Thursday, May 22, 2008

Backyard birdwatching

I wanted to spend most of this past weekend outdoors, but the weather forecasters did an about-face Saturday afternoon with a prediction of rain. It never warmed up by the lake, but clouds covered the sky by late afternoon. In the evening the rains came.

After performing triage housework, I spent a little time in the Flamingo garden. The first time I went out I spotted a tiny grayish bird with a light breast, which made wish I knew my passerines better. I can't swear to an eye ring, but it may have been a blue-gray gnatcatcher—it reminded me of a wren.

While I was out, a male northern cardinal landed on one of the black lawn chairs, which set off his red beautifully. While northern cardinals are common here and I hear males calling frequently, I rarely see the whole bird out in the open in all his glory.

What startled me most was a male American redstart in the shrubbery in front of me. Although I've seen redstarts among the trees on Wooded Isle, I didn't expect to see one so close and so clearly on a bit of ground off 55th Street.

When I came out later, a male northern cardinal chased a female right in front of me. Ah, love. Then I spotted a gorgeous male common yellowthroat flitting around in the shrubs. When they came closer, I saw that the little figures bobbing for insects in the grass were female yellowthroats.

I must work harder to obtain a DSLR camera.

The glimpse of the mystery bird (blue-gray gnatcatcher?) and my observations of the redstart and the yellowthroats reminded me that even a micro-habitat as small as The Flamingo's garden is still a habitat. Combined with Burnham Park across the street and Jackson Park with its Wooded Isle, it offers both migrants and residents a rich source of protein and a place to perch and rest. And a place for me to stay a little connected to the natural world, even when I don't feel very well.

At about 10:30 Saturday night, a single, blinding flash of lightning was followed by a single, terrifying clap of thunder. Somehow it seemed the perfect end to the day—a reminder that nature has not yet been vanquished.

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