We are finally getting some nice fall weather, although the autumn foliage is less than impressive due to the warm weather. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I do believe that the lovely colors are caused by the lack of chlorophyll once the crisp temperatures signal to the trees it's time to go into winter mode. Despite this bummer, yesterday was a perfect fall day, so after work I decided to sling my binoculars over my shoulder, toss a notebook and field guide into the basket on my bike, and see what kind of birds I could find in town.
I decided to take the Constitution Trail, the biking/jogging/dog-walking etc. trail that winds around the Bloomington/Normal area, through Normal and then as far as it goes. It's a fairly long trip, winding past the highway (55) and then petering out in at a country road (1850N) not far from the small town of Hudson. My plan was to check for birds periodically on my way back.
The terminus of the trail is not particularly attractive (I have been reading the trip schedules of several birding tour companies just to torment myself: instead of Caribbean islands, South American cloud forests or pelagic vistas, this is what I get??)-- on the left side is a gravel company, with trucks pulling up and dusty clouds drifting from the mounds, on the right side, an FS Evergreen station with several noisy silos. I looked up FS Evergreen on the internet out of curiosity. I think they are processing corn into something else (biodiesel?)there. Anyway, it's pretty noisy.
Ever willing to do my part for the ebird scientists (surely, they want to know what I saw, or didn't), I pulled out my binoculars. And...I saw birds. Well, pigeons; those are birds. They were resting side by side, a group of about ten of them, on top of the FS Evergreen silos, seemingly impervious to the noise and dust around them. And that is what I like about pigeons! No other birds in sight -- and I certainly wouldn't want to live there -- and there they are, snuggled up together as if they had found an island paradise.
A little further from the terminus, I found a flock of blackbirds in some shrubs by a cornfield, some crows and robins, and a golden-crowned kinglet, so it's not just pigeons. Even micro-habitats will bring in the birds.
Riding back towards Normal, I got off my bike at the Hidden Creek park, which is a small urban park/nature sanctuary. I've always found it a little off-putting for some reason. Was it the Smirnoff bottle on the trail, showing that the party birds had recently been in evidence? Or the garbage tossed into the creek? I've just never really liked that park.
Regardless, I saw a pair of yellow-rumped warblers, a downy woodpecker, a phoebe, a chickadee and some cardinals right off the bat. Then I heard a rustling noise beneath the trees...white-throated sparrows and a fox sparrow were digging in the leaves, looking for their supper. I've always loved this particular behavior of birds. It's totally endearing, and it makes me think of the first time I saw/heard eastern towhees rustling in the leaves at Parklands Merwin preserve.
Rounding up the day, I stopped at the pond behind the Jumer's motel, which can attract some surprises during the right season. Yesterday I saw many mallards and Canada geese, plus a crow flying overhead.
Today I continued the urban birding spirit, waking up early and biking to Ewing Park, a small urban park here in Bloomington. The first thing I heard was a cacophony of robins. I think there were at least fifty of them in the park. I walked around for an hour or so and saw more of the usual fall suspects, including a Swainson's thrush, a cedar waxwing, and a northern flicker.
It's heartening to know that so many birds can utilize our urban spaces, especially parks, ponds and shrubby areas. And I saw a lot of species, probably as many as I would have seen out of town. Alas, I am just not an urbanite (or, as a co-worker of mine likes to say, cosmopolite) ... so tomorrow I will check out the birds out of town. But at least I can feel good that I conserved resources and got some exercise this weekend, and saw a few birds in the process.