Excuse me while I walk the dog…

Really, having a dog (or an iguana on a leash) is a great excuse to go outside and enjoy the nice weather, especially on weekends before test weeks.

As a matter of fact, one of our test weeks in February fell during the Great Backyard Bird Count weekend. Over the course of several ’emergency study detox walks’ we found some pretty cool birds we hadn’t seen yet in our area, as well as some that we love to see, like these ring-necked ducks and our (recently-discovered) little flock of rusty blackbirds, which are listed on the IUCN list as a vulnerable species due to their dramatic population declines in the last two decades.

38c aythya collaris copy124 Euphagus carolinus copy

I have also gotten back my nice-camera-using privileges, which means that there’s not as much I-Spy with photos anymore. I know, you’re disappointed that your weekly mental exercise is gone. For now.

76d Carpodacus mexicanus copy

At the small lake we travel to, there are two very loud woodpecker species and one very angry woodpecker species. You can usually hear the red-bellies and northern flickers from all the way across the pond, and it isn’t uncommon for downy woodpeckers to puff up and try to come after you whenever you interrupt their activities.

25d melanerpes carolinus copy97c Colaptes auratus copy

Something else we hear a lot of is the kingfisher that lives at the lake.

60b Ceryle alcyon copy

I’m actually surprised that he’s become more bold lately, sitting on the power lines while we walk around instead of diving for the trees at the first sound of footsteps. He’s not the only one, though. Now that it’s getting near nesting/breeding season, all the little boy songbirds are out in search of girlfriends.

43b poecile carolinensis copy 63d Bombycilla cedrorum copy

Anyway, we have also seen some awesome things in the area lately. Like these red-breasted mergansers (with a hooded merganser tagging along behind). We actually visited the lake looking for them for several days before we finally found the shy birds.

126 mergus serrator copy

We also have seen tons and tons and tons of gadwalls this year, though I’m not entirely sure why. They’ve actually been outnumbering the mallards recently.

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One of the other new things we saw at the lake was this little red and brown bird.

spotted towhee copy

Here’s a hint: it’s not a robin. It’s actually a spotted towhee! I’d never seen them before, but this one decided to watch the young pup wrestle around with his favorite buddy on lawn by the lake. I was so excited, but it unfortunately can’t go on the list since the Other Half decided to sleep in that morning. Tsk tsk.

Just half a mile down the road at the big lake we used to live next to sits a nice fishing spot and a recycling center. Across the street is a jogging trail that I used to quickly go check on some mallards as they came in for the night a few weeks ago. I wasn’t the only one eyeballing them, however.

114a Haliaeetus leucocephalus copy

This bald eagle had been hanging around the northern edge of the lake for a week or so, and I had caught it on its way home for the night. Meanwhile, the Other Half was finding some more…exotic… birds back at the recycling center.

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Yes, as a matter of fact, he called me to let me know that he needed rescuing because the car was surrounded by some very curious chickens. Of course I booked it back to the parking lot to find these chickens, only for the hen in front to come chasing after me. I had the brilliant idea to bring them home for the night and take them to the animal shelter in the morning. After all, they were looking a bit worse for wear; they were missing feathers and had a few scratches on them due to their adventures. An hour and a half later, we convinced a willing citizen to help us corner the now-wary chickens.

You’d think a species that can be hypnotized by pointing a finger at their face would be easy to catch. But no, they were scratching at our faces, running through the brush, and pecking at our shoes, the hellions. We finally got them after our group of three chicken-chasers grew to five when another car showed up and helped us corner them between two recycling dumpsters. Obviously I’m a bit out of practice catching loose chickens, but hopefully we don’t have to practice it again.

Besides, soon it will be warm enough to start seeing some of the wonderful reptiles in our area. Like rat snakes big enough to eat any loose chickens in the area so I don’t have to catch them. Heck, maybe we should have just put them under the red-shouldered hawk’s post and told him they were lesser prairie chickens.

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I bet he’d have totally believed us.

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