By Paul Noelner
About 16 people joined in the February Bird and Nature Walk at Warner Park held every 3rd Sunday 1:30-3 pm. Walks are also held at Cherokee Marsh the 1st Sunday 1:30-3 pm and Turville Point the 2nd Saturday 10-11:30 am each month. Students, families and kids are welcome.
After a kickoff reading from beloved naturalist John Muir the group gamely hiked from Warner Park Center through fresh sparkling snow past the beautifully restored statue of Lady Liberty on the knoll and into the ‘Nature Recreation’ side of Warner Park. Everyone paused to admire the sturdy mud Cliff Swallow castle like homes glued with saliva onto the cement pillars of the Tin Can Shelter, followed by a loop out past the Warner Pond lagoon ice skating area to the cattail shores of Warner Island to view a Wood Duck box and Kestrel box.
Undaunted by the deep snow the group then circled into Wild Warner Woods to find Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers – Where? – On that limb! – Which limb? There are hundreds! Its always a great game trying to describe where something is in a natural world with no right angles. Zoom pictures with a digital camera someone had along helped bring the birds up close for everybody to see. The walk ended with welcome hot chocolate at the Historic Oak shelter. We left the great downhill sled hill to neighborhood kids this time.
Along the way participants shared stories about their love of the local park Sandhill Cranes and giant Pileated Woodpeckers that sometimes visit neighborhood back yards. We talked about how keeping native mixed woodlands and some deadwood habitat in parks and yards is important for the Woodpeckers, Chickadees and other birds that help control tree insects on healthy trees for all of us for free. Woodpeckers are now helping city foresters locate Emerald Ash Borer infestations. Sandy Schwab with 4 Lakes Wildlife also described the plight of Chimney Swifts and the possibility of putting up a Swift Tower in Warner Park to accommodate losses of old deadwood trees and building chimneys.
The highlight of the walk Hwas group of American Crows pestering a Red-tailed Hawk circling low overhead in the bright sun. Somehow Winter seems less daunting when you are out in nature. But everyone welcomed the thought that Red-wing Blackbirds may be making their Spring appearance by next month’s Bird and Nature Walk when we will discover more of the Wild Side of Warner Park.