We drove to Wood River this morning under a dramatic sky, threatening rain in every direction. As we paddled to our island a lone greater white-fronted goose flew by, frantically. I had never heard one before and found it quite funny. We opened nets just before sunrise and it was quite a fiasco. Many of the ropes had been cut again, some poles missing. The vegetation all had frost on it, and some of the ropes were icy. I forgot gloves. Net 1 fell to the ground. Your typical opening hour.
For the first 3 hours of the morning the thermometer read 0 degrees C and it drizzled on and off. Enough to warrant closing nets, but too little to call the day off. And when the drizzle would pause, we would re-open nets. At least if it had poured we could have left, but that kind of undecided weather is the worst. It was miserable – the cold, cold wetness. Makes me highly apprehensive about the coming of winter. Though among the misery was some magnificence, as there always is if your eyes are open to it. As I fought and fumbled with net 1, I heard a rustle in the canopy and looked up just in time to see a BARN OWL fly out from the island over the marsh! Full frontal view of that white, white face. I have never seen one before. Finally! I had been looking for months. Later in the morning I was examining a group of sparrows and discovered a white-throated!!! I am 90% sure. It’s like Mother Nature, once again, is slapping me in the cheek with beauty in the face of adversity. Not just any beauty, but some that I have been specifically seeking. Though I wasn’t looking today… and that’s why they came to me. Once again! When will I learn?
We had 9 golden-crowned sparrows today, many of them with large deposits of fat bulging over the clavicles and belly! Most were weighing 32-33 grams, but then we pulled out a guy with such a deeply colored and well developed crown… and he weighed 44.8! Wow!
It is 225 in the morning on Oct 2. Sleep doesn’t appeal to me these days. Too much to experience. The stars are spectacular tonight. I stopped off Dead Indian Rd for some moments and tried calling in an owl. What responded was similar to a pygmy, but higher and faster… that means northern saw-whet! When I returned to Rocky Pt I stopped at the mailboxes to star-gaze and I heard quite a racket going on in the trees! Sounded like a sharpie (no, really) screaming, and lots of wingbeats. Maybe juv owls. Now I am at the boathouse to retire. When I left the truck I heard screeching right overhead! Barn owl!? So many mysteries in the night tonight. Can I fall asleep now?
Yesterday evening, just before dusk came over our clearing in the woods, I heard such a peculiar bird. It sang a series of different tunes, almost resembling a chat’s wacky melody. Some quality of it somehow reminded me of a brown thrasher, even though I haven’t heard them in years. It seemed almost fake, as if someone was over there doing playback. It sang again, beginning with a funny trill, which reminded me of those damn squirrels. And then I realized – it was a damn squirrel – a mockery of one! It was a mockingbird singing! I haven’t heard one of those in years either, what a delight!
Before falling asleep I laid on my back marveling at the stars, and an owl silhouette flew right across the frame! Something smaller than a great-horned, saw-whet maybe? And then a shooting star fell, and I drifted off with a smile.
We awoke this morning to fairly strong wind – too strong to open nets, but we waited to see if it’d let up. Besides the gusts, it was an incredibly beautiful day. Evening grosbeaks cheeped from the swaying tree tops all morning! We are camping here again tonight in attempt to make up for our lack of banding tomorrow morning. On our drive in we encountered a poorwill on the road! He was feeding pretty actively so we got to watch him flutter about before us for a while. The eye sheen is red-orange! Different than any owl or mammal I’ve seen. It was still windy driving in and I can hear the treetops rustling now. No telling yet what dawn will hold. Hoping (always) for owl sounds in the night.