February 2014 Big Day Walk – Spring Arrives for a Day

As I posted in January I intend to do a Big Walking Day per month for exercise and fun.  With the weather looking much better for Saturday than Sunday, I headed out Saturday morning. Turned out to be a day for contradictions.

First of all, just like that, the early spring birds are back.  Not one around last weekend.  Not one.  And everywhere I went today there they were.  Red-winged Blackbirds in trees, Killdeer flying overhead, Eastern Meadowlarks singing, a lone Common Grackle, and Sandhill Cranes migrating.  Where were they last week?  I assume farther south waiting in a warmer setting.

I started out an hour before sunrise trying a spot that looked good for Eastern-screech Owls.  Really didn’t expect any luck and didn’t have any.  First bird of the day was a pair of Canada Geese that didn’t like me walking in the dark.  Then the 3 mile walk to Lowes/Walmart pond walking through residential areas I knew would be slow, so I timed it to be in the dark.

Arriving at Lowes/Walmart pond at daybreak, it was the slowest it has been all winter.  Just a few Canada Geese, American Coots, and one Common Goldeneye.  Nothing else.  Not even the Mallards or the Redheads that were there Friday.

An empty Walmart/Lowes pond.  02/22/14

An empty Walmart/Lowes pond. 02/22/14

So I moved on.  To lengthen the walk this month I walked out to the High School to bird the creek.

I couldn't resist.  Something about trees growing in strange places.  On the walk to Franklin HS. 02/22/14

I couldn’t resist. Something about trees growing in strange places. On the walk to Franklin HS. 02/22/14

I don’t know if it was all the rain we had Thursday night that evidently had made the creek overflow, but it was slow there also.  About the only thing I saw from this usual birdy spot, was a couple of First Of Year (FOY) singing Eastern Meadowlark and Red-winged Blackbirds annoyed with my presence.

First Eastern Meadowlark of the year - Singing at Franklin HS 02/22/14

First Eastern Meadowlark of the year – Singing at Franklin HS 02/22/14

This picture just shows that I am into looking at birds more than photography.  A good topic for a blog post yet to come. Red-winged Blackbird Franklin HS 02/22/14

This picture just shows that I am into looking at birds more than photography. A good topic for a blog post yet to come.
Red-winged Blackbird Franklin HS 02/22/14

Taking a different route back to Lowes/Walmart I saw a Red-tailed Hawk in a distant tree.  This was great since I missed it on last month’s walk.  Also a couple of Northern Mockingbirds in a row of trees along the road. No change at the pond so now the 3 mile walk back to the north end of the Greenway Trail.

Continuing the trend of slow birding not much happened until I saw a weird looking, far off, gray cloud to the far north.  Closer scrutiny showed the cloud was a flock of 70 Sandhill Cranes! I impressed myself that my so-so eyesight picked out the cranes.  The cranes circled a couple of times, one time coming close, and then headed north. On the day I saw three flocks totaling about 200 birds.

SandHill Cranes - Over East Franklin 02/22/14

SandHill Cranes – Over East Franklin 02/22/14

SandHill Cranes - Over East Franklin 02/22/14

SandHill Cranes – Over East Franklin 02/22/14

SandHill Cranes - Over East Franklin 02/22/14

SandHill Cranes – Over East Franklin 02/22/14

SandHill Cranes - Over East Franklin 02/22/14

SandHill Cranes – Over East Franklin 02/22/14

SandHill Cranes - Over East Franklin 02/22/14

SandHill Cranes – Over East Franklin 02/22/14

The day picked up a little at Greenway Trail when a Great Blue Heron flew by.  I then picked up some of the local species I had missed, but still not many and none of the birds that had been here all winter. With my legs getting real tired, I called it a day after the north end of the trail and headed home seeing a lone Common Grackle in a tree close to our place.

So it turned out to be a day of contradictions.  Saw several FOY birds, but birds that I thought I should have seen – more waterfowl, kinglets, creepers, sparrows – weren’t around.  I walked 12 miles in 5.5 hours and saw 33 species.

I will have a recap of February later this week.

Bring on full Spring, not one day wonders!

 

 

 

 

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