Bird brained stories!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I and the Bird #45 goes to a party!

Jayne of Journey Through Grace takes us to her 45th birthday party as she hosts the latest edition of I and the Bird. Join her in blowing out the candles and unwrapping the gifts of some of the best bird blogging out there! Happy Birthday, Jayne!

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

The last winter bird?

The record snowfall is already receding, swelling to flood stage many of the valley rivers and streams common to coulee country. We enjoyed some spring-like weather earlier in the week, though it's returned to the 30s the past few days.

Still, signs of spring in the form of migrating birds appear every day. The Robins and Kildeers are back. Raptors are streaming north along the river, Turkey Vultures are returning to clear our roadsides of all the roadkill. I saw a Song Sparrow the other day at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve Visitors Center and heard one singing yesterday.The Peregrines were sailing over downtown LaCrosse last weekend, checking out the nest box on the US Bank building. Sandhills are returning, as are some of the Whooping Cranes. And early morning, I am again wakened by the chorus of singing birds outside my window. It's coming!

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Lone Horned Lark

I captured this Horned Lark on a day when the snow was just starting to melt. I often see them on this road as I travel to work, but this particular day, I wasn't working, so I was free to stop. I was pleased to confirm the presence along with about 50 Horned Larks of some Lapland Longspurs. I knew they had to be out there, but now could legitimately add them to my life list. As I reviewed this photo the other day, I thought to myself that this might well be my last "winter" bird, as they head back north.

Not quite. Walking the dog yesterday afternoon, I enjoyed hearing that tinkling call, then watching one fly over to the next vacant field. Maybe that will be the last winter bird, but I don't mourn. If it is, it means that the excitement of spring migration isn't far off.

Postscript-I noticed that this day's posting is exactly my two year anniversary of starting this blog. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts in the comments these past two years!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Close Encounters of the Bird Kind

Winter finally arrived with a vengeance here in coulee country, but it will be short-lived. It always is. For that reason, I leave my cross country skis in my car, ready to go out whenever I have the chance, and wherever I might be. I have learned that because winter is fickle and fleeting here, if I want to ski, I might not have time to get to the "good" ski trails before it's gone. The other day, I headed out to one of our large county parks that sits right along the Mississippi River to do a little skiing, and maybe spot some Long-Eared Owls seen earlier that week. No luck on the owls. The skiing was marginal at best, but even so, I couldn't think of anything I'd rather be doing. The day was already perfect enough for me, having seen numerous woodpeckers in the woods trail, even heard a calling Barred Owl and of course visited the resident deer that have no fear of humans. Could the day get any better?

After I'd finished skiing, I decided to look in a couple more likely places for those owls. Walking down the road, I was startled by the very close approach of the Black-Capped Chickadees and White-Breasted Nuthatches. The chickadees were so close that four of them perched on a branch just feet from my face and chattered at me. I wouldn't have needed my big lens to capture them. What happened next is nothing short of magical. As I stood watching around 25 of these little gems flitting nearby, I held out my hand. A chickadee landed on my fingertips, looking at me before flying off. Then another! And another! They swirled around me, near my head, on my hands, at my feet! I know for some readers, this conjures up images a la Hitchcock, but I didn't see it that way.

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Armed with birdseed, I found joy in the approach of these small and delicate creatures. They never stayed long. They never do, even at feeders out of view of humans. To have them trust me enough to approach, perch, look me in the eye, then snatch a seed and take off was an experience I've long wished to have. The flutter of their wings sounded next to my head. I could feel the little breeze that action created. I enjoyed one of those rare moments when wildness and human connect. These moments always feed my soul and ease my heartache. I don't have to have physical contact; simply being there is enough. I worry that future generations will never have this joy, taking their joy in malls and man-made interpretations of nature. If only folks would stop worrying about spiders and snakes, instead going out to meet our wild neighbors, perhaps they would begin to see that healing can be found out in nature instead of a shopping bag.

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