Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Black-Billed Magpies, Dark-Eyed Juncos, and Woodpeckers in Colorado

Black-Billed Magpie in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

It was a lovely Easter weekend. I spent hours watching the children search for eggs on the large property of a family member, but I also had the opportunity to watch the spring birds hovering around her porch, seeking snacks and singing songs. 

Black-Billed Magpie in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I'll never forget the first time I saw a magpie. It was at Carter Lake in Colorado. There was a family of them, and the father was feeding one of the children, practically sticking his entire head inside the youngster's mouth. I was fascinated. When my granddaughter, Layla, saw the Black-Billed Magpie fly overhead on Easter she was ecstatic. I knew I would have to wait, patiently, for the bird to return so I could take a photograph for Layla, and the bird not only returned, but posed for the photograph! 

Black-Billed Magpie in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman

This handsome fella has a beautiful tail, but it's so long it's difficult to see. It reminded me of the Scissor-Tail Flycatchers I used to try so hard to photograph in Texas (they are a bit shy). Flycatcher's have tails so long that the have to land on thin branches or wires. The older the bird, the longer the tail. They are called the Birds of Paradise of Texas. I would say the same of our Magpies! 

Dark-Eyed Junco in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

There were many beautiful birds hopping around the porch on Easter and they were surprisingly comfortable with the large flock of children running around! There was about a dozen Dark-Eyed Juncos fluttering around the porch. They were slate-colored and quite lovely. 

Dark-Eyed Junco in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

In Oregon there are Dark-Eyed Juncos with black heads and brown bodies, but in Colorado we have the slate-colored Dark-Eyed Juncos. Both are in the sparrow family. They have white outer tail feathers that are very attractive when they're in flight. 

Dark-Eyed Junco cracking a seed in its beak. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Juncos like forest areas, and we were in a forested area on Easter. The Dark-Eyed Junco also builds its nest on or near the ground, which explains why the photos show them on piles of pine needles. They are also friendly with many other bird species. The Juncos were hopping about with the woodpecker moving freely through their flock--I saw none of the aggression that is so prevelant in some bird species like Cardinals and Hummingbirds. 

This lovely creature was photographed in Drake, Colorado on Easter. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I live in Greeley, Colorado, in a highly-populated area near busy streets and noisy shopping centers, so I am always surprised by the large number of beautiful creatures that I see every day. There is at least two woodpeckers living in the trees near my home, and I can hear them every time I step outside, tap, tap, tapping on the trees. To me, a country girl trapped in a city home, the sound is not at all irritating. It is like music to my soul.

Woodpecker in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I had the opportunity to photograph a woodpecker up-close over the Easter weekend while visiting family in Drake, Colorado. There was two of them hopping around trees near the porch where I was sitting. One appeared to be looking for food, while the other was busy drillling a hole in a tree.  

Woodpecker in Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

The exact identity of this beauty still alludes me. I thought I was photographing a red-headed woodpecker, but the red, as you can see, is only in a band across the back of its head, which could mean it is a White-Headed Woodpecker. These birds also hang out in the forest, but nest in holes in dead trees. The tapping of a woodpecker does not have one meaning. It sometimes means the bird is creating a home in a hollow tree, but it is also the way the male and female communicate with each other during mating season, and their communication style when incubating their eggs, a task they take on equally. 

The view from Drake, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

There was a snowstorm just a few days earlier, so it was a cool morning and everyone was bundled up in coats and hats for the Easter Egg hunts, but the birds didn't seem to mind the cold. They are ready for spring!