Don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you by blogging about every day of this 30-day challenge, but we had such a great day “rewilding” today that I really want to share it with you. As you’ll remember, the goal of this challenge is to spend 30 minutes of each September day in a natural setting without internet technology (except for a camera to document what you see).
You won’t be surprised to find out that my first choice of outdoor activity is birding.
This morning was a bit chilly and overcast, with a few sprinkles hitting the windshield as we drove to Lake St. Clair Metropark. Luckily the rain stopped just as we pulled into the park. We started at the new (and awesome) marsh boardwalk and immediately heard quite a few Marsh Wrens calling from deep in the sedges. They’re secretive little buggers but you can often track their movements by watching the sedges and cattails jiggling as they hop from one to the next. We spent a good 20 minutes sneaking along the boardwalk trying to get a glimpse of one of them. When I was just about to give up, suddenly I managed to get one in the camera frame.
I think this one might be a juvenile. Isn’t he adorable? They have the most beautiful song, sort of a tinkling, gurgling sound at first, and then they finish with a sound like a sewing machine. You can listen to it here — just close your eyes and imagine a half dozen of those singing all around you. I never tire of hearing them.
Next we moved into the wooded area, which also has a marsh on one side of the path. You can see a wide variety of birds in this mixed habitat area. It’s not unusual to see a heron or two in that section, but today was an absolute Heron-palooza! We saw Green Herons everywhere in the shallow water and perched on tree snags nearby. And unlike most days, they didn’t fly away as soon as we arrived. They just kept on hunting as if we weren’t there at all. I was flabbergasted and overjoyed; I alternated between watching them in my binoculars and taking photos. And at some places I didn’t even need the binoculars because they were so easy to see. I’ve never had an experience like that with Green Herons before.
And as if that wasn’t enough, a few minutes later I watched a young Great Blue Heron catch and eat a fish that was almost too big to fit down his throat. I was so shocked when it first happened that most of my photos weren’t focused properly. Here’s one reasonably good one that gives you an idea of how large the fish was:
I also took some video, but for some reason I stopped filming just as he got ready to swallow the fish. This video shows him repeatedly dropping the fish and trying to get it positioned properly so it would slide down his throat. But you can see him finally get it lined up for its head-first trip to his stomach before the video ends. Sorry I missed the grand finale. It was amazing to see the huge lump in his throat for a few seconds, and then see the lump just disappear. And within a minute or so he was hunting again. I’d think a meal like that would last him a while, wouldn’t you?
Next we turned into the woods to look for warblers. September is peak migration time for warblers heading back down south after spending the summer in Canada. Warblers are pretty easy to identify during spring migration because they’re all so brightly colored as they get ready for mating season. But when they come back through in the fall, many of those colors and distinctive markings have faded significantly, making identification much more difficult. Fall warblering is a special kind of birder self-torture. It’s intimidating but also fun if you enjoy a challenge (which I apparently do!).
And because warblers are small, fast-moving birds, I didn’t get many good photos. This one was good enough to get confirmation that it was a Blackpoll Warbler though. We also saw a Wilson’s Warbler (unmistakable with his little black cap), a Magnolia Warbler, American Redstarts, and a beautiful Northern Waterthrush bobbing his little butt in time to some music only he could hear.
I found this little caterpillar in the grass and can’t figure out what type it is. If you know, please send me a note or comment on this post.
And finally, a couple more photos from my first day of Rewilding — enjoy!