Thursday, August 11, 2011
An unusual suspect
The weather has finally cooled off a bit. For the first time it what has seemed like weeks, we turned off our air conditioner. It's fun to take my dogs for a walk instead of being a horrible sweat-fest. I've begun to have fond memories of an odd little outdoorsy hobby I once had, called birding. And what good timing this is, as the fall warbler season is just around the corner.
Despite this improvement in the weather, to be honest, I wasn't really thinking about birding as I pulled into the parking lot at my Work Place. I was thinking work things and also ruminating about various personal issues as I tend to do.
I turned off the ignition, thus killing the song from my "North African Groove" CD, and glanced up, still wearing my sunglasses, to see a bird fly right in front of the car and perch in the tree directly in front of me. It was fairly big for a songbird, with a glossy black back and a white chest and belly, and even with my eyes artificially shaded, I could make out the white band on the edge of its tail. An eastern kingbird!
Despite the fact that kingbirds are fairly common summer breeders here in central Illinois, I was thrilled to see it. For one thing, I don't think I've seen one in over a month--common or not, if you don't go birding, they don't (usually) just fly right up and perch in front of you at work! And another, I'd just added a bird to a list. My first Work Place Kingbird!
I immediately took off my sunglasses and admired it for a while. I think it was the closest I've ever been to one, and as I was sitting still in my car, it had no reason to be scared, and stayed for several minutes. I could see the grayish smudges on its sides along the breast by the wings, which I'd never been close enough to notice before. Hooray! A kingbird! Which is, all at once, an improvement on my state of mind from a few minutes before, without kingbirds.
It then flew off, eventually stopping to perch for a while at the very top of a tree, but just having seen it inspired me to dig my spare pair of binoculars out and stroll around the lawn and pond area before heading into the building. I also saw: a black-capped chickadee, many juvenile robins with splotchy spotted bellies, a gray catbird, quite a few chimney swifts flying overhead, and later in the day, a green heron.
The morning was sunny but pleasant, the perfect temperature, in fact; besides the birds (so few species, but fun to see), I enjoyed inspecting some plants, including a yellow mystery flower (I wish I'd brought my camera -- the kingbird photo is actually from an earlier sighting at Sugar Grove Nature Center), and the sight of some chicory, which I've finally learned to correctly identify. As a child, I'd always been told it was called "cornflower," which is actually a different plant altogether.
As I made a list of birds I'd seen in my small notebook I keep just for Work Place Birds, I realized that I hadn't been enthusiastic enough by a sighting to log it since June 28. (I always try to convince myself to be a good amateur ornithologist and log everything on the ebird database for the sake of Science -- but then when it's just robins for a month straight...meh.... I think being equally excited about every bird you see must be what Enlightenment feels like. And trust me, I'm not enlightened!)
On that day, I'd been most excited about seeing some chimney swifts, but had also noted: robin; catbird; hairy woodpecker; great blue heron; cardinal and starling.
The note before that was from May 11: common yellowthroat; magnolia warbler; Wilson's warbler; eastern wood pewee; wood duck; mallard; Canada goose; starling; robin; house wren; BH cowbird; chickadee; coot; and catbird.
But going back even further, I see that last summer, on August 26, I saw a Wilson's warbler there. Oh, we're so close to fall migration, it's like I can feel it building up. Why else would a kingbird show up at my Work Place Pond? Things are starting to move again...and I can't wait.