Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sunrise at EPCAL

Harriers and Meadowlarks:
I woke up ridiculously early this morning to get to EPCAL in hopes of seeing a good variety of birds in addition to a skunk that was seen recently.  Unfortunately the weather is going through a bit of a cold spell and it was about 25* this morning - likely spoiling my chances for seeing a skunk ambling around but it didn't prevent the birds from putting on quite a show.

The first thing I saw when I arrived was a Northern Harrier perched on some vegetation all the way on the South end of the runway.  Would have been nice to get closer but the lighting makes up for it a bit:

Back at the entrance to the taxiway on the northern end of the property was an Eastern Meadowlark which I found to be quite scarce today in contrast with my first visit:

Back to the South end and the Harrier was annoyed by a murder of American Crows that were hanging out - the Harrier (a juvenile) tried out several perches perhaps trying to figure out what to do about these annoying raucous birds:

It didn't take long for the Harrier to decide to give the Crows a run for their money and chase off the most annoying of the bunch:

... it wasn't long before the Crow tried to turn the tables:

Bluebirds and more:
After driving around a bit I noticed some movement to the West of the end of the tarmac and spotted an Eastern Bluebird checking out the many nesting boxes setup.  I went for a walk and was surprised to not only find a few handsome male Bluebirds but a cooperative American Robin, and even better, 2 Tree Swallows who were probably far to cold to think about wasting energy flying.

and the 2nd Swallow. . .

As I took a few more loops around the runway/taxiway I spotted a female Northern Harrier perched on the ground and thought for sure it would bolt as soon as I stopped but it surprisingly stayed still.  I got into a better position - assuring I could get catchlight if I got the proper head turn.  I wasn't worried about getting closer so it would fill the frame as I knew it would take off eventually (the wind seemed to be bothering it) and had to leave room for the wings to move around in the frame.  The results are the best Harrier shots I have taken (after about 2 years of frustrating "practice" along Dune Rd" but still lack the catchlight on the eye:



And soar...

An American Kestrel was hunting in its "usual" place but was quite a distance away.  The auto-focus was struggling to keep focus because of the small size of the subject so I had to rely on manual focus for this shot - which I must say I'm pretty proud of.  Too bad the background isn't more pleasing.

More Swallows:
I was just about to leave when I saw a flock of Tree Swallows flying above the pond at the entrance to EPCAL and thought I'd see what I could get.  To my surprise, 3 Barn Swallows were mixed in the flock.  The lighting was getting a bit harsh at this point and I couldn't get the angle I wanted for most shots but still the best ones I have of this species together.

One of the Tree Swallows was checking out the nesting box to see if it was suitable.  Tree Swallows and Eastern Bluebirds will nest adjacent to one another - but once a Tree Swallow has occupied a nesting box, it won't let another couple of the same species nest nearby, thus allowing the Eastern Bluebirds (who nest later in the spring than many birds) a chance to move in.  

Phragmites may be annoying and "ugly" but it creates a perfect perch for these light birds:

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