Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Monday, January 20, 2014
I haven't been visiting Fontenelle Forest this winter. It has been bitterly cold. Omaha has been one of the coldest cities in the nation several times. It has been below -13 degrees but it doesn't feel that warm when the wind is strong. It seldom gets above freezing during any time of the day. Today's forecast was for 54 degrees. It was perfect weather for a walk in the woods.
I didn't expect to see much wildlife. The deer are hiding - they aren't aware that the hunters have left. All the ducks, geese and water birds are gone - it's hard to swim in ice. Most of the birds have migrated. I usually have more birds at my feeders than I see in the forest this time of year. My best chances for wildlife would be a muskrat or a hawk.
I did see a nuthatch, a junco and a Blue Jay on walk to the stream. I saw plenty of other people enjoying the warm day. When I was approached parents with a couple kids running everywhere but on the trail, I knew that the wildlife would be hiding today. Apparently not, the father told me that they had seen a beaver walking along the trail. I knew better than that, the beavers are never out until dusk. I was sure that they had seen a muskrat. Even so, if the muskrat was out, it was what I wanted to photograph today.
I carefully scanned the stream as I slowly walked down the path. No muskrat. I didn't see the beaver next to the path until I was way too close. I was too close to focus. I was too close for comfort. Why was the beaver out and why didn't it run when it saw me? Was it that hungry or was it sick? Did it have rabies? I backed up as far as I could go and still see the beaver. The light was harsh and there was plenty of brush in the way so I didn't get very good shots. He decided to much on one of the few remaining cottonwood and was out of my sight.
While I waited for the beaver to reemerge, I photographed a distant cardinal. I took a few shots of a couple of distant bald eagles - the first pair that I have ever observed in the wetlands. As I waited, I tried to decide what was up with this beaver. A couple of other people came by and walked within a couple feet of it. It ignored them until it decided to cross the path and back into the stream. This was the shot I had been waiting for but the spectators were in the way. When the beaver left, so did they.
I was totally frustrated and decided to wait to see if it would come out again. As I continued to wait for a better beaver shot, a hawk circled above. I took a few shots before it circled away and discovered that the beaver had crossed the trail again. This time, he found a branch and pulled it across the trail to the water. I wasn't able to get a clear shot. Once he was in the water, he nibbled on the branch. I took photos but conditions were bad.
The weather man was wrong. It didn't get up to 54 - it got up to 60. While I was disappointed that I didn't get a good shot of the eagles, I thoroughly enjoyed a warm day without mosquitoes in the wetlands. If today is any indication, 2014 is going to be a very good year.