Thursday, November 5, 2009

Frosty Prairie Morning

Contrary as ever, I've refused to completely readjust to the most recent time change. Getting to bed "earlier" lead to my own pursuit of old Ben's prescribed health, wealth and wisdom when I woke up equally early and decided to rise. Even though I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast I got to the prairie just after sunrise. There was frost on the ground and the sky was completely clear. I had barely stepped out of the car when I started hearing Sandhill Cranes calling from the direction of the marshes. Multiple flocks passed over, all heading north. Maybe it's really spring after all.

A lone hawk glided over, possibly in pursuit of his own breakfast, though if I were a rodent on the prairie this morning I would have been tempted to stay in the nest until it warmed up a bit.

Since I had gotten such an early start, I decided to walk all the way to the top of the hill that dominates the prairie. On the way I passed the area where I most often hear Ring-necked Pheasants crowing. This morning one of them was announcing his presence in the vicinity of this great old Bur Oak, but I never saw him.

From the top of the hill the view is wonderful--provided you can block out the suburban sprawl that wraps two sides of this tract. Looking south I could see the marshes where some cranes were still circling and calling.

And here, to the northwest I found where the cranes were headed. It's not spring after all. They were just flying to their own breakfast in a field of corn stubble.

I'm managing to love autumn--for the moment--and yesterday I resolved to try to love winter as well. It's not like I have any choice in their coming and going. And, like what I think of as the more comfortable seasons, there's still something wonderful to see if I take the time to look.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Walk in the Neighborhood and Another Lifer

It's a bit of a stretch to say this morning's walk was actually in my neighborhood, but it's so close I like to think that it is. The weather wasn't the greatest at first, so the only halfway decent shots I got of some Common Loons (Gavia immer) are kind of on the dull side.

A half mile or so into the hike it actually got darker. Fortunately this White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albocollis) was cooperative for a minute or two. I really like this species even though I associate them with autumn which is not my favorite season. Be sure you notice the distinctive yellow spots by the eyes. Once you start really looking at sparrows you realize they aren't just boring brown birds.

By the time I was on my way back the sun was coming out, thanks to the chilly south breeze that was blowing. It cleared up enough that I had no trouble seeing this Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus) when it hopped up on a log looking very alert.

Fortunately it was completely sunny and bright when I happened upon this trio. They are Horned Grebes (Podiceps auritus), a species I've not seen before. Wow! With the Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata) I observed on the way to work one drizzly morning the other day that makes two "Lifers" in one week.