Pileated woodpeckers and blue-gray gnat-catchers

   I have been trying very hard for years now to get a decent photo of a pileated woodpecker, but haven't yet even gotten one awful photo, so you can imagine how happy I was when I discovered an active pileated woodpecker hole in a large dead sycamore at the community college only about 10 miles from my house. It was for this reason that I showed up at that same community college today, armed with my camera. I was headed to the location of the hole, when I heard an unfamiliar bird above me. Of course I was curious to see what this bird was, quite possibly a new species for the life list. And while it was not a lifer for me, it was still an exciting find- a number of blue-gray gnat-catchers were busily foraging in the various trees and shrubs lining the running track along the creek. I almost instantly forgot about the pileated woodpecker that I had initially been after. This was only the second time I had seen a blue-gray gnat-catcher, and there seemed to be a nice collection of them around at the moment. It took much patience (I was extremely close to running out when I got a shot that satisfied me), but I did get a decent photo of one of the gnat-catchers:

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One of the blue-gray gnatcatchers that I saw today

   After I had photographed the gnat-catchers for a good while, I headed off to the pileated woodpecker hole. I was even then quite distracted from my original intent of photographing the woodpecker, as I was soon distracted trying to photograph a mere chipping sparrow, which I decided had landed to close for me to not even try to photograph it. The next thing I new, I was after a northern mockingbird, which just so happened to land close at hand, and before long, I decided that I wouldn't even get a photo of the pileated woodpecker, as I had not heard it once since I had arrived nearly 20 minutes ago. By this time, two of the gnat-catchers had worked their way towards me, so I spent about 5 more minutes watching a photographing them before I decided to walk the track a few times before I returned home.

   I didn't get any other noteworthy photos, but I did see one other noteworthy bird- a lone bank swallow skimming over the large, open grassy area in the midst of the track. Once I was nearly home, I did see a red-tailed hawk perched in a tree directly beside the road, clear of branches that would have prevented a decent photograph, and perfect lighting, but unfortunately, I was unable to stop for a photo. Once I arrived home, there was also a Cooper's hawk perched infront of my barn, but as it always is, it flew off before I could get close enough for a decent photo. Overall it was a great day birding, though I had only set out to photograph a pileated woodpecker at the entrance of it's nesting cavity. Below are the remainder of my photographs from the trip.

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Chipping sparrow

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A northern mockingbird eyes me (or should I saw was) suspiciously

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The tree-lined creek where all of the activity was taking place


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