Friday, June 8, 2012

June 8: Wet Field

This morning I led a small group on a bird walk on the Head of Tide Preserve in Belfast. The pathway through the old farm fields was supposed to have been mowed, but it's been so wet that our Stewardship Director wasn't able to get to it till this afternoon. So we waded through some very wet waist-high grass in the day's early hours, carefully listening and watching for birds, and seeing more than a few trampled patches where deer must have lain the night before. By the time we left, my jeans were entirely soaked through, but when you're really focused on what you're doing, that kind of thing isn't really much of an inconvenience.

At one point I made a side trip to check out an alternative trail--on my own so as not to force the group to get even more wet than they already were. As I started down the other trail, I flushed a ruffed grouse and her chicks. I should say, first I heard the loud wingbeats of a flushed grouse. Then I saw a lot of small, round brown things scatter up into the nearby trees. I got my binoculars on one, and only then realized it was a grouse chick, still spotted and fluffy with down. I had no idea that grouse chicks could fly while so small! With my next step, I flushed another chick; it had opted to hunker down rather than fly. It flew about ten feet up into a nearby tree. Off in the woods, meanwhile, the mother grouse was crashing around and giving a distress call in an attempt to lure me away from the chicks. I didn't want to accidentally step on one or distress her or them any further, and the trail ahead looked quite swampy, so I turned back and rejoined the group waiting in the wet field.

This is what it's like
to be a deer--belly wet
in tall grass, alert.

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