Mar 15 2009

Happiness is a Clear Sky

Published by at 10:13 pm under Hiking,Water and Shore

Ring-necked Ducks (photo by Kim Steininger)
This morning at dawn it was cloudy again - actually, I'd call it overcast - but I could see clear skies to the north and west so I figured we'd have a sunny day soon.  Two hours later it was still oppressively gray and the good weather was just as far away as before.

Since the edge of the clouds hadn't moved I decided it was time for me to move out from under them so I headed north to Lake Arthur at Moraine State Park.  Reports on Friday said there were tundra swans at Porter's Cove and though I didn't expect to find them two days later, I went there anyway.  Halfway to the park I passed the cloud boundary.  Clear skies ahead.

What a great day for a hike!  I headed into the woods, picking my way through the mud to the sound of spring peepers.  Deep in the woods I encountered a red-shouldered hawk calling and doing such obvious flight displays that I found its nest. 

The trail ended at a campground so I headed back.  To avoid the mud I tried a hilltop path that started off in the right direction but ended abruptly in a wall of brambles in the middle of nowhere.  Where am I now?  Maybe I'm lost.  I retraced my steps - over the mud - to Porter's Cove.

I was rewarded with a view of two beautiful white birds across the water.  Swans, but not tundras.  It was pair of trumpeters, one of whom was banded.  Trumpeter swans were reintroduced in Ohio so perhaps that's where these came from.  I hope they stay to nest.

As a further reward I sat by the lake in the sunshine and scanned the distant birds so hard to see through the heat shimmer.  Slowly I identified ring-necked ducks (pictured here), ruddy ducks, hooded mergansers, buffleheads, a common merganser, a pair of American wigeons. 

At 5:00pm a huge flock of scaup rose from the lake, circled up and headed north, their bodies winking white in the clear blue sky.  Time to head home.

Back in Pittsburgh the clouds remained.  The western horizon showed a gleam of light as the sun set.  Only three minutes of sunshine at home today and then it was night.   So glad I went to the lake!

(photo of ring-necked ducks by Kim Steininger)

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