Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Little Nature Walk

Today, Ella and I took part in the Great Back Yard Count, a bird-counting event that gathers bird data from all over the world for the same four days. We had a lot of fun on our all-day-long hike in Mill Creek Forest, and looking for birds in our yard. But before I even knew about this event, I went birding for the first time in forever yesterday, because my daughter was playing with a friend, and my son is away for the weekend with dad (yay DAD!). Here's what I wrote about my little walk:

Dropped right into owl eyes/deer ears meditation, immediately became very sensitive and seeing birds far away. First critter: red-shafted flicker at the top of a tree by the yurt, calling, another answers across the creek.

Moving on, moving slowly. Thought something moved in brush near spring trail. Couldn't decide which way to go, was called to marsh trail instead. Saw a bird dive at the entrance. Approached quietly. Noticed flying insects all over willow tree. Closer look revealed many small flies drinking nectar from new willow catkin flowers. A few varieties of flies. Who knew flies pollinated willows? Entered marsh trail. Pause. Sparrows in blackberry thicket by entrance, the one I saw before. Wait and observe. After a few minutes of stillness, they showed themselves to me, complaining: white-crowned sparrow. A pair. Waiting.

Suddenly, I see something. I turn slowly to look closer, a rabbit! Darting back and forth, as if it can't decide what to do! And then it dashes across the path ahead of me, down into the stinging nettle. Soon after, Poblano (my little dog) comes along sniffing excitedly. That rabbit gave him the slip! Smile and wait. Ahhh, this must be who is browsing on the marsh plants...many of them are clipped off, leaving a simple stem with no leaf.

I notice several cattail heads have their fluff all pulled apart (bird nest fluff?) Hear sparrow song up top, unknown species. Move a little farther in, and pause and wait. More sparrows. Watching a blackberry thicket. Wow, there's a bird moving in there, turn my head slowly, it's preening, maybe it doesn't see me, it looks sleepy, like it might just close its eyes and doze off. I am 4 feet away. It's some kind of wren! Maybe the marsh wren? I've never seen this bird before.

Moving on, I sit down for a few minutes. Pause. Up again. Notice 1 or 2 squirrel nests (?) in tall creek alders, and maybe a bird nest near to them, something flatter with lots of sticks in treetops. Walk a little further and pause. Wait. Minutes of stillness. A woodpecker. I had heard drumming. This little guy (or girl) downy woodpecker fed in mid-treetops, not too concerned about me. I take a good look in the binos. Then I move ahead, a good view down toward the creek to a flat with good cover for ground birds. Waited. Several minutes. Heard two unfamiliar birds companion calling. Finally got a look, not sure who? Ground feeder, hopping like a towhee, but not a towhee, a sparrow? Maybe hermit thrush? Around now, varied thrush also wanted to see what was up, so perched up higher to see me, then flew away toward the wolf tree.

While I was observing this, a western grey squirrel came along, traveling upstream in the trees. Downy woodpecker moved out of the way, then went back to feeding. Spent some time @ the wolf tree. Up hill to lower meadow. Startled more sparrows, and quail sentinel warned everyone before I emerged. I startled this covey last week during the storm on my dusk walk through the same location). I stopped and waited and hoped for a return to baseline, but a towhee dives out of a bush near me and flies away in a worry. Other birds too. On my way up the hill, another wren! 2 in one day!

Also, raven, turkey vulture, song sparrow, robin, stellar's jay, and red-tail hawk call. Deer tracks.

It's amazing how if you arrive in calmness, and settle and wait, in stillness, the forest comes back to life quickly, and amazing things happen. That was the single most amazing nature walk I've ever taken, by the sheer number of small successes, and the rewards of patience paying off.

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