Sunday, January 30, 2011
An introspective weekend, part two: Comlara Park
As I mentioned in my last post, the sun has been in short supply lately, but I went out anyway to combat the winter doldrums, and had a wonderful time. So today I headed out again, this time to Comlara park, hoping for some nice year birds or at least a peaceful stroll by Evergreen Lake. The weather was, if anything, even gloomier, with visibility somewhat limited by fog.
My first stop was the Pumphouse, because this is the one place where I can find some open water even in the midst of winter:
Open water is great, because it attracts waterfowl and gulls, which can be cool winter sightings. In fact, it has occurred to me, as Sunwiggy and I drove all over the state last winter looking for open water along the Mississippi and Illinois River Valleys (Sunwiggy is a good sport about birding but asthma and other lung ailments make walking any distance in the cold weather challenging for her), and this year as the local ponds and creeks slowly iced over...that there's something rather symbolic for me, anyway, about the disappearing open water. As winter draws in, and the landscape is encased in a film of ice and snow, as the days shrink into darkness---so goes my mood. Although I've done a bit better this year, thanks to my self-imposed birding challenges!
At the pumphouse, human intervention keeps it open, so I was hoping for some wintering waterfowl, perhaps some nice ducks, snow geese or greater white-fronted geese.
Alas, though the area was packed with waterfowl, they were all Canada geese -- now I love the Canada goose, but it they are hardly an unusual sighting at any time of year.
I also saw a belted kingfisher, which is always a good thing to spot!
I snapped some photos, although with the poor light I didn't have many hopes for how they would turn out, and then got back in the car to check out the feeders around the visitor center. I was hoping for a red-breasted nuthatch, which I haven't gotten yet in 2011, since they hung out in the area last winter. No red-breasted ones, but there was one white-breasted one who flew down right in front of me, as if begging for its photo to be taken. We'll call it Supermodel Nuthatch:
Other good birds at the feeders included a tufted titmouse;
A song sparrow (seen here in the company of a male house sparrow;
And many beautiful cardinals, their flame-red a beacon even in the terminal grayness of the morning:
A young man stopped to ask about the bird I was photographing, and told me about seeing the Canada geese in the open area by the pumphouse. Despite the gray weather, I was really enjoying myself, and thinking how birding has brought so many benefits to my life. I have met new people, learned new skills -- both blogging and photography spring from my love of birds -- and find a reason to go out and do what I love in all seasons.
I decided to drive over to the area by the Shady Hollow trail on the opposite side of the lake and do some hiking; on the way over, I found a murder of crows hanging out by one of the areas popular with fisherman, and pulled over to try for some photos. I love crows, so much so that my nom de blog pays tribute to them, but they are hard to photograph! (If anyone reading this shares my love of corvids, I highly recommend the Aves Noir website, for some great crow art and photography.) Unlike the feeder birds shown above who paid me little mind, crows seem to sense when you're paying attention to them, and they don't care for it.
Indeed, the flock took off shortly after I pulled up, allowing me only a few photos as they cawed in indignation from the trees:
After catching as many crows as I could on camera, I proceeded down the road, to discover that the wind farms I saw going up on my last trip have now encroached to the very boundary of the park.
I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach. It's hard to explain why -- wind farms are "green," renewable energy and all that, and so I should be all for them. And I admit, compared to oil rigs and tar sands mining and blowing up mountaintops in West Virginia, windmills are pretty benign. They kill some birds and many bats, it's true, and I'm not sure how much good they really do...but if it turns out they're bad, at least they can be taken down again, which is more than can be said for a lot of what we are doing to the earth.
Still...do they need to be erected so close to the park? One of the things I like about Illinois is the sense of space...the limitless interplay between earth and sky...the incredibly vast distance to the horizon. Granted, objecting to wind farms on the basis that they ruin my appreciation of the landscape might be a bit trivial, but I can't deny how I feel. In fact, the sight bummed me out so much I went home early.
If anyone has any info on windfarms, pro or con, I'd love to hear your input! In the meantime, I hope my posts are an inspiration, wherever you are, to go out and look for what surrounds you...