Unseasonably warm, with an afternoon life list addition
I'm looking ahead to a busy week, so the weekend has been largely spent on preparations for that rather than on fun pastimes like fishing. However, we did take the time this morning for a 2-hour hike at Sleepy Hollow State Park. B, Dylan (our year-old border collie) and I hiked the same trail that I've blogged about before, but this time we budgeted an appropriate amount of time and did not have to hoof it back in the dark.
The park surrounds a 400-acre lake and many acres of associated marshlands. Sleepy Hollow is a good birding location as it's a temporary stopping place for lots of migratory birds in the spring and fall. It's a popular home for a number of summer and winter resident species as well. Birding with an active dog is definitely not optimal for maximizing bird observations, but it's a good tradeoff. Our favorite hiking trail is one of the shorter choices and can be completed in 2 hours with no dilly-dallying. The path is fairly well-worn and snakes through open fields, dense hardwood and pine stands, dense stands of understory shrubs, and lowland marshy areas. There are lots of little-bird hot spots along the way. The deciduous trees have dropped the majority of their leaves by now - the oaks are still hanging on, but the maples and ash are mostly bare. The morning was very warm for early November - 50 F - and partly sunny.
One of these birdy hot spots is a stand of gray dogwoods within the first couple hundred yards from the parking area. There, we spotted black-capped chickadees, blue jays, a downy woodpecker rapping away on a goldenrod stem and some unidentified little brown jobs. Further along, we spotted crows, who were abnormally silent, and a red-tailed hawk. Later, as we passed along the south edge of a marshy area with some open water, we scared up a very handsome osprey. He flew from a fairly close perch to a dead tree out in the water and posed for a lengthy inspection. I'm always happy to find osprey in a place like this close to home, away from large, pristine forested areas where you expect to find them. Several young osprey were released by the Michigan DNR just to the north a couple of years ago and have appeared to find the area suitably comfortable.
The highlight of our birding today was a beautiful fox sparrow of the reddish, eastern variety. They are a transient, migratory species here, preferring to spend summer to the north, from Alaska to the Hudson Bay (Clare's territory) and they winter in the southeastern US. This guy appeared to be travelling alone, sending out regular single note chips which I assume were contact calls. This is the first time B or I have ever spotted a fox sparrow. Now that I've seen one, I think I shan't confuse them with other LBJs (also affectionately called LBBs). The reddish rufousness was quite distinct. If we had an official life list, we'd have added a species today. Perhaps now's a good time to start a list...
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