The roads were moderately clear today and the sun was out! I headed back to the Minnesota Valley NWR. It's right off the highway and easily accessible. A turkey spent most of her day at the feeding station. She kicked up quite a bit of snow under the feeder to get at the spilled sunflower seeds.
This was to the absolute delight of the juncos and trees sparrows. The turkey also kicked up quite a bit of spilled Nyjer which these birds love to eat.
There were a TON of woodpeckers--mostly downy (above), hairy, and red-bellied. These two just cracked me up. They were eating on either side of the peanut feeder and if they noticed each other would get in a fight. While two woodpeckers would be on the peanut feeder, two more would be on the suet feeders. Then you would see at least a half dozen more woodpeckers waiting in the trees for their turn at the food.
All of a sudden, all of the birds flew off except for this one female downy woodpecker. She remained frozen where she was. I noticed some snow shoers taking off their gear outside the nature center and wondered that were it. No, her attention was elsewhere. There must have been a hawk nearby. Then someone in the building spotted it.
An adult sharp-shinned hawk had flown in. In the above photo are both birds. The female downy is in the yellow circle, the hawk is in the red circle. Both sat still waiting for the other to move. Finally, the hawk relaxed, and tucked in one of its feet (something birds do when they are totally relaxed or about to sleep). The downy saw her chance and flew to safety.
That allowed me to digiscope LOTS of photos of the sharp-shin! You could see those bright red eyes! I took about 120 photos, entranced by those deep red eyes. More snow shoers passed and this hawk didn't pay them any attention. Even a chickadee was brave enough to mob and scream a warning within a few feet of her. I learned from one of the staff that this bird hunted this area quite often, which confirmed my suspicion (on Wednesday I wondered about some curious cardinal feeding behavior and I wondered if it was because of a hawk). Eventually, some small birds flushed and the chickadee that had been mobbing her got nailed and became sharp-shin dinner.
About five minutes after she flew off with her prey the birds returned to the feeder and the original feeding frenzy continued as before--see hawks don't keep birds away from a feeder permanently. Just for the time they are present in the yard. Prey knows that as soon as the hunter gets its fill they are safe for the moment.
It was a different experience being at the nature center on a Saturday instead of a week day. I spent a good chunk of the afternoon giving a digiscoping presentation. It's strange to me that being on the road and going to bird festivals, I get the sense that EVERYBODY knows about digiscoping and it's sweeping that nation. However, to most at the nature center it was very new and different. I had quite a few people ask what I was doing with a "telescope"--was that really for watching birds?
Perhaps I will set myself up there more on the weekends with all my bells and whistles: binos, spotting scope, Handheld Birds, birdJam with speaker...yes, step into my parlour little flies...let me show you how cool birding can be...mwa ha ha ha ha ha.