I just returned from a great weekend at the cabin birding. The old cabin made it through another winter in one piece. Sad to say thou that the mounted Grouse we had hanging didn't. It seems the flying squirrel picked all the breast feathers off the poor thing to use for its nest. Well, at least the flying squirrel was warm for the winter.
The first day we got there it was damp and cool but I wasn't going to let that get in my way of birding. I headed out down the trail, the snow was about mid-calf, not too bad but still tough to walk through. So I started to follow a deer trail that was more packed down. The snow was crunchy and made noise as I walked so I would stop now and then to listen for birds. I noticed some coyote tracks in the snow, they had a little rain collecting in them so I was confident they were old.
I stopped a few times and could hear a flock of Pine Siskins in the bush. But I also thought I heard something crunching in the snow off to my right, umm perhaps the coyote? Suddenly the flock of birds flew across the trail into a group of dense spruce trees. I followed them breaking through the deep snow. I got up under the spruce boughs that were being held down by the snow and entered a little area free from snow. There in the branches above me was a flock of about 24 Pine Siskins, they were flitting about and singing. I felt like I was in a bird cage, it was a magical feeling. But wait...there was definitely something crunching in the snow coming towards me.
At first, I thought it might be a coyote but the crunching in the snow was too loud for a small coyote. Maybe it was a deer, but no the sound was loud, something heavy...maybe a moose?
No the stride of whatever was making the noise was too short to be a large long-legged moose. OMG...OMG.... it must be a bear!
Ok, so I calm down and weigh my options. There is no way I can outrun a bear in this deep snow. So I decided I'll climb the tree, I know bears can climb so I figure I'll use my binoculars to swing and bop him in the nose. My heart is racing, I'm reaching for the branches ready to climb. I can see something coming towards me....the branches are moving....
........It's got blue legs....and a blaze orange body.... and a gun? ....It's a pair of hunters. They enter my little cage under the tree and he says "Aya..lost are ya?" I could tell by his thick French/Canadian accent that he was a local. I explain that I'm not lost I was just birding and had followed the Pine Siskins into the spruce trees. I tell him I didn't realize it was still hunting season. He tells me "rabbit till the end of the month". I apologize for not wearing my blaze orange and thank them for not firing at me, he replies "you're a mite big for a rabbit eh?" The other hunter tells me "weathers a changing might wanna take cover eh?".
I thank them for their advice and start back down the deer trail towards the cabin. The two hunters head off in the opposite direction, as they walk away I look back and see one of them shaking his head. I don't need to hear him to know what he is saying..."flatlanders"..that's what the locals call anyone who lives below the notches.
All and all it was a great weekend. I saw some new birds including the fantastic White-winged Crossbill! You have got to look this bird up to appreciate my sighting. So let's re-cap what have we learned from my birding adventures so far. That I have to be careful where I point my binoculars or I might get arrested. That I need to learn how to correctly use technology before I try to fool Mother Nature. And when in the Great North Woods always wear blaze orange!
Oh..and I did encounter the coyote late the next day. But he took one look at me and hightailed it in the other direction.... ya see I'm a mite bigger than a rabbit.
Current Big Year total...112
Happy Birding, Jane