Monday, November 21, 2011

So sorry, Jay, and Don't you know that the bird is the word?

I will give it to you straight and fast.  Just when the Bears are turning into a solid team, winning five games in a row, just when I decide that Jay Cutler has hit his stride and is a good, solid QB, he takes a spill during a play, breaks the thumb on his throwing hand, and is out for 6-8 weeks.  There, I said it.

The San Diego Chargers and the Bears were trading points back and forth until Charles Tillman took the ball from them and the Chargers never got it back long enough to make a difference.  Bears win, 31-20 at Soldier Field, but lost Mr. Jay Cutler.

Our starting QB will be Caleb Hanie who has never started a pro football game in his entire career.  I am hoping we will all be pleasantly surprised and young Caleb will be up to the task.  I am also hoping Congress will get it together and listen to the billionaires.  Finally, I am hoping to see that sage thrasher.  Maybe the Bears can get Brett Favre, except, oh no, one of the Bears finally ended his career last season.  Still, I understand he has a lot of time on his hands.

Well?  How did they get here?
Last week we failed to see the sage thrasher and this week the birders kindly fetched me and we had these intentions:  (1) Find the thrasher; (2)  look at the thrasher through binoculars for an unset period of time; (3) utter things like "cooool," "It's where now?" and "I thought it'd be bigger;"(4) move on.

We did not find the thrasher but we found other birds to look at through binoculars for unset periods of time that really made us forget the sage thrasher in a big way.  There were owls, two different owls, and we saw them.

Birders are a very generous lot.  If there is an unusual species to be seen in the Chicago area, one of the those birders will hit the internet and post sightings.  She or he will detail what was seen, where it was seen, at what time, and what designer's fashions it was sporting.  No, wait.  That last part may not be quite correct, yet not totally wrong.

The birds of excitement were still the short-eared owl from last week and two newly-arrived snowy owls.  Short-eared owls might be seen around town on occasion but snowy owls are very unusual.  When we got there, the birders we ran into advised one snowy owl flew south and the other had been sitting on the pier but was scared by a dog and it flew to Foster Beach.

We got a very good view of the short-eared owl in flight as it banked and hovered and turned.  We looked, we exclaimed, we moved on in search of shore birds but, alas, were treated to a pair of mallards and the Mystery of the Balls of Golf from last week.  The sage thrasher was somewhere in the brush and we were determined to find it.

Brown thrasher bird calls were played which totally fooled me.  "What?  WHAT??" I exclaimed, only to be advised it was a bird call.  The sage thrasher was not at all fooled which leads me to believe that I am not as clever as a bird brain, darn the luck.  We agreed to take a different loop in the trail which is where we saw a gent beating feet toward the pier.  It might've been a morning constitutional but people usually don't take constitutionals while carrying big binoculars and a digital SLR with a long lense; constitutional types are unencumbered or at the mall.  We asked what was up and he shared that one of the snowy owls was back at the pier.  So he had heard about the bird, was in hot pursuit, and we went after him.

As we approached the pier, every birder with a cell phone was converging on the pier, in singles, in pairs, in trios.  The level of excitement was high.  Imagine if a bunch of paparazzi heard that Lady Gaga were in line to buy coffee at the Dunkin' Donuts in Union Station -- that is the level of intensity. These are high-level hunters, well-versed in stalking their quarry, creeping quietly and standing as motionless as a middle-aged guy could stand for an extended period of time.  Snowy owls don't come to Chicago often (much like Gaga who I am certain would not go to the Union Station Dunkin' D if she were in need of a cup of java) and there had to be evidence that one saw it.  "I saw it," isn't enough when your lense is big and it's wearing camouflage gear or a heavy sweater.

Most of us had never seen a snowy owl outside of a zoo.  Snowy owls are big birds, about two feet high and weighing four pounds which is enormous for a bird of flight.  It is the heaviest of all owls.  (Chickens and turkeys are going nowhere so they can weigh all kinds of pounds but flying birds usually weigh almost nothing.  Eagles weigh 10-14 pounds but aren't good eating.  A hyacinth macaw weighs less than three pounds.)  So there it sat in its whiteness, at the end of a pier, behind some fallen pier debris, right above the soccer ball that bobbed in the water, just being cool and looking around while the birders all approached as closely as we individually dared, and when we each decided we had seen it long enough, we left to bask in the memory of the bird and were able to send emails that bore sweet bon mots like, "Just saw a snowy owl, bitches."

No comments:

Post a Comment