That’s how I think of this time of year, the last few weeks of winter. We know spring is coming eventually, but we still have to endure the frigid temperatures and stark winter scenery a while longer. As February turns to March, it gets harder and harder to tolerate the bare trees, the frozen ponds, the silence of the birds, the cold wind. We’re anxious to have any sign of the rejuvenation of life in the natural world. But there is life out there — you just have to go looking for it. And that’s exactly what we did today.
Lured to Lake St. Clair Metropark by reports of a Northern Shrike in the marsh, Eric and I bundled up in long johns and fleece layers and ventured out in search of this potential life bird. I was also looking forward to seeing my first-of-year Red-winged Blackbirds too, a much-needed harbinger of the rebirth of spring.
We made our first visit of the year to the Bucket Owls, local slang for the Great Horned Owls who nest in a bucket every year. All we could see was the top of mama’s head; someone had seen the male out in the marsh but we couldn’t find him. The staff at the nature center said they won’t be climbing up to check the nest until the end of March, so nobody knows how many eggs the owls have in there right now, or whether they’ve hatched yet. So exciting.
Next we walked over to check out the brand new boardwalk through Point Rosa Marsh. It’s absolutely wonderful, and I can’t wait to spend time out there after the marsh thaws out. There were a couple young girls enjoying the new access to the marsh too; one was practicing her landscape photography skills.
There were very few birds anywhere in the marsh area. We did spot a lone bird perched atop a far tree — possible shrike? We watched it move to two other treetops even further away. I regretted not having the spotting scope with us but shot a couple photos of the distant bird, hoping to be able to identify it by enlarging it on the computer. Eric was confident he saw the black wing markings of a shrike, but upon examination of the photos I just couldn’t tell what it was for sure. I’m disappointed to think that I might have seen the shrike but can’t confirm it for my life list. I guess even if I knew it had been the shrike, I’d still not be too happy about adding it to my list based on such a distant look. Maybe I’ll try again this week, especially if the temperatures get a little higher…the 40s would be excellent. Heck, I’ll even take upper 30s…just sayin.
Before we left the marsh I chatted with this fellow about his dog. I asked him if I could take a couple pictures of his dog and he amiably allowed me to do so. He even helped get the dog into position for me, telling me the dog’s name was Courage Rydell and that he has his own Facebook page. He seemed very proud of his beautiful canine companion. I can’t seem to find the dog’s page though, so I’m not sure if I’m spelling it wrong or if the guy was pulling my chain. But either way it warmed my heart to hear him brag about how many photo albums he has of the dog, and to watch him stroking the pup as he talked. A man and his dog, right?
By now we were feeling the effects of the wind coming off the frozen lake, and headed back toward the car. I was dejected at not finding any Red-winged Blackbirds though; I had been so confident of finding them because others had reported them being around already. As I started down the sidewalk toward the parking lot, suddenly I heard it: Conk-la-ree!! I looked up to see a male redwing flying over my head to join a flock of a dozen or so others in the trees beside the nature center. What timing! I told Eric that they’d come just for me — and I believed it. I think the universe knew that I really needed to hear that song today. My smile must have been a mile wide right then; it was just perfect. (Eric clearly thinks I’m nuts, but that’s ok. If this is nuts, I’ll take it.) Now that I have proof that the Red-winged Blackbirds are here, I can make it through these last few weeks of dismal weather. If those fragile creatures can take it, so can I. Bring it.