Monday, December 1, 2008

must...fight...temptation...

And the current temptation is a little something called Animal Crossing: City Folk, which has devoured many of my waking hours since its release in mid-November. But I forced my pasty, bleary-eyed self to go out-of-doors this morning, for the air was warm and the sky was a bright blue balloon with fluffy cotton balls glued to it. Even now I am exerting great force of willpower to commit today's ramble to writing before resuming my (non-birdly) nerdly ways.

It was certainly the warmest December first I can remember. By the time I reached Prospect Park, I was nearly too warm for my autumn jacket. I hovered near the Lake for a bit, checking in with the regulars, only to be treated to a swirling flyover by a pair of great blue herons. Circling higher still were three red-tailed hawks. I wasn't the only person watching them, either. Who watches the 'watchers? I wonder. I've spied on birders across the water with my binoculars, but I've never been sure they were watching me too. I hope my first instinct will be to wave genially, when that day comes.

I strolled over to the Breeze Hill feeders - first time this season I've seen them filled. A flashy red-breasted nuthatch zoomed in and stole away with its quarry several times, leaving brief intervals in which a tufted titmouse, a black-capped chickadee, and a downy woodpecker took turns grabbing a bite to eat. The party was over when a clever squirrel climbed across the PVC pipe and down the caged feeder headfirst, where it clung and nibbled and generally hogged all the food.

I sped through the Lullwater, flushing a mixed flock of juncos, house sparrows, white-throated sparrows, and robins. Joining this group ever so briefly on the ground was a downy woodpecker. I can't remember ever having seen a woodpecker stand on the ground. It was a weird moment.

At the Binnen Water, I encountered another great blue heron, this time submerged to the tops of its legs. It moved silently, intently stalking prey that was invisible to me with an admirable grace. I made my way to the Pools to check in on the bufflehead situation. No dice. But aside from the usual mallards and recent odd ruddy duck, I saw the telltale horizontal white face-stripe of yet another great blue heron, partially obscured by reeds.

Last year around this time (December 5, by my notes), a hawk spent a few long afternoons in the backyard of the private home in which I work. I was a real noob then, but I took good notes and made some sketches. I was fairly certain it was a Cooper's hawk. Unruffled by a taunting squirrel, it seemed just to want a place to rest during the flurries. With the current weather forecast, I don't think I'll be seeing anything like that this week. But I still check the massive catalpa, phone lines, and fence a few times a week, just in case I get an interesting visitor.

1 comment:

M.Thew said...

Watching birders is one of the best way of finding birds, especially rarer ones. If the birders aren't moving, they've probably got something interesting in their (enhanced) sight. It's a great way to find owls.