This week I spent some time at Kensington Metro Park, one of my favorites around here. I walked around one of the natural areas that prohibits bikes, joggers and dogs. I know, I know. But don’t worry – Katie forgave me when I took her to her own park later in the day. She’s good like that.
The walk around the lake is just under 2 miles and though it was a cool November day, all the leaves had long since fallen, there was still a lot going on. Want to see? Well come on! (And click on any photo to see it larger with detail.)
The walk starts out on the boardwalk near the road. Right away I could see there was a sandhill crane couple standing out along a point. I thought all of the cranes had left the area, heading to warmer climates. But I was wrong. These two were standing in the water right near a bench where people sat to enjoy the view.
While I stood taking pictures several people walked up. The cranes just tilted their heads and watched us. They are so used to being photographed they don’t mind as long as you don’t move too fast. Eventually I moved along, taking the path around the lake. Just a little bit further along the lake edge I came across crane couple #2.
These two were a little more skittish. They moved away from me when I stepped up close to the shoreline. They were in a more secluded location and probably hadn’t had as much attention that morning as the first pair. One of them turned and faced me as if to you….”What you looking at?”
I reassured them that I thought they were beautiful, then I tiptoed back up to the path and moved along.
Back among the trees each time I stopped to take a picture I heard the flurry of wings around my head. There were always chickadees flitting around. The park has all sorts of signs telling people not to feed the wildlife, but I’ve seen, almost every time I’ve been there, people standing still holding out their hands which are filled with sunflower seeds. The chickadees, being such brave little birds, have been accustomed to getting a treat when people stop and stand still.
They expected something from me. I had to apologize to them; I hadn’t brought anything with me.
Further along I came to a hill with a fence and some shrubs still bright green and covered in some sort of red berries.
Then I noticed a bird hopping around among the green leaves. What was that? Could it be? Can you tell?
I saw the topknot on it’s head, but it wasn’t a female cardinal. It was a cedar waxwing! I only see those in the spring and in the fall, if I’m lucky, when they are migrating through the area. They have a bright yellow strip at the end of their tails, and red bars on their wings, and that’s how I knew for sure what I was seeing.
I stood there fascinated, watching the bird hop around picking red berries off the shrub. Then I began to wonder. Where were the rest? These birds travel in flocks and I’ve never seen only one. There are always several more.
I could only find one other bird among all the leaves. Finally I gave up looking, put my camera away and began to move. The shrub eruppted as dozens of waxwings flew up into the higher trees. It was magical and I laughed out loud.
I kept moving along, rounding the back of the lake. The sun began to peak out through the clouds and the sky got brighter. It was a wonderful thing to be walking in the quiet woods on what used to be a work day. I felt very lucky to be there.
And do you know what I found just a bit further up this beautiful path? You guessed it! Crane couple #3!
I’m sure these aren’t either of the couples I saw on the other side of the lake because I hadn’t heard any cranes flying. They can’t seem to keep quiet when they fly, almost always making an eerie screech while they are in the air. This couple didn’t want to be photographed at all, so I only took a quick shot of the two of them together. And this one of one of them headed my way to find out why I was interrupting their quiet time.
I said I’d move along, and he seemed fine with that.
When I was close to the beginning of my walk I realized I hadn’t hit the 2 mile mark yet, so I decided to walk over to the nature center before heading to my car parked in their lot. I figured I could use the steps and it was now a full-on beautiful afternoon and I was in no hurry to drive home. And as I approached the back of the museum I saw what I thought was a statue of sandhill cranes. There were three of them, the parents and a juvenile.
And then one of them moved! They were eating birdseed from under the bird feeders. A whole family, right up next to a building with people inside staring out at them. I started to laugh. Silly but opportunistic birds.
Years ago it was rare for me to see one pair of cranes in the park. Back when I used to run there every Saturday I never saw any. Now they seem to be much more plentiful; this summer I have seen many families of cranes, both in this park and near where I live. I wonder if there really are more of them, or if they’ve just moved into more populated areas.
And so this is not all about birds, while at the nature center I walked down to the pond.
I call this shot “Carp with Oak Leaf” and I think if it were painted in oil it would be a classic. Or something.
As I headed up to the car I ran into one more crane.
I think he was making a point of not looking at the sign. No one reads those anyway.