Along with not bringing hats (this is winter, right?), neither one of us brought a bird book, (waiting for sighs and gasps here! This is a birding trip--yeesh!!!) and Marie forgot binocs (more sighs and gasps--"What are they thinking?" I can hear you saying--BUT luckily I brought mine), and we did pack snacks. Hey, important stuff like that counts, right? A birding expedition and no binocs, no hats, no books, but we had Triscuts and cream cheese and nuts and water!
When we arrived, die-hard birders (the real deal) were flinging Latin names around of birds I never knew existed. I suddenly became quite interested in squirrels and tried to watch them intently in case anyone wanted a comment from me on some specie I knew nothing of. I kept looking at trees and saying things like, "Oh, a sycamore tree. Ah!" or "Look, a melanistic-phased gray squirrel". I did alot of squirrel watching.
So as my feet turned to ice blocks standing and waiting outside (Marie had had the heat on in the van--and we got too warm) we at last piled into vehicles to drive out to see the fabulous birds and waterfowl Detroit has to offer at this frigid time of the year. The leader mentioned that the birds are here at Belle Isle because the river is the last to freeze so this is where they hang out. Now I need to tell you, that the leader of this group also mentioned that it would be good to have spotting scopes as opposed to binocs (remember I brought mine) which were not strong enough to see the birds today. Look Mister, I had my binocs and by golly I was going to use them. I would simply make up detail.
Well, by Jim, he was right. We pulled to the side of the river and the pepper flakes in the distance near the Ren Cen were geese and gulls. Now, that does not excite me. Geese and gulls. All they do is eat and poop--all over. Why these birders were so excited, I could not imagine. More Latin spilled out at the thrill and excitement of their spotting a Greater and Lesser Black-backed Gull. A gull, I thought. Those annoying guys that eat McDonald's fries and rip up donut bags in the parking lot of Walmart?
But it was the dang gulls that seemed to have everyone in awe. Folks blissfully withstood the cold to gaze at them--long, long gazes. Sure, I did get out once and took a peek. But come on, how long can you stare at a gull?
Suddenly, a Long-tailed duck was spotted! Marie's camera clicked continually as she swung from left to right, shooting in the direction of their cries of delight. (We never spotted it in her photos when we got home.) Finally, we moved cars over to the Canada side. Aha! Canada! Surely there must be some wild and rare specie here! It's Canada for crying out loud. The home of wolves and wolverines and bears and--mute swans! Those guys that--never mind--I won't get into it.
At this point, I must say that my morning cup and a half of coffee was getting to me. The trip had started at 9am and certainly it must almost be done. No. It was 10:30 by the time we got to the "mutes". Then around 11a.m., the Audubon leader told us we were going to look for a saw-whet owl in the nearby "forest of Detroit" on Belle Isle. Aha! Just what I have been waiting for! An owl! Yes!
Marie drove the van past the porta-johns and parked up the road--a long ways. Um. I had to really go, by now. The group started off through the foot deep snow to the trail to owl-spotting, while I trekked to the porta-john. Cold plastic. That's all I can say. ('m surprised that the group didn't hear me HOOT!) When I got out of the the lil blue house, the group was looong gone.
I will track them--the group, I thought. Huffing and puffing over snow drifts, down the trail, through the woods--alone. (A helicopter flying overhead made me nervous.) I walked and walked. Then I spotted our group! But they were heading back. What? I fell in line behind Marie who was hauling her camera and tripod.
"No owl," she said.
"What do you mean?" I wheezed and coughed and used my abdominal breathing to get back to the van.
"They didn't see it where they thought it was, so they turned around," she said marching with the group.
At this point--left behind again--I was so warm I had taken off my baseball cap, and my coat, and had rolled up the sleeves up my wool shirt (I still had two other shirts on underneath and my longjohns, too).
To sum up the morning: Owl-0, Gulls, geese and swans-450,402.
But I did get my cheese and crackers and watched alot of squirrels.
Birding in Detroit--for me--not so much. At least not in the winter!