As I hadn’t made it to Mud Lake on Saturday, it was next on my list of places I wanted to visit this weekend. The morning was quite chilly; frost had developed on the rooftops overnight and took a while to melt away. The sun, however, was gorgeous, and it warmed up to a nice 15°C in the afternoon.
At Mud Lake I found lots of activity on the Ridge. A couple of robins were eating berries in the thickets, and Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets – some of which were attempting to sing! – seemed to be everywhere. A Northern Flicker in a bare tree was a welcome surprise, as was a Hermit Thrush which stayed out of my camera’s range in a dense tangle of branches. I also saw an Eastern Phoebe flycatching on the Ridge, which was not surprising given how many tiny insects were buzzing around.
Three representatives of the sparrow family were present on the Ridge as well: two Dark-eyed Juncos, several White-throated Sparrows, and my first American Tree Sparrow of the fall. Some of the Ruby-crowned Kinglets were foraging quite close to the trail, and I managed to get two pictures of this species where the bird was actually facing me, and in focus!
The ruby crown for which this species is named is seldom seen. It is only present in the males, and is often concealed. I saw a flash of red on only one bird, and was not in position to photograph him.
While watching and photographing the kinglets, a woman asked if I had seen the owl. I told her I hadn’t, and asked her where it was. She told me where to find it in a tree overlooking the lake, so I set off to find it. Fortunately I found the owl right where she said it was, and was looking sleepily around when I arrived. A garter snake was dangling from its talons, though it didn’t show much interest in eating it.
There were few leaves blocking him, so I had some really terrific views of the Barred Owl. Unfortunately, the clouds had moved in and the day had darkened. I moved around trying to get some better shots; these were the best of the day.
Finally, one last shot of the owl from a distance as I was leaving:
I checked the lake before I left and saw several Hooded Mergansers, an American Wigeon, a Pied-billed Grebe, a Great Blue Heron and a Belted Kingfisher flying to the opposite shore. I really wanted to go back up to the Ridge, but rain appeared imminent so I decided to call it a day instead. I couldn’t regret this decision, the Barred Owl was really the star of the day, and I didn’t think anything else would top that!