The Morning After

After living in the company of the glorious music we performed in the Return of the Unity Temple Choir Concerts on December 18 and 19, surviving my participation in the concerts and revisiting particularly resonant passages in my head – I went out to the Portage this beautiful sunshiny morning to reclaim my walk routine. At least that was what first struck me as I started up the trail: the past two weeks it seems between spates of inclement weather and the need to practice my choral parts, my sense of routine was minimal at best. Beyond feeding the birds, playing a little piano and swimming, there was only room for choir.

But now we have a couple weeks off before we resume rehearsals. It has been such a profound transition from rehearsing remotely to video performances to learning all the music and singing together, vaccinated and masked, as a choir in live performance again, I found myself exhausted after the first performance and feeling let down a bit after the second, as if I never wanted it to end.

I suppose if I were still working and had less time to preoccupy myself with the clinical details of my moods, this would all be chalked up to just part of the end-of-year-holiday madness, but whatever it is, experiences seem more vivid and significant as I search for meaning in the morass.

But enough of that heavy stuff! It was a beautiful, sunny, crisp morning at the Portage. And I barely saw any birds. A footnote to that – I could not participate in the Christmas Bird Count this year because of the choir concert which fell on the same day, December 18. But the few birds I did see this morning were delightful in their own way, and here they are.

Early on, I heard what I thought was an American Tree Sparrow where I have in the past run into flocks of foraging birds, but did not see it. I proceeded up the path, pausing now and then to listen to a distant call or silence, the wind making me glad I had on my long underwear. Then I heard a Black-capped Chickadee call to me, before it appeared. I have come to consider the Chickadees my Greeter Birds at the Portage. Invariably they have always solicited my attention.

That was just before the opening in the fence. I didn’t feel like walking back along the river toward the railroad tracks or going in the other direction toward the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) but I stood for a moment after going through the break in the fence and managed to capture a couple distant shots of a Red-bellied Woodpecker.

I briefly saw a male Northern Cardinal but did not photograph it. When I got to the second bridge I could see some Mallards in the water that was shallow enough to melt. I started walking the trail on the opposite side of the water.

Here’s what the Portage looked like this morning. It was nice to see a bit more water, albeit mostly frozen at first.

I got caught up to the Mallards which turned out to be two very cold looking birds.

I started walking back on the trail in my normal fashion and then was stopped by a Downy Woodpecker who began foraging with intensity up the trunk of a very small tree. I stood and watched him for quite a while. Forgive me if I took too many pictures.

Then, as I stood there, I began to hear a Dark-eyed Junco, another Red-bellied Woodpecker, and then American Tree Sparrows – confirming what I had heard earlier – and a couple of the Tree Sparrows posed for photographs.

The sight of the American Tree Sparrows made my morning. I have now learned how to identify them by their call, and they behaved in their usual fashion, a foraging flock of about a dozen of them or so. I suspect there were more birds at the Portage that were hiding. Bright sunshine on a cold day could be good for raptors too, although I didn’t see my usual Red-tailed Hawk.

Below is a quick shot through the muck and mire of the kitchen window of the Cooper’s Hawk that visited my yard yesterday morning. I suspect its presence, when unseen to me, explains the absence of birds in the yard on an otherwise lovely day.

I hope to be back sooner than later with more retrospective posts. It’s probably a good time of year to start going through summer and fall photos that I haven’t processed yet. I hope your holiday season is going along safe and warm, wherever you are.

5 thoughts on “The Morning After

  1. Lisa, glad the concerts went so well. I did you your car at Portage this morning as I was heading to an appointment. My birding there has been about the same. Few American tree sparrows, regular woodpeckers and a couple of brown creepers. But less birds, fewer walkers, reduced leaf cover and colder weather does allow one to have a some time to study the few birds that favor this location in very late Fall. Thanks for your thoughts and more woodpecker pictures.

    • Thanks for your comments, Bob. Glad to hear about the creepers – I have seen them more recently in Riverside but it’s really all the same ecosystem. It still boils down to finding the “flock” wherever it has moved and trying to become part of the scenery. This was actually my first visit to the Portage since the 9th when I took fewer photos of entirely different species.

  2. A lovely set of woodpecker pictures, Lisa.

    I am glad that your choir concerts went well even if they left you with a bit of a hangover. I just hope that we will all be able to gather and sing in more natural circumstances in the new year.

    • Thanks so much, Tom. I just kept standing watching the Downy expecting him to fly away but he didn’t so I had to keep shooting. The concerts were intense. We got standing ovations, which I’m sure were more about people just happy to have live music than our performance, but it felt so good. I did hear an endorsement for singing on the radio this morning which is what was being said right before the pandemic started, so I hope that’s a good sign for the future.

Leave a Reply