Whenever the sun is out, so am I. I just can’t stay indoors, especially when I am at the “farm.” I sit in my aerie office, never tiring of the view of the pond and the woods, dreaming of the adventures that I might find out there. That hasn’t changed in 50 years.
A week ago, a day that started out as a drizzly, cold morning slowly morphed into a mid-day that was high overcast, anemic sunshine barely making shadows. Thinking that more rain was in the forecast, I headed out for an exercise walk before I was trapped indoors again.
But wait, exercise-smexercize! Wonderful things are waiting to be seen. I grab my “other” binoculars to see what birds I can find along the way! (I have to specify that I needed my “other” binoculars because a day earlier I was out birding with friends and I had my high-powered binoculars – cute, little, lightweight binoculars that are so strong, I found out, that it is just about impossible to use them to see birds! You can’t even tell what you’re seeing when you look through them because the area they magnify is so tiny relative to the scene before you…and at that magnification, one tree branch looks pretty much like any other!)
So, my “other” binoculars around my neck, an extra layer to foil the wind, and I was off. Usually, I walk to the gate and back, or alternately to my uncle’s house with a detour to see the eagle’s nest. Fortunately, I can waiver back and forth between these two destinations, I don’t need to decide until I get to the fork in the road. Then again, when I feel particularly energetic, I do both!
I started off at a nice clip, passing a spot where earlier Greg took me to see a turkey nest he found the weekend before while spraying garlic mustard. A splattering of down feathers, wet and matted among the leaves, presaged the empty nest. Broken egg shells half-buried among the leaves were the only remaining evidence that the hen put up a good fight, but ultimately lost. Fortunately, only feathers and no bones indicated that the mother got away. It reminded me of the talk of “immature” mothers we had in the Galapagos. This nest was right out in the open, and though her brown feathers would have been camouflaged by last year’s leaves to human eyes, neither a raccoon nor a coyote would have been fooled.
My pace slowed as I was drawn into the sounds of the woods around me and I began looking for birds. Practicing with my binoculars I followed robins from ground to branch. I could hear a cacophony of birds but I couldn’t locate any but the biggest.
By the time I reached the fork, I had decided to turn toward my uncle’s house. Along this stretch of road there are apple trees with a meadow backdrop. I had often spotted interesting birds here, so my decision was made. Thankfully, there aren’t many trees, and this being such a late spring, most have just the faintest whisper of leaves, and the apples only sport their beautiful white blossoms. I see tree swallows perched along the phone lines. A hawk awaits his lunch stoically atop the pole. Birds flit all around me. Faster than I can get my binoculars to my eyes, they’re gone.
A flash of orange! Imagine my delight when I see a Baltimore oriole posing for me among the apple blossoms! That’s gorgeous sight!
There are men working at my uncle’s so I turn back and head just a short way down the road to the gate. I am going to see if the wild asparagus is up. It is! I get five fat stalks for dinner, and then turn homeward.
The day continued to improve and by late afternoon there was even blue sky showing, so out I went again. This time, minus binoculars, I am truly on an exercise mission, I tell myself. Thankfully I have my phone in my pocket – it’s camera a last resort if I absolutely must take a picture!
I took a long walk, through the woods and around the Shackleford’s prairie. I rarely walk here at this time of year, because usually the ground is still wet. It doesn’t dry to hardness until mid-summer. With this late spring, there was more than wet ground! There was standing water! My shoes are made for this, but not when it threatens to come up to my shins. I debated. I searched for another solution. But in the end, I accepted the inevitable and I took my shoes off and walked through the cold water barefoot. I felt like a ten- year old! A good feeling!
Notable on the walk, besides my delight in walking barefoot through streams of clear, cold water, was a goose I scared. I was walking along the marsh of Lake Koshkonong, so I was scaring any number of geese. They would startle up out of the reeds and honk vociferously even though I was nowhere close to them or their nests. But just as I approached the osprey nest platform, there was a large goose in the path. She started honking, too. But something was wrong with her. She was trying to get away from me but she kept lurching from side to side, falling heavily to the ground. She struggled back up and repeated this heart-wrenching behavior. I thought of the proverbial drunk.
I waited without approaching her, hoping she could get into the reeds and away from the danger she thought I presented. She sat down to rest, and when she didn’t get up, I approached slowly. Terrified, up she struggled and lurched. That is when I saw that she was missing the lower half of one leg. It was really painful to watch her. She did make it to the reeds and the water, and I tried to see how she swam without that foot, but the reeds were dense and she was hidden from view. I was hoping she was safer from predators in the water. Her chances are not good.
By this point I could see the eagle’s nest. It appeared empty, but as I walked, an eagle soared overhead. Another flew to perch on the nest tree. I couldn’t get a picture – when I looked up, they are both gone. The nest looked as if no one was home.
So I headed home, satisfied with my adventures on this late spring day.