I found out at nearly the last minute that there was a Bird Walk scheduled for this past Saturday, November 7th at Moreau Lake State Park. They have only been a recent thing, as the environmental educator there, David Alfred, and I have become closer and he has apparently respected me greatly for my obsession with birds. If I recall correctly, a previous one only wound up being David, myself, and our mutual friend Sue. I found out later that Dave really only intended this one to be him and myself, which would have been absolutely lovely, but there wound up being a small group that came along without having signed up, as I had. This did not disappoint me, except for one woman from NYC who would not stop talking (how can people go on bird walks and not understand one of the first unspoken rules is to be quiet for the most part or speak softly?) loudly and telling tall tales and outright stating lies and twisted facts. I could not help but to sarcastically correct her a few times, which made Dave chuckle. Also along was an older couple who I found out enjoyed traveling, especially to the western states, and were a birding pair. I was utterly fascinated. They told me great stories about condors and hummingbirds. They also had along this really neat little kid named Cyrus (sp?). I'm bad with ages, and I was unsure if he was their grandchild, so he was a big of an enigma to me, but this little guy had a bold personality and a streak of confidence of his knowledge of all things nature. I've been on plenty of nature walks in the park and thus have come into contact with plenty of children, but Cyrus was something else. I found him totally fascinating and enjoyed having him along. It was fun watching him get psyched over the enormous red oak leaves and collect a few to bring back with him to his classes. Dave took us around to the back bay after realizing birding was completely failing to go check out some beaver damage (which in itself was totally impressive - I loved being able to see the marks made by each individual tooth) and I had an awesome little moment with the little guy. We stood at the edge of the back bay, and I let him tell me what he knew about what we were seeing. He talked about the minnows swimming around near our feet, and identified the willow tree above us that had littered the ground completely with lancelet-shaped bright yellow leaves. We even just enjoyed the scenery in silence for a bit before rejoining the tiny group. It restored some of my faith in humanity and the potential for younger generations to really appreciate nature. I'm reinspired to put together some more bird presentations for the kids for the spring and summer.
So back to the birding being fail. I can assure you that this is not due to true suckage of the area. Moreau Lake even lately has been fantastic for birding - there have been both common mergansers and hooded mergansers on the lake, diving, for honorable mentions. We checked out the gravelpits, which is great habitat for grouse and turkeys. It was quiet except for some blue jays. And while the other people in the group didn't seem too impressed with Loop A, Dave and I were fairly fascinated by how many white-breasted and red-breasted nuthatches we were hearing. He even briefly tested out some new birding tech the park recently received, something quite similar to ibird Explorer for the iphone. I was a bit envious - I've had so many times in the wild where I wished I had mp3s to play of birdsong to help in identification. Dave enjoyed showing me this neat little piece of tech, and I encouraged him to play me a couple of warbler calls that I miss. He got to test out whether the nuthatch calls would actually receive a response from the real ones in the trees nearby, a joy to every beginning birder (though anyone who knows the birding ethics laid out there somewhere knows that playing callbacks is a big birding no-no if used often) and I was overjoyed that he got to hear that they do. I was a bit sad that he (and the rest of the group) missed out on spotting the brief view I had of a brown creeper which Dave was really hoping to find on this walk.
The back bay for birds was not so interesting to me, as it's a quiet, small pond-like spot that attracts my least favorite birding bird, the mallard. There were plenty there swimming around, quacking briefly. There was also the dreaded couple that has haunted me on my last few birding trips in the park, which I suspect is a pair of mallard x black duck hybrids. They are nearly impossible for me to ID confidently, but they absolutely look like a halfway between the two species. I keep pretending I don't really see them, and they pretend that they have nothing to do with mallards, as they totally avoid all of them. Renegades.
I can't help it, but one of my favorite parts of the nature walks is when everyone but the diehards leave. I love seeing them go. It is not the elitist in me, it is just the part of me that sees that they do not have quite the passion for nature as those of us who linger do. And this time I stayed just to chat with Dave for quite some time about everything environmentalism. It was awesome and fascinating. Those post-walk chats with him are one of my favorite parts of those nature walks in Moreau.
Upcoming: It's not exactly bird-related, but I'm thinking of sharing my harrowing experience of having a deer run into the side of my car and causing quite a bit of damage. It really drove home how much we encroach upon the environment, not only to the detriment of wildlife, but potentially to ourselves. Oh, and there might be photos! ;)