More than he seeks…

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.

– John Muir

Impatient for spring, I went looking for Hepatica in bloom.  I found none.  But I did find plenty of signs of spring:

Skunk Cabbage  Skunk Cabbage
Skunk Cabbage


Lady Bug
Lady Bug Emerging from Winter Sleep

Spring Beauties
Spring Beauties… just buds

Trout Lily Leaf
A single Trout Lily leaf

Oh, and there were plenty of these fellows, too, though this picture is from last year:

Mourning Cloak
Mourning Cloak

Tamarack Rehabilitation and Education Center

Welcome SignAudubon sponsored a field trip down to the Tamarack Rehabilitation and Education Center today.  It’s a fascinating little place where over 200 animals are cared for each year.  While they specialize in raptors, they do take in smaller birds, mammals and reptiles.  Most are fixed up and returned to the wild.  A few unreleasable raptors have stayed on for educational purposes and we got to meet them:

Ick-a-Bobette is a Great Horned Owl.  What a pretty bird she is.  (Later, when she was returned to her room, she called and called for us.  Such a lovely song.)
Great Horned Owl Great Horned Owl Looking Backward

Next up was a Cooper’s Hawk named Spaz Bird.
Cooper's Hawk Cooper's Hawk
He did try to fly off the glove a couple of times, but he wasn’t too spazzy.

The Peregrine Falcon was a delight to see up close!Peregrine Falcon

“Lady Hawk,” a Red-tailed Hawk, was simply regal:
Red-tailed Hawk Red-tailed Hawk

A couple more owls rounded out the program: “Sophia” the Barred Owl and “Peeker” the little Saw-whet.
Barred Owl Saw-Whet

These education birds all had severe enough injuries that they could not be released back into the wild.  It was a delight to see them up close and learn about some of their amazing adaptations and habits.

Kudos to Suzanne B. DeArment, the licensed rehabilitator, and Carol Holmgren, the Education Coordinator at the Center.  They do incredible work.

Suzanne DeArment inside the enormous Flight Cage
Suzanne DeArment inside the enormous Flight Cage

Carol Holmgren and Ick-a-Bobette, the Great Horned Owl
Carol Holmgren and Ick-a-Bobette, the Great Horned Owl

Learn more about the Center by clicking HERE.

How The Heck Did They Get Here?

I haven’t been over to see them (yet?).  But the birding world is agog over a very rare sighting on Chautauqua Lake:  White Pelicans!

Check out this range map from Cornell:

white pelican range map

Notice the total lack of color in New York State.  Notice the distance from the colored areas to New York State…  They simply shouldn’t be here.  But they are.

Here is a photo from Jim Berry (President of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute) to prove it:

White Pelican by Jim Berry

And now that I’m a birder, I get excited by things like this.  Tee Hee…


Oh no… It’s Happened…

Today, for the first time ever, except for when I would be doing a Birdathon or going to learn about bird banding, I went for a walk specifically to look for birds.  Oh dear… I wondered when it would happen.  And now it has.

Hard to see - Easy to hearThe morning was bright and sunny, though cold.  That was OK, though, because my feet didn’t get muddy, but just stayed on top of the frozen mud.

As soon as I hopped out of the car, I heard them… those high pitched whistles that I have come to associate with Cedar Waxwings.  Right there, but I couldn’t see them at first.  Finally, one or two of them moved… Then I realized the trees were just dripping with them.

Cedar Waxwing

The fruit on the crabapples seemed pretty unpalatable… dry, shrivelled.  But the flock gobbled them up greedily.  There were two or three dozen of them, along with some Robins – also eating fruit.  Chickadees hopped from here to there, but I couldn’t tell if they were also dining on crabapples, or if they were looking for something with more protein.  Coming from opposite directions were the songs of Northern Cardinals, too.

I headed for the field where the Woodcock dances…  I knew it was too late in the morning to actually find a Woodcock… but I hoped somebody else might be flitting around in the brushy old field full of dogwoods and goldenrod.  I saw no one, but heard both Chipping Sparrows and Song Sparrows.  Then it was into the woods…

Huthatch and CavityI walked quickly to try to get warm.  Partway to the creek, Red-bellied Woodpecker gurgled at me reminding me to stop and listen once in a while.  I paused and watched Crows and listened to Tufted Titmice and White-breasted Nuthatch.  Nuthatch showed me a hole in the tree…  His cavity for nesting perhaps?

Where he was heading I do not know, but one lone Canada Goose flew over, honking.

