Today was a great woods-walk day -- so many cool animals, including some that were completely new to me! I was planning on telling this blog post in story form, winding my way through the woods and highlighting creatures in the order in which I saw them, but I can't help it, I'm jumping right to the most exciting one.
I saw an owl. A Barred Owl, to be precise. I'm especially excited about this because I've been thinking recently about how cool owls are, and how I don't think I've ever seen one in the wild before -- in zoos, yes, and I've heard them calling in the woods, but never seen one (at least, not that I can remember). So I had been reading some things online about how to find owls in the daytime, and it sounded like a complicated process, so I didn't really expect to see one any time soon.
And then today I was walking down my normal woodsy path, and there was this Barred Owl, just sitting in a tree, staring at me. It wasn't a "Are you going to eat me and should I be thinking of flying away?" stare, but a stare more along the lines of: "You're not a mouse. I can't eat you. What are you doing in my forest?" After about a minute, the owl looked away, but whenever I took a step and snapped a twig, he or she would look right back at me again -- right, the human is still here. Anyway, it was quite the encounter, and a high point for a while to come, I imagine. (So cool!)
The water birds were out in force today, as the ice continues to disappear. The Common Mergansers and Mallards were back, and a lone male Hooded Merganser was hanging out as well.
And a pair of Wood Ducks made a brief appearance -- they landed in the lake, waddled up onto the shore, and then flew away about a minute later when a person walked by. I think Wood Ducks are super pretty, and again, I don't know if I've ever seen them outside of zoos.
The pictures I managed to get of the male don't at all do him justice, and I have to say, I felt a bit Paparazzi-like, grabbing photos of him from behind bushes, etc., and then settling for the best I ended up with. (I actually have that thought quite frequently when I attempt to take pictures of animals -- is that strange?)
One final part of today's adventure to recount: When I got back to my car, I found that it had become the site of an intense battle between a male Northern Cardinal and... himself. He was flying and pecking at his reflection in my car's side mirror -- after a little while, he changed strategies and went after his reflection in the windshield, then the mirror on the other side. There was another person in the parking lot at the time, and we both just stood there for a while, wondering what in the world this bird was thinking. (Actually, it was pretty obviously something like: "I will not tolerate other males in this, my territory, and WHY AREN'T YOU FLYING AWAY?")
Eventually, I had to drive off and take the cardinal's rival with me. But someday soon, I'll be back, and this cardinal had better still be keeping a vigilant watch -- if not, the male cardinals in my car will surely find their opportunity to take over!