The other day I went to Five Rivers to do a Raptor count. Before the count started I had time for a walk around the Beaver Tree Trail. The pond was still frozen - the ice looked brindled in jade and black swirls. On the opposite side of the pond, the ice was white. I know I have read explanations of what makes the ice different colors, but right now it was enough to enjoy the creativity of colors moving in elegant frozen waves. Icicles hung from the spillway. Reaching down into the water flowing beneath them. The last vestiges of winter.
Rushes were bent and broken by winter winds, snow, and ice. Soon, new growth would replace them. The earth was brown with ozzy mud. The kind that is just as slippery as ice. Hopeful trees were budded crimson against the sky. Willows flushed orange, so stark and striking. The sky was layered in soft blues, white and grey. Dampness seeped from the ground and folded around me.
The Raptor count is a DEC project which counts the raptors seen on specific days and specific times of the day. The idea is to get a picture of the health of our raptor population. I love raptors, so I signed up. I've been to a few of these this year. Standing outside in an open field a half-hour before sunset and a half-hour after sunset might not sound enticing - the wind is frigid on some nights, the temperature is frosty. My feet and hands get cold. The sky is often bereft of birds. But it is pure joy! On this night we scanned the sky, waiting hoping. Quiet. Then a mourning dove stirred from the pines and called its sad song which names the bird. A woodcock spoke his nasal "pin-t" announcing that its mating dance might be beginning soon. No raptors. More scanning, more waiting. Then, seemingly from nowhere a bird flew in, silent, dark. It flaped long pointed wings and folded up in a diaphral poise. It was so quick- and then - gone. Just enough sighting to name it a short-eared owl. My first ever. A life bird. Such a great gift!
What was an experience you had that felt like a nature gift?
Photos courtesy of All About Birds ~ Cornell ~ Picture this at dusk!