Monday, April 30, 2007

Birding extravaganza

Tonight it was back to my normal mileage, the usual 4 1/2, after my long run on Saturday. A little bit of steady rain was falling this afternoon, and there was a strong wind coming out of the south. But it was a pleasant run nonetheless. The new shoes felt great, and I even scared up a broad-winged hawk while running through the woods!

I should probably tell you about my Sunday. I went hiking and bird watching at William O’Brien State Park, which is located on the Minnesota/Wisconsin border just northeast of the Twin Cities. There are miles of trails here that pass through wetlands, hardwood forest, and prairie; quite a varied terrain.

A beaver pond at William O’Brien. Notice the nice trail on the left!

I got there when the park opened at 8 AM and spent over 3 hours hiking around. I only saw about five other groups of people the whole time, so I felt like I had the place to myself. On an 80 degree and sunny day, no less!

The bird watching was most successful. I saw 26 different species of birds on my hike. Several were some of the usual suspects I encounter on my running routes. But there were some interesting new ones as well.

I saw the three warblers I mentioned last weekend, Myrtle, Tennessee, and the palm (the palm was by far the most abundant, and they seemed to travel in large numbers). There was the yellow-bellied sapsucker hanging out in a stand of stately oaks. Three sandhill cranes cruised over me as I stood by a beaver dam. From the top of a ridge I got to see a northern harrier (or as I have always known it, the marsh hawk) flying low over the swamp, all the while being pestered by a small songbird. And I finally got to see my first white-throated sparrow of the year.

A few sharp-lobed hepaticas, my first wildflowers of the season

I even added a new bird to my birding life list. While walking through an open area, I saw a small rusty colored sparrow. My first thought was that it was the chipping sparrow. But upon closer inspection, I could see it was not. This little guy had a pink beak. I watched him until he flew, and then referenced my bird book. It was the field sparrow. Apparently this is a somewhat common bird, but I had never noticed him before. Perhaps I need to spend more time in the field? :)

It was another full day, and a very busy weekend. I capped it off with some of Giada de Laurentiis’ stuffed pasta shells for dinner (but with Italian sausage instead of the ground turkey called for in the recipe). A tasty way to conclude such a great day!

Giada knows pasta!

Until next time,

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