Evening Cormorants

I got to Stricker’s Pond tonight just as the sun was setting. I didn’t note much bird activity: mostly a few American Goldfinch flight calls and a handful of Gray Catbirds meowing from the bushes. It was a pleasant walk though, going there at a time I’m not used to doing so. I was settling down for the night and so were the birds. A few Great Blue Herons flew across the water, and a flock of Mallards made a journey to their beds. Some birds, like the lone Common Nighthawk, were just getting started on their evening.

The coolest roosting birds were pointed out to me by a couple in the woods.

Cormorants? Where? I had scanned the pond perfectly when I was out in the open.

They were up in dead trees near the water, on the other side of the thick woods from me. I could just barely see them through the leaves. I knew I’d have a better view from the observation deck so I made my way over there.

I counted 15, but there could have been more. Some were perfectly silhouetted against the sky, but others were tucked back closer to the living trees at the shore. Plus, it was getting dark and everything was melding together in the low light. The fifteenth cormorant I found was barely distinguishable from the tree it was on.

They were probably at their nighttime roosts, but still awake. For the most part they sat there and slowly preened their feathers, but two of them got into a brief spat that I captured on film. I couldn’t see the orange on their faces that well, or much other detail for that matter, but I liked watching this little moment of their lives. They’ll all be down south before we know it, so we have to enjoy all the weird, funky water birds while we can.

The Peregrines of Madison

On my last post, I made passing reference to the Peregrine Falcons at the MG&E power station. There’s a nesting box there and they’re easy to spot flying through the surrounding area.

(And yes, this is the power station that caught fire last month.)

Before meeting a friend last week, I thought I’d check out the falcons in their, uh, natural habitat? Actually, they’re pretty adaptable in cities, where taller structures mimic the cliffs they traditionally nest on.

I didn’t even have a chance to get my camera ready before I saw the morning’s falcon. It flew out from an altitudinous smoke stack and made a few circles above me while calling loudly. I grabbed my binoculars and got a good look at it before it flew into the nooks and crannies of the plant.

I took a walk around the block and saw, in addition to the falcon,
18 Rock Pigeons
1 Mourning Dove
6 Ring-billed Gulls
1 Barn Swallow
2 American Goldfinches
and 8 House Sparrows.

I made my way back to my original viewpoint trying to find the falcon again. I hadn’t had any luck from the other sides. After a few minutes of scanning, I discovered it as a little dot on one of the towers. It stood relatively motionless for several minutes while I snapped pic after pic. Unfortunately, due to the distance of the birds, they were all pretty grainy, but I thought I’d include one here. It’s of a bird that lives a fascinating life in the heart of the city, but most human residents overlook.