Thursday, October 30, 2008

leah labrecque and the blustery day

To be fair, it was the day after the blustery day, but I jump at the chance to reference my favorite Winnie-the-Pooh story. I was eager to get out and look for birds on Wednesday, as I knew there'd be plenty riding the end of that nor'easter. I was in the park from 11:50 a.m. until 1:00 p.m., and experienced myriad weather patterns, in addition to the constant wind and cold - from clouds to light drizzle to sun breaking through to patches of blue and back to clouds and drizzle and finally hail.

I spent a chunk of my time in the shelter by the western lake shore, peering past the mallards in their gorgeous green and chestnut attire, past the northern shovelers with faces planted firmly in the water, past even my good and smiling friends the ruddy ducks, attempting to get a good view of what was certainly a pied-billed grebe. In my experience, they tend to stick to the reedy areas where they can hide or else they swim just a tad too far out for me to see just how pied their bills really are. Also present at the Lake: American coots, Canada geese, a handsome pair of American black ducks, a pair of mute swans, and a single young cormorant, not to mention the resident throng of gulls.

Nearly every other bird I saw was a yellow-rumped warbler. Those guys were out in full force, both hover-gleaning at plants and hunting in the grass. I stopped in at the fishing beach for a moment to look for shier species of waterfowl, but all I saw was a lone Canada goose paddling lazily. Nearby on the Peninsula, I caught sight of a ruby-crowned kinglet who was actually sporting said ruby crown. I've seen hundreds of kinglets in the past 3 weeks but only two with that punky red stripe, and not since spring has one crest been raised. Also present on the Peninsula: a glossy eastern phoebe, many northern cardinals, and a few dark-eyed juncos.

Just south of the Terrace Bridge, you may have seen me execute a jerky and nonsensical dance. This is because I was too happy to see a new bird. I really must control my happy-kicking legs. The bird in question was just one of a pair that swam out from the cover of the reeds and into plain sight, prime viewing territory. I'm always thrilled for a new bird, but perhaps most of all for a new duck, and these stunning American wigeons really filled the bill. The female's luxurious cinnamon feathers complement the male's green mask and shining white forehead, as if they are dressed for a masquerade ball.

Knowing the day's highlight was probably past, I followed the Lullwater along the western trail, headed to work. I encountered several blue jays, one of which scolded me soundly for trespassing near his perch, a single palm warbler poking about on the soft, damp ground, and the inevitable pair of mourning doves I flushed from the path. When I came out to the Nethermead, a lovely large red-tailed hawk flew across my vision, left to right, about 20 feet from the ground, to a high perch near the Binnen Water. Sadly, I didn't have time to follow it. I rounded out my short trip with white-throated sparrows singing their "old-Sam-Peabody" ditty somewhere far off, a northern flicker on the wing, a hermit thrush posing with ruddy tail prominently featured, and an aptly-named-for-Halloween murder of crows on a distant ballfield. I finally put up my umbrella when it began to hail and after a wonderfully successful hour, turned myself and my thoughts toward work.

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