Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Critters aplenty

Our campsite here along the Mississippi River is literally crawling with creatures. We have seen at least 5 large toads hopping across our grass, and one small green tree frog. The cicadas are huge and rest on the concrete parking pads. Crickets scurry everywhere. All are safe from Opal because her cone slows her down.

Yesterday at Lake Merrisach, I got up early to walk around the campground while it was still cool. I saw many Great Blue Herons, which were flying low across the water and honking their calls to each other. The park has a pond designated for "Kiddie Fishing Only," and I spent about 45 minutes sitting on the banks. I could see many small fish near the water's edge, and at one point something emerged from the muddy bank nearly at my feet, stirred up the water, and disappeared. I assume it had fish for breakfast. A young female Cardinal approached me saucily and we stared at each other for a good 5 minutes before I moved and startled her.

Across the little pond, in a grove of oak trees, I kept hearing an unfamiliar bird call, a sort of high hoarse chirping, and what was obviously woodpecker tapping. I walked across the foot bridge and on my way to the grove, saw a beaver on the water's edge. It didn't see me immediately, so I was able to watch this shy beastie for almost a minute. Then, bad Indian that I am, I stepped on a twig and the beaver dove out of sight.

There were about 5 woodpeckers in the grove and as they flew from tree to tree I was able to see that they were Red Headed Woodpeckers. Gorgeous! When I got back to the bus and looked in my Sibley's Guide to Eastern Birds, I learned that they were making the hoarse cries, as well. I also saw Blue Jays and Robins in the oak grove, and one Great Egret feeding in the pond, making short work of the little fish.

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