Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Blackbirds Singin' On a Dark Dank Day

Today was dark and dank and blustery, and I almost didn't go out.  But I felt the need to swing my legs, so I pulled on my boots, tugged a hat over my ears, and grudgingly set off to nearby Bog Meadow Nature Trail.  Maybe I'd see a bird or two, I grumbled, but I sure wasn't going to find any flowers. 

Well, I sure did see a bird or two -- or three or four or more than a dozen, thanks to a young man named Russ I happened to meet on the trail.

When I first spied Russ he was peering through his binoculars at a tree across the swamp, a tree that was all aflutter with twittering birds, hopping from limb to limb, and making a royal racket!  I might have mistaken them for Starlings, but Russ had better binoculars than I and could see the birds' yellow eyes, as well as their tails that were longer than Starlings' and shorter than Grackles' tails.  So what could they be but a treeful of Rusty Blackbirds?  Rusties are not all that common around these parts, so Russ and I were both excited to see them.

Russ came to Bog Meadow today because he had heard a report of seeing an American Coot on the marsh's open waters, a bird that would be a "lifer" for him.  He wasn't sure where to find this open water, so I told him to walk with me and I'd take him there.   When I was last here a week ago, the "open water" was still frozen over from shore to shore, but today we found it mostly free of ice and teeming with all kinds of waterfowl swimming back and forth amid its rolling wind-blown waves.

Sure enough, there was that Coot!  It's the dark bird with a pale bill, close to the center of this photo below.  When we first spied him, he was close to our side of the marsh, but as we approached, he made his way to the far side, where dozens of other water birds swam in and out of the sheltering tussocks.

I know my photos are inadequate to reveal the species of ducks we saw (I only have a tiny pocket camera with a limited zoom), but with binoculars we were able to see many Ring-necked Ducks, Buffleheads, Mallards, Canada Geese,  and a couple of Common Goldeneyes.  (Take my word for it, that is a Goldeneye in the photo below. ) One of my birder friends, Lindsey, reported today that she had seen Gadwall, Black Duck, Green-winged Teal, Common Merganser, Hooded Merganser, and Wood Ducks at this same location, in addition to the species we saw.  And they may have been there still, but hiding among the reeds.  I would say that Bog Meadow Nature Trail is truly a birding paradise!

Bog Meadow is also a botanizer's paradise, although it will still be some time before the spring wildflowers poke above the ground.  At least I could see the promise of things to come in the fresh green shoots topping a mound of Tussock Sedge.

I was also delighted to see the Skunk Cabbage making up for lost time, now that the heavy snow cover has melted at last.


catharus said...

'Sounds like a great time, even if chilly and damp.
Yes, Rusty Blackbirds are a big deal as their numbers have plummeted as of late.

The Furry Gnome said...

Hope to find some skunk cabbage here any day now.

Raining Iguanas said...

Enjoyed your hike as always.

Susan Walter said...

Hi Jackie---I was a student on a walk in Rexford last Fall. You were teaching the class Ruth S usually does. We all were very happy to have you . Just love your blog, especially this early, thanks a bunch, I'm forwarding some shots to Nature-hungry friends ! Do you sell your photos as notecards? Susan W