Saturday, March 21, 2009

Good Day Sunshine

Sun peeking through the trees at Fish Lake Regional Park

Spring is officially here! Hallelujah!

I was treated to a glorious Saturday morning for my run; clear skies with a bit of fog, temperatures in the mid 30's to start, and almost no wind. Very nice.

I ran 13 1/2 miles today. Normally I don't even run the day before a race, but I couldn't help myself. It was just too nice of a day.

It was too dark to focus, but I still thought this was neat. The swamp looked mysterious! Fog and a partial moon near the start of my run.

The running was incredibly comfortable today. I started out before sunrise just as the world was waking up. I just ran easy, stopped to look at things, and took lots of pictures. It was good to do that, because there was so much to see.

The sunrise was outstanding. It was coming up when I was in the Fish Lake Regional Park. There were no clouds in the sky, so everything was brilliant orange. A great start to the day!

Sunrise over Fish Lake

Time for a bird report...

This week, there has been an increase in bird activity with many spring arrivals to report. On my Thursday run, March 19th, I saw my first mourning dove, song sparrow, and eastern bluebird (a half dozen of them, in fact!) of the season.

Today, I added two more to the list. I scared up a pair of wood ducks from a tree along the creek. These guys are arguably the prettiest of our ducks. Also, I saw a pair of broad winged hawks. This was kind of fun because one of them was trying to manhandle a dead branch while the other watched (presumably attempting to collect nesting materials). They could have cared less that I was there. I am really hoping that there will be a nest somewhere along the trail so I can watch them this summer.

Of course, there were plenty of resident birds as well. I saw a pileated woodpecker in the swamp bottoms and heard him cackling in other locations. I also noticed the red-bellied woodpeckers were out in great numbers and they are quite vocal. Not sure if this is a mating thing or what, but honestly, I heard their distinctive "kwirrrr!" vocalization everywhere and saw a couple of them in the woods. And, there seems to be an influx of blue jays. We do have them year round, but there are migratory jays as well. I think those who go south have returned.

In mammal news, I even saw a red fox trotting across the ice on Fish Lake! He looked as if he was in pursuit of some geese that were sitting out on the lake, but the foxy one quickly retreated when it was blatantly obvious that the geese saw him coming.

Yours truly, with a rapidly thawing Fish Lake in the background (unfortunately, no photo of the fox!)

While running through the wooded section of the trail, I saw all of these curious blue bags hanging from trees. It is maple syrup season! With warmer daytime temperatures and nights where it still gets to freezing or below, maple sap starts to run. Someone here was obviously taking advantage. My folks made maple syrup when I was a kid living in central Minnesota, and these self-contained bags were definitely more high tech than the old spigots and ice cream buckets we used! :) Anyhow, this person will be in for a treat. Real maple syrup is ridiculously good.

Tapping maple trees along the trail

So that was my morning run. I ran just a shade over a half marathon the day before my first race of the season. I don't care if I am dragging my butt up and down Summit Avenue in St. Paul tomorrow; it was totally worth it.

Tonight I treated myself to a dinner of homemade chicken cacciatora; chunks of chicken with pancetta, red bell pepper, mushrooms, mixed olives, fennel, onion, garlic, rosemary, and fresh parsley in a tomato and white wine sauce. No doubt this will give me the fuel I need for tomorrow. And if not, at least I will have some damn good leftovers! :)

The pre-race dinner; chicken cacciatora with linguine

Until next time,

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