On Wednesday, I took a late afternoon walk through Magnuson Park. The trees were beginning to bloom. Some of the willows had beautiful flowers opening along their branches. They looked so delicate in the late afternoon sun. New leaves were beginning to emerge from the branches; soon the area will be green with fresh leaves. Several cherry trees had flowers and other species were beginning to flower too.
I spotted a small flock of bushtits feeding in the bushes along the trail. These birds are incredible acrobats, hanging upside down to feed and working all sides of branches to find small insects, spiders and other tasty morsels. They would flip rapidly from one branch to another jumping along branches to see what was present. Some individuals were very brown while others had more yellow on them. One individual seemed to be itching the side of its head on a branch, first on one side and then the other. These birds traveled in flocks up to 40 or more individuals. There were at least a dozen in this group. In some parts of their range, a breeding pair will have helpers at the nest. These may be young from previous years or non-breeding individuals. They build a hanging nest that is completely enclosed. The nest and a safe nesting site is a valuable commodity for this species and scientists think that having more than a pair at a nest may improve reproductive success. Nesting should start soon in Washington.
I saw a Mourning Cloak butterfly crisscrossing the field too. Mourning Cloaks are different than most butterflies in that adults over winter in Washington in cavities or under bark crevices. This gives them an advantage in spring in that they can emerge, mate, and immediately begin laying eggs. Willows are one of their favorite foods for the larva and this strategy allows the first brood to feed on the newly emerging and tender leaves.
I will definitely return to Magnuson Park to see what happens latter this spring.