AN INTERESTING AFTERNOON AT BIRDS AS ART...
6:32 pm. Left the house for a health-walk before dinner. Had spent the morning working alternately on taxes and the digital photography files while watching/listening to Roddick lose the men's Wimbledon final after a valiant effort. More of the same in the afternoon with the tennis replaced by woman's golf. Aging, overweight veteran Meg Mallon putted her way past a hard-charging Annika Sorenstam for a relatively easy victory. It was her second U.S. Open win, separated by a record eleven years. (I guess that there is hope for us old geezers after all!)
#1: Mourning dove. I always count birds on my health-walks. I had waited a bit after the end of the golf because it was sunny and bright and too hot, but now there were gathering storm clouds. In search of adventure, I had decided to walk the mile to the pier down by the lake and then walk the big field to the right up and back and then finally head home. I usually drive all or most of the way to the lake and walk for about 30 minutes, but today I felt like doing more, especially since I had eaten too much in Katmai, in Nome, and in Barrow (and not really exercised much at all if you don't count hiking all over the soggy wet tundra with a big lens).
#2: Northern Flicker. Unexpected. Flushed while eating ants from a pile of dead wood on my block right next to the road. #3: Calling towhee followed quickly by #4, chipping cardinal. #5: Mockingbird. #6: two Wood Storks flying over ILE. It is getting darker. #7, Loggerhead Shrike requires a short detour to make sure that it is not another mocker. A mob of Fish Crows calling and playing in the wind yields species #8. Approaching the pier at about 6:55pm, I add #9 by way of a young Osprey and it's Dad on their nest pole. I am determined to make 20 with my extra-long walk. Jim and I usually wind up with 15 or 16 or 17 on our walks by the lake.
As I approach the pier where I will turn right and walk along the lake shore, it starts to drizzle. I decide to ignore the black clouds and head to the right when it starts to rain harder and the first lightening crackles... I change my mind and head for the shelter at the base of the pier and am soon glad that I did... It starts to rain harder and harder but visibility is still pretty good and it is pretty bright to the east. #s 10 and 11 are added to the list as a feisty Tricolored Heron gives chase to a great blue. An adult and juvenile little blue make 12, Red-Winged Blackbird and Boat-tailed Grackle 13 & 14, followed soon by #`15, a fly-by Great Egret. These storms blow through quickly I reason. It is about seven pm. But the rain turns into a monsoon and the wind roars from the west.
I spent the next hour and a half stretching, exercising, stretching again, doing my breathing exercises, all the while marveling at the storm which was not abating, but growing. A grey gloaming enveloped ILE. Thunder boomed and lightening flashed almost continuously. I was getting hungrier and hungrier and would not at all have minded getting wet, but the threat of getting hit by lightening was simply too great for me to do anything but stay put. Calmed by the sound of the rain, I dozed a bit while holding a few stretching positions that involved having one or both legs up on one of the benches in the shelter. I'd just about be asleep when "Bam!" I would be awakened by an especially loud clap of thunder.
In a bit I was up and about, anxious to get home and cook supper. But still thunder and lightening prevailed. Toads were hopping through the puddles and tree frogs were calling everywhere. The circular parking lot nearby was now a lake too... At about 8:10 or so, I glanced out over the lake through the solid gray wall of mist and rain when I saw an orange streak in the western sky; I was amazed that I was actually seeing traces of a sunset. A few minutes later a huge fuzzy orange ball somehow managed to emerge from under the orange slash in the sky. I was blown away. I could barely make out the end of the pier a few hundred yards away, yet there was a sunset, and a spectacular one at that. Oh how I wished for a long lens and a tripod. I thought of all of my neighbors missing out on this amazing show while parked in front of their TVs.
The rain had let up considerably and it was getting dark, so even though the lightening continued to flash, I headed for home and dinner. I began my journey by walking through an unavoidable six inch deep puddle and within minutes the rest of me was soaked. I was a bit scared and flinched every time the sky lit up (even though I knew that if I were hit there would be no time to be scared, no reason to flinch.) Halfway home I looked to my left and right there on the median was #16, a foraging Sandhill Crane, one of the locals. When I was scarcely 15 feet from the big bird, it was lit up by flash of lightening. The tree frogs were deafening as I made my way home, arriving at 8:50, two hours and 18 minutes after I had set out for a 45 minute walk!
I popped a piece of halibut into the broiler to go with some steamed organic spinach and my first attempt at heart-healthy home-made mayonnaise. I checked my e-mail and the only relevant one was from my friend and health guru Cliff Oliver--he would have approved of my menu... In his e-mail, he mentioned the fact that today was July 4th. Ah, I thought, that explains the big fireworks show that nature put on for me down by the lake and the unbelievable sunset. Strange as it might seem, I totally enjoyed the 90 minutes that I spent in the shelter watching and experiencing the violent weather. I was very relaxed and felt very much at peace. The mayonnaise? Not bad, but I need to change the seasonings. Hope that you had a great Fourth too!