Posted by: atowhee | November 12, 2008

Emigrant Lake: Lewis and Dark


 A Lewis’s Woodpecker, high atop an oak near Milepost 10 on Highway 66, east of Emigrant Lake.  This was one of the flock that apparently winters there annually.  Certainly they were present last fall and winter, leaving sometime in mid-psring for an unknown breeding territory.  This is the only bird that honors one of America’s great explorers and natural historians, Meriwether Lewis, co-leader of the famous expedition to explore the newly acquired Lousiana Purchase.  In 1804 he was the first official American explorer, along with Clark, to reach Oregon.  They spent that winter at the mouth of the Columbia River.  This species is one of several they discovered for science.

The Lewis’s Woodpecker is a stunning bird, acting much like a small crow.  It flies frequently to the ground to forage. It even flyu-catches.  In good light it has a remarkable mix of colors.  Here’s how Audubon described the bird he’d never seen alive, based on specimens brought back to him by Thomas Nuttall and John Townsend in the 1830s, and what he could tell from Alexander Wilson’s earlier drawings of the L&C specimens: “The general color of the upper parts is black, highly glossed with green, a band across the forehead, the throat, and a broad patch on the side of the head, surrounding the eye, deep carmine or blood-red; beyond this the thorat and the side softhe neck black;a band of dull white runs over the hind neck…the rest of the breast and sides are rose-red…”  He goes on and on.

You might assume this was today’s Lewis and “Dark.”  Not so.  There was a speeding dark streak along the eastern shore of Emigrant Lake, where the burrs are now on the summer-dried lakebed turning slowly to sticky goo by the rainy season. A Merlin.  Always at top speed when in motion and an umistakably strong, sharp-winged flier.  No picture of this one.  But here’s what they look like in alert repose.

The Meadowlarks were singing our their approval of the autumn sun which was burning away the fog.  The Acorn Woodpckers were laughing at their own private jokes.  The cackle and croak of Ravens echoed across the south end of Emigrant Lake as well as the honking of too many Canada Geese.












goose-landingGoose landing









img_4770This is about how the Red-tailed Hawk looked through mhy binoculars.  Very far away.



Location:     Emigrant Lake
Observation date:     11/11/08
Notes:     Western Meadowlarks were singing in the morning sun as the fog burned off.  Most of the Canada Geese were on the lake near the dam by the park entry road.
Number of species:     19

Canada Goose     350
Bufflehead     3
Great Blue Heron     3
Red-tailed Hawk     2
Merlin     1
American Coot     2
Spotted Sandpiper     1
Mourning Dove     4
Lewis’s Woodpecker     10
Acorn Woodpecker     8
Western Scrub-Jay     8
Common Raven     32
White-breasted Nuthatch     1
Western Bluebird     6
European Starling     40
Golden-crowned Sparrow     75
Dark-eyed Junco     1
Red-winged Blackbird     17
Western Meadowlark     9

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