The Bounty of Outlet Creek

May 29th, 9:30 am.

It is a clear warm day. As I walk through the green pastures towards Outlet creek, I am struck by the vastness of this amazing flat valley we live in, the Little Lake Valley. The riparian corridor of Outlet is ahead of me. It stands out as a tree-filled line across the horizon. Today  I have decided to sit on its banks and pay attention to whatever is in the creek bed.

I settle myself down on a log adjacent to the water and begin to listen to the flowing of water over rocks, always a sound that relaxes my whole being. At that moment a loud “kyow” catches my attention and I see a small heron land on the opposite shore from where I am sitting. because I am somewhat hidden from its view, it does not seem aware of my presence and begins to preen its feathers thoroughly. This is such a treat for me to get to watch this, what I can tell now is a Green Heron, Butorides virescent, because I have been trying to get a good photo of this bird. It is at a great distance to get some good shots and observations with my binoculars. After it is done preening carefully it begins to hunt in the water. Green herons are migratory and the northern populations have been found to migrate all the way to Panama and Northern South America in the winter. So this bird has come to breed and nest here. They love to eat small fish which they sometimes use”bait” fishing using a feather or small stick to entice the fish to come up to the surface. Stalking along the rocks is what I have often observed them doing and this one begins to do in front of me. The green is an iridescent olive green that is hard to see in this filtered light.

After almost 30 minutes of watching, another small long-billed bird lands in the water in front of me and begins bobbing its tail up and down while looking intently into the water. This is a Spotted Sandpiper, Actitis macularia. Most sandpipers nest only in the far north, but this cute spotted one is common in summer along our rivers, ponds, and marshes where it nests and forages. I am feeling quite contented with myself to be sitting in a spot that allows me an intimate look at two shy species of birds without bothering them. The sandpiper moves along the gravelly shore poking its bill into the water looking for insects, crustaceans, small fish, crayfish, mollusks, and even detritus. It seems very busy and focused doing this activity.

There is a loud raucous sound and a group of Redwing Blackbirds, Agelaius phoeniiceus, join in the activity at the edge of the creek. I watch them fly-catching a mass of insects that look like a batch of newly hatched Mayflies. It is fascinating to watch the Redwings twirling and lunging at these insects. One lands across from me with its mouth full of food. These male Red-winged Blackbirds are no doubt gathering food for young that are just about fledged and have voracious appetites.

Once again the time has gone by quickly. The creek has provided a bounty of food for these three different species in a little slice of the day but I know that there are many more creatures; mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, etc.. that also will come here during the day and night enjoying the abundance of food, water, and shade.

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