Sunday, July 18, 2010

Suburban Birding

Inspired once more to try to lessen my use of oil and explore the world of birds living right around me, today, as I had promised myself, I walked around looking at birds in town. At first the day was kind of moody and it looked like a storm was blowing in; gusts of wind were a pleasant relief from the otherwise general mugginess. There were a few sprinkles but then it just got hot. And humid.

In my previous post "Little Green Birding Challenge" I stated my goal of finding as many species here in town as I did walking around Evergreen Lake/Comlara Park last weekend, 35. I gave myself about the same distance (around four miles) and length of time (around four hours) to see them in. Despite this goal, I didn't really expect to see that much. Not in the middle of summer in the middle of town.

Habitat: suburban park with ponds and cattails (Tipton Park), a walking/biking trail with a stream running alongside it and scrubby, weedy banks hiding the road and businesses right beside (part of the Constitution Trail), then back across some vacant lots and McMansion subdivisions. I like to call it Urban Birding because that sounds a little more hip, but this is really more like suburbia, a little path wandering amidst the big box stores and chain restaurants to one side and the sprawling new subdivisions to the other. (Didn't I read this description in Dante?)

I have to say it turned out better than I'd anticipated. At Tipton Park, in addition to the red-winged blackbirds and song sparrows that make it their summer home, I saw an American coot and a green heron. Then walking past a very weedy/scrubby area along the trail -- by Jumer's hotel, which also has a pond behind it, for those who know the area -- I heard common yellowthroats (saw one briefly), and saw a chipping sparrow and a pair of house wrens. This was all very nice.

Beyond this area is an underpass I call, for obvious reasons, the Swallow Bridge, then several gardens maintained by the local Audubon chapter and Sister Cities organizations. This area was full of catbirds and robins. Ever since the Sand County Death March last weekend, my sciatica has been acting up, so I plopped down at a picnic table and rested my twinging back. Between my hobbling around and counting up robins, I really felt like the eccentric middle-aged person I am becoming, although secretly I think I really am just like I was in my twenties, except for the back pain and the robin-counting, of course.

Behind me, I heard scolding wrens, and was pleased to discover, when I turned around and spotted them in the underbrush, that they were Carolina wrens, the first I've seen in McLean county since last fall. We had such a harsh winter that I was afraid they'd all died.

After that, I swung away from the Constitution Trail and walked back along some fields. All of them had a sign up, "Commercial Property, Build to Suit" or similar. I swear, this town's motto really is "No Green Space Left Behind." In just the eight years I've been here, I've seen so many fields and lots being turned into yet another eyesore. The recession has slowed down the pace a little, but it's just a matter of time until it's all gone.

I ended up seeing 24 species, which is not too bad for the time of year. I do like the idea presented in the Birder's World article "Big Green Birding Challenge" of exploring on bike and foot, finding all the "micro-habitats" in a non-driving distance. I would still rather be out in "Nature," away from people and traffic noise, but I can certainly continue to balance those trips with green birding jaunts in town.

The photos above are from an assignment Greenturtle did for a class. The topic was Urban Sprawl. The park is Tipton Park and the other photos are quite near to where I was birding today.


  1. Bloomington/Normal has grown up a ton the 13 years I've been in the area. BN is bigger than I like. Cool thing about Lexington - it is small enough, doesn't change much, but is close enough to BN that I can usually get anything I want from an hour round trip :). All in all, a very quiet place.

    I don't know how birding would be here. We're close to a river, and Parklands for that matter. I do know the stars look a little better out here.

  2. I've never tried birding Lexington, but last summer Dad and I went to Heyworth to look for Eurasian collared doves, since I'd heard they were to be found there. We wandered around a bit, binoculars in hand, checking out all the mourning doves until we found our species. Then the local policeman found us. "What are you looking at?" he said. "Eurasian collared doves," I said. The policeman thought it over for a minute: "Do they taste like chicken?" After he left, Dad said, "I just knew a policeman would come along sooner or later," but I reassured him: "Looking at doves is not a crime!"