Monday, January 17, 2005

Lake Contrary with Larry Lade

After meeting Larry’s wife Brenda, we headed out, stopping only for a quick breakfast sandwich, which I ate as we drove. Lake Contrary is an oxbow lake left by the shifting Missouri River, and Larry monitors it and a fair chunk of territory south of there along the river. We found a number of birds I hadn’t seen in Missouri before, maybe nine, including the beautiful Common Goldeneye, called Whistlers for the eerie sound their wings make as they fly. Also several Hermit Thrushes, a Red-breasted Nuthatch, and a Winter Wren.

After three and a half hours I headed north out of Saint Joe, getting somewhat lost before I finally picked up the desired road north. My goal was to find a Long-eared Owl which had become a nemesis bird, a term for a fairly common bird that had eluded much searching. Every birder has a few. Finally I had a good lead and very specific directions, which I won’t share, at the request of the person who e-mailed them to me. I took couple of hours to reach the snow covered hilltop where a small stand of pines was located. It was getting more snow covered and colder as I headed north, and the ground here was completely covered with two inches of ice-encrusted snow that crunched with every step. I walked all the way down one side and then circled around the back, and finally headed into the interior. This owl perches in thick conifers, next to the trunk, where it imitates a very convincing limb. That requires very slowly scanning up and down each trunk, looking at the beginning of every limb. Tedious and unsuccessful. Another search tactic is to look for the “candle”, which is the white mark left by the owls droppings, which accumulate under a habitual roost. Another owl sign is the pellets that litter the ground under the roost, the regurgitated indigestible remains of its prey meals. I found them, and leaned down and saw that they were different than any pellets I’d seen before; looking up, the limbs were whitewashed, and then peering higher limb by limb I approached seeing the hidden bird when it flushed, flying off toward the other end of the pine grove. Rats. I really wanted to see the sitting bird to study it, and was upset that I’d become a severe disturbance. That was when I really noticed how much noise the crunching snow was making. So I walked out of the trees and followed a tire track along the edge, stepping so that I stayed on already compressed snow. The bird flushed again, 30 inches of wing span, rich cinnamon color and totally silent flight. But it was time to go; I’d way overstepped the bounds of careful behavior.

But I was willing to call it a lifer of the underwear variety, a better view desired, ie, BVD.


Post a Comment

<< Home