More on Birds

I went out this afternoon with the intention of looking for kinglets where I saw them yesterday. However, before I made it down to the lower edge of the trees, I stopped to sit in the sun out of the wind and listen to the birds for a while. There was fairly constant bird noise overall. In any given direction around me, there might be silence, but I could hear birds chirping from some direction most of the time. Occasionally there were times when I could hear no birds at all. I do not know if that was coincidence or due to some other factor that I was not aware of. While listening to the birds I dozed off for a time, despite the fact that it was probably no warmer than the mid-20’s.

When I woke up, I heard a faint knocking sound that would come and go. It took me a minute or two to figure out what it was that I was hearing and where it was coming from. I finally realized that it sounded like a woodpecker and it was coming from some trees not too far from me. I moved to a place closer to those trees to listen and watch more intently. A small movement caught my eye, and I saw a bird on a branch just inside the trees. It sat for a long time and appeared to be looking around. I watched it, occasionally catching glimpses of red which led me to think that I was seeing a woodpecker (either a downy or hair woodpecker, the differences are fairly subtle). Eventually it started pecking at the branch again. I had always associated woodpecker activities with the trunks of trees rather than the branches, and did not realize that they often forage on branches. I also did not realize that pecking at a branch would result in as much sound as it did. I watched it for some time from the clearing but eventually decided I wanted to get a closer look. I did my best to quietly make my way along an overgrown trail to the trees. I was far from quiet, but the woodpecker seemed unconcerned with me. I moved to various vantage points under the trees to observe it (and even briefly considered trying to climb a tree to get a better view). It seemed to be fairly systematic in its approach. It would start near the trunk and gradually work its way out. It would peck a number of times in each position and then move forward a couple of inches. Occasionally it would move back a foot or so and go over a section again. During the time I watched it, it completed two branches on the same tree. After reaching the end of the second branch, it flew to a new tree some distance away. While it flew it made a call that sounds to me much like the chirping sound the squirrels around here make sometimes. That made me wonder if I have heard woodpeckers around the house before and just assumed they were squirrels.

Near the end of my woodpecker observation, I noticed a group of about five varied thrushes making their way through the woods in my direction. The thrushes seem to move in a very loose group, and three of the birds made started up a short rise towards where I was doing my best to go unnoticed. One of them got within about 12-15 feet of where I sat, happened to look up and notice me suddenly. It appeared to be quite startled to see me and immediately flew back. The other two birds still had not seen me but the retreat of the first bird got their attention. They looked to see what had caused the alarm but did not seem to see what the big deal was. They each looked at me, but neither seemed to be worried. Still, they flew to branches that were a short distance back and watched me for a minute before following the other birds that had been in the group away from me.

I never did make it down to look for kinglets.

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