Friday, March 26, 2010

Firsts of the New Spring (2010)

♫...Just around the river bend...waiting just around the river bend...♪

I look once more, just around the river bend of my favorite tiny stretch of the glorified drainage ditch that is the Menomonee River, to see what may be waiting...or is that "wading."  Sure enough, there they are; Mr. Mallard and his beautiful better half.  They're paddling ever so quietly, just at the edge of the undercut.  I stand there, motionless watching...just watching.  I am idly wondering how many people would even pause a moment to see what is a rather commonplace water bird, when behind me I hear, "Coming Through!"  I turn suddenly towards the interruption, to nearly be knocked into the drink by two of the BRAINDEAD.  Damn I hate that!  I'm telling you...what a totally ridiculous hobby to spoil a perfectly serene moment of natural commune.  Grrrrrrrrr...

I don't know what I have more of a problem with; the flamboyantly festooned cyclists bent on tear-assing up the nature trails, or the idiots who (like this other guy on my little first walk of the season) walk his German Sheppard off the leash, so that it's a full 25 yards ahead of him!  Shortly after the BRAINDEAD encounter, I am turned away from the thin path staring upward through my binoculars, minding my own business, when my peripheral vision catches the blur of fur on a bee-line towards me.  You guessed it...the guy's dog has damn-near scared the crap outta' me when I realize the size and breed owner in sight.  Sheeesh!  That's unnerving I'll tell you.  I believe I uttered some sort of feral sound, as my brain attempted to catch up with my options.  Hey, ever hear of a thing called a "leash law!"

Allow me a brief tutorial on the local Leash LAW!  Milwaukee City Charter Ordinance - Chapter 63-1. Definitions. In this chapter:  1. AT LARGE means an animal is off the premises of its owner and on any park or parkway without the permission of the department or the director. Any animal shall not be deemed to be at large if any one of the following conditions occurs: a. It is attached to a leash not more than 6 feet in length which is of sufficient strength to restrain the animal and the leash is held by a person competent to govern the animal and prevent it from annoying or worrying persons in the park or parkway.  Oh well...such was my first 1/2 hour back on my local birding trail. I can hardly wait for the brush to fill out so I can't see them coming even FARTHER away from me.

The Milwaukee County Grounds, another of my favs, yielded some more first of the year birds.  This area of Milwaukee County, referred to as the Detention Basin is truly "growing" in popularity for many marshland inhabitants.  This is the third spring for this recently completed dewatering project, and the surrounding fauna are taking hold nicely.  The late afternoon cold air is filled with the various sounds of life; Red-winged blackbirds, Song sparrows, Killdeer, American robins, and dogs barking.  Oh yeah, they're here too.  Bunches of them with their hands-off owners trailing way behind them, frolicking and biting at each other as they (gag-me) "socialize."  I just have to get over this, don't I?'s hard!  I am a law abiding citizen who follows society's rules; particularly when NOT following them, infringes directly on other people's nice days.  I promise...perhaps I'll try to turn even my other two cheeks, but it won't be sir.

Ok, back to the birding...perhaps I'll try it next time with a few cocktails in me, before I go out...just to mellow me out.  Care to join me?  Great, but leave your bicycle and dog at home thank you...♫ just around the river bend...♪ ♪

Friday, March 5, 2010

Makin' Tracks - (Reading the freshly fallen snow)

If we take time to notice the signs, the story becomes clear...

I often go to Havenwoods State Forest.  This you know if you read this blog.  One of the last times I visited, it was a day after a goodly amount of fresh snow had just blanketed the landscape. The hue of all around me was a beautiful ice-blue. Pulling on my brown Sorel boots, and fitting a warm hat upon my head; I walked off the plowed road into the deep white.  I was here with full intentions of birding, however it wasn't too many yards into the woods where I decided to chronicle instead, the magnificent drama all around me captured in the snow.  It would have been easy to discount or even miss entirely, but I was in no hurry and the afternoon sun was doing its best to warm the air making it quite comfortable.   I was ready for a new and delightful adventure as I always am.  Perhaps I am all too easily amused?

The first tracks I encountered were coyote...lots of coyote.  In and out of the scrub, back and forth in a serpentine manner; these skulking creatures wound their way in search of preferred scent.  Smaller prey had made zig-zag patterns which the coyote seemed to zero in on...probably rabbits by the look of them.  The coyote seemed to have covered quite a bit of territory, for the tracks were numerous and the meanderings ceaseless.  Whether or not the rabbit ever became a meal was not in evidence, but its attempts at evasion were obvious.  I marveled at the tenacity which the coyote tracks displayed in their relentless, nosey pursuit.

Next to pique my interest were the Whitetail prints.  Plentiful and much different than the coyote; these animals walked gracefully amongst the trees and bushes.  Droppings and deer "beds" could be seen and in one extremely curious spot, it appeared that something caused one animal to leap an incredible distance.  (see image) It covered over 15 feet from jump-off point to landing!  I was impressed.

It seemed that even the tiniest of woodsy creatures came out to forage after the heavy snowfall.  Small clumps of thistle and other grass plants which still poked through the cover, provided an oasis dinner table for these mini-mammals of the forest.  Their wandering and winding tracks twisted back and forth in search of sustinance.

The shadows grew longer as I continued to examine the secret stories told by the remnants of these unique footprints.  I wondered as I walked back to the WPT, whether the "tracks" we humans leave (as we move about our days), appear anywhere near as deliberate as these in the snow of Havenwoods, and would anyone even care to notice?

Here is a nice desktop image in high resolution if you'd like...

Thanks for reading and have a great day of discovery!!