaying enough that I wasn’t going in for the full examination, though that’s another I’ve seen little of around here.

All of this was in the woods alongside the parking lot – I didn’t even have to get under the trees to see these. And while I did hike down to the area where I’d watched the fledging and all that activity last year, it was dead quiet right now, nothing to be seen or heard – everybody was up by the parking lot. I expect that to change soon as nesting season kicks in, but it’s still only January in the mid-Atlantic, a little early yet.

So the only thing to remain within decent photographic conditions for a few moments was another redhead.

red-headed woodpecker Melanerpes erythrocephalus yearling almost fully in adult plumage
This is full frame at 600mm, just to give an idea of both the distance and the conditions – all that blurring you see are intervening branches and vines. But I had enough of a gap, with some shifting around, to make the crop worthwhile:

red-headed woodpecker Melanerpes erythrocephalus yearling showing vestiges of grey immature feathers
It’s hard to tell with both the lighting and the blurring foreground elements, but the wings here still look a bit grey, rather than black as the adults are, but I couldn’t make out the grey feathers on the face until I unloaded the card back home. Another yearling, and potentially one of those I was chasing last year, but I couldn’t even give a wild guess about the probability of that, save that this was only a few hundred meters away.

The rains are starting up again, so this is likely to be it for a few days at least. Not a hugely productive outing, but at least I snagged a handful of frames.

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