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Sue's Bird Blog Archives

One Cuckoo Nemesis Conquered

Published August 11, 2013
Tags: Life List Happenings, Black-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Towhee, Field Sparrow, Belted Kingfisher, Solitary Sandpiper, Scarlet Tanager

Since the beginning of May, when I finally saw an American Woodcock, the Black and Yellow-billed Cuckoos have been my top nemesis birds. But today, thanks to Jim Adams and the the info he shared about where he saw a Black-billed at Oatka Creek Park yesterday, I finally got to see one!  Thank you, Jim!

I woke up early this morning but it wasn't until I got my coffee going that it dawned on me that I had the entire day to myself. I've been so busy the past few days with work and family things that today's open calendar took me by surprise!  As I  mentally went through all the places I could bird today, Jim's post came to mind and that settled it. I quickly went about getting maps and directions printed, packed up my gear and some food, and I was out the door by 7.

The park was beautiful and I found that it holds several different types of habitat. I spent the first half of my day on the east end, where I found the cuckoo - and the second half over by the creek. One thing to note if you go: the park's gates close at 3 PM!  I inadvertently kept a very nice and patient park employee waiting as I meandered back to my car.  Oops! So sorry about that! (Time sure can fly when you're birding!)

I hiked a couple of trails early on in the day listening and searching for a cuckoo. I couldn't help but stop and enjoy a male Eastern Towhee as he was singing, "drink your tea" over and over. While I was taking some photos of him, he suddenly flew off and out of my viewfinder and a moment later was replaced with a Black-billed Cuckoo!! The cuckoo had an insect in its beak and just sat there looking me over. I didn't dare put the camera down, so I just kept taking more photos, too thrilled to do anything else. I knew it was a cuckoo right away because I've studied this bird extensively. And somehow, even with food in his beak, I still got to hear a few sounds from her/him.  I don't know how birds do this, but it's not the first time I've seen them "sing" with a full beak. Very cool.

Anyway, I got a really nice, long opportunity to study and enjoy the cuckoo. When my arms got tired of holding up the camera, I slowly put it down and with the same, slow, deliberate movements, raised my (Doug's) binoculars to look at my new life bird up close and personal.  S/he didn't move and just kept looking at me and holding its bug.  Amazing.  Finally, it just took off - so I continued on my way - but the smile didn't leave my face for a very long time!

After the cuckoo, I explored several more areas of the park, I saw my FOY Solitary Sandpipers down by the creek, and I enjoyed watching a couple of Belted Kingfishers fishing for their meal. I suspect they were both juveniles - and there was even a tussle over the crayfish one of them caught! Kids!

Could this day get any better? On my way out of the park, I was almost run over by a Red Fox as it came barreling across my path! And then, when I noticed a flash of red overhead, I stopped to watch as a pair of Scarlet Tanagers were busy feeding their hungry fledglings. An opportunity like that doesn't come around every day. Great day, great park, great birds!

A note of thanks to David Prill, Willie D'Anna, and Jim Adams for ID help on the sandpiper. And again to Willie for help on the butterflies and dragonflies.
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Black-billed Cuckoo - today's life bird
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Black-billed Cuckoo with an insect
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Black-billed Cuckoo
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Black-billed Cuckoo
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Eastern Towhee
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Field Sparrow
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Belted Kingfisher
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Belted Kingfisher
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Belted Kingfisher
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Belted Kingfisher
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Belted Kingfisher
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Juvenile Spotted Sandpiper
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Juvenile Spotted Sandpiper
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Taking a break from food foraging, the sandpiper enjoyed a little splashing around.
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Juvenile Spotted Sandpiper
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Juvenile Spotted Sandpiper
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The dad Scarlet Tanager
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The mom Scarlet Tanager
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Clouded Sulphur
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Orange Sulphur
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Pearl Crescent
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Pearl Crescent
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Red, Cherry-faced, or White-faced Meadowhawk
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Banded Meadowhawk
Reply from: Tim on 8/12/2013 9:10 PM
 As always great photos Sue and congrats on another nemesis bird!
Reply from: Sue on 8/14/2013 7:13 AM
 Thanks very much, Tim!