Feathered Fly-By

3 Feb

I spent yesterday riding out Snowpocalypse 2011 in a hotel in Three Rivers Michigan.  (Did you know that when you give up on driving and pull off at an exit on the Indiana Turnpike the only signs helpfully directing you to local services are for campgrounds?  This may come as a surprise, but that’s not actually very helpful in a snowstorm.)

Weather aside, I had a great extended weekend with my family in Cleveland.  The highlight of my trip included a birding trip with my grandfather and my brother.  Birding with the two of them is like going to the art museum with Picasso and Michelangelo.  I’m pretty sure the only way they could know more about birds is if they grew wings and feathers and joined a flock.  (It is no small coincidence that I wound up with the name Robin.)

We started in the Cleveland Metroparks at the Brecksville Nature Center.   If you haven’t been there before in the wintertime you need to abandon all other pressing matters and get down there.  Why?  Because you can do this:

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If you want to feed Chickadees from your hand you have every Saturday and Sunday until the end of February.  Feedings go on between 10 am and noon, and the naturalist tells me that the more miserable the weather the hungrier the Chickadees will be and the more likely they will be to feed from your hand….

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….Or your head.

As if holding a wild bundle of feathered curiosity in your hand wasn’t enough for one day, we made our way down into Cuyahoga Valley National Park to see the nesting pair of Bald Eagles.  Since the eagles showed up and started nesting in a heron rookery they have been celebrities.  I certainly felt like a member of the paparazzi standing behind the barrier on the towpath using binoculars and a the greatest zoom my camera can manage to get a glimpse of them.

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Clearly, they wanted nothing to do with the press that day.

We also ventured down to the Beaver Marsh where the Nuthatches were playing a game they like to call “Ha Ha!  I’m too fast!  You’ll never get a good picture of me!”

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But I think I won at least one round.

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To finish the expedition off we got to see what happens when a Red Tailed Hawk flies too close to a Peregrine Falcon nest.  It all happened too fast for a camera, but imagine a small gray streak of a falcon careening after a hawk at least twice its size and colliding in midair.   It was pretty awesome.  (Speaking of the paparazzi, this bulletin on the falcons sounds a bit like a snippet from a celebrity gossip magazine.  I had no idea that Peregrine Falcons could be such wanton tramps.)

What never ceases to amaze me about nature is how much it endures.  Although it wasn’t the coldest day we’ll see this winter, it was still one of those days where most people prefer to stay curled up inside with their hot chocolate.  It reminds me that even on the days when human civilization has ground to a stop because of weather, those birds are still out there living their lives and trying to do what they need to survive.

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Stay warm little guys!

~Robin

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2 Responses to “Feathered Fly-By”

  1. Sarah February 4, 2011 at 9:19 am #

    Aw! That’s so adorable! The chickadees around me are so flighty; they jump at the slightest sound.

    • wanderdrossel February 5, 2011 at 8:46 am #

      I’ve tried it a few times with the Chickadees here in Illinois and they weren’t the slightest bit interested. The naturalists told me that as soon as it gets cold they put out a dummy that is holding out it’s hand and they put food in it to train the birds. Bad weather works in your favor because the colder it is and the scarcer the food the more bold the birds will be.

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