midwinter visitors

14 01 2009

somethingdifferentLook carefully at this group of mallards and you’ll see that, in fact, they’re not all mallards. It’s like that old Sesame Street skit, “One of these things is not like the other things, one of these things just doesn’t belong…

The last couple of days have been good for our less common Sapsucker Woods birds: the day before this wildfowl visitor showed up (any guesses as to its identity?) we had several great looks at a northern shrike terrorizing the north side of the pond.  I even overheard someone this morning saying that they had watched a shrike impale and dismantle a mouse just a hundred feet off of Sapsucker Woods Rd. Looking at the Sapsucker Woods eBird data from the last 100 years, it shows that shrikes are fairly common during the fall and winter, but the odd duck out is a fairly rare occurrence.  

noshpondNow, you might be thinking that a duck and a hook-billed songbird aren’t all that exciting; but add in a sprinkling of dozens of pine siskins, a healthy dose of american tree sparrows, and a light dash of white-throated sparrows, and you’ve got quite a diversity of birds to watch.  Not to mention the red-tailed hawk that skimmed by right outside the windows of the lunchroom.  And the furtive brown beady-eyed mink that I saw in the gloaming last night.  Plus a group of rosy-breasted robins in the late dusk sunlight, high in the trees.

So keep an eye on those windows! Despite the single-digit highs of the next few days, there’s no telling what else the woods will reveal…

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Groundhog Day, of a sort…

14 10 2007

groundhogdayDuring our mid-October rendition of summer, with temperatures reaching in the low 80s as recently as the start of last week, I would eat my spartan lunch on the back deck of the Lab. Truly, one of the benefits of working at the Lab must be the availability of a beautiful view for lunch-either from the deck or from the staff lounge on the second floor. Each day, at approximately 11:48, I would seat myself at the end of the deck with my lunch and, with a whiff of inevitability, wait for the show to begin.

The first day it happened we talked in hushed whispers, our forks still, eyes wide and smiling…The second day, our amazement turned to disbelief as a carbon copy of the day before repeated itself. By the fourth and fifth days, it began to bear an uncanny resemblance to the Bill Murray classic, “Groundhog Day“, and I began to ponder the significance of this beautiful, repeated occurrence.

What sort of a phenomenon could make a hungry Lab worker-bee stop eating and watch?
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