Learning Birds

Yesterday being the Jewish new year, we went for a walk.  I’m not Jewish, but my husband’s father was, so we celebrate the Jewish holidays without observing them exactly.  Since I don’t know the Jewish traditions (raised Episcopal myself), I go along with what my husband suggests.  So the night before last we had a really fine dinner, and yesterday we spent at home, except for our excursion to the park.  Taking a walk is something my husband remembers often doing on New Year’s when he was a kid.

We ended up walking along the North Pond.  It’s a good time to go there because the waterfowl have started migrating.  The bird mix at the pond is changing, but lots of the familiar birds are still around.

I used to walk around the North Pond every morning and am used to seeing the various ducks and the inevitable geese.  I often see the black-crested night heron, which is one of my favorite birds.  I saw a large blue heron on a platform in the pond as I rode by on the bus the other day.

It astonishes me to see so much wildlife in this very urban setting.  We see more animals in the wild here than we see in Michigan, where the animals are unused to humans and much more elusive.  At the North Pond in the winter, I’ve even seen a coyote, sitting on the ice under a tree one morning!  (A woman who was nearby when I spotted it was worried whether it would eat her little dog.)

Yesterday, we’d been there only a few minutes when we saw this group of birds sunning themselves on a far-off snag.  The brown birds turned out to be cormorants, which I had never seen before.

Cormorants with gull at the North Pond (Credit: Celia Place)

Cormorants with gull at the North Pond, © 2012 Celia Place

I learned later that the cormorants’ feathers are not waxed, so that they have to allow their wet feathers to dry before they can fly off.  (Hence the eloquence of this picture published on the National Geographic website.)

I didn’t have my good Nikon camera with me, only the littler camera I always carry.  I’m sorry I couldn’t zoom in closer or get a picture that was clearer.  Still, I’m proud when I can take a picture of something living; it’s much more difficult than taking a picture of flowers or inanimate objects like sculptures or buildings.

I have a few other good pictures of birds—some pictures of my sister’s dogs—and a few really bad pictures of snakes that I took when I was scared.

Check out the turtles in the top picture—there are about ten of them, which I didn’t even notice at the time because I was concentrating on the birds so intently.

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