Before the Storm

Before the Storm by Goyo P
Before the Storm, a photo by Goyo P on Flickr.

Birding is different for everyone. Some folks like to “capture” birds with photographs. I like to do that occasionally. Some folks like to sit in their living room and watch them from the comfort of their favorite recliner. Some folks like to compete to see if they see the most birds in one year. As for me, I like to dabble in a little bit of each of these things. But more than anything, I just like to be outside with the birds. I knew a storm was coming today. I knew I had some free time this morning. So naturally I found the closest park to walk around to look and listen to the sights and sounds of nature. Today, that place was Island Park in Adrian (MI). I’ve known Island Park for a long time; spent many summers there as a young boy playing baseball. When I was not playing baseball I was wading down the creek looking for crayfish or leaches to poke my stick at. It’s a lot different now. My memories are marred with scandals and news of a dead body found there. A fisherman had apparently drowned. I think that was the story? And now there’s news that the Recreation Department might be abolished. Despite all these things the birds still come and go as always. There’s an owl that hangs out down there but I’ve never seen it. I just hear stories from friends who have seen it hunting along the river. With the ice storm approaching it was hard to find birds this morning. Trees were swaying and the wind was howling. But there’s one spot along the river that is sheltered from the wind by a high bank. I sought shelter there…and so did the birds. The first birds I heard were Carolina Wrens. For such a small body they really belt out a loud song. Two Downey Woodpeckers were chasing each other. Two Red-bellied Woodpeckers were calling back and forth. Two Mallards flushed to my left. I was getting suspicious of all the birds being found in pairs when I finally saw three Northern Cardinals. Moments later I began to hear some unfamiliar call notes…not unfamiliar to me, just unfamiliar to the time of year. They were White-throated Sparrows. I watched them for a long time before I felt tiny ice particles landing on my back. I said goodbye to the sparrows. I wasn’t wearing my rain gear so I headed back to my vehicle. The sparrow said goodbye in return by singing, “Oh sam peabody, peabody, peabody”.  Now that’s a good memory to have.

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Presidential Birding

I’m very fortunate to have President’s Day off from work.  I’m even more fortunate that I live within walking distance to one of the best little parks in Lenawee County.  That is Indian Crossing Trails Park in Tecumseh (MI).  I thought today would be a good day to hike the trails in conjunction with the Great Backyard Bird Count.  This bird count isn’t the biggest or most popular bird count of the year but I still enjoy it.  It’s nice to get out and say hello to the locals (birds and people).  I said hello to several Black-capped Chickadees and Titmouse.  Heard and saw several Brown Creepers.  Downy Woodpeckers seem to be around every corner.  Canada Geese and Mallard can always be found wherever there is open water…and lately there’s always a Mute Swan or two with them.  Today the geese were by Standish Dam.  I wanted to get a closer look to see if there were any Cackling or Greater White Fronted Geese among them but I would have flushed them all trying to get a better vantage point.  So I let them be and continued down the north trail along the river.  This trail always seems to be the most active during all four seasons.  Today was no different.  I found large flocks of House Finches mixed with American Goldfinch.  At one point I stopped along the trail to give some looks at a large flock of House Finches.  And then as birds tend to do they suddenly all flushed for no apparent reason.  Two seconds later the apparent reason appeared.  A Coopers Hawk came souring in low and fast, crossed the trail 30′ in front of me and then disappeared across the river.  Just as I was thinking to myself…”that was cool”…a Bald Eagle glided right over me just above the tree tops.  No matter how many times I see the Bald Eagles in Tecumseh it never gets old.  They are magnificent creatures.  On the way back I managed to kick up two Great Blue Heron, a Red-tailed Hawk and a Kingfisher.  I was satisfied.  I had seen some nice birds.  But the best was yet to come.  Walking along Globe Mill Pond in route to my car I spotted a hawk circling over the pond.  With no obstructions around me I was able to get a good look at it.  At first it looked like a Red-tail…but this hawk had a striped tail.  As it came closer and closer I was able to get a great look at its underside before it flew 50′ over my head.  I was able to see the angular red barring on its wings and chest.  Classic Red-shouldered Hawk!  A life bird for me.  Yep…I’m pretty spoiled to have Indian Crossing Trails in my back yard.  I love Tecumseh!

Gregg Perez, Tecumseh, MI