This and That

April 21, 2019

Over the last few weeks, I’ve taken several walks to a variety of parks, preserves or natural areas with not much to show for any one location—but collectively, there’s enough to make a story.

Last Tuesday, I took a late afternoon walk through Historic Bridge Park in Battle Creek and continued walking along a section of the North Country Trail for awhile. The Historic Bridge Park is very unique in that it has five historic bridges dating back to the late 1800s. Each bridge has been carefully relocated to this site.  The main attraction is Charlotte Bridge, a 182 ft. structure that spans the main entrance.  Historic Bridge Park is a pretty little place to visit, but most of the birds were hiding and absolutely none of them wanted a picture taken–only one butterfly and a few plants cooperated.

Charlotte Bridge (I borrowed this picture from the Historic Bridge Park website)
Skunk Cabbage– This plant is prolific in swampy areas very early in the spring and has earned its name
because of the distinctive “skunky” odor that it emits when it blooms. It is not a true cabbage. “Skunk cabbage was used extensively as a medicinal plant, seasoning, and magical talisman by various tribes of Native Americans. While not considered edible raw, because the roots are toxic and the leaves can burn the mouth, the leaves may be dried and used in soups and stews.” (Wikipedia)

On two of my walks, I just wandered the trails near our home and was happy to find a nice variety of birds over the course of a couple of days– Yellow-rumped Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Eastern Phoebes, Downy Woodpeckers, Cardinals, Robins, Golden Crowned Kinglets, Northern Rough-winged Swallows, and one Hermit Thrush. The Rough-winged Swallows and the Hermit Thrush were both new to me. The Hermit Thrush is apparently just migrating through and according to the Cornell website
“…you’ll likely hear their mournful, flute-like song, oh, holy holy, ah, purity purity eeh, sweetly sweetly long before you see them.” I feel really lucky to have spotted him because I don’t remember hearing any “holy, holy’ lyrics prior to taking his picture!

These Northern Rough-winged Swallows as well as dozens of their companions were swooping back and forth overhead. I caught these two resting momentarily high in a tree and my bird app identified them as Rough-winged Swallows. The Cornell website describes their behavior this way: “Twists and turns low above water bodies and open areas, taking insects in midair. Flies with slower and more deliberate wingbeats than other swallows. Often perches on wires and exposed branches to preen.”

Yellow-rumped Warbler, also known as a ‘butter butt’

Of that group of birds, the most difficult one to photograph was the Ruby-crowned Kinglet. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes the Kinglet this way:

“A tiny bird seemingly overflowing with energy, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet forages almost frantically through lower branches of shrubs and trees.”

I couldn’t agree more! This little bird flitted around so quickly that I’d no sooner locate it through the lens of my camera and it was gone! Added to the difficulty of getting the bird to sit still was getting it to come out from behind all the branches!  I stood in the same spot for nearly an hour trying to capture him before I finally succeeded! Unfortunately, I never caught a glimpse of the ‘ruby crown’ which is a distinctive feature of the male Kinglet, but is usually concealed.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Today, I visited Bow in the Clouds Preserve and Chipman Preserve which are both close to home. It was such a beautiful, beautiful spring day—the best we’ve had so far—and I was hoping there would be lots of birds to photograph. There weren’t. It was just too early in the season, I guess, to see more than the occasional bird, butterfly or dragonfly. So, once again, I didn’t get many pictures, but I had a relaxing, restorative walk through both of these lovely preserves.

Turkey Vulture overhead looking for lunch!
Turtles sunbathing (can you find the fifth one?)

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