The second weekend of birding and exercise arrives and it is 16F out with a wind chill of zero. Not as bad as the Christmas Bird Count where Darrel and I walked 4 miles on the I&M Canal in 6 inch snow in 10F weather. Which turned out to be a good day because we kept finding small areas of open water and the birds were congregated there. But today I plan to walk south and east out-of-town on roads through open agriculture fields searching for Horned Larks, Lapland Longspurs, and hopefully Snow Buntings. Darrel and I had the wind blocked by trees. I will not.
So I borrow a scarf from my wife, wrap it around my neck, and head out the door at 8:15AM in multiple layers. Really not so bad. I also catch a break because the sun decides to come out, which was not in the forecast.
About a mile and half out-of-town I hear my first larks. Scanning the fields I pick out a few, then a few more, and then the flock erupts out of corn stubble just south of me. My count is 200. They land fairly close north of the road and give me plenty of time to scan them, at least the ones not running in and out of the stubble. I figure about one Lapland Longspur for every Horned lark. But no buntings. So I move on.
Another mile or so down the road is a large wooded area besides the road. I hear a Red-headed Woodpecker calling, then a Northern Flicker. A little farther and I run across a wave moving through the edge of the trees – chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, downies. And thrown in is a Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and a Yellow-rumped warbler. All birds I wasn’t sure I would see in January on a walk in the area. But the best part is I have found another good habitat about a mile from my house as the American Crow flies.
After walking a couple of miles through a residential area I come to the last area that might be productive, the north end of the Greenway Trail. Immediately three Great Blue Herons lift off from the edge of the creek.
Then to the south I hear the ruckus of several crows. Walking that way the crows begin flying towards me on the other side of the tree line and I can tell that one of them isn’t a crow but it also isn’t a Red-tailed Hawk. Red-shouldered maybe? They finally land back up the trail were I just came from. I turn and run back finally catching up. Hard running in all the clothes I had on. The 8 crows are relentless diving and calling. I finally make out their target through the trees. A Great Horned Owl! They keep pestering it for a few minutes and then the owl flies on with the crows in hot pursuit. I never get a clear few of the owl, so no picture. But like I tell my friends, “You can’t get action like that on TV!”
Cold and getting tired, and knowing I can’t top that action, I head home. Three hours walking, 6.5 miles. Another good day to be out.