Sorry for the lack of posting here, life has gotten busy. The hospital I work for has had numerous lay-offs that fortunately haven't affected me. In fact, I'm part of a group working on a big computer project for the lab and I've been putting in LOTS of extra hours. (Counting my blessings here). My wrist seems to be recovering nicely. I've done two bird outings with lots of photography and it felt petty good. Before the CTR surgery holding the big lens on my camera gave me trouble. I'm off work today as Art had his first age 50+ Roto-rooter (colonoscopy) procedure today. We go to the same clinic and when we both turned 50 we were given packets that included cards to schedule colonoscopies and "advanced health care directives"!!!
"Here ya go- while you do the prep for the colonoscopy, you can fill out your living will!"
Anyway, while poor Art is sleeping off the versed I thought I'd download my pictures and throw a post together. We had a day of mild weather last week so I packed my gear into the car and headed up to Hasty for a day of birding by myself. When Art and I were there the week before we had filled the feeders and then dumped the rest of the seed all over on the ground in the campsite. Last Friday as I started walking up the long driveway toward the campsite I could see major bird movement in the yard. About half way up the drive I could hear them. There were AT LEAST 300-350 Redpolls and a handful of Pine Siskins feeding on the seed! As I reached the camper they all flew up into the tree tops in one big whoosh. I set up a camp chair, got out my camera, sat down and waited. It took a while but soon a little flock of bold Chickadees zipped in, probably thinking they finally had the feeders to themselves. Within seconds the entire flock of Redpolls dropped from the trees, chattering, bickering and eating. I sat six feet away with my jaw dropped, barely able to take in the sight. Redpolls are such pretty birds. I saw my first ever Redpolls last winter at the Sax-Zim Bog Winter Bird Festival . Two weeks ago I saw a handful at Hasty and a single Redpoll at home and now I was sitting in this huge flock grinning like a goof! It was definitely a birding bliss moment for me. Have you ever had a birding bliss moment?
I just love these guys.
I'm pretty sure I saw two Hoary Redpolls in the flock but I couldn't find them in my pictures.
"Hey lady! The thistle is getting a little low here!"
When I got too cold to sit in the snow any longer I headed back to the car and set out to do some exploring. There were three Wild Turkeys in the trees near the road. I had seen their big tracks in the snow by the feeders and was glad that they seem to be making it through the winter. It was funny to hear them cackling in the trees in mid-winter. I hope they hang around come spring. I'd love to get a look at little poults. Down the road a ways I came across a flock of Snow Buntings that lifted off the road and landed on the lake. I pulled over to get a better look but when I got out of the car some local domestic geese waddled toward me honking and hissing so I stayed put in the car and moved along. Glancing over the fields I spotted a pair of Northern Harriers gliding low, hunting for rodents. I love to watch Harriers hunting. They face the ground, skimming low, listening and watching for food. It seems a bit early for them to be back for the season but I have seen sightings of them on the Minnesota Ornithologists' Union listserv this week. The Ravens and Crows were very vocal that afternoon and there were pairs of Downy Woodpeckers chasing and calling- all signs of spring approaching!
Around mid-afternoon I decided to turn toward home. It had been windy all day and was getting quite overcast. There was just one more place I wanted to check. As I drove along highway 73 toward Cromwell I scanned the fields for a Northern Hawk Owl that had been seen and reported there. THERE! Up ahead on the right-on the power pole! I checked my mirror, no one was coming behind me, so I pulled over onto the shoulder so I could get a good look. I knew the ground was still hard so I was startled when I felt the tires on the right side of the car start to sink. The flat crust of snow left by the snow plows hid the ditch and tricked me into thinking that the shoulder was wider than it was.
In a split second my car was resting on the frame and I was stuck. I crawled out of the car and flagged down a car for help. The car that stopped held an older couple who were delighted to try to help. The woman got out first and she couldn't have been 5 feet tall and 100 pounds. The husband was tall and fit looking. He told me that they'd give me a little push and I'd be on my way. I asked the Little Woman to get in the car so I could help push instead of her but she said she didn't drive. As the husband walked up I realized he had an artificial leg!! When we saw that the frame was resting on the ground and hopelessly beyond pushing, we flagged down another driver with a diesel truck. The Truck Man hooked a strap the the back end of my car and started pulling. The front end of my car swung to the right and went all the way down into the ditch. I couldn't even get out of the car! By now the Little Woman was frozen so she got back into her car. Limping Gentleman went off down the road to stop traffic and Truck Man had to pull me backwards for a few hundred yards, crossing into the other lane of traffic to get my car out. I thanked Truck Man as he rolled up his now broken strap. I offered to pay for a new one but he just smiled and left as I babbled my gratefulness. I turned to Limping Gentleman with tears in my eyes, and offered my thanks. He hugged me and told me not to let it ruin my day of birding and to drive home with care. Such kind people. I can only hope that I can offer such kindness to some one else when they're cold and tired and feeling so careless.
A few miles down the highway I stopped for gas and called Art to tell him of my experience. He didn't laugh or point out my mistake. He said he'd offer two pieces of advice. First, he said, stop at the restaurant across the street and get a bite to eat and relax. Second, drive back up to Hasty and scout around for birds some more before heading home.
The homey Country Inn was just what I needed. They were serving all-you-can-eat fried fish and it was delish!! After three cups of coffee and I won't say just how much fish, I drove back to Hasty. I parked and walked back up the driveway for another Redpoll fix. This time I didn't even bring my camera. I just stood there as the Redpolls swirled around me. As the chill set in and I turned to leave I heard the maniacal call of a Pileated Woodpecker. He swooped in and landed on the same birch snag where I saw him last summer. He was close by and looked me in the eye.
I made my way back to Highway 73 and turned south again. As I passed the spot where three strangers had so generously helped me, I looked around for the Hawk Owl. About one hundred feet off the road beyond my tire ruts, in a tree silhouetted against the glowing sunset, sat a pair of adult Bald Eagles.
I drove the 150 miles home with a full heart.