Monday, May 31, 2010

Magnificent Acre- Bald Eagle, Lesser Yellowlegs, Eastern Pheobe, Pileated Woodpecker

Yesterday was a fantastic day. The weather was warm, in the high seventies, we are all healthy, including our dog, Perry, and I sold a mess of photographs. What could have been better? On my way home from delivering the photographs with a nice check burning a hole in my pocket, I stopped to check in on the Bald eagle's nest. The parents were around, but not on the nest at first. The one seen here was perched just off  to the side of the nest in the same tree. Under the nest, the grass and weeds are splattered heavily with eagle poo. It looks like a Jackson Pollock nature painting. I found a large feather stuck quill end into the poo like a javelin had been launched from on high. This eagle was panting because it was pretty hot in the sun and quite humid. I passed under the eagle's nest in pursuit of this female Pileated woodpecker. Believe it or not, I was more interested in getting a shot of her than the Bald eagle. I've taken lots of shots of perched eagles, even these same ones, enough so that I'm kind of bored with it. I need an eagle to do something interesting like fight with another bird, fly off with a sheep or perhaps my neighbor's dog. I have found getting a good image of a Pileated to be more of a challenge. First of all, there seem to be fewer of them than eagles, at least around here. Then, they are quite wary of people and fly away the second one moves. Also, being woodpeckers, they are always in places where the light is dim and there are lots of tree branches in the way. Their favorite food is Carpenter ants. Where I took this photo is a lumber mill with decades of milled wood stacked in the woods decomposing. It's a Carpenter ant factory. I have heard the loud "kuk kuk keeekeeekeekee kuk kuk" call in those woods before but never been able to get close enough, until today. This one was so busy bashing huge chunks of bark from this dead White pine that it didn't notice me. I could hear the slabs of bark falling from high up and followed the noise through the woods. So the bird wouldn't hear me, I only moved when I heard the woodpecker banging and the bark crashing to the ground. This Pileated was so vigorous about getting food in this fairly small area of trees that I think she has a nest with hatchlings nearby (of course, that's my next photography mission). My hands were trembling and my heart was pounding with each step I took advancing on her, sneaking along like Pocahontas with the feather jammed into my  pony tail. I have image stabilization on my lens, but it can only overcome so much movement. I was lucky to get good, crisp shots! I think the feather gave me good luck, carried me swiftly and surely of foot, silently through the forest. Ya. Okay. Next fantasy. After I had my fill of that,
The Pileated Woodpecker is our largest woodpecker at almost 17" tall. This one is female. Someone will probably jump out of the trees here to tell me that this isn't a female.

I headed back to my car. On a spit of rock sticking into the Kennebec River, I saw these three Lesser Yellowlegs. I'm going with 'Lesser' versus 'Greater' (not more) Yellowlegs because they look more delicate, with thinner necks and longer legs. I'm probably wrong about this, too. Yellowlegs, both kinds, are a migratory wading bird common here in the summer. It's breeding season so see how very yellow their legs are? Quite flashy! While I was shooting them, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. This Eastern Phoebe landed on a piece of driftwood. I had seen it a couple of times flitting around the area with insects in its bill, so I'm assuming that it is also nesting nearby. There was a pair of Song sparrows also nesting there and Black And White Warblers, too. The area of woods sits on a point of land between the Kennebec River and Winnegance Lake. There is a good sized marsh on one side. It is a magnificent acre of wildlife.
A Woodchuck popped up onto this driftwood log barely 60 feet from the Yellowlegs. It was staring me down and humming, "How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?" When one of the eagles came back to its nest, this guy dove for cover. Maybe it's a she with a litter nearby, too. That seemed to be the order of the day. It seemed quite incongruous to see a Woodchuck alongside Yellowlegs. In the left foreground of the photo, you can see dreaded Poison Ivy. I was wearing sandals because I had gone to sell photographs, not shoot wildlife. It is fortunately my practice to always look where I'm walking or I would have stepped into it along with that pile of eagle poo. I did get a Dog tick inside my shirt, too. These photographs were worth all of it.


  1. I hate ticks. Grrr.

    I had a Pileated fly so close over my head yesterday morning I thought it took hair with it. I was silently, motionlessly waiting for the Chickadee to come back and steal more moss from the spot I had just busted her doing so.... Pileateds make a TON of noise in the air!

    I have a few stray cats, if you can train an eagle to take your neighbors dog, send em' my way.

  2. Hello Robin,

    That picture of the Pileated is awesome!

    Not wanting to be picky, but I think it is a male based on the red forehead and the red cheek patch. I also think that your Yellowlegs are Greater because of the amount of dark barring on the flanks. Mind you I could very easily be wrong!



  3. I think your use of the word "poo" is kinda cute...

  4. Thank you, Fred. God only knows: I aim to be cute!

  5. Geez, Seamus! See what I mean? I think maybe I'll just have to stick to calling all the feathered beasts I see 'birds' without bothering to ID as I'm so often wrong. And even then, I'd probably be wrong! Ha ha.

  6. GUESS WHAT??? I looked up the woodpecker in Sibley's AGAIN as I had done that before I posted before. And, I DO see that it is a male. I reversed the pictures with the gender symbol. That's what happens when one doesn't read but only looks at the pi'chahs. And so now, on to the Yellowlegs...........

  7. I left the smoky air from the fires in Quebec get the best of me this morning and stayed inside.

    Fantastic photo series Robin! And congrats on the photo sales!

    I will have to remember to invite you to our blueberry bushes when the berries are on. Piliated Woodpeckers from all over come to our bushes and devour the blueberries. I think they get more of the berries than we do!


  8. I sure hope you do remember! I'd love to photo/see them and pick over the blueberries myself.

  9. Great birding yet again.....srb

  10. Robin,

    Sounds like you had a terrific day. I assume this is the eagle nest you once showed me? I am all with you, I would have opted for the woodie myself. Great images!

    BTW After 28 years of having poison ivy in my backyard, I just got a horrid infection last week. You are a lucky lady!

    Miss you.


  11. Sue & GeorgeJune 1, 2010 at 7:52 AM

    One for the pheasant, one for the crow, one to rot, and one to GROW!

  12. Wow, all great photographs. I haven't picked up my camera since January 1st. I find these inspirational, I need to get back out there.

  13. Your three yellowlegs on a rock are Greater Yellowlegs. Notice the length of the bills and how they look slightly upturned. The bill never looks like that on a Lesser. Great photos of the Bald Eagle, Eastern Phoebe and Pileated Woodpecker. Paul

  14. Well, doesn't that just figure: wrong on both birds. The Pileated is male and the Yellowlegs are Greater, neither more nor Lesser. I'm really happy that I've inspired someone, though. There is no greater reward for an artist to inspire and please others. Thank you all. RRR

  15. Great pictures Robin. Thanks for following my blog. I've added you to my list also.

    Glad everyone got you straightened out on the gender and ID of your pictures.

  16. The Woodchuck is my favorite. Cute little creature! I have often wondered ...Do the wild creatures ever get poison ivy?

  17. HG,I was wondering the same thing while eyeing the 'chuck.' Its fur is pretty thick, so maybe that's the key. It seems as if deer and other browsers should get poison ivy on their noses, doens't it? Guess I better not stick MY nose where it doesn't belong, eh?