Monday, December 15, 2008

three bird stories

Two days before the blizzard, I was on my way to the bus stop, and this particular bus stop is a good little place or birds. There's a tiny city park--really, just a wedge of green between two busy streets--with lots of trees, including some nice spruce, plus some tall boulevard and yard trees. It's a popular corner for nuthatches, and there's often woodpeckers, too. So when I heard a tap tap tap, I assumed it was one of the usual downies or hairies, until I looked up, and saw a big Pileated Woodpecker, less than 20 feet up in one of the big maples outside an apartment building. It was close enough that I could see it was a girl (boys have a red stripe on their face like a mustache) and could see the glint in her eye when she cocked her head to stare back at me. But mostly she was unconcerned, and kept pecking away while I stood there and watched, and the wood shavings drifted down like snowflakes.

A day before the blizzard I saw a robin in somebody's yard. I guess a few hang out in Duluth all winter long, but this was the first that I've seen since the flock in Hartley a few weeks ago. The yard in question has some nice conifers to snuggle down in, and a Mountain Ash tree for robin snacks.

The day of the blizzard, yesterday, the buses stopped running before I got off of work, so I had to walk home, a little under two miles, in the snow and fierce wind. I stopped in the woods behind the farmer's market, by Chester Creek, to take a break from my grim trudge and seek shelter in the trees for a few minutes. In the woods there were about forty black birds, mostly grackles, with a few starlings mixed in, and a handful of crows. Or ravens. I can't tell by silhouette alone, and all the birds were eerily, completely silent. Now and then one of the nosed around the bark looking for grubs, and a small group of them relocated to a different tree when I entered the woods, but mostly they were all hunkered down, black clumps against the swirling white sky, waiting out the storm.


greentangle said...

Good stories. A few years ago there was a pileated who worked many hours (maybe days) on a tree near 18th & 3rd.

Sorry you had to trudge through the blizzard, though if I hadn't had a cold I would have been out trudging for the fun of it.

Sonya said...

Thanks. I might have gone frolicking in the blizzard for fun, too, though if I'd had the choice it would have probably been a shorter and more scenic frolic. Two miles, into the wind, on city streets, after work... is not so much fun.

Sonya said...

Upon rereading this, I want to make a few corrections (and don't want to edit the original post, since that seems dishonest).

1.) I meant to type "cedar" not "spruce." There are also a lot of other miscellaneous conifers in the neighborhood, some of which might be spruce, but the trees I was thinking of are actually cedars.

2.) Contemplating migration, the black birds probably weren't "mostly" grackles. There were at least one or two grackles in the small group that flew up when I entered the woods, but most of the birds were dark, distant silhoettes and I was IDing them by size. But the grackles should have largely vamoosed from here by mid-December, and what I was thinking were grackles were actually probably large starlings or small crows.