Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Birdiversity...Ravens and Eagles and Butcherbirds, too!

Old Man Winter dozed off for a while this past weekend, so we took off our coats and wandered outside into the sun. 

 That's when we saw the birds. 

The crows were everywhere. 
Foraging among the litter in the student parking lot, digging for worms and beetles in the fallow cotton fields, gathered around an opossum on Tramway road, and cawing the alarm from any number of interesting perches.

Northern cardinal sang lustily from the willow oaks bordering the lot,

and seemingly every shrub in sight bore the obligatory berry-munching mockingbird.

Loggerhead shrike bounded about its barbed butcher's rack, 
certain that the sunshine would lure a mouse or lizard into view.

A pair of ravens cavorted high above the fields in the cloudless blue, soaring and swooping like a couple of teenage daredevils taunting their younger siblings, while the suddenly smaller crows picked among the stubble of soybeans far below.

Cousin Danny showed up a little after noon with his nifty new camera gear, and we headed up to the lake to see if any eagles were about. As we exited the highway, red-shouldered hawk coolly surveyed our passing, and we paused for a moment to admire this noble raptor.

"Buzzards" abounded in the vicinity of the lake; this majestic turkey vulture was one of dozens rising on the thermals below the dam.

 And as soon as we lowered our eyes to the opposite bank, we were greeted by the sight of a most magnificent bird, the American bald eagle. 

Placidly perched in the bright afternoon sun, this adult hung around for a full ten minutes until another adult noisily roused it from its reverie and accompanied it down the river and out of sight. 

Over the course of the next hour or so, we watched the two adults and two younger eagles alternately playing low along the river and soaring clear out of sight in the deep blue sky.

Just across the way, these black vultures seemed content to while away the hours in the company of like-minded companions, high in the leafless boughs of the oaks. 

Cousin Danny and I heartily seconded that sentiment, basking in the warm winter sun from our perch on the grass below.

What a joy it was to be outside, enjoying the beauty and diversity of these winged wonders.

Whether the common backyard variety, old friends recovering from near-extinction, or relative newcomers to our region, each avian encounter made us more mindful of the amazing biodiversity we enjoy here in the heart of Carolina.

Thanks for the respite, Old Man Winter!

Special thanks to Hunter for sharing the most excellent mockingbird and raven shots...

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