Last Saturday I had the pleasure of going on my very first Bird Walk. The walk was sponsored by my favorite birding store here in Charlotte. I didn't know what to expect but I was super excited to go. This was one of the first things I scheduled totally for myself based on that night I spent alone. I realized pretty quickly that I was the only one in the group carrying a camera. Everyone else had a very nice pair of binoculars while I had a silly little pair that I've had for years (not even sure where I got them!). There was no doubt that I was the beginner in the group! After about half an hour I realized why no one else had a camera. For one, it's really quite difficult to get a good picture because of the large distances and many, many tree branches that get in the way. Secondly, on this particular day, there was no sun and it was very grey. However, I also realized that I love the photography as much as I love the birds. Even though I didn't get any photos of some of the "better finds", I love the photos I do have. And how else could I have shared the experience with my girls without some photos?
One of our first finds was a Pileated Woodpecker. As you can see, he was far away. This was the best shot I could get with my big lens. I couldn't help but wonder what he must look like from closer up. So imagine my delight when I read this blog post yesterday. Can you believe that photo?! Isn't he gorgeous?
The Greenway, where I walk most mornings in warmer weather, has plenty of Mallards. Even though they're common, for me, they never get old. The males especially are so beautiful!
There are also many, many signs of beavers on the Greenway. I have yet to see a beaver in person (and that didn't change after this walk) but I'm always on the lookout for signs that they're there! I took a few pictures of beaver signs on the walk and they all appear in this post. This dam is pretty impressive!
These two red-shouldered hawks have already paired up for breeding season.
The American Black Duck. I was unfamiliar with this species of duck. I was sad to hear that their numbers keep dropping. I assumed this was due to habitat loss but our guide said it was due to interbreeding with the Mallards (whose numbers have grown with habitat changes).
Another new-for-me duck. The Gadwall. Really, really gorgeous duck. I'm excited to look out for this one on my future walks.
Hmmmm. That beaver sure has been busy!
You should know that I'm the person in the group who is always lagging behind a little, caught up in some bird/duck/tree/etc. I'm always running to catch up. As the group continued on, I stayed and checked out this cool hole in this very tall pine. Come on, a hole like that with a natural perch? Someone cool MUST live there. I'll be checking this out on future visits as well!
I don't have a great picture but we actually came across a female American Black Duck with a partner male Mallard. A real life example of the interbreeding. This kind of made me sad.
When we got to the cattail wetland area, I watched all the small birds darting about. In the photo above, there's a tiny little bird camouflaged right in the middle of the photo.
I do love the cattails!
A sweet little Mallard couple.
This beaver is obviously very ambitous and maybe not the smartest. He/she is working at this massive tree from both sides but at two different levels!
I wish I could remember what type of bird this is! I tried to take notes but it was just too much to keep up with. Ha! Maybe a type of Nuthatch?
It amazes me how these trees stay alive in so much water!
An example of three native trees growing side by side. Birch, Ash and I don't remember the third!
A red-headed woodpecker.
Did I mention it was cold and grey? This was such a nice group of people. I'm hoping to see them again on another walk!
Okay, my favorite part of the entire walk was seeing this pair of Mourning Doves mating. Yes, they mated right in front of the group. It was over in a second so I obviously didn't get a picture. Honestly, my mouth was hanging open and I couldn't take my eyes off of them. It was pretty awesome! Bring on the Mourning Dove babies! (Don't they look guilty to you?)
All in all, we saw 37 different species of bird and duck. Not too shabby, right? I learned a lot actually.....mainly how little I know about birds. The best part was spending the morning around people like myself, people who get geekily excited over bird behavior and finds. I look forward to the next one.....