The warm weather continued all last week, so I visited Hurdman Park on three different days hoping to find more butterflies and migrants. On Monday I saw a butterfly right away, likely a Cabbage White, but instead of flying down the path it went into the woods where I couldn’t follow or photograph it. Cabbage Whites overwinter in the pupa stage, so when the warm weather arrives they emerge as adults rather quickly. I usually see them at Hurdman fairly early in the spring, but usually not this early!
I was happy to hear lots of goldfinches and Song Sparrows singing throughout the park. The Song Sparrows are back in large numbers now, and I estimate I saw (and heard) about 20 of them during my walk. I checked the river in a few different places to see if any Great Blue Herons had returned, but they were still absent from the riverbank. The water levels are still rather high, though, so while they may be around, they may not return to this spot until the water recedes.
As I was climbing the small bank to get back to the bike path, I noticed a large brown bird flying across the field directly toward me. I was mesmerized as it landed in a tree directly above my head. Although the angle was not the best for photography, I slowly raised my camera and took a couple of pictures. It wasn’t until after I got home and reviewed my photos that I realized it was a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk and that it had something clutched in its talons.
After waiting a minute or so I moved a bit further back in order to get a view from a better angle. However, the hawk noticed me and immediately flew off. I’ve seen accipiters at Hurdman on a number of occasions, but rarely have the chance to photograph them. I was thrilled that I not only got some great views of this accipiter, but also some good enough photographs to identify him (thanks to C. Traynor for his help with the identification)!
After that encounter I resumed my walk through the woods hoping to find another butterfly. I didn’t see one that day, but found something just as marvelous: my first Golden-crowned Kinglet of the year. He was foraging low among the knee-high vegetation, and I managed to get one photo of him before he disappeared:
The Cooper’s Hawk, the Cabbage White, and the Golden-crowned Kinglet made Monday’s outing the best of that week. Although the unseasonably warm temperatures continued the rest of the week with highs in the mid-20s, I only saw one other butterfly, a Mourning Cloak on Tuesday (the first official day of spring!) which disappeared before I could photograph it. A pair of Wood Ducks (male and female) was also a nice find on Tuesday, and a pair of Canada Geese resting on the lawn on Wednesday may stay to breed in the area.
Unfortunately the nice weather didn’t last; by Saturday the temperatures cooled off, returning to normal.