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  • Writer's pictureKarl Koerber

Today's Walk - Pass Creek Park: Big and Small Birds, Nictitating Membranes and More.

I took my camera for a walk in Pass Creek Regional Park this morning, hoping to get some shots of snow-covered trees but, when I arrived, there was no snow on the trees, even though it’s only a 15 minute drive from my home where the trees are definitely covered with snow. I wandered around for a while anyway – it’s a lovely little area with some pathways that follow the creek near its confluence with the Columbia River.


As soon as I stepped out of my vehicle I heard the familiar chirping of bald eagles coming from the direction of the stream. Once I’d made my way over to the creek I noticed at least a dozen eagles perched in the big cottonwoods along the streambank.


There must be a food source that has attracted such a congregation of eagles, but I wonder what it could be. Are there still kokanee carcasses working their way down the stream after the fall spawning run? If anybody knows, I’d appreciate a note or a comment below. There were both mature and immature birds, like this one...


...and this one.



Naturally, while I was standing at the edge of the stream watching the eagles, a dipper came flitting down along the water's edge and paused to hunt for aquatic invertebrates just across from me. This individual looked to be on the rotund side, but I’m sure a lot of that bulk is the insulation that allows it to spend its days in the frigid water of our mountain streams.



Usually, when someone blinks in the middle of a photo it’s a throw-away, but this time it was my good luck to catch the dipper mid-blink, showing off its white eyelids. The lids are actually covered with very fine white feathers. The dipper, like all birds, also has a nictitating, or third, eyelid. It is transparent and protects the eyes, like goggles, when the bird is diving in cold water. If, like me, you find the topic of nictitating eyelids utterly fascinating, I’ve added a link to a Wikipedia article at the end of the post.



And here is a shot of the dipper putting those third eyelids to work.



The day was turning out to be all about birds. Walking along one of the paths, I came across a pair of pileated woodpeckers extracting insectile morsels (I assume) from the bark and trunks of the cottonwoods. Woodpeckers, according to Wikipedia, “tighten their nictitating membrane a millisecond prior to their beak impacting the trunk of a tree to prevent shaking-induced retinal injury.” Did I mention that I find this stuff fascinating?



And yes, I do have a thing for redheads.



Just to round out the bird theme, I caught a couple of ravens in the act of picking mountain ash berries. I don’t think I’ve ever seen ravens eating these berries (or any berries, come to think of it), but why not? They seem to be the ultimate omnivores, after all.


Here is a link to the Wikipedia article on nictitating membranes for my fellow bird nerds.


Always feel free to share these posts with anyone who might be interested.


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4 Comments


Rose Millett
Rose Millett
Nov 30, 2022

Your blogs are not only of beautiful photos but always educational. Nictitating is a new word for me!! as well as the very interesting eyelid information, thanks!

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Karl Koerber
Karl Koerber
Nov 30, 2022
Replying to

Thanks Rose!

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saminwinlaw
Nov 30, 2022

Hi Karl, I love the birds! Check out https://www.knowledge.ca/program/evolve/e4/protect a series on Knowledge, called Evolve. It has a section (at 17 minutes in) about woodpecker skulls that you will like. ☺️ Sam

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Karl Koerber
Karl Koerber
Nov 30, 2022
Replying to

Thanks Sam. I'll check it out.

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