High Flying Birds

It all started while on the Main Wetlands Overlook. I was talking about the previous week’s weather, birds, and other creatures with photographer Kevin Odom.

Kevin with the big gun out, loaded and ready to shoot.

There were currently alto cumulus and cirrus clouds above and I wondered if a front was moving in on us. Suddenly, in came a great blue heron. The bird landed on a boulder out in the Wetlands, looked around a bit and began to preen, a good opportunity to get some nice photos.

The heron landed on one of its favorite perches. Notice the slight tilt to the bird’s head.

Then, Kevin noticed the bird tilt its head up slightly and gaze skyward. Now, whenever a bird tilts up and stares at the sky it means there’s something worth looking at up there. That something is usually a larger bird, often a bird of prey, gliding, flapping or soaring overhead. So, after a brief search I spotted it, a tiny spec of a bird, but clearly a large bird slowly gliding and flapping southward. I promptly yelled, “Eagle!”

What was that spec of a bird winging its way south? This image was enlarged!

I usually take photos of whatever I see flying over regardless of how high or far away. The enlargements may not be picture perfect but for documentational purposes the subject can most often be identified as to what, specifically, it is.

Turns out, our heron was watching another great blue heron winging by. The high flying heron didn’t seem much interested in our wetland and kept right on flying. Judging by its altitude and heading it was going much further south. An eagle sighting would have to wait for another day.

This much greater enlargement reveals a great blue heron. The heron had no intention of dropping in on us, its sights were set far to the south.

Soon after, another high flying bird came over our position. It was a red-tailed hawk.

A high-flying red-tailed hawk.
What was this slim, white bird heading our way?

Minutes later yet another, all white, bird winged its way towards us.

There aren’t many birds in our area at this time of year that are all, or nearly all, white. The slim outline and narrow wings meant gull, ring-billed gull, probably heading over to North Gate Mall or one of the fast food joints nearby. There are, by the way, many, many gulls in our area during winter. Of only a handful of species the vast majority of individuals are ring-billed gulls.

The bird wheeled to its left revealing the unmistakable shape and form of a ring-billed gull in search of fries.

Very suddenly, low gray clouds rolled over and the temperature dropped. Just ahead of this cloud bank, a turkey vulture glided over us. This was the last large bird we saw the rest of the day. A quick flurry of activity and a quick shut down preceding the low-hung clouds.

This turkey vulture seemed to be gliding in on the air currents ahead of the clouds.

Were there still birds flying above the clouds and we simply couldn’t see them because of the clouds? Quite possibly, but any rising warm air, thermals, were effectively cut off by the low clouds so I doubt that there was much soaring going on up above.

Keep your eyes peeled, and look up every once in a while. You never know what’s going to fly by!

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