Sunday, April 29, 2012

Birding in God's Country - Hayward, WI

Hayward, WI is about 340 miles north of Milwaukee where I am currently living.  It is the home of my Father, Thomas Edward Devereaux whose middle name I share.  We both got it from my father’s grandfather on his mother’s side; Edward Richter.  I was named Joseph, after his grandfather on his father’s side.  My own Dad was quite fond of the original Canadian Joe Devereaux, a turn of the century logging company employee who began as a cook and then was promoted to “scaler,” an occupation that involved looking at a typical forty-acre forest, and calculating how many board feet of lumber could be harvested from it.  Grampa’ Joe settled in the Green Bay area after logging his way southward across the northern border of the United States and eventually became a salesman.  Liquor sales were his eventual product of choice.  My Dad happily remembers ‘ol Joe inviting the grand-kiddies down to the root cellar for a glass of wine and a pinch of snoose.  Life was blissfully far simpler and less litigious back then…I wish America had more of that kind of folksy common sense today – but that’s another rant for a different blogging audience.  For now, let’s get back to Hayward and to the birds.

The weather was in the 50s on the 28th and 29th of April.  Winter’s blanket of snow had melted completely away and a lengthy period of stubborn winds had finally died down, so it was time to walk around the area to look for birds.  I was up here to be a caretaker for my father who was recovering from his second hip replacement, and was getting antsy to see what the local animal life was like.  Taking advantage of a recuperation snooze-period I drove a short distance then I parked the WPT just off a small town road and walked a short distance to the trail head.

Dappled morning sunshine painted shapes on the dirt as it streamed through the newly budding trees.  Faint wood smoke emanating from someone’s nearby stove mixed with the tantalizing smell of Sunday morning bacon, filled my nostrils as I quietly moved away from the road and into the trees. Chickadees and White-throated sparrows chipped and sang their spring songs In the small evergreens alongside the path.  Blue jays called and answered from one side of the woods to another, high in the pines. As I approached the pond, I noticed something had slipped off the bank and into the water. Looking down and to my right; a brown muskrat was paddling away from me towards some green vegetation and a morning snack. It was soon joined by another.

This forlorn combination sand and woodchip trail wound its way back and forth, and up and down the various grades, from wetlands to sand mounds.  I enjoyed the switchbacks and the way the gentle serpentine trail left the hiker believing that they could be deep in the forest, when they were actually walking behind a typical Hayward neighborhood.  I trained my binoculars on the far bank of Smith Lake Pond and spotted two male Wood ducks stealthily cruising along the edge.  Just ahead of them was an especially exciting find: a splendid Hooded merganser!  Thankfully the bird decided to leave the cover of last year’s dried reeds and swim to the center of the pond so that I could snap a few long distance images and shoot some video.  The way that it speedily glided along was impressive yet graceful.  Watching it take off from the water was an added treat.

A Song sparrow began to sing behind me as I stood watching the bi-pedal scratching of a trio of White-throated sparrows find insects in the leaf litter.  Red-winged blackbirds sat singing on overhanging tree limbs as bells from the local Catholic Church sounded in the distance - calling the faithful to worship.  I suddenly felt at peace and blessed to be amongst a sample of God’s magnificent creatures; so fortunate to be spending some time with my father in his world, miles from mine.

Birds sighted:

  1. American crow
  2. American robin
  3. Song sparrow
  4. Hooded merganser
  5. White-throated sparrow
  6. Wood duck
  7. Eastern Phoebe
  8. Brown Thrasher
  9. Black-capped chickadee
  10. Blue Jay
  11. Yellow-rumped warbler
  12. Blue-winged teal
  13. Pied-billed grebe
  14. Mourning dove
  15. European starling
  16. Common grackle
  17. Chipping sparrow

A video addition to the blog...enjoy!