Sunday, May 24, 2015
The weather did change just like the forecast predicted and we woke to gray skies and high humidity. It was very warm when I put out all the bird feeders.
Mark’s first priority for the day was rebuilding the pump house before the rain came. I had no priorities at all and made good use of it. It was warm enough to eat lunch out on the porch and then we got around to take the dogs for their hike.
The low pressure system made both of us less than enthusiastic about walking, but the dogs need their exercise. Mark drove west of town and then turned north on Thornton Road, past this ratty horse farm/riding stable to where Thornton turns into Meaford. We have hiked this area before and there are some real dark cedar swamps in this area, perfect for black bear.
I don’t know if the low pressure was affecting the dogs or what, but they were all fairly badly behaved. We had to keep putting them on the short leash, which works but doesn’t make for a fun hike for any of us. We could hear plenty of black-throated green warblers but couldn’t see them. We did see a couple of northern goshawks, so that was a new bird to add to my 2015 Big Bird List. Mark wanted to take more time looking for the birds, but the beagles would have none of it. He got so annoyed that we cut our hike short and went back to the cabin to leave the dogs and go do some birding instead.
After leaving the dogs, we headed toward Brush Creek where there is a watershed area perfect for warblers. Mark was cruising down Brush Creek Truck Trail at about 40 MPH when I spotted something in a tree on the side of the road. I threw out my arm to grab at his shouting, “Wait, wait, wait! That was an owl!”
It took several seconds for him to come to a stop, then to back up to where I had seen it perched back in on a tree limb. I thought for sure it would have flown away, but thankfully it was still there – a barred owl!! I was so excited!! Of course, now we were enveloped in a cloud of dust that we had to wait a moment for it to settle, then I started clicking away with my camera.
There was a branch right across the owl’s face, so my first photo looked like this.
I asked Mark to try and pull forward just a little, but that didn’t help much, the branch was still there but the leaves were in a different spot.
Finally, I handed Mark the camera and slid out through the open window to perch on the door. Mark handed the camera back and I was able to get a few clearer shots.
Of course, the lighting was not very good — mid-afternoon on a cloudy day and the owl was sitting back in the shadow of the trees, so I had to edit these quite a bit with my limited software.
I have had quite the “owl envy” of Bob Zeller down at Texas Tweeties, he has gotten the most magnificent owl photos! Mine cannot come close to comparing to his masterpieces (check out his blog for the most amazing bird photography!) but I sure was a happy camper having gotten a few shots of this barred owl, a first for me.
The owl soon tired of being photographed and flew off so we continued on to Brush Creek with high hopes.
There is an earthen dam across Brush Creek that creates a small floodwater. The dam is topped with plenty of brush and bushes and there is a very narrow trail, used mostly by deer, along the side. You have to really watch your step or you will end up in the water!
(I have to confess I took the above 3 photos the next day when we went back, and didn’t see any birds!)
We were pleased to see plenty of small birds flitting about, but the brush was so thick and the warblers so quick that I was unable to get any photos at all. We saw a Wilson’s warbler with his distinct black cap, what I believe was a female American redstart, common yellowthroats, and northern water thrushes. We went all the way across the dam and then made our way through the marsh to view the opposite side. It wasn’t until we were headed back across the dam that a warbler came out in the open enough for a few photos.
After consulting all our various field guides, Mark and I believe this is a female common yellowthroat. At first I thought it was a female Wilson’s warbler, but the beak doesn’t look exactly right. Feel free to give me your opinion in the comment section below!
On our way back up the hill, this chipmunk posed on a tree stump.
I decided to see how close I could get. 🙂
I have considered myself neither a “serious birder” (those people are crazy!) nor a serious photographer. But now that I willingly risk foraging through tick-infested marshlands – and trust me, we came out covered in plenty of ticks! – in search of elusive warblers, I think I can classify myself as a “serious birder” (and just a bit crazy!). And after climbing through the passenger side window to perch on the door of our vehicle to get shots of the barred owl, maybe I am a more serious photographer than I thought! 🙂
This will be the last journal entry for this trip. Nothing of much consequence or interest happened the rest of our stay. Tuesday morning before we packed up, we did meet with a builder/contractor/handyman guy to discuss having some improvements made to our place. After three years of searching we are pretty much giving up the thought of buying someplace new and have decided to invest a large chunk of change into this place. We are going to get the well, septic, electric upgrade, hot water heater, and several other projects like some repairs to the roof, a new window in the kitchen, the outside painted, etc. The man we met with came highly recommended by two different people but Mark and I did not come away from the meeting with giant feelings of confidence. I mean, he didn’t even take any notes!! So, we’ll see what happens. Now my job will be securing the finances for the well and septic, which will be the biggest expenses.
As we were on our way out to come home, we stopped in Elk Valley to give the dogs a hike before the long drive and we saw a black bear!!! That was pretty exciting, and maybe just a teensy bit scary. We have never seen one while hiking before! The dogs didn’t give it any mind as it crashed up the hill, but later as we looped around they must have gotten the scent because then Ruby really set to howling and carrying on.
So, I didn’t see an elk all week, but I did see a bear, which is just as good. If only I had gotten photos!!! Yeah, I guess I really am crazy! 🙂