Saturday, December 1, 2007

A Greater Awareness


It was cold and windy Saturday. Very windy. Windy enough to knock over 40 pound wooden chairs that were set up in my backyard. As soon as I stepped out of my truck at Wadsworth Falls State Park, I was blasted in the face by a cloud of dirt with a little gravel mixed in just to make sure it got my attention. I asked myself, "Is this really going to be worth it?" As I looked up into an increasingly cloudy sky, I saw a Common Raven, four Turkey Vultures, and a Sharp-shinned Hawk all taking advantage of the wind to dip and glide to their hearts content. I was anticipating that most of the other birds would be avoiding the wind today. That seemed like a good idea to me. I'll head into the woods to find out where they're hiding and find a little shelter at the same time. The birds and I were on the same page this morning. It's an important part of life to have a real awareness of what surrounds you. Both man and animal have that ability, but sometimes I think that we as human beings lose sight of this. We use are natural instincts to survive which is necessary. We have the ability to solve problems and achieve goals as well. My question is "Do we make life too complicated for ourselves?" We create droves of red tape, paper works, regulations, and social rules to the point that we sometimes become trapped in our own minds. We have to be on guard as to what we say or do at all times or we will become a victim of our own self imposed rules. Social interaction in society and our workplace can be complicated. Income tax, healthcare, and our legal justice system have become a complicated mess. Having to deal with these things can make us prisoners of our own minds at times. In order to have awareness of ourselves and the environment around us, we need to keep our minds clear of unproductive thoughts. That's tough to do these days. Fortunately, there are still places like the beautiful Wadsworth Park that make it much easier to reach a healthy state of mind. Sorry for the rant, but it's been a challenging week. I guess we all have those sometimes, don't we? The trees pictured above were loaded full of Golden-crowned Kinglets and Dark-eyed Juncos. There were also a couple of Red-breasted Nuthatches and Brown Creepers to round things off.

As I expected, the birds were hiding pretty well. I could hear the trees crackling, knocking, scraping, and creaking as they were being blown in every direction. Nature has its own language. We probably ignore this language much of the time because we are geared as humans to go from Point A to Point B. We move on before we've had the chance to absorb the moment. It seems so natural to listen the trickle of a stream or the sound of the leaves crunching underneath our feet. It feels wonderful to take a slow breath of cool air as it settles deep into our lungs. Look at the waterfall above. There's barely a trickle of water running down now. I wonder how many years it took for the rocks to be etched out to the natural steps that they have become?
The trails at Wadsworth are well worn and easy to follow. They take you past Mountain Laurel groves, streams, old stone walls, tall deciduous and evergreen trees. This park tells a unique story to each person who walks its trails. I can tell you that there is no shortage of woodpeckers in this park. I saw Downy Woodpeckers , Hairy Woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and even Pileated Woodpeckers. Unfortunately, it turned its back on me when I asked it if I could take a picture. These giant cousins of the Ivory-billed hammer so hard that it almost sounds like someones hitting a tree with a bat. Their call is like something that came straight out of a jungle. These are great birds. We should appreciate them while we can.

Does this Red-bellied Woodpecker look a little lazy to you? Maybe its just taking a break. In addition to the woodpeckers, I also came across a secret society of Black-capped Chickadees and Tufted Titmice hiding in deep, sheltered area of the woods.

This entire area really is a nice place to take a walk. So was it worth enduring the wind and walking miles of trails through the park? I'm ashamed that I even asked myself that question.

21 comments:

Ruth said...

Braving the Elements?!! come on Larry! Where is your snow and freezing rain? We are being walloped. (just teasing). It's just that I am very envious of your woodpeckers. The Pileated does look prehistoric to me. Does the Red-bellied have a red belly? Our area is the very northern limit of their range and they are very rare here. Thanks for the nice birding outing.

Larry said...

Ruth-Actually it did snow too but I didn't want to make the post too long.

The Red-bellied does have a blush colored belly if you get a close-up view of it. The bird was named at a time that observers used to shoot the bird in order to get a good look at it.

Lynne said...

I'm with Ruth- we've been punded here too. We got a mix of snow and ice (6 inches of snow). That looks like a gorgeous area that you birded. I'm envious of your great look at the pileated. I'm crazy about that bird and see them seldom enough that they're really special to see. Turkey vultures are one of my faves too. Lucky you!

