Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tiny twitches: Piatt County.

Today for my "tiny twitch" campaign of choosing a different county each weekend to keep the winter birding interest alive, Greenturtle and I went back to the Robert Allerton Park in Piatt county (see December post "Statues in the Snow.") I had two reasons for choosing another trip there so soon: one, the hopes of seeing a pileated woodpecker to add to my slowly growing year list; and two, I knew that none of the trails would be closed for hunting, as a lot of places are this weekend.

Once again, it was an overcast day, with snow on the ground, although luckily not too chilly, with temperatures in the mid-twenties. There were a lot of robins, juncos and chickadees. I've been seeing robins all over the place this winter--I wonder why so many chose not to migrate this year?

Last trip, we concentrated on walking through all the gardens and to all the statues, so this time we strolled around the other trails, including one behind the Fu Dog garden that leads to a road along the floodplain:

In spring and fall this area is a great place to see warblers and also in the fall, brown creepers; today it was mostly home to red-bellied woodpeckers, chickadees and at least one northern flicker.

We swung back up the trail towards the Manor House:

But today we bypassed the gardens and followed the trail around to the Sangamon River, which is iced over in places:

The trail had ice underneath the snow, leading Greenturtle to state that he wouldn't want to come in the spring, as it would be too muddy -- an astute comment, as most of the trails are in the Sangamon's floodplain and there was one April that Sunwiggy and I went and half the place was underwater. Along this trail I added tufted titmouse, downy woodpecker and blue jay to my list. Thus the reason for my "tiny twitches," seeing the same ol' winter birds in different counties, because with small lists like these, I'd be started to feel deprived if it weren't for the change of scenery. Plus, walks with a non-birder usually lead to smaller lists -- although Greenturtle has gotten much more patient about the stops to check things out with my binoculars over the years.

I did finally see a pileated; if you look closely, it is in there:

And to be honest, that dark photo is of the one we saw LAST trip--the one this time was glimpsed flying over the treetops, no photo taken. Luckily they tend to be rather noisy birds so that you usually know one is in the vicinity!

We walked for about three hours, getting a few more birds on the way out -- red-tailed hawk, cardinals and a crow in the parking lot, and then a kingfisher and some mallards at a creek on the way into Monticello; and after this pleasant and peaceful stroll, I 'sweetened the deal' for Greenturtle coming along with a trip into Champaign.

I used to love cities in my youth (still like nice restaurants and art museums) but the more I get into birds and nature, the more I want to surround myself with trees or prairie grasses. Greenturtle, however, does enjoy an occasional trip to town, so after enjoying lunch at a restaurant, we went into a few shops, including his reason for going: a gaming store. Unfortunately, the gaming store had moved since our last trip, so we strolled around quite a bit while looking for it.

In her amusing book, Assassination Vacation, Sarah Vowell states that she can happily walk for hours in a city but soon quails when presented with a nature trail. Well, I guess I am the opposite, for the miles and hours flew by at Allerton Park, but I soon felt tired in Champaign. To amuse myself, I looked for pigeons---finally found some, but I was starting to wonder what kind of city could be pigeon free?

On the way back to Bloomington, we passed Moraine View State Park, where I suggested we drive the loop around Dawson Lake just to see if anything interesting was there. Birdwise, no, but Greenturtle was fascinated by the ice fishing taking place on the lake:

On the way out, I did see some lovely ring-necked pheasants, but it is still hunting season so they might not be around too long, trying not to think about that....

Overall, another good birding day to stave the winter blues away.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like such a lovely day! I especially wish I had seen your hawk; I know there are hawks up here but we never see them. I really enjoyed the photos; I miss Allerton.

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