Saturday, August 27, 2011
Angler's Pond at the end of summer
As I pulled up into my Work Place parking lot yesterday morning, the lawn by Angler's pond was full of robins and starlings seeking their breakfasts. (As I remarked last winter, it seems that robins and starlings like to hang out together. Am I the only one who's noticed that? Or who thinks it's a little weird?) I also saw an eastern kingbird and -- happy surprise! -- a Baltimore oriole, the latter being a first for my local "patch" list.
The starlings had their stars on, which is the way I describe their winter plumage. Yet another indication that the season is changing! That's one of the things that I like about birding. I have never been so acutely aware of the subtle shifts of the seasons before I started actively looking at birds. The temperature still feels like summer, but the activity of the birds is so different than it was in June or July!
All of this made me itch to get outside and start birding, but first I had to work my usual half-day Friday. Ah, work. The best that can be said about it is that it keeps me from having to pawn my binoculars. But by early afternoon, all of that was behind me, and I was ready to explore Angler's pond to see exactly what late summer has to offer.
As I described in my last post, I saw some disturbing signs on the trees and gate:
I've never noticed a particular glut of cats around Angler's Pond (although one of the residents suggested I check my shoes for "goose $hit and cat $hit" when I was returning to my car, so there must be some)...and as I stepped through the gate, another thing I didn't notice was any birds. I wondered if every winged creature in the area was taking a siesta.
Still, as I'd looked over the photos I'd taken of the pond last February earlier in the morning, I found the differences between late winter and late summer to be fascinating. And yet, the "bones" of the place, the winding path and bending trees enticing me forward, the tangles and brambles making this spot in the middle of town feel so wild and fey, and the expanse of the pond in the middle--all of that remains, winter or summer.
I found myself spending more time than usual in an open area that consists of a long, narrow pond with houses along one side and apartment building on the other. Normally, this is a fairly boring area, but today it was where all the bird action was.
Walking forward was like traversing a corridor with the pond and the bushes and shrubs along its banks on one side, and the trees and fences of the houses on the other, with the whole center area an explosion of squawking robins. Many of them were still splotchy-bellied with youth:
This is probably what drew them, doll's eye, also called white baneberry:
Do I have to point out that these berries are poisonous? But apparently birds can eat them, even though they cause (according to Illinois Wildflowers) "severe gastrointestinal inflammation and skin blisters" in humans. Well, birds can eat the berries of the poison ivy plant, too...and pokeweed. I wonder how they filter out the poisons, or if it's just a quirk of the human system that we can't eat these things?
I also saw a kingbird, although looking at the photo, it doesn't seem to have the white edging along the tail. The rest of it sure looks like a kingbird, though.
Perhaps a robin's nest?
Urban birding isn't always the most scenic experience.
The last bird sighting of my outing was the humble mourning dove.
It wasn't a very productive walk, bird-wise, and by the end of it I was feeling uncomfortably warm. But I left with the feeling that this observing and documenting of each shift of the season that I have done this year is a good thing, a way of truly looking, almost a form of walking meditation at times. We're at a cusp right now, neither summer nor fall, the breeding birds becoming scarcer and the migrants just starting to trickle through. It's a very interesting time of the year.