Today might be considered a moderately successful sales day, but nothing special happened. The day was quite dull, as a matter of fact, until I took advantage of the pleasant weather at the end of the day.
Let me give you a quick summary of what I saw today and then walk you through it. First, I saw deer twice today; saw plenty of squirrels, a racoon, and other furry varmints; and found a wide range of birds, including a crash-landing mallard and an owl’s nest, with owls in it! And all of this was seen within a mile of home. I didn’t have to leave the city.
In fact my first deer spotting was early in the day. A good-sized, healthy deer was in a hurry to find some cover at the end of my street and on the edge of the city’s parks. It was that deer that inspired me to take a late afternoon walk.
I nearly cancelled my walk because a block away from home I realized that I forgot to wear a belt. I hate forgetting my belt. Pants without a belt is like Sonny without Cher. It doesn’t work. I also forgot to zip my pants. Perhaps I am losing my mind…I’m trying to be careful and not say anything politically incorrect…let’s just say I decided to take advantage my still intact ability to choose for myself, zipped up my fly, and continued with my walk trying not to think about the belt.
I went to the Roberts Bird Sanctuary again and…what else?…say a lot of birds.
This is where I saw a large mallard duck; it was on the path ahead of me cooling off in the shade. I posed no threat, but he decided to fly off anyway and I think we both learned quickly that ducks don’t fly well in heavy brushy cover.
The mallard attempted to muscle his way through some budding branches and that didn’t work out so well. The duck didn’t stay aloft and all but pin-wheeled into the slough along the trail. No worries though. The duck recovered well and shook off any embarrassment quickly.
Crows are much better flying through branches. I bring that up because they are big birds but still weave a pretty course through the trees. Of course the real champs are all of those little birds…and woodpeckers…that zip through branches as if guided by a wire.
The picture above shows where the mallard duck was before he crashed. My camera isn’t quite fast enough to capture swift flight so just picture a big old duck heading for the branches to the right…and then crashing.
I took a little detour up toward the cemetery. I like that cemetery. It is a good place to go for a walk, but I have decided that I am a bit old now to be climbing over the treefalls that break the cyclone fence separating the cemetery from the bird sanctuary so I haven’t walked the cemetery in a couple years. (I also discovered that it is hard to climb back over the treefall in the dark. That’s when the goblins and old Aunt Bessie get you. Watch out!)
I still like to look at the cemetery. It looks quiet and peaceful. It looks like a cemetery.
Putting all expected jokes aside, wouldn’t you like to spend a little time wandering about this spot? You can. No need to wait until you’ve passed on. Do it now. Just go for a walk.
As I snapped a couple pictures I heard people coming coming up the path so I thought I would get going and keep some distance between myself and others.
Birdwatchers frequent this small park, naturally enough, and birdwatchers are an interesting group. Invariably they have bad haircuts and not a lick of fashion sense, but they seem to be content. When I see them obsessing through pricey binoculars at some common sparrow as if they were seeing a penguin or something, I wonder where I took the wrong turn.
Don’t underestimate happiness.
So I walk on.
About halfway down the trail is a large swaying tree that holds the owl’s nest. I have heard owls from my bedroom window at night and at last I have the chance to see them up close. It is a Great Horned Owl and two “chicks,” if something the size of a basketball can still be called a chick.
A couple of women had stopped to watch the owls. I thought a joke would be a fun way to approach the pair so I looked up at the adult owl perched on the end of a dead branch and said to the laides: “Whoah! Is that your cat?”
I thought it was funny as hell. The two ladies didn’t seem to think so or didn’t hear me. They just looked at me, then each other, then the owls.
They are very large and impressive, the owls, and actually do look like large cats or something up there. Maybe they look like midget Uncle Festers. I don’t know. But once you figure out it is an owl you’re looking at, you pretty much see an owl.
I wish I had a better camera for these photos, but I don’t. So you see what I see. Giant blobs of bird on branches.
Deciding I had seen enough of the owls, I moved on and while looking up into the trees I was interrupted by a girl who snuck up on me and barked out “What are you looking for?”
I wish I had had the foresight to say something straining to be clever like “Tinkerbell and her twelve dwarves” but I only managed to say “birds.” I was ready to brush the child aside, but when I looked at her I realized she was Mary Call! You know Mary Call, the protagonist from Where the Lilies Bloom? Oh, golly, I had a crush on Mary Call…and here she was, all rough and rustic and wise about the woods.
I didn’t say anything but looked at the girl and this cued the precocious one to tell me all the birds I might find:
“Well, mister, this is the place for birds! There are sparrows and hawks and woodpeckers and even some blue grosbeaks — those are my favorites — and you can hear the chickadees easier than you can see them, calling out ‘Phoebe’ (and don’t confuse them with the Black-Throated Blue Warbler because a lot of people do even though you almost never see them) and of course robins fly everywhere but my dad and I hope to find a gnatcatcher…”
Do you see why it is sometimes hard to like kids? I was torn between wanting to swat the kid away and take her picture. Concluding that neither would be a good idea for man my age to do on a secluded wooded trail, I quietly backed away from the chatty young girl and continued on my walk. I would guess she’s still talking, by the way.
It isn’t that I am not social, I just like to be social on my own terms. In fact I sometimes like to make someone happy with a cheerful hello and I quickly had my opportunity. Coming toward me on the trail was a shy timid woman — a ginger ale drinker, for sure — and I thought I would make her happy with a confident greeting.
I made her happy, all right…happy to get away! In fact this is a picture of her catching her breath down the trail a ways. I did decide to take her picture. (I pretended to be focused on a rarely seen Black-Throated Blue Warbler because I had been told they can be found in this preserve.) Anyway, happy to get away or just plain happy, either way I feel like I fulfilled my good intentions.
After making that lonely woman happy, I was about finished with my walk through the woods and I returned home walking back along the north shore of Lake Harriet where a mixture of other sites abound, tonight — sadly — mostly people too old and too out of shape to be running running.
But I did see two mallard hens each with a string of little pomps following behind already swimming in the lake. We have a pair of loons on the lake again, too. Earlier in the spring, like most springs, several loons stop off on Lake Harriet for a few days.
So that’s it. Let’s end this abruptly. Enough bird watching for one day. Time for a well earned nap.