100 Birds – #15

This photo of a Black-headed Grosbeak was taken about 2 miles from our house in Wenatchee, Washington.  The canyon near our house may be named “Number 2” because it is the second prominent canyon with a stream flowing into town if one starts counting from the north end of town.  I’m going with that rather than the childish reference to bodily functions even though places in the canyon are littered with garbage and debris. The canyon road runs about 4 miles west and turns to a dirt road and enters the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.  Someday soon we will hike the road as we have heard repeatedly how special a place it is up there – beyond the asphalt is almost always quieter, less trampled and more inviting.

The Black-headed Grosbeak is a fairly common bird in Oregon and Washington during migration.  While this photo was taken in north central Washington I learned the most about the bird and how to identify their call from Gerry Ellis and Jenn Loren when we birded with them at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge just north of Vancouver, Washington.  There were calls all around us and I thought they belonged to a robin.  The songs are quite similar to the untrained – a category into which I easily fall.  Gerry forced me to listen closely.  The robin’s song is broken between notes and the grosbeak’s is not.  Some say the Black-headed Grosbeak’s song sounds like a drunken or tipsy robin.  Now that I know this about the song it is possible to pick out the grosbeak song from a chorus of robins.  I didn’t say it was easy but it is certainly possible.

This particular bird was one of several species that flew into a dead shrub next to road as I sat watching one evening.  Usually birds would fly in and take a look around and then depart. It was great to see Yellow-breasted Chat, Bullock’s Oriole, American Goldfinch, Western Tanager and a Pewee make short visits.  It was great photograph practice for me and I continue to learn how to efficiently zoom, compose, focus and photograph birds.  I was all warmed up photographically  when the grosbeak made it’s debut.  Surprisingly, the bird landed and stayed in the same general area for over 15 minutes.  I laughed a bit when I returned home and told Dianne that it was the first time I’d ever gotten “shooter’s cramp” while photographing.  Must be age creeping onward.

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You will likely see other photos in this series in which the bird is using this perch.  Does it mean I have too much spare time when I not only know a specific tree but also a favored perching site within the tree?  Many species seem to like this limb. Yes, I’ve spent a bit of time on the side of the road.  Gone to the birds I have.­

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