Saturday, March 15, 2008

In a Fog?

Instead of speculating about what might be true, say, "I don't know!" Not knowing is a wonderful state to be in. There's room for endless possibilities, and anything can happen.

Being "in a fog" can have several meanings. You might be dazed, unsure of what's going on. You might not know what direction to take next. Or, as in my case today, you could literally be surrounded by cool, damp fog in the atmosphere. This morning's fog did not stop us from a birding trip with the Beckham Bird Club to Deam Lake in southern Indiana.

The fog narrowed our field of vision, so we focused on the birds nearer to hand, since we couldn't even see the other side of the lake. The birds didn't care about the view and sang loudly, so we found many of them by voice. The muted light did not make good bird photographs though. Small spider webs on the forest floor captured the moisture and shone white against the dark leaves. I didn't expect spiders to be up and about this early in the spring. Spring Harbinger, a small white flowered plant, is starting to bloom. The migrating birds are coming home.

I always have trouble finding small birds in a forest environment. Something moved? Only a leaf blowing. See that bird in the top of the tree? Is it a Crossbill? I'm sorry, I can't tell the birds from the pine cones at that distance. Sigh! Now I see a Nuthatch going down the tree, but by the time I find it in binoculars, and focus them in the right direction (more focused rather than more blurred), the bird has either moved to the other side of the tree or flown away altogether. And the fog in the sky has nothing to do with this! I like going out with the experts. Otherwise I would see very few of these little birds.

When birds sing, I have much better luck at finding them. All the birds seemed to be singing this morning, so I decided it would be fun to link to sound clips on the web. We found a Pine Warbler, not in a pine tree, but nicely posed is a small leafless tree. (Click the link to hear the song.) The Eastern Phoebes followed us as we walked around the park, perching on stumps or in the road itself, bobbing their tails. Large groups of Blue Jays called from the trees. One mimicked a Red Shouldered Hawk so well, I spun around to look for it! Leaves flew up, tossed by Eastern Towhees scratching in the debris with White Throated Sparrows and a Fox Sparrow. I tried to photograph the beautiful Towhees, but the camera could not focus correctly, they were so well camouflaged. Their orange feathers were the exact color of the fallen leaves. They advised us to "Drink your tea," and by this time in the walk, hot tea sounded pretty good. Two Wood Ducks landed in the lake, sounding like some hawk that I'd never heard before. The duck was familiar to me, but I'd never heard it making sounds. What a surprise!

Trees were down on every slope from recent windstorms. The aromatic scent of pine surrounded us where park maintenance cut the damaged trees down. Woodpeckers loved this area, and we saw and heard Red Bellied Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, and Northern Flickers. Our last stop was next to an area devastated by tornado a few years ago, with dead trees standing on the hillside and logs stacked in piles in the parking lot. A large Pileated Woodpecker inspected the log pile, giving us our last treat for the morning.

The final count was 43 species, not including the Northern Harrier, Kestral, and a pair of Red Tailed Hawks we saw in the fields on the way to the park. Pretty good for a foggy morning!

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