Down by the creek there was a very high-pitched tsee-tsee.  I recognized that sound and started scanning the bark of the trees looking for a Brown Creeper.  I never found him, but I’m sure that’s who it was.

As I walked I heard more Cardinals and saw a Blue Jay.  And as I headed out of the woods, the Crows went crazy!  Unfortunately, they were between me and the sun, so I couldn’t see who they were pestering today.  A hawk perhaps?  Or an owl?

Crossing the field, I heard several Killdeer, then saw them…

When I got home, I posted my list on the Western New York Birding blog.

It’s official… Despite much reluctance, I think I now qualify as an offical Birder.

Cross posted at Confessions of a Reluctant Birder.

Signs of Spring

I worked Saturday at Audubon.  Sure sign of Spring #1:  Cabin Fever!  Little Explorers had 70+ people and the parking lot was full!

I helped Sarah with the Little Explorer program, taking half the group to search for signs of wildlife… tracks, scat, chews, nests, holes, feathers, fur… that sort of thing.  As we headed out the Universal trail I spotted something fairly large, furry and black bounding on the ice…  Black.  Bounding… Had to be a mink.  As we rounded the pond, many of the folks in my group saw it again – this time with a mouse in its mouth!  I don’t usually carry a camera when I lead walks, because it can distract me from teaching, so, no pictures…  sadly…

Later, I decided to take my own private walk with my camera.  I went back to the pond where we had seen the mink.  By now, the ice that he had bounded over was melted… but I could still hear some commotion under the brush on the island where Mink had found his Mouse.  From under the branches came Muskrat.


 There were two in the pond.  This one came swimming right toward me, then disappeared into a pipe that connects the ponds.  I never did see that one come up again…

Around the bend, though, I had another encounter:


I watched for quite a while as this little critter came up on the bank to trim muddy mustard greens which he then took down to the water to dunk a few times before chowing them down.  Back and forth he went until he had eaten most of the greens in that grouping.

Then into the water…

I followed the path; he followed the edge of the pond beneath shrubs that stood in water because of recent flooding.  Then he spotted more greens.


These greens appeared clean and he didn’t seem to feel a need for taking them back for a dunking…

I could have stayed out all day… but duties called…  Spring is on the way!

Not Quite Spring

One TreeThe top layer of leaf litter is thawed enough to offer a soft cushion under my feet… but I can tell the ground below is still frozen. The air is warm… relatively speaking. It’s misty.

I am in no hurry. It’s not really a hike, or even a walk. I’m not out for exercise, except for the dog. I just need to reconnect with the woods. I’m meandering.

The birds are very vocal. Crows. Blue Jays. Chickadees. Nuthatches. Cardinals. The air is just still enough that traffic noises are amplified, which annoys me… but I try to ignore it.

As I walk into the woods and down the hill to the creek, I scan the forest floor for any hint of green. I see Foam Flower leaves and Christmas Fern. The leaves of the Partridge Berry are complimented well by the bright red fruit. All of this was covered one week ago by several inches of snow.

Turkey Tail FungusAt the halfway point, I embrace a small but sturdy Oak Tree. I close my eyes and let the the sensations of a forest in transition fill my senses… and every cell of my body delights in it.

I sit on a log and watch the birds and listen to their songs and calls. I recognize many, but there are new ones, too. This is cavity-nesters haven! Chickadees. Titmice. Downy Woodpeckers. Nuthatches. They flit from one hole to another, engage in skirmishes, and scold each other. I try to find the source of a new song, but I am not successful. That’s OK. I’ll try again in a day or two.

Finally Saw One!

Ann asked if I wanted to go for a walk today – just 1/2 hour, she said.  I told the Universe that I wanted to see a new bird.

And the Universe obliged.  Ann spotted movement on a tree ahead of us on the trail.  Pinkish, black, white…  We both though of Purple Finches first when we saw all that pink… But, no!  Purple finches don’t have black wings with white stripes… It’s a White-winged Crossbill!

White-winged Crossbill

Everyone has been reporting them, but I had not seen one until now.  I was so glad I was lugging BOTH binoculars AND camera.  The former helped me ID the bird, the latter document it.  I took a few shots from too far away.  I inched closer and took a few more shots…  We were able to get fairly close and watch how it extracted seeds from White Pine cones.  Unusual, I found out later, as they prefer the seeds of Spruce and Tamarack.

What a great sighting.  Thanks, Ann, for twisting my arm for a short afternoon walk!

White-winged Crossbill

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