Monday, May 24, 2010

Saint Louis and environs




I'm a little behind with my posts, due to the fact that complete EXHAUSTION hit the last couple of days. Plus the temperatures soared...hard to believe that just a couple of months ago I was bemoaning the cold. And now it's HOT!

The last couple of days of the trip I was really dragging ass...but I saw some neat stuff nonetheless. Saturday Greenturtle and I went to the Shaw Nature Reserve in Gray Summit, MO, close to Saint Louis. I'd been wanting to get back there for years, ever since Sunwiggy and I went there in October 2005, when we were still quite new at birding...I was stumped for the longest time on the "dark morph" of the white-throated sparrow. But that day, several autumns ago, resounds in the memory as the perfect day. The weather was sunny yet just a bit crisp, the birds were nice if frustrating (that old dark morph)...we walked down to the gravel bar along the Meramac River and then toured the wetlands, glimpsing a pileated woodpecker from the observation blind. I also brought us the best picnic lunch, potato soup and roasted beet salad. When I put my mind to it, I can really make some good (healthy, whole foods, mostly vegan) chow!

The only kicker was...the drive was SOOO long! I hadn't calculated in the extra time and effort to get to the far side of Saint Louis...so in all the intervening years, I did not return to the Shaw Nature Reserve, and I kept thinking that someday, when the opportunity presented itself, I would.

And thus Greenturtle and I went on Saturday. Was it the same, the perfect magical day? Well, you know what Heraclitus said about not stepping into the same river twice. Of course it wasn't the same. Nice...but different. For one thing, Sunwiggy and I went in the fall, and this muggy spring day was the first scorcher of the season. The park was crowded. The loop road was closed off (as it is on weekends...who knew?)so we had to trek it even though we were exhausted. The Meramac was flooded so we couldn't go down to the gravel bar. Not the same at all!

But still, there were some pleasant moments. The wetlands were completely covered with water lilies, and I saw a red-shouldered hawk flying by. Turtles were resting on a log in the sunshine, their back legs stretched out blissfully behind them...so sweet. I saw Carolina wrens and chats and a common yellowthroat -- how Sunwiggy and I both love the "witchedy witchedy bird," it's a shame she couldn't come, but the heat would have killed her. Sunwiggy does not do the elements well. Also, by having to walk more, we discovered a cool Serpentine Wall, a brick windbreak which is only one brick thick but still strong because of its undulating shape.

The next morning we decided to check out the World Bird Sanctuary we saw a sign for passing by on the highway. The sanctuary's mission is to help birds by educational displays, mostly...they have a lot of birds of prey. I'm always torn by displays like this. On the one hand, injured birds need a place to live out their days...and captive raised birds might be very educational and thus help their wild relatives...but seeing caged birds always gives me a pang. But I am not sorry I went, and give you the link so you can check it out for yourself and form your own opinions.

After that, we went on to a new type of habitat...the urban environment, in the form of downtown Saint Louis. I have to say, I prefer being right in the city to endless (horrible) suburban sprawl, and it was birdier than I expected. In addition to the expected pigeons, grackles, starlings and house sparrows, I found Eastern wood pewees and warbling vireos in the park around the Arch...and barn swallows swooping over the stadium at the Cardinals game.

It was quite hot...and then, thank God, the Cards won (for Greenturtle's sake...I'm a Mets fan and they weren't playing) and we got to GO HOME!

P.S., Even if you've read my earlier posts before, I invite you to go back and take another look...as I've now added photos, all taken by Greenturtle. It was hard limiting myself to just a sampling...I tried to show how I felt about my experiences by my selections, rather than just going for "the best" compositions... Hope you enjoy!

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