Monday, October 30, 2006

a walk in the woods

After all of the birding excitement on Saturday, I decided to go for a walk Sunday morning to see if I could find any more unusual birds lurking around. With the leaves off the trees, our woods seems much more open and the way things are laid out I have practically no chance of getting lost for any length of time. There's the road to the west, swamp to the south and east, and creek to the north. If my feet get wet or meet road, it's time to turn around.

I started out in the tamaracks between the new house and the creek; some day I hope to have a trail from the back door to the creek. But I didn't see much there, except for fallen tamarack needles, so I went back through the yard up the driveway and started exploring some of the land south of the pond. This part of the land used to be a gravel pit; I don't know exactly when they stopped digging, but the pit shows up in a 1939 aerial photo. There are some mature trees in the pit area, so I'm guessing no gravel has been dug for at least thirty years. But whatever machinery was used to dig gravel left a nice ridge which is still a clear trail. It is one of my favorite places to walk on our land, but one I hardly ever get to. Imagine living on 40 acres and having my experience on mostly fifteen at the most. Pathetic, isn't it.

gravel pit trail
I found my way from the gravel pit ridge (which, if I ever won the lottery or procured my own backhoe I would proceed to make into a lakeshore, connecting with my existing pond) into the woods south of the house, eventually meeting up with the old barbed wire that roughly marks the south property line. From there it was an easy walk to the old railroad grade, which I have kept clear as a trail, and back to the house.

The only birds I saw were the three or so ruffed grouse I flushed during my ramblings. I actually had six flushes, but the first three may have been the same bird flushed three times. I later saw three grouse flush from the same area, so there are at least three grouse on our property.

I think the best place for birding on my land is right by the house. Chickadees were incredibly active Sunday; I sat on an old tree stump and watched them flit about the feeder for a long time. There were also goldfinches, red breasted and white breasted nuthatches, and an occasional downy or hairy woodpecker. I'm still hoping to see the gray jay or the black backed woodpecker again, just to prove I'm not crazy. Wait, I think it's too late for that. :)


vicki said...

ah- the second that I saw your post I realized that YOU were the one for whom I was looking for THE LARCH video. No luck thus far, plus I confused it with a post Laura, at Somewhere in NJ ( a very nice blog) wrote.

This looks like a nice woodsy walk. Ruffled grouse are lovely birds. I've finally gotten some goldfinches and just today, juncos here in the city- a pleasant change from non-stop sparrows.

LauraHinNJ said...

Vicki - I've been gushing about tamaracks on lots of blogs - I can see how you got mixed up!

Deb, I got such a chuckle about your post on the gray jay and black-backed woodpecker. You think of them as *northern* birds - can you get much farther north than you? I chased both on trips to the Adirondacks for years and finally saw both the same summer. The gray jay is a really neat bird - worth putting up with the black flies for.

Anonymous said...

A "gray jay" is a whiskey-jack, right? We don't have them right around here, but there are lots about 3 hours west in the mountains. I looked up the black-backed woodpecker - I've never even seen a picture before. It's amazing how many variations there are on a theme.

Anonymous said...

I remember gray jays (we called them whiskey-jacks) spending much of the winter around our place, making a ruckus; them and the red squirrels. I still see the squirrels, but I haven't seen a gray jay in years. I wonder if they're not around, or if my own habits have changed too much for me to encounter them.

the dharma bum said...

i love this time of year too, if for no other reason than that with the leaves down you can see so much.

the gravel pit trail looks great, that photo really draws me in.

Anonymous said...

It is nice to see the contours of the land when the leaves are down. Your trail looks so inviting!

Floridacracker said...

Yes, it's way too late ... we saw you wearing only a towel and barefoot in the snow remember!

That is a beautiful trail.

All this time I thought Grey Jays were just a western bird.

vicki said...

I just happened on The Deliberate Homemaker. Tis wonderful! Post more!

Deb said...

vicki- I've looked up the dialogue for The Larch episode online, but it just lacks something without those English voices! I hope my public TV station plays it sometime soon.

And, what a coincidence, I was just contemplating deleting that blog because I've been so disorganized in my homemaking attempts lately that I haven't had much to say. But thanks for your support; I'll keep at it now!

laurahinnj- I guess I forget that most of the continental US, even parts of Canada, are below my latitude! But there are some birds that are seen more frequently even 100 miles north of here.

madcap- Yup, whiskeyjack. I always liked that name. I have a book in storage somewhere that shows all of the woodpecker species in the world, and while some of them look quite different they all do seem to be variations on a theme.

Laura- interesting thought about changing habits. But with a raucous species like a jay, I would think they would not go unnoticed.

dharma bum- I'd like to try to make that trail into part of a mini cross country ski loop, if we get enough snow.

lynne- When the leaves are on and the underbrush is thick, I hardly notice that the trail is at least twenty feet higher than the land to the left (in the picture). Makes me wonder what the land looked like before they mined the gravel!

FC- :) Those barefoot in the snow days are coming again soon!

I didn't realize the gray jay's range was so extensive in the west; perhaps because I used a guide to eastern birds only for a long time. I've only seen it before on the Canadian border.