Monday, May 5, 2008

Playing Hooky

I think the first really nice day of every spring should be declared a paid holiday in the State of Minnesota. Unfortunately, there is no such legislation pending, so I just had to play hooky today. After getting to work and finding out there were no projects needing my undivided attention, I decided to take a half-day off (for me that means I can leave at 9:30) and spend some time birding--all by myself.

Because I was anxious to see some warblers and other migrating spring birds, I headed down to my favorite birding spot: Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park (sorry, Mom, I didn't have any extra time to stop by for a visit!)

I started over at the Mystery Cave section of the park because there's a nice little stream running right through the park. I sat for a while along the stream bank, but didn't see a huge number of warblers, other than plenty of yellow-rumped. I did however, capture one good photo of a black & white warbler.

I also watched a couple of eastern phoebes flying around (and managed to catch this one sitting still).

The other good sighting I had down at Mystery Cave were several Northern Rough-Winged Swallows. There's an old entrance to the cave that's been closed off, but the rough limestone wall right next to the stream makes it an ideal place for these swallows looking for a nesting spot.
I'll have to check back later in the summer to see if I can find out whether the swallows nested here.

I then drove over the Historic Forestville section of the park. The Root River flows through this heavily wooded park and I've seen oodles of warblers here in some previous spring migrations. I had my lunch packed for work and decided to have a picnic at one of the tables placed conveniently close to the river's edge. The first thing I noticed again was the absence of warblers (except for the yellow-rumped). However, the abundance of Ruby-Crowned Kinglets kept me entertained during this time. I managed to get a picture of this one in some shrubs very close to my table.

Then I was fortunate enough to have this little kinglet land on a branch close to my table. I hope you enjoy his little concert.

What a splendid "dining room." It was so nice to be outside in the sun on such a beautiful day and hear only the sound of birds singing and the river flowing by (no cars, trucks, or planes to drown out the sounds of nature).

As I was picking up some of the trash left by previous visitors, I noticed something floating in the water--kind of a reddish-brown color. I wondered whether it was some old leaves but something didn't look quite right. As I watched, whatever it was floated over to the other bank. I grabbed my camera and binocs and walked a little farther down on my side trying to see what had happened to this object. Finally, there it was--a small Beaver!

Oh man, this was so exciting for me!! (made up for not seeing many warblers) While eating my lunch, I had noticed some signs of beavers along the river's edge (I couldn't remember seeing anything like this on previous visits to the park, so the beavers must be recent arrivals).

I was able to watch the little beaver for quite a long time -- I think he was eating some vegetation (at least that's what it looked like). I was amazed that even right after coming out of the water, his fur never appeared wet.

He didn't seem at all disturbed by my presence, even though he had to be able to see me right across the river from him (a distance of about 14 yards).

I spent so much extra time watching that beaver, that I was running late starting back to Rochester to pick up Mr. Johnson at work. I set the cruise control for 8 miles over the speed limit--because I've always heard the cops don't usually ticket if you're less than 10 miles over the speed limit.......

Oh yeah, I got pulled over! I knew I was busted as soon as I met that Highway Patrol car and watched him turn around in the gas station. I was hoping he had turned in for a fill-up, but when I saw those flashing red lights in the rearview mirror....well, I don't have to tell you what I said. So I just pulled over, rolled down my window and handed the nice officer my driver's license. Fortunately, I have a spotless driving record because I was worrying the whole time how much a fine was going to cut into my birding festival savings! The worst thing was having to call Mr. Johnson and tell him I was going to be late because I got pulled over for speeding!

So except for the State Patrol, it was a pretty fun day and here's my list of birds seen (or heard) during my 3 hours of playing hooky.

Eastern Bluebird
House Wren
Red-Tailed Hawk
Barn Swallow
Chipping Sparrow
House Sparrow
Eastern Wild Turkey
Yellow-Rumped Warbler
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet
Eastern Phoebe
Common Grackle
Canada Goose
Northern Shoveler
Black-Capped Chickadee
Pileated Woodpecker (heard)
Red-Winged Blackbird
Field Sparrow (heard)
Song Sparrow
Eastern Meadowlark
Black & White Warbler
Turkey Vulture
Rose-Breasted Grosbeak
Northern Cardinal
White-Throated Sparrow
Northern Rough-Winged Swallow
Belted Kingfisher
Downy Woodpecker (heard)
European Starling


Lynne said...

That's an impressive list Ruthie! The beaver sighting is so neat. We saw feash evidence of beaver activity up at Hasty Brook on Sunday.

At least it was just a warning! :)

Anonymous said...

Today was balance the checkbook and pay bills day. I just can't let that go, otherwise you could have called me and I would have met you in the park with my lunch. Sorry about the ticket warning, "The hurrier I go the behinder I get" or something like that.
Your pics again are great, in a couple of weeks it will be hard to see the birds cuz of all the foliage. Did you see any Red Starts? They are always such showy birds? Glad you had fun playing hooky.

mon@rch said...

That is my kind of playing hooky . . . well except for your ticket! Ugg! Don't the police understand this is the peak of migration around here?

Beth said...

I like the idea of a mandatory holiday for the first good weather day--Mainers would sign on to that too. Don't we deserve it? Sorry about the ticket, but on balance it was "small stuff".

Jayne said...

WOW, what a list on your "mental health spring birding day!" So sorry it ended like it did, but at least it was a warning...whew!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

What a pitaful way to end such an amazing day. The beaver was worth taking the day off. Fun to see as well as the warblers.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Lynne,
The beaver sighting was definitely a bonus! I, too, was amazed at the number of birds I was able to record.
I will be the first to admit that I always drive too fast. I just sat in the car and kept my mouth shut--didn't even get a lecture or anything!

