Sunday, October 16, 2011

Flaming Fall

Having been suffering from the dreary college application process, my SWSA list has not grown much recently.

And it didn't seem like that was going to change.

This morning I peered out the window--the sky was a bleak shade of gray, and I could see water droplets hitting the nearby pond. "I won't see much today," I thought.

I pulled on some shoes and went out the door, my mind busy planning a 12-mile loop on the dirt roads around my house. Having selected my route, I realized that the sky that the sun had pierced through the clouds, highlighting the flaming maples lining the scenic road. A cool autumn wind ruffled my hair. I quickened my pace, spurred on by the glorious fall day.

I heard the faint calling of White-throated Sparrows. I slowed slightly, and a flash of white caught my eye. A Red-headed Woodpecker briskly tore apart an ash tree.

This species has gotten much more common in my county in the last several years, perhaps do to the large number of dead and dying ash trees.
A bit further on I came upon a flock of American Pipits, a lone Palm Warbler, and a couple Eastern Meadowlarks--time for them to head south!

Pygmy-Owl After Dark

Due to the unfortunate reality called “school” that affects most people my age, I have not been doing too much dedicated birding lately.  However, because of the demands of being in the midst of cross country season, I have been running in excess of 40 miles per week, providing excellent opportunities for “Sweaty Sanderling” birds.  Despite this quantity of running, I have only seen two new SWSA birds since my last posting to this blog in July . . . Red Crossbill and Northern Pygmy-Owl.  This post is written to commemorate the finding of the latter species.

My cousin was visiting from Austria and we spent a day exploring Rocky Mountain National Park.  We returned home late and missed our XC practice on that fateful day of October the 3rd.  An overly tired Welch, stiff from a long day in the car insisted we run after dinner.  This was inconvenient in many ways . . .  one, it doesn’t feel to good to run after a meal, and two, it was nearly dark.  But I had to run, and run I did.  A half-mile in, I felt like puking due to the unseemly amount of elk, beans, vegetable stir-fry, and other delicacies I had consumed only minutes earlier.  The feeling didn’t subside until I finished the 7-mile slog of a run, but I would find it to be well worth the discomfort.

In the rapidly fading light, I passed our driveway, dropping off Welch, who had a shorter distance to run.  Here, I heard a lone Green-tailed Towhee meow its final salute to the passing day.  I kept running.  Soon after, I heard another call, this one welcoming the night.  This, my friends, was the call of one of the most awesome birds on planet Earth, the toot . . . toot . . . toot of the Northern Pygmy-Owl.  I hollered for Welch, but he had already retreated into the well-lit interior of the house.  “Sucks for him,” I sadly thought as I finished my run.
SWSA Totals
Miles Run: 957
Species: 184