Monday, January 15, 2007

Sunday Birds

This is Bob the Tame Limpkin. He was a further upriver Sunday than where we last saw him, hunting snails of course!
We know this is Bob because he allows us to come right up to him and photograph him! I have suggested he might be blind and judging from the way he hunts for snails, with his beak in the water most of the time, and his indifference to being photographed up close, I might be right.

The Wacissa River calls to me so intensely, I knew when I woke up Sunday that I had to go again. The birds are so varied and hunting them is challenging. I take my Canon Rebel XTi with a 75/300 mm zoom lens and hold it in my lap. Some people would not think of taking a camera and managing it while also paddling in a small, low to the water boat. But the only reason I would tip over in this river is if I was careless while getting out of the boat. Even when you hit a submerged log, it really doesn't cause enough trouble to "drop you in the drink" as my dad would say when we were little. I am occasionally startled by a jumping fish or otters, but I am learning what different splashes mean and mostly I don't startle anymore. In fact, I have been making songlines out of different splashing sounds in my mind and I am finding otters more easily. Turtles make single plops. Otters make splashes that are loud and last awhile. Fish often jump about three times in the river in a row and then no more.

I was a bit late getting on the river on Sunday, 10:30 am to be exact and the wind was blowing up the river, blowing all the vegetation to the starboard side of the river, where I like to begin my hunt for owls. I neither heard nor photographed any pileated woodpeckers all day. Nor did I see any ivory-billed woodpeckers. Many of the birds were elsewhere today, perhaps because of the weekends airboats or the weather conditions. But I did see some as you can see here.

I don't know the habits of pileated woodpeckers except from my deductions and phenomenological experiences. I see that they almost always fly in pairs so I expect another when I find one. I see that they also eat those red berries that grow on the trees along the river because I have seen them. They seem to hunt in their roosting area in the early am and then fly off. They seem to return at the end of the day and I often hear them again around sundown if I haven't seen them in a place I expect, during the afternoon. Some seem to hang out in one place a lot like the Jekyl Island pileateds. Some seem to visit an area in the spring but not other times, like my yard. (Now the bird scientists will write to set me straight!) Sometimes they hang upside down to eat berries which is comical!

They seem to call when they are flying into an area to announce their presence. They fly across the river but not downriver. They hang out on the ground a lot and I often see them on logs on the ground if I don't mistake the pecking as coming from above. Pecking sounds vary depending on where they are. The ground pecking is more dense. The high pecking echos across the treetops. I am hoping that using my senses to find them will help me find Ivory-Bills.

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