Thursday, January 19, 2012
More views of the lake (and a bit of silliness)
It's cold. Right now, as I sit and type, I feel a bit of a chill. It was even worse a half hour ago, as I was outside then, taking my dogs for a walk, which is a bit of a spectacle at the best of times, and even worse in the winter, for in addition to wishing they wouldn't bark at everyone and try to eat various disgusting things they find on the ground (thus giving me more room to say, "Wipe that coprophagic grin off your face!" than I ever expected when I thought of that phrase in an attempt to put humor into vocabulary), but I just want them to hurry up with their business, because it's cold!
Imagine this, if you will: I am holding all three leashes in one hand, so as to keep the other hand as snug as possible in my pocket (due to the extreme, hideous cold, of course), a scenario which only works when all three run along side by side like some ironic, post-modern take on Cerberus (just so you can visualize the silliness of this correctly, let me remind everyone that I have a dachshund, a cocker spaniel, and a Pomeranian). True to their usual, alas, they are all straining at the leash in three different directions, tangling up each other and myself in the process, so that I am either continually doing a sort of doggie jump-rope, or swaying in an attempt not to fall face first. For all of you who are thinking "obedience training" at about this point, I tried that with my dachshund. At the end of the first class, he lifted his leg and took a whizz on my shoe just to show me how successful the whole endeavor would be. I took him for a few more sessions before deciding to spare myself further embarrassment by home-schooling.
This has all been a bit of an unexpected detour, for which I blame a case of brain-freeze, caused by--guess what?--the cold! Since it happens every winter here in Illinois, you would think I would get used to it. Unfortunately, my complaining about it also happens every year like clockwork around this time. Well, give me six months and I'll show how well-rounded I am by complaining about the heat.
Despite these impediments, I have maintained my attempts to get the year birds. Yesterday I called in sick to work. Just for the record, I want to be very clear that I did not call in sick in order to go birding. I really did feel unwell. In theory, I aspire to be the sort of slacker who would call in sick for a chance to see more birds, but I have been too inculcated into the so-called Protestant work ethic ever to let myself get away with it.
Having already called in sick, however, and spent the morning lying on the couch watching extremely weird videos, my mind soon turned to year birds, and I decided that driving to the lake to gaze out over the water would hardly be taxing. Besides, there is only so much lying around idly that any one person can take, and just in case I face some sort of gruesome extended death-bed scenario in my later years, I don't want to waste a moment now.
So, out I went. The area between the power plant and the DNR station was full of common goldeneyes and ring-billed gulls, with a couple of hooded mergansers tossed in here and there.
I made this picture extra large because I thought I might have seen a Barrow's goldeneye in the mix, and maybe someone else will spot it too! No? Yeah, me either. Since my spotting scope was in the trunk of my other vehicle, the picture pretty much sums up how the ducks looked in "real time" as well.
And as far as a Barrow's goldeneye goes...finding stuff like that is a good reason to spend more time with more experienced birders. On my own, I'd probably never feel all that certain. I mean, the head seemed pointier and the white patch on the face seemed skinnier, but they still look pretty similar, right? On the other hand, I once despaired over how I would ever recognize a Thayer's gull if I saw one, but when I did (at least I'm pretty sure I did) Up North, I knew at once, "Hey, that isn't your normal herring gull. It's different somehow...."
I drove further down the road to Mascoutin; on my way there, I did get a wonderful look at year bird #62, a rough-legged hawk, circling overhead in Dewitt. And then on to the lake again, where what did I spy? Mallards!
Hellooo, mallards! Do you guys think I rose from my couch and risked being "busted" on a sick day to watch a bunch of you swim around? Like, haven't I seen enough mallards to last me forever, just this week?? Do you really think I need more mallards?
Attracted by all these negative vibes, an American coot swam up towards the shore.
Said the coot, "I see we have one of those hard-core twitching lister types who just can't stop and appreciate the qualities of the bird they happen to see. Well, I'll show her!"
"I'm going to get out of the water and display my supreme cootliness, not to mention my ginormous feet, to make her look twice and show her the error of her ways!"
OK, lesson learned, little coot.... You are marvelous and I will henceforth go out and admire each bird I see for itself and not for its place on my list!
I briefly considered a bit of a stroll, but didn't feel up to it; however, I saw some more nice birds on my drive home, including American black duck (year bird #63...don't tell the coot!), plus an eastern bluebird and a red-tailed hawk.
And it would have been a very nice day if only it weren't so cold!