Meanderings: Bird truisms


Someone should publish a Field Guide to Bird Butts. A good over/under bet would be that 75% of all warbler sightings are of a bird high in a tree, facing away. The more rare the bird the more likely this is to be true. There are field guides to bird songs; special field guides for hawks, there are special sections in many guides for swan bills, flight patterns, swallow profiles and flycatcher calls. Why not a field guide to bird butts? It could be titled:
The Bird Watchers Guide to Birding Under Tall Trees (B.U.T.T.) or Birding from Behind.

A gray cat bird in the Tall Pines Area at Walnut Woods Metro Park. Photo/Mindi McConnell

Bird butts already play a major role in bird identification. A phoebe’s tail pumping is nothing more than butt wagging. All of the wrens expose their butts for easy identification. Ruddy ducks are readily identified for the same reason. Catbirds already have distinctive butt coloring. There could be an entire section of puddle duck butts.

That 75% of warbler sightings are of birds in a treetop facing away is but one, of many, birding truisms. Others are:
90% of all ducks on a pond are just out of binocular range.
99% of all sparrows land with their backs to you.
The sun is always in your eyes.
Woodpeckers, nuthatches and creepers are always on the back side of the tree.
Woodcocks only display for other people.
The birder with the biggest camera lens has the most authoritative opinion.
You should have been here _________ (insert yesterday, last week, this morning, etc.)
Butt I digress….

Walnut Woods Metro Park – March 24, 2020
I hiked the eastern portion of the Sweetgum Trail. It was the second day into the Governor’s stay at home moratorium due to the coronavirus. (The Governor did allow for hikes in parks with the recommendation to maintain the six foot distance.)

Clearly families were taking advantage of their parks. All of the parking lots were nearly full and it was obvious that someone had said “get these kids out of the house – NOW!” However, it was easy to keep a reasonable social distance. Once on the trail it was rare to be within 100 feet of another group. It was marvelous to see people turn to the parks for release from the tensions of the nonstop media and internet attention to the virus.

A child walks on the Sweetgum Trail at Walnut Woods Metro Park. Photo/Amy Riley

The Sweetgum Trail was perfect for that day. It is a blacktopped multipurpose trail used by walkers, skaters, runners, pets, bikers and wheelchairs and they were all out.

Three Creeks Metro Park – March 25, 2020
Sometimes you should trust your gut. The older we get and the more experienced we become the more often we tend to “trust our gut.” Somewhere back in the primal part of our brain we have stored experiences that manifest themselves as “an instinct” or a “feeling” that shaped a preconceived notion. Sometimes your gut is wrong.

It’s been a couple of days of hard rain and I was very much looking forward to a day in the parks. Three Creeks was probably not my best choice, as the name implies, Three Creeks, I should have expected a lot of bottom land. When I arrived nearly all of the trails were closed due to high water.

Sunrise at Heron Pond in Three Creeks Metro Park. Photo/John Bonnett

The two trails open were the Evergreen Pet Trail and the Heron Pond Loop totaling only 1.1 miles. Neither seemed to fit what I was looking for. The Heron Pond Loop is seldom out of sight of the parking lot and though I’d never been on the Evergreen Pet Trail, a “pet” trail was not enough to completely burn off three or four days of cabin fever.

I decided that since I was already there, and committed to hiking every Metro Parks trail, I would get these two under my belt and maybe have time to make it to another park. You would think that by the time I’ve reached my age I would have learned not to trust preconceived ideas, or totally “trust my gut”, especially regarding what to expect when you step onto a Metro Parks trail.

A man and his dog hike on the Evergreen Trail at Three Creeks Metro Park. Photo/Tina Fronk

Fifty feet into the Evergreen Pet Trail I knew my internal definition of a “pet” trail was wrong. I was immediately into a lushly green white pine woods somewhat reminiscent for the Pacific Northwest with moss covered logs, the scent of pines and the softness of a pine needle covered trail. There is a stillness that only comes in a dense pine woods.

It required over an hour for me to walk this half-mile trail and I walked nearly a mile on that half-mile trail, covering and recovering portions for better views into the woods or looking for the best photo. The last half of the trail is in a deciduous woods. I recommend walking the trail counter clockwise with the white pine section first.

Miles- 18.3 of 236
Birds- 79 of 200
I’ve hiked a total of 25.5 miles to achieve 18.3 trail miles.