Thursday, May 31, 2007

Running and hiking and birding...oh my!

Over the course of the weekend, I went running four times; three 4 1/2 milers, and one 10 miler on Saturday. Most of my running was done in the mornings, and the weather was ideal in the upper 40's to lower 50's. Very comfortable!

All of my running was done on trails and dirt roads, which was fun. I wish I could run on these surfaces all the time. The entire time I only met two other people riding bikes, otherwise I didn't see a soul. And this was on a holiday weekend, too. Nice! Otherwise, I just ran and enjoyed the sounds of nature.

Just to make sure I got plenty of exercise, there was lots of hiking as well. Every day we went out on our bird watching excursions, and usually more than once. And this is a fantastic time of year to watch birds.

Mom and Dad on one of our many hikes

Every spring I look forward to the arrival of the wood warblers, the colorful little songbirds that winter down in the tropics. They were out in droves, and I saw 13 different species over the weekend (including 10 in one day!). Finding the warblers was often very easy. According to my Dad's theory, all you have to do is find the chickadees and you will find the warblers. Not sure if it is a power in numbers kind of deal, or if it is the easy-going nature of the chickadee, but they seem to enjoy hanging out together (more on the chickadees in another post). I could write for days about each of the warblers, but instead I will highlight a couple of unique ones.

My folks are lucky enough to live in an area where usnea moss is present in the woods. This is similar to the long, flowing Spanish moss you see hanging from the trees in the southeast. The reason this is cool is because the northern parula warbler uses this moss exclusively for nesting. They will find a suitable strand of this moss and weave together an intricate hanging nest. It is quite remarkable. The parulas were out in great numbers this year, and we were fortunate to locate two nests being built. It was fun to watch these beautiful little birds at work.

Also, one day we took a hike at Oberg Mountain near Tofte, MN. Oberg is a scenic trail that spurs off of the Superior Hiking Trail and offers spectacular views, along with some great bird watching. Oberg is an excellent location to see the black-throated blue warbler. This bird is not found in very many places in Minnesota, but Oberg Mountain is one of them. I am happy that we got to see several of these classy birds on our hike.

The view of lake Superior from Oberg Mountain

Of course, I must mention one of my favorites. the black-throated green warbler. This pretty little guy seems to be the most abundant of all the warblers in the North Country (or so it seems). I saw them everywhere, and their light, buzzy song kept me company on my morning runs. A true jewel of the forest.

All in all, I saw 42 different species of birds, which is a pretty good weekend for me. We spent a lot of hours in the woods, and it was well worth it!
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