Clark Fork River backwaters

In a weekend filled with work and teaching at the Garden of 1000 Buddhas, I managed to carve out some time for a little birding along a couple of sloughs of the Clark Fork River. The cottonwoods echoed with birdsong from Yellow Warblers, Northern Waterthrush, Least Flycatcher, Bullock’s Orioles, Gray Catbirds, and Cedar Waxwings. The sun was bright and soothing.

Low-angle view of the backwater

Low-angle view of the backwater

Little Tyrant - Least Flycatcher

Little Tyrant – Least Flycatcher

Least Flycatcher in between singing bouts

Least Flycatcher in between singing bouts

Downy Woodpecker caught down low

Downy Woodpecker caught down low

Clark Fork River slough HDR

Clark Fork River slough HDR

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Rufous, Black-chinned, and Calliope – a hummer of a day

There is a few feeders that hang outside of the restaurant at Quinn’s Hot Spring along the Clark Fork River…these feeders are covered with hummingbirds. Calliope, Rufous, and Black-chinned all made their appearances, much to my delight. These tame little critters are more than photogenic as these images can attest.

Female Calliope Hummingbird

Female Calliope Hummingbird

Hovering male Calliope Hummingbird

Hovering male Calliope Hummingbird

Male Calliope Hummingbird with his magnificent gorget

Male Calliope Hummingbird with his magnificent gorget

Male Rufous Hummingbird

Male Rufous Hummingbird

The star of the show - the male Black-chinned Hummingbird showing the full gorget

The star of the show - the male Black-chinned Hummingbird showing the full gorget

Black-backed Woodpecker – sense a theme here?

Some creatures hold a mystic grasp on my birding imagination. They are rare, elusive, or just plain odd. The Black-backed Woodpecker may just possess all three of those attributes in a single animal. Incredibly patchy in distribution due to their requirement of recently burnt forests for both nesting and feeding, Black-backed Woodpeckers are scattered widely across the landscape. Once a forest fire has blacken the trunks, wood-boring insects soon arrive to reap the harvest of the deceased timber. The Black-backed Woodpecker, in turn, preys upon those insects, primarily Monochamus spp. and Dendroctonus englamanni. Once the insects have exhausted the food supply, they disappear as do the woodpeckers. This constant seeking of new opportunities creates a nomadic lifestyle. They are always dissolving into memory.

The odd characteristic of the Black-backed Woodpecker is a trait that it shares with its close cousin, the American Three-toed Woodpecker…it is the fact that Black-backed Woodpeckers have 3 toes, well actually not quite, 2 toes are fused into a single functional rear toe.

Last week, I received word that Black-backed Woodpeckers were being seen at a recent burn along the Clark Fork River. Vida and I made it to the site around 5 in the afternoon, and within 10 minutes, we had found the nest hole and its rather cooperative occupants. The male showed particularly well, and with his indulgence I was rattled off a few quality shots of the ever elusive Black-backed Woodpecker.

The wonderful yellow crown of the Black-backed Woodpecker

The wonderful yellow crown of the Black-backed Woodpecker

Male Black-backed Woodpecker

Male Black-backed Woodpecker