Today I went back to the birdiest spot in McLean county (in my opinion), Comlara Park/Evergreen Lake, and just like last Sunday got a good-sized species list without too much effort. (Effort in finding the birds that is. As far as effort in walking around the park goes...damn that sciatica!)
It is starting to feel like fall. The weather was cool, and the first thing I noticed was that the summer residents of the pines behind the visitor center, the chipping sparrows, have been replaced by red-breasted nuthatches. (Sorry to see the chippers go...but I love the nuthatches!) The day was mostly cloudy with occasional brilliant flashes of sunlight. My mood was mostly melancholy with occasional brilliant flashes of transcendence.
There is a wonderful overlapping of species at this time of year: lingering summer residents (gray catbirds, double-crested cormorants, common yellowthroats, field sparrows), the last wave of the early fall migrants (warblers and vireos), and the first wave of the late fall migrants, a few of which might overwinter: kinglets, brown creepers, red-breasted nuthatches, white-throated sparrows).
I felt like I could see just about anything. In addition to the usual suspects were three great surprises: a bald eagle perched on a dead tree by the lake (I'm thinking: no way? A bald eagle? Yup, that's definitely a bald eagle!), a black-billed cuckoo in a shrub, a northern mockingbird flying past. Three "county birds" in one trip. Any one of them would have made me happy; seeing all three feels down-right greedy.
Frequently I have noticed a pattern: if there is a species I am looking for and cannot find, no matter how common it may be (a nemesis bird), once I finally see one (much exaltation), it's like the curse is broken and then I see them everywhere (whatever, there's another one....) In this instance, the blue-headed vireo. Saw one for the first time (it'd been on my wish list forever) last weekend, then again Friday, and now again today! This morning I heard a sample of his odd, yet still euphonious, song.
There were no swallows at the "Swallow Bridge," and none of the sandpipers I saw a month ago, but a plethora of great blue herons and great egrets, for sure, the egrets almost glowing white against the gray-wash of the cloudy day. All of them so still, as if posing for an Oriental painting.
If only this lovely abundance of bird-life could last forever. (Warned you I was melancholy). If only we could stop everything that we're doing to ruin their habitats right now, and save them all....
P.S., I invite everyone to check out the most recent addition to my Blog Roll, Bird Chick. I found her while I was looking for info on the Sax Zim Bog festival (held each winter in northern Minnesota, if at all possible I am going to go next year) and already this has become one of my favorite birding blogs. The author, Sharon Stitler, might even be tied with David Lindo the Urban Birder as my birding hero. Check it out!