January 19, 2007

Little Big Year, Part deux

1 dark-eyed junco
2 American robin
3 turkey vulture
4 eastern bluebird
5 yellow-rumped warbler
6 song sparrow
7 red-bellied woodpecker
8 red-tailed hawk
9 American crow
10 blue jay
11 great blue heron
12 northern flicker
13 northern cardinal
14 black-capped chickadee
15 tufted titmouse
16 cedar waxwing
17 downy woodpecker
18 brown creeper
19 mourning dove
20 Canada goose
(total on this date in 2006: 17)

JAN. 1, ROCK BRIDGE, sunny, 35—I'm even more excited on this second annual new year's day birding than the first, 2006's Little Big Year beginning. I have a favorite place picked out: the High Ridge trail in Rock Bridge Memorial State Park. The sun shines so brightly from the east that for half the morning I have to loop around to the sunward side to see any birds.

On the way to the trailhead I avoid looking out the windshield except for purely driving purposes—I want my first bird of the year to be at the park. On the ridgetop bluebirds fly between the edge of the oak-hickory-cedar woods and recently burned grassland. I hear a red-tailed hawk cry, familiar to all movie-watching Americans as the overdubbed cry of the bald eagle (the eagle makes a far less majestic snuffling that's apparently regarded by Hollywood producers as insufficiently patriotic).

With my own voice I pish-pish-pish a song sparrow from some brush and a yellow-rumped warbler from the depths of a red cedar. Besides bluebirds, the day's high numbers are rung up by red-bellied woodpeckers in the woods and robins crisscrossing a gravel road between a stream and cedar thicket.

After a pause at home for lunch and the second half of the Wisconsin (alma mater)-Arkansas bowl game, I want more and head out to Grindstone, my trusty neighborhood park. Right at sunset I find a pair of mourning doves, then some Canada geese fly over. From a blufftop over Grindstone Creek, exactly where I had a daytime sighting of a barred owl last Jan. 1, I make like a barred owl myself. Either it's elsewhere or laughing quietly at my imitation. The birding day ends at dusk when I follow a cacophony of what I think are juncos into a dense stand of cedars. They're roosting for the night and I seem to be unnoticed.


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