Birds and Other Beautiful Things

I could bird for hours, I don’t get tired of it. It’s usually hunger that calls me away from my outdoor adventures. Darn, why did I leave my sandwich in the car? Turning back is tough when I am eager to see all the birds I can possibly see on the refuge list. My stomach violently grumbles and suddenly I am convinced that I have seen enough. Its 8 o clock in the evening and I am a mile away from my snack. Although the clock says it should be dark its not, the day is only just starting to dim. I haven’t seen a person on the trail for over an hour and I suspect that I am the only one on the refuge. It’s all mine. On my walk back to the car I reflect on all of the amazing things I saw. I’ll start at the beginning.

The bee was the last car in the parking lot.

The bee was the last car in the parking lot.

As soon as you pull into the refuge, you will most likely see a kestrel perched on the electric line. The little falcon was not there as I passed under the wires to the parking lot. I sat in the bee for a while debating what trail to begin with. I had  two options. I could begin with the year-round trail, the path I was most familiar with, or the seasonal trail, the  path I had yet to complete. It was suddenly an easy decision and I began my adventure on the seasonal trail. I was quickly accompanied by a familiar friend, the colorful American kestrel. Instead of sitting on an electric line it was hovering in the air. I did not know birds other than hummingbirds could do this! I watched the kestrel for a few minutes when suddenly I heard a cackling calls of a sora. I instantly recognized the call as I head it every week for about a month as a part of my marsh bird surveys. I attempted to replicate the call so I could hear the sora “laugh” one more time in response.  I must have done it well because the sora flew and landed in front of me. I was ecstatic! The sora had eluded our surveys for a while now but finally I was able to see it up close. The little marsh bird looked at me and instantly crept away when it realized that I wasn’t a bird. It disappeared in the sea of grass and as soon as it was gone a new bird appeared. This bird was a vibrant red duck that waddled in and out of sight. It was definitely more cinnamon than teal.

Earlier that day I found 2 moles on the path. It was a mystery as to why they were there.

Earlier that day I found 2 moles on the path. It was a mystery as to why they were there.

The wetlands were no longer wetlands and not much water was left except for a small canal. On the other side of the bank I saw three nutria munching happily away on the grasses. On my side of the bank I saw all of the damage the nutria had caused by burrowing into the banks. I had heard the volunteers say that the nutria of the refuge didn’t really mind the people on the trails. That if a nutria happened to be on the trail you had to walk around it. But this wasn’t the case for the three I saw. One nervously looked at me as I looked at it and it grunted. A fellow nutria must have detected its distress as it trodded over to the nervous nutria and they both plopped in the water and swam away. The third nutria was left behind. It turned its back on the bank and headed for the trail but when it saw me approaching it quickly scurried away.

The noisy gravel continued to shovel under my feet and then it was quiet. I stopped moving. I hadn’t seen an eagle on its nest for a few days now, but finally it had returned. It flew low on the path in front of me with a red winged blackbird harassing it. What cocky little birds. This weekend I had seen separate cases of red winged black birds attacking crows, red tailed hawks, and now an eagle. The eagle didn’t seem to mind much as it perched on its snag and ignored the little black bird.

The habitat along the seasonal trail seemed bland without the wetlands, but it was full of life. There were hardly any trees but the bushes were enough to keep the lazuli buntings satisfied. The bare branches of trees were perfect perches for the group of cedar waxwings.

Liliana Calderon
lcalde4@illinois.edu
1 Comment
  • Jimena

    Love this! If you’re looking for an interesting article to read, check this one out Landspeak at Orion Magazine (https://orionmagazine.org/article/landspeak/) The American kestrel makes quite an appearance in the article…

    June 3, 2015 at 11:47 am