Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Bob the birdwatcher

When I was a kid, we spent a lot of summers at our trailer on Plum Island in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Every once in awhile, we'd go swimming at a pristine stretch of land at "the other end of the island," which was actually the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on the Atlantic Flyway. I was too young to be interested in watching birds then and by the time I realized it had its endearing qualities, I was a father with two kids who were too young to be interested in watching birds. I said to my wife on one excursion with the boys to Plum Island that when they were older, I'd like to go birdwatching there. But that's 1,200 miles away now. Fortunately, we have the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. My mother bought us a membership last year when she was here, and it's become one of my favorite places. Last week, I saw in their newsletter that there was a bird walk this morning. And so Carolie, who has the day off, and I got up early and met the gang.

We started out at 9 with, perhaps 25 people. It was supposed to last 90 minutes. We ended at about 1 p.m. with 5 or 6 left. We had a great time, even though we're not experienced in recognizing too many bird calls. But we did learn, again, that if you slow down and look around, there are fascinating sites.

We were not 3 steps from the start when someone -- her name was Phyllis if memory serves -- recognized a yellow throated cuckoo. This, we were told, was a rather rare bird in these parts and the group was suitably excited, even though to me it looked pretty much like a bird in a tree far away. And I didn't hear the damned thing say a word.

We marched onward through the bog walk and came upon a yellow breasted warbler, which did seem to sing a lovely tune. Apparently yellow is the color of the day.

We found several goregeous wildflowers. These trips to the Arboretum always make me want to come home and roto-til my lawn.

Click here for a nice picture of a purple wildflower.

But back to the birds. We saw hummingbird perched on the top of a dead tree in the bog. They don't call them "dead trees," at the Arboretum, however. They call them "snags," because "dead tree" suggests no life and this one clearly had a hummingbird on it. I can't say as I've ever seen a hummingbird perched before. I just put a hummingbird feeder out front of Bob's Arboretum, but so far... nothing.

I found this woodpecker on a dead tr...err...snag.

And this cardinal, while no big deal, I suppose, was kind of cool because, well, I just happen to like cardinals.

We also saw -- or heard, I forget which -- a yellow somethingorother. If I were any kind of birdwatcher at all, I would've brought a pad and paper along to record our various discoveries. But the fact remains, I am no kind of birdwatcher at all, I guess.

We did find a red fantail shoulder hawk nest in a tree in the Dayton wildflower garden, found out the song we've always thought was a phoebe, is actually a chickadee. Cripes, I can't even nail the call of the birds at the feeder out back.

Walking back, there was some commotion with some birds. "Somethings got them pissed," the naturalist said, invoking the naturalist lingo. "Maybe it's an owl," Carolie said. She walked a couple more steps and found that she was correct.

Picture of an owl

And here's an interesting discovery. On the wildflower walk, there are these large plants that cup water. Some birds like to drink out of them, and apparently tree frogs like to sit in them and do whatever tree frogs do for entertainment.


That was pretty much it. We spent a little time walking around some of the gardens at the Arboretum. This place can turn anyone into a decent photographer.

Garden and fountain

The lilly garden

That picture doesn't do it justice, Click here for a better picture.

Oh, look! The mate of the common loon.

Carolie in the garden

Before we left, I renewed my membership at the Arboretum. I wish it weren't an hour away, but perhaps it's best that it is. It's a good chance to escape the overdeveloped world of Woodbury. Our good feeling from the morning lasted about a half hour, until we passed the first gas station and noticed that a gallon is now $3.09.

Maybe I didn't need that pad-and-paper afterall, since I distinctly recall, now, seeing a red-necked price gouger today.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kind of makes me think of Hitchcock's (sp) "BIRDS".....
Actually a very nice piece.