Close Encounters

Louisiana Waterthrush (photo fromChuck Tague)

If you want to see birds up close, go to where the birds are, sit down on the ground and eat your lunch. 

I’m not kidding!  But first you have to understand the context.

I was prepared for rain last Sunday so I was wearing a big floppy hat and a yellow rain slicker over my backpack.  This gave me a big head and a hunchbacked look.

I was in one of the best spring birding places in Pennsylvania:  Enlow Fork, literally the “Enlow Fork of Wheeling Creek” which forms the border between Washington and Greene counties, almost in West Virginia. 

I was the only person there – even the fishermen weren’t on the scene – and the sky looked ominous.  It rained off and on.

I moved slowly.  The hungier I got, the slower I moved.  When it rained at lunchtime, I took shelter at the second bridge and opened my crinkly lunch bag.  Imagine a bird’s perspective:  a creeping yellow hunchback with a floppy green head making crinkly sounds.  How intriguing!

Zip!  A yellow-throated warbler flew past my left shoulder, stopped on the bridge for a quick glance and he was gone.

Chink!  A Louisiana waterthrush, pictured above by Chuck Tague, perched across the creek and sang a challenge to me.  How dare something so weird sit in his territory!

The rain came down harder.  I crept into better shelter and the Louisiana Waterthrush flew up for a better look.  Perched on the bridge just above eye level, he took a bath in the rain.  Awesome!

Bonus sightings:

Muskrat (photo by Chuck Tague)While standing above a small pond, I saw a muskrat swim by carrying leaves.  He went back and forth several times without noticing me. 

Finally I couldn’t stand the suspense.  Animals often recognize a human voice faster than a human shape, so I spoke to the muskrat.  “Hello, Muskrat.”  He froze immediately, feet splayed out, but he kept drifting forward.  Ha!  He’s not hidden with those waves moving out ahead of him! 

Chuck Tague tells me muskrats are oblivious.  This one proved it.

Virginia Bluebells blooming at Enlow Fork, April 20, 2008

And finally, though Enlow Fork is known for its wildflowers the rain kept most of them closed.  Not so with the Virginia Bluebells as you can see in this photo from my cellphone.

So if you want to see birds up close, put on a big floppy hat, and sit in the rain.  It works for me!


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