Hi Mom,
It was nice & quiet in the park, only a couple other cars for guys fishing.
No redstarts at all! That surprised me....maybe by the weekend?

Hi Mon@rch,
I thought about using the excuse of hurrying home to blog about my sightings, but he kind of looked like an officer who had heard every excuse in the book. I was just thankful it only cost me a little embarassment!

Hi Beth,
A holiday for spring would be especially appreciated after the past winter. The ticket was a good reminder for me to remember to slow down in that particular stretch of the highway.

Hi Jayne,
I was amazed at all those birds too. 3 hours was definitely NOT ENOUGH time to absorb everything. Next time I'll allow a whole day so I don't have to 'speed' home!

Hi Lisa,
Well, Mr. Johnson says I always drive too fast and the pitiful thing was that there was no way I could keep this from him :-/
That warning ticket didn't take the shine off a great day though!

Ruth said...

I love the picture of the black and white warbler. It is so worthwhile to play hooky once in a while. I got my first speeding ticket a couple of years ago and because my record was good, my fine was reduced, but not eliminated. I drove to Toronto yesterday and noticed fewer people were speeding on the highway. The price of gas encourages many to do everything possible to increase their mileage.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the ticket, but that is quite an impressive list for an outing.

Marsha said...

Great list and what a peaceful fun time you must have had...until the speed warning :-)

Windyridge said...

You get the most amazing photos! I have only heard the black and white warbler and the black throated green but only once so far. Usually the BTG sings incessantly so I'm not sure what happened. Warblers are my favorite bird with my favorite singing bird being the wood thrush. I just love the flute-like songs.

KGMom said...

Goodness, where to start. First, I loved the black & white warbler, and then got really excited about the beaver--I would love to see one "in the wild."
And then the flashing red lights. Humph--well, your list from the day makes up for it.

Susan Gets Native said...

*speaking with my sternest MOM voice*
Ruth Elizabeth Johnson! A speeding ticket? What am I going to do with you????

Loved the kinglet song and the little industrious beaver.

*Even though you are a speed demon, I like you anyway*

RuthieJ said...

Hi Ruth,
I was so thrilled to see that B&W warbler too. They really are like a nuthatch moving constantly around on the tree--this was the best shot of 7 (they're quick!)
I know I should drive slower to conserve gas, but time just gets away from me when I'm out in the woods and before I know it, I'm running late and trying to catch up.

Hi Science Guy,
Don't be sorry--it was my own fault.
I was truly amazed at all the birds I saw/heard when I actually took the time to concentrate on what was out there!

Hi Marsha,
It was a great day for sure--even the warning ticket made me happy (since I didn't have to worry about a $$ fine)

Hi Windyridge,
Even though the warblers are confusing for me, I still enjoy seeing them. I was hoping to hear a wood thrush or hermit thrush on this day, but no such luck. I love their beautiful song too.

Hi Donna,
I was really excited about the beaver too! Only one other time have I seen a beaver in the wild, so to actually get these photos and have so much time to watch the little furry guy was just amazing. I'm glad you enjoyed it too.

LOL--Thanks for the scolding Mom/Susan! I was amazed that the officer didn't even give me a lecture (he was close to my age, so maybe he thought I was hot! ;-)

Julie said...

Oops! LOL! I have yet to be caught, but as I get older and gas prices climb, I'm not as tempted to speed as I once was - can you say lead foot?
I love all your pictures and your wildlife report. I need to find a place like that around here. Maybe I can fit in a trip up to Squaw Creek, they might have some interesting birds to view.

Anonymous said...

Hahahahahaha! Maybe he thought you were hot????? hahahahaha. I'm hot too, but only in flashes! You are too funny. I'm jealous of your bird outing. I guess I'll just have to go by myself. I'm still in shock about the Orchard Oriole at my grape jelly this AM. Very cool!
Your sissy

April said...

Good for you, Ruthie, for playing hooky on a gorgeous day! What a fantastic park with such a variety of birds. It would be nice and relaxing - a mini holiday. That's a lovely photo of a black and white warbler - I have never seen one here in B.C. How exciting to see the beaver and then be able to watch it for a time!

Meggie said...

How nice to have a play day! I'd day it was quite productive...too bad about the speeding ticket. I'm not usually in a hurry...since retirement, I've learned to take my time.... I heard an unusual bird song on my morning walk and didn't recognize it but I thought, "Ruthie would know what bird that is!"

RuthieJ said...

Hi Julie,
I think the last time I got pulled over for speeding was in 1987 & got off with a warning that time too!
I know there are places to bird closer to home, but I'm really familiar with the Forestville area and know I will always see great birds there!

Hi Sissy,
It's too bad your employer won't let you bug out on short notice for a birding trip, otherwise I would have taken you along--you probably could have used a 'mental health' break.....

Hi April,
It just seemed like one of those days I shouldn't let pass me by. I'm fortunate that my job allows me to take off without advance notice!

Hi Meggie,
I envy you that morning walk every day! Slowing down and enjoying yourself sounds like a good way to spend retirement. Let me know if you figure what your singing bird was!

Robin (Bumblebee) said...

Hey Ruthie,

Looks like that bit of playing hooky really cost you!

Great bird photos though. Seems like you were planning that little trip, since you had your camera!

Robin at Bumblebee

Mel said...

That beaver is sooo cool!!!
Too bad about being busted for speeding, but at least your nice record helped out :)

Mary said...


I love speeding. I've been caught twice in my life - damn!


Larry said...

Sounds like you picked a nice day for birding.Too bad about the ticket.I remember getting two $200 speeding tickets in 1 year.I haven't had another one for many years now but I'm sure my time will come again.