Sunday, November 7, 2010

Joe Neal's November 7, 2010, report from dawn birding to Lake Fayetteville

It’s on the frosty side this morning at Lake Fayetteville. I see coots and a few grebes, and Canada Geese I can’t see. Wind-wise it’s calm, and for Fayetteville-Springdale, quiet. I hear YA HONK YA HONK, punctuated by a deep, booming, resonating base: basso profondo. That voice resonates the whole world, at least the part I can see & hear. I forget how cold my hands are. Basso is the first chair bass goose in a great choir.

Just behind me and all around the Environmental Study Center are robins: 10 acres (maybe more) of caroling, chuckling, and some singing. They’re in honey suckle bushes plucking red berries, chugging down hackberries from up in trees. In bunches of 5-6 and 10, they perch and vocalize away, maybe like me, waiting for sun-up. There is welcome light above the trees by 8:00, and more robins flying in from the blue north in dozens, all silver underneath, reflecting new sun.

Usually I don’t have trouble feeling glad to be alive, but I have my times and don’t we all? This morning there is basso profondo and Turdus migratorius as reminders, if nothing else. But I’m not done.

I heard soft WHO WHOs of a female Great Horned Owl when I first arrived. Now I hear raucous CAWs of 5 excited American Crows, coming from the same area. All the cawing tells me they found ‘em an owl. Little better defines our crows than owl parties. The resulting uproars add charm to the landscape. Mall and freeway may not be far away, but it remains a wild place with an owl and a pack of hyper excited crows.

Beyond geese, robins, and an owl-crow event lay brushy old fields. In the bright fall sunlight, Fox Sparrows sing the morning: sure cheer CHEER WEE WEE cheerEE. Then, from thickets, when I try to move in for a close look, CHOCK CHOCK.

This afternoon there is a memorial for my old friend, Eleanor Johnson, who passed at 99. I knew her for 40 years. Among many good causes she supported was Arkansas Audubon Society. Her motto was, “One person’s problem is every person’s problem.” She walked the walk. I think the singing this morning is for her, and her kind, who notice the world is a complex place, and leave it a little better than they found it.   

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