The First Thaw

I was almost going to revert back to sunnier and greener times – and I probably will in the next post – but it occurred to me that in the middle of summer, no matter how unbearably hot it gets, I won’t be going back to any cold, grey, icy scenes as something to look forward to, so I may as well organize a more recent outing here.

I went out yesterday morning to Riverside, where I hadn’t been since the end of December. The forecast was cloudy but warmer – and anything warmer than the 5 to 10-below wind chills sounded possible to me. Still I decided to carry the little mirrorless camera so my agility negotiating icy spots would not be compromised. I was sure there would be plenty of ice but at least there are no hills to navigate on the Riverside trail, unlike the Portage. Below is what the river looked like going over the Joliet Avenue bridge.

There was open water here, which was not always the case farther down the river. As I walked across the bridge I thought of the Yellow-rumped Warbler I saw close to the bridge back on December 22nd.

I started down the paved path, and I began to see some ducks in the water – but I was hearing an insistent little ticking call behind me. I turned around, and the Yellow-rumped Warbler was up in a tree telling me it was still here. I am glad I managed to get a photograph of it.

I don’t know exactly what it is, it’s probably a combination of things, but I think a point of mutual exchange occurs with birds sometimes that is plainly a result of my paying attention. This was not a “coincidence” but rather, the Yellow-rumped Warbler was responding to my thought about it. I remember a dear former boyfriend who was an electrical engineer, who used to say “thoughts are things.” Indeed they are.

I am also reminded of some lyrics from one of my favorite Peter Mayer songs, “World of Dreams”:

“In the smallest measure of anything at hand
Entities of energy are alive in a whirling dance
Even our own bodies are not as we perceive
But made of the same stuff our thoughts are made
In this world of dreams
So do we live and move amidst illusions?
Has what we’re seeing fooled us
And only exists in our minds?
And what are we to do with such conclusions?
For what cannot come true in a world of a
Mystical kind?”

Anyway, this encounter with the Yellow-rumped Warbler was special. It was encouraging to know it had survived the awful cold. I was beginning to wonder how much more cold I could take. Yesterday was the first day I managed without long underwear.

There were perhaps 50 Mallards total – where two weeks before there had been a couple hundred Canada Geese. There were no geese in the water yesterday. But there were diving ducks, which I had never seen at this point in the river before. Common Mergansers and Common Goldeneye.

It was gloomy all morning. The sun kept trying to get through the clouds but it didn’t happen.

Here’s how the river looked closer to the foot bridge.

And the foot bridge itself.

The closer I got to the ice, the more serious it looked.

But at least the foot bridge had a railing, and I was able to grasp the suspender cable at the end to go downhill toward the foot trail, which was a lot safer.

Not knowing what kind of pictures I could get of birds with that camera under these conditions, I just tried when I could, and got lucky with the one cardinal at the top of the post – they have been difficult subjects lately – and a few mixed results otherwise. There weren’t a lot of birds out. And yet I managed to report 16 species.

A Downy Woodpecker and a Dark-eyed Junco

And yes, another Brown Creeper. I’m just amazed the little camera did such a good job.

Not much else from yesterday – just snowy ice and predictable gloom. The temperatures rose quite a bit by the afternoon. Today was supposed to be cloudy and I started cursing the sun when it came out because I only had plans to go grocery shopping. But I decided to make more oatmeal cookies before I went out. I’ve been hooked on these lately – I’ve been making them with yogurt instead of milk and they’re not too sweet, just full of oats and raisins.

The last cookie – and the new batch for future consumptions…

May as well go out with the same color as the beginning. I will be back shortly with greens.

10 thoughts on “The First Thaw

  1. Lisa, I enjoyed your reflective ruminations about the cold, the warbler, and even oatmeal cookies. Which, I’m glad you enjoy and I avoid. 16 species in one morning walk is a good day. I was at LRS house this morning and have yet to see 16 different birds all year. I liked the pictures of the goldeneyes and mergansers. I also noticed that you use the same ice cream containers for storage that I use for freezing my spit pea soup. Keep writing and stay warm.

    • Thanks, Bob, for your delightful comments. It wasn’t easy taking a picture of the cookies in those containers without providing a free commercial but I use them for everything, including vegetable stock in the freezer, various sorted tea bags on top of the fridge, oh, at work I had paper clips and binder clips sorted in them…and left them there: they’re just to good to throw away. I have to go somewhere else besides my two primary destinations, I just hate driving. But as the days get longer and it gets warmer, who knows? Stay warm too!

    • Narrow strips of pavement on the sides were clear of ice. I just took it slow and used the railing. The downhill ice coming off the bridge was the challenge, but I only had about one or two steps at the very end with nothing to hold onto. 🙂

  2. A delight, albeit cold adventure always seems worth it when we get back to cookies and for me, added hot coffee. Loved your YRWarbler story, Lisa. Be careful out there with the ice! My husband tells me that every time I go out, I’m passing it on to you too. 🙂

    • Thanks, Donna! I haven’t had much of a desire to go out lately but then I feel bad when I don’t – since I made it my “job” to go out and look for birds every day – lol. Doing a few more backyard lists. There must be 40 goldfinches in the yard this morning. But also 60 house sparrows…

      • It’s been too cold for me to want to go anywhere too, I’ve been content on watching my backyard birds too. 🙂 Goldfinches I do not have, and I’ve got their favorites in my feeders. I keep watching for them! That’s a lot of House Sparrows! My flock of maybe 20 House Sparrows come through mid-morning, fill their bellies and move on.

      • I suspect you are not in as densely populated (human) area as I am. The goldfinches, except for maybe a local pair, don’t come to the yard until they have eaten every last seed in the wild. I have usually noticed a synchronicity between the disappearance of goldfinches at the Portage and their appearance in my yard. So I am enthusiastically supporting them in the winter and not expecting to see them at the feeders the rest of the year. The House Sparrows are simply…who they are. I took to bribing them with cracked corn to keep them from eating all the suet so the woodpeckers still had some. 🙂

      • I am remote, we live about 30 miles down a peninsula on Maryland’s Eastern Shore (east side of Chesapeake Bay). The EShore is nothing but huge farms and forests, many tributaries from the CBay, and so lots of marsh/wetlands. The historical waterfront towns all started as watermen towns. Our town is still very quaint, population for entire wide zip code area is less than 1500. Eastern Neck NWR is 11 miles from my house. I’ve seen Goldfinch on the thistles at the refuge. Now that the thistle is gone, I’ve not seen any more Goldfinch anywhere around. Darn it. lol

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