The people you meet on Rock Creek Park trails are generally friendly. The same can’t always be said about the wildlife.
I took a hike in Rock Creek Park on a sunny but cool day in late April. As I headed back toward home, I saw this common short-eared owl. It was blocking my path. And it did not look very friendly.
It lifted its wings and clicked its beak. Everything about its behavior said “stay away.” I heeded the warning.
I wondered why it stood its ground instead of flying away. It could have been protecting a nest. But it certainly saw me as a threat. According to Cornell University’s Ornithology Lab, adults and young of the species “snap their bills when threatened.”
A few days later, a bird I had never seen before made itself at home in bushes outside my kitchen window.
I first saw a flash of yellow and thought it might be a goldfinch, but they do not flit around in my bushes – they go straight to the feeder. This one did not. When I caught another glance, I saw a yellow throat with black eyes, and mostly light brown feathers on its wings.
If it had been still, it would have been well camouflaged.
I sent the video off to a friend who knows a lot about birds. Steven Mink told me it’s a common yellowthroat, and that they do tend to stay out of sight.
“They are quite secretive, and I mostly see them about this time of spring when the vegetation has yet to fully leaf out,” Mink said. “The song is a bit like an upside down Carolina wren’s main ‘tea-kettle-tea-kettle-tea’ song.”