Larry said...

Lynne -That's it-I'm changing the title!

Ruth said...

A Greater Awareness! You caved in too fast on the title! Good to have a chuckle on a day when I have been stuck indoors.

The Zen Birdfeeder said...

Good birds, good walk, good life. Paying attention to the little things. Sounds kinda zen-like to me!

mon@rch said...

Was cold around here also! I love your Pileated and great list of other birds that you had! 6 inches?? We had freezing rain!

J. Karl Clampit said...

Great post. Congrats on the Pileated Woodpecker picture. I'm waiting for the day I get to see one of these guys up close.

PA-Birder said...

Nice post...Walking is my favorite means of transportation while birding.
Vern

Jayne said...

So many woodpeckers... must have sounded like a construction site! Glad it was fully worth the walk. :c)

Larry said...

ruth-The title just didn't match what I wanted to get across.that's the real reason for the change.-no problem taking a bit of friendly ribbing.

Zen-I probably do have some Zen tendencies.-I've never really studied what Zen is all about though.-

Monarch-I don't really list all the birds I see.-maybe on one or two posts-that's about it.

jkarl-I'm glad to get close to the Pileateds but I've yet to get a good photo of one.Always something wrong-too blurry,facing the wrong way like this one etc.

pabirder-I love to walk which is a good thing because I love to eat too.

Jayne-yes -It was quite the festival of knocking woodpeckers.

Veery said...

It is hard to get out when the weather turns ugly, but mostly it's worth it!

My favorite line is the secret society of Black-capped Chickadees and Tufted Titmice. For me, winter birding success comes from finding little packs of birds here and there!

Cheers to keeping it simple and finding heaven on Earth in birding!

Mary said...

Larry, this is probably the best post you've written - my opinion.

Yes, we lose sight of what really matters in this complicated world we have made. You understand it, I understand it, and others who visit here do, too. Isn't that why we head for the woods when we can?

Great post and photos. I particularly just LOVE the last photo of the waterfall.

RuthieJ said...

Hey Larry,
There's nothing like some quality time spent in the woods to take you mind off all the crappy stuff that doesn't make sense sometimes. I'm glad you got those good woodpecker pictures. I can never get those pileateds to cooperate with me either!

Larry said...

Veery-You know of the secret society of Chickadees and Titmice then?

Mary-Glad you liked the post and can relate to it.Perhaps I should make it my last post and quit while I'm ahead.

ruthiej-It seems those Pileated Woodpeckers always know when I'm making a move for my camera.One of these days I'll catch one at the right angle.I enjoy experiencing them live more than in a photo anyway.

Jochen said...

I agree with Mary: a brilliant post, possibly your best yet (and that is saying something!).
Of course I always enjoy nice weather when I am outside and hate to get caught out in the open by rain or a storm.
However, from the comfort of my sofa those days out birding in extreme weather conditions seem to be the more pleasant and enduring memories.
Good winter birding to you and have fun with the Crossbills and Redpolls (where has your nice comment gone?), I never managed that many woodpeckers on one day in Michigan, I always missed out on the Pileated (only saw it a few times).

Larry said...

jochen-Sorry about that deleted comment.There was something I mentioned about a Hoary Redpoll sighting that turned out to be inaccurate on my part. I'll go back and comment again.I've had decent luck seeing Pileated Woodpeckers but not much luck with photos.-One Woodpecker I have not seen much of in CT is The Red-headed Woodpecker. In fact, I've only seen one.

Jochen said...

Hi Larry!
Red-headed was also the rarest Woodpecker in SE Michigan and I encountered it only once there. A good place where I saw it many times is Rondeau Provincial Park in southern Ontario.
And about the Hoaries, they can be extremely tough, but it is good fun spending some time with Redpolls, whatever the result is in the end.

dguzman said...

What a beautiful place to bird. Your photos really captured it and made me wish I'd been there with you!

MojoMan said...

Larry: I was out in the woods at about the same time over here in MA. I had the wind, but not the birds. It was fun comparing your experience to mine.

Patrice said...

Larry, I'm a little late, but I'm chiming in with Mary and Jochen. This post is your best one yet. Yes, we do make life too complicated for ourselves. That's why you and I and our friends here head to the hills and the woods when we can. And when we can't, we visit your blog. Thankfully we have you. And your photos are magnificent. Thank you.