Friday, March 19, 2010

Country Club Rd/Sweet Rd Bikeway

I've been psyched that the time change has left a good hour or so after work (if I am not working my other job after) to explore locally. However, I have been unable to really handle much physical exercise for the past two weeks...I took a hard fall down an icy ridge on the Moreau Overlook in Moreau Lake State Park, the only thing stopping me a tree with approximately a 6" diameter, and a jagged rock the size of nearly a basketball, right to the coccyx. There was almost no walking down the rest of the trail, and there's been little of that since. But I couldn't resist the t-shirt weather today brought to the area and headed out to the Warren County Bikeway at it's junction with Country Club Road. It's a short easy walk that softly winds it's way to Sweet Road, where I usually turn around rather than battling with traffic to hear the birds.

The weather was great. I merely wore some sneakers, jeans, and my work was a pleasure to bare arms to the sun and feel not a bit of icy cold yet see snow all around me. I had a chuckle seeing many locals also on the trail, dressed as though the forecast was calling for a blizzard.

It looked like spring was just slightly kissing the trail. I believe I spotted some pussy willows littered with their fuzzy buds. I could smell the neon green moss sighted all along the trail edges. Tiny streams/brooks followed alongside the path, fresh with snowmelt. I also noticed an increase in the activity of what I came for: the birds.

American crows frequent this spot anyway, though never really visiting the trees right near the bikeway. They seem to linger in yards or in nearby marshy spots. I caught sight of one using a dried phrag as a tool.

American goldfinches were in rather large numbers here, at least compared to winter. I didn't see a single one, but could hear their canary-like songs in nearby trees.

The red-winged blackbirds were out in full force. I didn't hear them all winter; perhaps one could consider them a sign of spring. I saw either a juv or a female perched high up in a deciduous tree, appearing to be enjoying the sun's warmth. The rest were hidden in the reeds in the marshy areas. I welcomed their bubbly alarm chirps and well-known "conk-la-reeeee" calls that non-birders associate with the hot, long, humid summer days.

Black-capped chickadees littered the trees as usual, this being their year-round native habitat. I simply took note that there were fewer than during winter, and left them to their acrobatics and watchfulness. One called out a long, lonely-sounding, thin, wavering, "Phoeeeeee-beeeee." I liken that call to a rusty old playground seesaw.

There were less woodpeckers, though I heard a brief call from either a downy woodpecker or a hairy. Seems the winter birds are leaving the spot they frequented all winter long.

I heard and saw one pudgy American robin resting near the red-winged blackbird in the tree. I've been hearing a lot of people mention them as the sign of spring, yet I do not associate them as such. I often think them late compared to migration peaks, and I see them all winter long.

White-breasted nuthatches and red-breasted nuthatches were both present, one each. There was also a dark-eyed junco making it's own popping alarm call and ringing trill. A pair of mourning doves quietly flew overhead, their wings not making their characteristic whistle.

White-throated sparrows are still in this area in the wet brushy habitat just before the arborvitae stand. Despite the "broken cassette recording" song Sue and I became familiar with in the autumn, I am unsure that the new melodic songs I heard today near their location actually belonged to them. But I saw the male clearly, as if it posed just for me in the reeds. They are such enormous sparrows, and the yellow lore is a dead giveaway.

The Carolina wren was in it's usual spot, this time singing, "Figaro figaro figaro figaro," rather than it's car alarm call. It sounded rather cheery today. I still have not got a sighting of it, which is a bit frustrating.

I couldn't believe my ears the rest of the ramb. le, however. I'm used to this location being home to northern cardinals and even getting a good-sized count, but today I counted between 8-10 that were calling non-stop, apparently more to each other than to anything else and not necessarily for alarm. They too have a popping alarm call, but today they were actually singing just as much with their loud, clear, bright, "Pew pew pew, wit wit wit wit." The long pause in-between gives an almost haunting effect to the echoes their replies make.

I was completely blown away by a blue jay hiding nearby. At first I was hearing the alarm call of the northern flicker and got excited that I might get a sighting of such a spastic, elusive woodpecker. I rested up against a tree to get a better view, and saw the silhouette, thinking it an odd shape for a flicker. It bounced out into the sun, called, and I could see the blue...the blue jay mimicking perfectly the flicker was better than seeing the flicker itself.

Other neat stuff from this short walk:

- Pileated woodpecker holes, fresh ones
- Andy, a coworker of mine from way back in the day, who has been avidly biking for, if I remember correctly, over 10 years. I see him on a fairly regular basis on the local bikeway in various spots. I was pleased to talk birds with him briefly before he went back on his way.
- My buddy Mike D., another person I haven't seen in quite some time, also out on his bike. It was a pleasure seeing him out!
- one eastern chipmunk, not at all bothered by my presence
- cirrocumulus, or "mackerel sky"

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