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.