Coming to you tonight from Wichita, Kansas. Had to pause my Haunted Trail efforts in order to run out here for a family wedding. Could not have come at a more inconvenient time, but I have been working night and day to hopefully get far enough ahead on the trail work to compensate for the loss of 4 crucial days. I have to admit, it has given me a bit of a rest – was starting to get drained, especially with trying to finish off the rest of the pre-taper training runs. Quite fitting we ended up here as Wichita is a Choctaw Native American Indian word that means “Land of Tall Witches”. Just guessing that they were good witches or this place would have more likely been called Wicheville. Before this mountain gets any bigger, how about we turn our attention to another kind of mountain.
Hit the jump to see more shots of this tiny mountain of a bird – oh, and I should probably clear up some liberties as well.
This one is actually real hehehe. Tonight’s featured feathered friend is the Mountain Chickadee. The great thing about birding, at least on the photography front, is every outing is a chance to do one of two things. The first is the more exciting aspect of tinning a new bird for the life list. Admittedly, this is a prime directive for most of my time in the field. A secondary goal is getting a better shot of a bird that I already have on the list. Note, a third was added several years back – don’t step on any Alligators (link here) which is really more of a safety tenet than a goal.
Today’s post falls into the second category – improving on a past encounter – come to think of it, it also fits the third directive as I managed to avoid all the Alligators in the area – latter sounds like a noble accomplishment until I tell you there were exactly zero Gators hanging around Lake Tahoe where these shots were taken. Some of my tenets have more regional significance hehehe.
My past Mountain Chickadee tins left a lot of room for improvement. Part of that is due to having no clue at the time there was even such a thing as a Mountain Chickadee. The Black-Capped are abundant in my neck of the woods and I had already encountered the Carolina on my trips to the east. I have oodles and oodles of shots with both of those species over the years and these days just snap a few shots to assist in the end of day tally and move on – pretty much what I did when I saw a similar looking Chickadee on our previous trip west. It wasn’t until I got home from that trip when I saw the extra white stripe above the eye.
The Carolina and the Black-Capped look very similar, both having a solid dark cap. See the shot above to see how the Mountain’s cap is broken by the white line above the eyes. A handy field identifier vs having to differentiate the 4-note song of the Carolina from the 2-note Carolina. Easier outside their overlapping regions especially when it comes to distinguishing the slight difference in their wing piping – Carolina’s are duller (good luck with that one in the field). Long story short, I knew the Mountain hung out around Tahoe and made a point to make amends for my previous brush-off.
Much happier with these tins. Now I just need to remember to bring warmer clothes the next time I head out there in May – wasn’t expecting to be dealing with a coating of snow on the ground and ended up bringing new meaning to the word “layering” as I put on every shirt I could find in the suitcase – at one point there was consideration of cutting holes in the sides of the suitcase and simply wearing that as well. Linda gave me her standard “oh, hell no” look when I mentioned my idea…I’ve learned over the years that she is probably right (shhhhhh, don’t tell her).
Settled for borrowing a ball cap from my brother Dan which did the trick. Now sufficiently warm, we all drove to up the mountain to a trailhead and managed to spot the Mountain within minutes. Got the tins I wanted and crossed that mission off my list. Even managed to bring you all the perspectives of this petite bird. Since this is not a new bird, I’ll just leave you with a quick interesting fact from Cornell. These Chickadees are a godsend for the western forests as they will gobble up the culprits whenever they get hit by an outbreak of tree-damaging insects.
Hope you enjoyed this Mountain species and you should ignore that other mountain of BS I hit you with during the intro. Wichita is indeed a Choctaw word, but it really means “big arbor” in recognition of the platforms they constructed. The Wichita tribe was forced to flee to Kansas, settling at this site during the Civil War – at least that is the story the locals tell me – believe what you will, I’m sticking with giant witches, just saying.