Sunday, March 20, 2011

Equinox at Humiston Woods

Many things going on today--for one thing, it's the vernal equinox, the official first day of spring! And although very windy again, the day was warmish and actually does feel like spring might be around the corner. It is also my brother Martin's birthday--so if you're reading this, bro, happy birthday! And by coincidence, it is also the anniversary of my first blog post.

Which means, of course, that I just had to go out and bird, despite the fact that the skies were gray again and the wind was just about strong enough to knock me flat. I decided on Humiston Woods in Livingston County, since I hadn't been there in a while (see "Tiny Twitches: Livingston County" for that trip), and there are some good hiking trails in the woods along Wolf Creek and the Vermilion River, although the birdiness of it is variable.

All photos accompanying this post were taken by Greenturtle on a walk that we took on March 15, 2009 at Humiston. I like having pictures to share, but some days I just don't feel like messing with the camera. It changes the quality of the experience if I'm looking for photos to take -- not bad, just different. I tried to get Greenturtle to come along with me as my photographer, but he declined.

The first thing I noticed was that the tallgrass prairie was recently burned. The field was black and charred, the ashy cinder smell still lingering in the air. It looks horrible, but periodic burning is actually good for the prairie, and March is when most people do it. Yesterday I saw the oak savanna at Parklands Merwin Preserve going up in flame -- but again, not to be alarmed, it's for the greater good. (Some previous posts where I discuss this include "Restoring the Oak Savannas," "Sunrise on the Prairie Chickens," and "Burn, Prairie, Burn.")

I hurried into the woods (between the charred ground and the strong wind, the prairie, usually one of my favorite spots, did not entice me to linger), hoping for some good birds despite the windy day. I've noticed that I rarely have a good birding trip when it's really windy. And for the first part of the walk, I saw just about nothing. It was shaping up to be an all-time low for Humiston Woods, and I thought that no way could I get any lower than my last trip, with just ten species.

Where the trail bends to meet the Vermilion River, however, things perked up. I saw white-breasted nuthatches, chickadees, a tufted titmouse, and a pair of downy woodpeckers.

More good sightings followed with an eastern bluebird, a pair of golden-crowned kinglets, and three turkey vultures circling overhead.

And then...the part I was especially looking forward to: the great blue heron rookery at the top of a tall sycamore.

And sure enough, they'd set up shop again, flying to and from the huge shaggy nests in the tree top, with their grunt-like cries. I've never actually made it back at the right time to look for young herons peering out of the nests (do young herons do this? I hope so--it sounds so cute), but now that I've found a rookery closer to home as well, maybe this year I'll see some fledglings.

Unfortunately, I didn't see the adorable groundhog that Greenturtle and I noticed on our previous walk, but it's so cute I have to share his photo anyway:

Did anyone else see any particularly good birds for the first day of spring? I hope so...birds make any day better.

1 comment:

  1. Happy First Day of Spring from the UP...where it's snowing! I'm so glad to hear that the herons are back in their rookery. Adorable photos of the groundhog. Today, we saw: our usual feeder friends, and, in Copper Harbor, a lonely female mallard duck, hanging out with a pair of Canada geese, and about 40 crows, who were clearly UP TO NO GOOD! Mom