Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Beautiful Sights And Sounds Of Winter At The Union Bay Natural Area

Connie's Sidles is a master birder with more than 600 North American birds on her life list and regularly updates the kiosk at the Union Bay Natural Area, also known as the Montlake Fill, a natural reserve and haven for birds and wildlife in Laurelhurst, managed by the University of Washington.

Connie, a Seattle Audubon Society Board Member, also  maintains her own blog which she updates with regular descriptive updates on the bird and plant life in the Union Bay Natural Area.

She sent us one of her interesting updates that she posted yesterday on her blog.

A Winter’s Day

The Fill has been very cold and a little snowy lately, but the snow has been more of a dusting than a real blanket. Still, we’re definitely experiencing winter storms, despite the fact that the crocuses are up, the pussy willows are out, and the Red-winged Blackbirds have already decided which tiny patch of cattails will be their version of a Cadillac and a "Hey baby, hey baby, hey baby."

I have been feeling disgruntled. Where is spring? Where is even the steady day-by-day progression towards spring!?

I set my campstool down at Main Pond the other day and decided I would sit there until spring arrived. It wasn't altogether by intent. By the time I had moved glacially as far as Main Pond, I was frozen pretty solid. Sitting down was difficult; getting up again seemed impossible. I was sure the joggers going by would be glad to drop off a cookie or two now and then, so I would be fine for another month at least. Surely spring would be here in a month.

Main Pond was clear of ice, and a few Green-winged Teals and American Wigeons were tucked up under the willows. I couldn't see the Common Teal who has been visiting from Siberia all winter, but he had been on the pond the day before, so I'm sure he's still hanging out here. The sky turned a leaden gray, that brooding color that signals more snow is about to fall. I sighed. Oh for a bit of sun.

Just when I was feeling sorriest for myself, out from under the trees sailed two Northern Pintail drakes in full breeding plumage. They glided across the pond without any visible sign of movement, as though they had only to wish to be somewhere and there they would be. Their reflections glowed in the still water. The sun broke through the heavy clouds briefly, enough to silver the world with light. Every detail of every feather on those ducks stood out in the clear air.

Say what you will about winter, a cold north wind brings with it a purity unlike any other. It blows away the city sounds, allowing nature to speak in quiet tones: the little crackle of a brown cottonwood leaf hitting the snow, the clack of bare branches waving in the breeze, the creak of coots as they talk amongst themselves on the pond. I sprang up, eager to see what else the Fill had to offer on this day. Gloomy weather? Not at all. Winter is a season with its own beauty, as glorious in its way as spring could ever be.
(photo courtesy of Doug Parrott)

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