Monday, January 16, 2012
Now it feels like work
A case of the blahs
I probably shouldn't admit this, but here goes: Sometimes I don't really want to bird. Sometimes I'm kinda tired and would really rather stay home reading or even watching scary movies or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This never happens during spring migration, of course. And when it does happen, often, if I make myself go out anyway, I am soon so lost in the "birding zone" that I completely forget I was tired. Sometimes I stay home and then kick myself for the rest of the week while I am trapped inside until sunset (the worst thing about winter is that it's dark by the time I get home) because a day or two later, I'm dying to get outside, and I'm stuck at work. And sometimes I go out when I'm feeling blah, and the outing is blah, and that's all there is to it.
Not that I felt completely blah about going out this morning. I did want to see if any new waterbirds were congregating around Mascoutin, now that the weather has been cold several days. Warm water from the power plant keeps that area of the lake free of ice, and in years past other birders have seen smorgasbords of ducks, geese, gulls, all kinds of exciting stuff. In fact, as late fall became winter and I'd drive past all the Clinton Lake "hotspots," seeing nothing besides flocks of ring-billed gulls bobbing atop the otherwise unoccupied water, I'd tell myself, "Just wait until we get some ice.... Then who knows what I'll see here!"
As I drove along the country roads, the flat and unvarying expanse of the fields made me kind of sleepy. The thought of embarking on a long hike wasn't too appealing. I thought, If I could go back in time to when I was 16 or 20 and tell myself that someday I'd live in central Illinois and my main interest in life would be birding, I'd never believe it. If I also told myself that sorry, in twenty years' time I wouldn't be a rich, famous writer, either, I'd probably wonder if the intervening decades would even be worth slogging through. And yet, I'm not altogether dissatisfied with the way it turned out. I love birding. I have even developed a sense of affection for the flatlands. It would be nice to be a rich, famous writer, however. Oh well.
Luckily, before I could get too sleepy or introspective, I had arrived at Mascoutin.
Birds in the mist
I could see tendrils of fog rising from the water from several "blocks" away. This very localized weather pattern is caused by the fact that the water temperature is much warmer than normal due to the presence of the Exelon nuclear power plant (and no, I don't object to nuclear energy, as long as the reactors are kept up to the most stringent safety codes -- I actually find the power plant less offensive than the endless crops of wind farms sprouting up across the state. In fact, even a disaster such as what happened at Chernobyl is probably less damaging to the environment in the long run than, say, mountaintop-removal mining, as the very engaging book Wormwood Forest: A Natural History of Chernobyl by Mary Mycio describes).
I parked and walked along the causeway for a while, seeing pied-billed grebes, Canada geese, a pair of mallards, a bazillion ring-billed gulls, and some coots skulking against the shoreline.
"I am not skulking."
Don't laugh, it's a year bird:
When the highlight of your birding trip is a brown-headed cowbird, it might just be time to go home...which I did, after a brief stop at the prairie at Weldon Springs, which will be the topic of tomorrow's post.