I so rarely see Hairy Woodpeckers that I’m immediately taken by the sheer size of this bird. Big! Well, bigger than a downy. I’m also taken by the sheer sound of this bird. Loud! Well, louder than a downy. And that beak? You guessed it, longer than a downy. Today I was taken by those amazing “eyelashes” though, I’ve never noticed them before.
I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but something was different about the Celery Bog on Friday. Was it the active volcano growing out of the prairie? Naw, that’s always been there. Oh, it’s controlled burn day! I definitely smelled burnt hair on the drive home but it couldn’t have been mine, I’m a highly trained professional!
My shovel buddies are back at the Celery Bog! I don’t know if it’s that perfect bowling pin shaped body or the big ol’ honker, but I just love Northern Shovelers. They come and go from here all winter long as the bog freezes and thaws, and right now it is THAWED!
There wasn’t much activity out on the bog last evening; the waterfowl were all tucked in on the far side. Until the Bald Eagles arrived, that is. Up one side and down the other those two went, screaming all the way! Before long there were ducks everywhere! Then the Sandhill Cranes flew over; their sweet, chirpy squeaks filling the air. A kingfisher called out across the way, probably bragging about the dinner he just caught, and just for good measure, my one-legged Song Sparrow pal came over and serenaded me. Just like that, what started out as kind of a dud turned into a pretty great day!
In Prophetstown State Park, where the Tippecanoe and Wabash Rivers meet, bright-eyed, shiny white birds filled the sky. One bird captured my attention though; he wasn’t shiny like the others and his eyes were dark in color. Who was this special bird? A juvenile Ring-billed Gull, perhaps? Maybe, just maybe, next year you can be a shiny white and bright-eyed bird like your friends, but for now I like you just they way you are.
I heard my two favorite chirps this morning at the Celery Bog: an Eastern Towhee and a House Finch. Have you ever heard a House Finch chirp? Have you? Have you? Have you? They seem to punctuate every chirp with a question mark and it’s super cute? It’s really cute? Oh great, now I’m doing it? GAH!?!?!
When I first arrived at the Celery Bog that day, where the ice meets the dried up old grass from yesteryear, the sparrows moved slowly away. All but one, who hobbled and hopped and flibbity flopped his way through the tall grass toward me. It’s my old pal, the one-legged Song Sparrow! In the summer months he can be found in front of the nature center but today he is all the way down the hill with his buddies; it’s nice to see him doing so well. Pretty soon the other birds all returned and we had a chirptastic little sparrow party where the ice meets the grass.
“I mustache you a question: is there sumfin’ in my teefs?” Hee? American Tree Sparrows are funny. I got the real sense that spring was near as I sat quietly with my sparrows crue, chorus, and grove, where the ice meets the tall grass. The birds were singing, there was a special spring-like humidity in the air, and everyone was having fun.
At last I have found the Long-eared Owls, fifty yards from the very first spot I checked a month ago. Fifty. Yards! I remember it well, the fork in the road I came to that day: to the left were rolling fields of gold as far as the eye could see, but nowhere obvious an owl could rest his wise old bones. To the right, though, was the most glorious stand of trees. Old growth, new growth, pines and spruce, this spot had it all, so it’s the path I chose… but there were no owls. Sometimes in birding, as in life, it’s the road less obvious you should take.
I was exploring Prophetstown State Park the other day, muttering to myself about all the gray, sunshineless days lately, because that’s what photographers do, when, “Ka-Bluueeeey!” Right on cue, an Eastern Bluebird showed up with his buddies to add some color to my day!
One of my favorite noises in nature is a blissful bush full of birds, sparrows in particular. Every winter, in some dense brush just down the hill from the Lilly Nature Center, House Sparrows congregate. One bird stands guard up front, like the lead singer in a tiny bird band, while the rest chitter and chatter and chirp away!
I’m not sure what this little dude was up to but he didn’t budge from the time I spotted him fifty yards down the trail, to when I walked right under him and turned around to get his picture. Maybe he just doesn’t like the squirrelparazzi.
I could see through woods that the Celery Bog was rich with waterfowl as I crept slowly toward the water’s edge using all of my ninja skills. “Ker-SNAP!!! Snap, ap, ap, ap!” I’ll never understand how a twig so small can make so much noise, but it never fails that I’ll find that twig and I’ll step on it, despite my best efforts. That was all it took to set the bog off in a furious flurry of feathery panic. By the time I got to the water everyone had moved to the north side; everyone but this Mallard pair who recognized that the twig snapping could only be the harmless handiwork of Dan.
Mus-krat Mon-day! Mus-krat Mon-day! Woo hoo!!! Wait, what? It’s only Thursday? Rats. I was so excited to see my first muskrat of the year that I couldn’t possibly wait until Monday to post him. Mus-krat Thurs-day! Muskrat Thursday? Hee? Doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Pheasants crowed in the distance as I walked through the fog along the southern edge of the Granville Sand Barrens. Anxious to begin my exploration of this wild and wonderful place, I had to fight the urge to hurry down the trail, and give the fog a chance to lift. In hindsight, I should have been a little curious, concerned really, by how quickly it cleared up. It was like a curtain was raised, instantaneously revealing a sun-soaked, golden brown pasture. “Now where are these sand barrens?”, I thought, just as I noticed a lone Sandhill Crane circling to the north. “Probably over there,” I snickered sarcastically. Sandhill Crane- sand barren? It’s too easy, but you know what? That’s exactly where the sand barren was! It seems odd to me, seeing just one crane, so I really hope he found his way.
Everyone thinks their squirrels are cuter than everyone else’s squirrels, but mine really are! Wait, it’s kids, everyone thinks their kids are…you know what, it doesn’t matter. Apparently it applies to squirrels too.