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Feb 25, 2009 | by Kevin Loughlin

I took my camera this time. Lisa and I, after visiting her mom for lunch on Saturday, took a quick trip to Parvin State Park, New Jersey, in late afternoon. It was a beautiful day with clear blue skies and little wind. We chose to follow the “Green Trail” which went around the lake. We went counter-clockwise to end up at the eastern side of the lake at sunset.

In the first mile we passed a few people –a couple walkers, and runners and one biker– all going the other way, but it was fairly quiet bird-wise. I spied a Cooper’s Hawk perched at eye-level a couple hundred yards ahead, but it was so well camouflaged that I could not get Lisa on it before it flew deeper into the forest. Carolina Wrens could be heard in the distance and a couple of Blue Jays silently zipped across the trail.

We made it to the half-way point with hardly a person or bird in our path. But at that point we had a clear view of the lake and were able to see Mallards, Canada Geese, a small raft of Buffleheads and a distant Common Loon. A Hairy Woodpecker pikked overhead as it tapped on a pine. A Downy Woodpecker flew into a nearby tree and we watched as it climbed higher. We heard a Red-bellied Woodpecker and quickly spied it working on another nearby tree. A nice flurry of activity.

A little further along the trail we passed a couple more people with dogs before stopping near a small stand of laurel. I heard a small scratch inside the brush and offered a quick pish. Expecting sparrows, I was pleased to see a Hermit Thrush pop into an opening, allowing fine views before disappearing again. We continued on the trail which we seemed to have all to ourselves at this point, as we walked for at least 20 minutes with no one else in sight.

Downy Woodpecker

Suddenly a Downy Woodpecker flit across our path and landed at eye level. I raised my camera, it flew a short distance. I re-trained my lens, it flew again. We played this little game for a while as Lisa offered a quiet play-by-play to help me stay on the bird as I peered through my viewfinder. It finally landed in perfect view with no obstructing branches… I focused and… a runner appeared from around the bend — my quarry flitted to another tree.
I stalked a bit closer and raised my lens… “Whatchya got there?” came the booming voice of an elderly walker making sure he could hear himself over the sound from his headphones. “Downy Woodpecker,” Lisa whispered, hoping he would take the hint. “What was that?” he shouted, this time lifting the phones off one ear. “Downy Woodpecker.” “Oh… have a good day…”
I relocated the small bird and tried to find a good angle through the many branches. It flitted again. I found a good opening in the twigs. It flitted again. This time it perched right in the open, too close to focus! I stepped back, focused, and… “Coming through!” Another runner appeared, followed quickly by another, then a kid on a bicycle. The Downy flew off to another tree, out of easy sight and definitely no longer photographable. The best shot I was able to get is the one above. Oh, well, such are the perils of nature photography!
From the eastern side of the lake we spied some additional waterfowl species. A Mute Swan and a pair of Common Mergansers. Three Ring-necked Ducks appeared, flew in a horse-shoe pattern and disappeared again. We continued.
As we neared the dam, we found an interesting phenomena on the lake’s edge. Icicles had formed on the trees and shrubs, 2-3 feet above the water’s surface. It was probably caused by the previous day’s blustery winds pushing waves up onto shore, where the water then froze. The setting sun set the icy landscape ablaze. It created a beautiful end to a fun day.


photos © Kevin Loughlin

1 Comment

  1. Karen Rice, AKA Wizzy on March 1, 2009 at 9:39 AM

    Loved your adventure!! Had to LOL @ the elderly person shouting. 🙂

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