It was freezing cold when I started my walk around the lakes at Naugatuck State Forest this morning. Well, not literally freezing -- it was just below 40 °F -- but I sure felt the change in temperature, and I felt silly for not bringing gloves. The weather was crisp and clear, and the birds (if their extreme level of activity was any indication) loved it. Hello, fall!
I don't know how familiar people generally are with kinglets. For myself, I'd never heard of them until about a year ago. They're tiny little birds (smaller than a chickadee), and basically adorable. We have two species in North America: Golden-crowned Kinglets and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. (Such appropriately "kingly" names.) They're not rare birds, but I don't often see them, and when I do, they're usually up high in the trees.
So I was pretty excited today when I came across a Golden-crowned Kinglet foraging in a tree next to the path, right at eye level:
Golden-crowned, indeed! Although I think "flame-crowned" would be more accurate. I took about 50 pictures of this little guy (or girl -- both sexes look the same), and almost all of them came out either with a branch in the way, or with the kinglet halfway off the side of the picture -- this bird just did not want to sit still! It did, however, give me a great view of its most attractive feature, if only for a moment:
Oh, you glorious creature.
So I finally moved on, but I didn't get very far, because just a few trees over was our other species of kinglet, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, also foraging in plain sight and right at eye level:
These guys aren't quite as flashy as their golden-crowned cousins, but they're still adorable. The "ruby crown" in this bird's name is a small patch of red feathers that only the males have, and even then it's only visible when the bird raises its feathers to display the color.
What a treat, to get to see both kinglets in one day, and so close-up, too!
Later in my walk, I came across two other birds that were equally cool, but very different from the kinglets -- two juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawks:
As far as hawks go, Sharp-shinned Hawks are pretty small -- only a little larger than a Blue Jay. When I first saw these guys flying through the forest, I thought they were some sort of falcon, because until I looked it up, I didn't know hawks could be so small. The first hawk (in the slightly blurry picture above) was chasing the second one, and when the latter bird landed on a branch above my head, I could see the reason for the chase:
Mmm, a feathery meal, but not enough to for two, it would seem!
As a side note, Sharp-shinned Hawks are apparently doing quite well nationally, but they're listed as endangered in Connecticut. I'm not sure of the exact reasons for this, but the information does make seeing them today that much more exciting.
One last note from today's walk: In another sure sign of fall, the White-throated Sparrows have returned from their summer vacations up north. I saw several of these perky little birds, but they spent most of their time foraging within the thick brush, as White-throated Sparrows are wont to do, and they didn't provide much opportunity for clear photos. Can you see the hidden sparrow in this last picture?