Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Winter Stewardship

No, it wasn't a dream! I really do have a job wandering around outside looking at birds! I worked another shift Monday morning and once again thoroughly enjoyed

The biggest surprise came early in the shift. While pishing at a flock of chickadees at the edge of the preserve, I noticed a midget of a bird, wings crackling with energy, bouncing around in the underbrush nearby. "Oh, cool, Golden-crowned Kinglet." It had been awhile since I'd seen one in the preserve. Suddenly, the bird, which I had not yet glassed, opened its bill and uttered a snappy jid-it, seemingly indignant I had mistaken him for his cousin. Yes, a Ruby-crowned--a bird worth ignoring in California, but, here in Michigan, an excellent bird for the winter.

Compared to October and November, when the skies are full of flyovers, the January skies are bleak and empty except for the resident Red-tails or geese winging over. It was a pleasant surprise, then, when this Northern Harrier cruised overhead. It was a new campus bird for me.

It was a chilly morning, temperatures lounging a few degrees above freezing. Too warm for snow, but plenty cold for frost and stiff fingers.

The preserve was a farm back in the olden days. Some of the clues to its history are subtle, like the uneven ground from the tilled fields, but others, like the skeleton of this old car, are blatant evidence of the past.

A would-be white landscape now masquerades as a different place, a place much farther to the south with scarce snow, maybe Tennessee. The dearth of snow this winter is frightening. The woods are brown and steel-gray instead of white. Here and there, however, scraps of color--lichens or rose hips--can be found.

Even if it's the "wrong" color, the preserve still an art gallery with innumerable exhibits. Some are only visible if you kneel in the leaf litter with a critical eye. Beetles may belong to the phyla Arthropoda, but their sculpture outdoes that of some human artists I have seen.

What surprises are waiting in the woods for next time?

1 comment:

John G said...

Neil: Nice pics of the preserve. The frost crystals on the end of the wood is really cool.