Birding and Other Stuff

Yesterday, we went to Forest Park for our walk. It was a gorgeous day, both warm and sunny. In contrast today is both cold and rainy and it is supposed to snow. What a difference a day makes. The park was crowded, especially for a Monday. I guess a lot of other people had seen the forecast too and decided to get outside while the getting was good. We didn’t walk all that much. Didn’t really need to, because I had done some yard work in the morning and Anne had done a bunch of housework. We parked near the boathouse so that we could look for owlets. On the way out we didn’t see any and there weren’t any other birders around to helpfully point them out for us. Anne started counting species sightings, eventually get to seventeen. We made it to the far side of the Dear Lake circle. Like I said, we didn’t walk that far, even if it did take us all afternoon. In a swampy section near Deer Lake is where we saw the sandpiper and the snapping turtle. We also met a woman there, also a birder, who we spoke with. Her bird species count for the day was up to thirty-seven and she was trying to get to forty. Don’t we feel like pikers? Returning to the car, we met two other birders who were also hunting for the owlets. We never did find them, but we did find Charles, the patriarch of the Great Horned owl family. With his sighting that means we have individually seen the entire owl family now. Which is a good thing, because the trees have pretty much leafed out, making owlet sighting much more difficult than it was before.

On the Banks of the Euphrates

Babylon Willow

We had a very windy winding walk in Forest Park. As is her wont, Anne counted bird species. She strives for ten and this time she got thirteen. Most notable among them being a mature Bald eagle and a kestrel. As its archaic name implies, the kestrel was doing a fair amount of wind hovering, while the eagle just soared along on the breeze. It was difficult photographing the willow in the wind. According to wiki the Babylon willow originally hails from China, before being distributed along the Silk road. It is a variety of Weeping willow. I thought that it had an interesting blossom, although handling it did cause my eyes to tear.

Birdwatching Goes Both Ways

Clark Bridge Over the Mississippi

Lewis and Clark, Tom and Huck, Anne and I, we have all roamed along its banks. It is the Mighty Miss, the fabled Old Man River, the Mother of Waters. We’ve now lived along its banks for most of our lives. We rarely see it though. Days pass. Then, fifty degrees arrived today and we had to bust out of our own little house on the prairie. Four hours in the sun! Anne has the sunburn to show for it. Dan, unbeknownst to him, in a series of t-shirt posts, shared with us a shirt that read, “Birdwatching Goes Both Ways.” At the time, we were preparing to head to the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

Before this blog, I would have never guessed that birdwatching would become an advocation for me. But this blog’s thirst for ever more photos drove me to that. What began as an avocation for me, has became a passion for Anne. “Oh look, a squirrel!”, has long been eclipsed by, “Mark, did you see that bird?”

I was surprised that the slough was almost completely iced over. It’s been cold, but I didn’t think that it had been that cold. The main channel, with its current was still clear, but all of the little ponds were also covered. The ice pushed the birds away from us. Either just sitting on the ice or keeping their diminishing ice-free holes open by swimming, they clustered together by the hundreds. There were swans, pelicans, geese and ducks of many different varieties. There were also gulls, thousands of gulls. It was fun to get out and enjoy the sun and the relative warmth that it brought. Sitting inside day-after-day had gotten old.

Mergansers

Momma Merganser and Her Ten Little Ones

I’m copying here what Anne wrote about the squirrel today: Update on the squirrel. It was calmer than it has been and we heard squirrel 🐿 noises. Couldn’t tell if it was outside the roof or not. But alas, no sign when one of us went outside. So I went up to the loft. I didn’t turn on a light, but could see light coming up from the spaces around the rafters. Checked downstairs and confirmed I was seeing the gaps in the main room. Hmm… Not long after this, I heard the squirrel again on the porch side. Was watching from the main room, and sure enough, it came out one of the rafter holes near the wall, ran across my corner quilt along the top log in the wall and went into a hole on the kitchen side. So, I’ve seen it run across the loft 4 times and once across the main room.

To this I can add that I re-baited all the traps. I had baited the two mousetraps incorrectly, putting the peanut-butter on the wrong side of the trigger that allowed the mice to lick off all the good stuff, without springing the trap. Hopefully it will work better this new way. The rat trap had been sitting idle, but I’ve put it back into the game too. It already has four mouse notches. One more and it’s an ace. That’s enough rodent reporting for one day.

We dragged the canoe down to the lake and headed around Cedar Point. We saw a Bald Eagle or two or maybe the same one twice. Got pictures too. Maybe tomorrow. We also saw a rock with thirteen mergansers on it. Not the ones pictured. By the time I got a picture of them, most had flown off, but I did capture a few skimming and splashing across the water. Great action shot!