Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Park ~ New Possibilities

Hey you...Park it!

Next time you are in Milwaukee for one of the dozen or so festivals that the residents of this corner of the Dairy State can boast about, don’t forget to visit the newest Wisconsin State Park; Lakeshore. Completed in 2007, this 17 acre piece of land formerly known as Harbor Island, connects the Hank Aaron State Trail, and the Oak Leaf Trail with Milwaukee’s recreational lakefront. This pristine man-made chunk of land forms natural inland harbor sanctuary for many interesting species of bird life, particularly those that float, swim, and dive. A large (20-slip) marina is adjacent to the shore with multiple slips for rental. The fees for which are collected and handled by the Friends of Lakeshore Park. The scenery around the park is what really sells it as a premiere destination as the grounds themselves don't feature a single tree. Plenty of comfy resting spots have been donated and are permanently affixed to the infrastructure, and you can see totally across the entire area, so losing the kiddies is a near impossibility.

I had the pleasure of taking a wintertime stroll with my wife over this past weekend, across the mostly snowless concrete paths, looking for (of course) birds. One does not have to look very hard to see the many birds that congregate. I catalogued Mallards, Coots, Black Ducks, Greater Scaups, Common mergansers, Common Goldeneye and Herring gulls. The acreage was posted quite plainly with signage indicating that whomever was in charge of the design, has chosen a prairie theme, complete with all the necessary plantings to achieve this ecosystem. The signs quietly warned visitors to stay off the inland plantings so as to give them a chance to establish themselves, which was just fine with me as I fought off the intense urge to frolic across them, and just concentrated on the birds.

While standing on the beautiful and artsy Lakeshore State Park Bridge, I noticed that the wind creating its own soundtrack as it whistled through the decorative ironwork that festoons the side safety railings. “What a nice touch,” I thought to myself as I stood listening to the changing pitch, looking through the Bushnells at the dozens of water birds below at the water’s edge. I was transfixed by the activity and the camaraderie amongst the different species, each one doing its own thing, minding its own business, but performing the necessary functions for the continuation of their own niche’…kinda’ like all the many thousands of human visitors to the Summerfest grounds just a hundred yards away. To the west lies the newly finished
Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin. Beyond it is the world renowned Santiago Calatrava designed, Milwaukee Art Museum. Funny terminology here...I have always thought that to put the word “museum” with “art” (which is done all the time) is a true misnomer. For me, the word conjures up static dusty old stuff, sitting around forever that is all roped off and inaccessibly boring; bug collections, ancient taxidermy, etc. If anyone ever asked me what I think, I’d tell them to call it the Milwaukee Art Experience or the Milwaukee Art Extravaganza, or some such terminology that (at least) suggests life and newness and something vibrant…but that’s just me and I digress…back to the birds. Are you ready for the Birdstud Bird Quiz? - The water birds in the photo below are numbered 1-4. What are they? - Guesses to birdstud@birdstud.com

All you need to do is take Erie Street to the end, past the Milwaukee River entrance to Lake Michigan, past the red lighthouse, behind the Marcus Amphitheatre, and park your car. Follow the walkway and circle around the isthmus looking at the many avian odysseys. One would not really need a pair of binoculars unless you are a dweeb like me and enjoy differentiating the many species by gender. What can I say…I like birding Okay? So, in conclusion to this little blog, try something “new” as soon as you find yourself popping in (yet again) that tired DVD copy of Ferris Buhler’s Day Off. Get outdoors and notice the wildlife all around you…and Park it for the day, in a different way!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I Count

I count…do you? The next time your self-esteem is floundering a bit, and you feel as if you are just a fly-spec on the speeding windshield of life…try counting. The Great Backyard Bird Count (held this year, February 13th – 16th 2009) sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon, offers Joe-six packs and experts alike, the opportunity to be judged by the same yardstick.

Why should anyone count birds? According to the GBBC’s own (official) website: “Scientists and bird enthusiasts can learn a lot by knowing where the birds are. Bird populations are dynamic; they are constantly in flux. No single scientist or team of scientists could hope to document the complex distribution and movements of so many species in such a short time.” It takes no expertice what so ever to count birds seen in your back yard. If you don't recognize what that LBB (Little Brown Bird) is, then just don't count it. Count the ones you know because everything matters from the American Robin, to the common House Sparrow. Just sit, enjoy a cup of your favorite beverage and mark down what you see. So what better way to spend your Valentine’s Day than to sit staring out the window of your own backyard, holding the hand of a loved one, counting the beautiful red Northern cardinals that find your feeder enticing enough to land. How Romantic eh? ...Yah, romantic, you betcha! (and just in case that doesn't work for you and your S.O. try candy and flowers...)